Mancora – The Hawaii of Peru?

If you have never been to Hawaii, then maybe. If you have, then no. I think the main attraction of Mancora is the wind. If you are into kite sailing, then this is the place for you. Or if you are into wind.

We went in search of sun in winter. It took twelve hours to get there from Lima, including airplane trip, hotel stay, and almost three hours by car. Plus the flights were about $250. Collectively, I think for a sun vacation, one could fly to Cartagena for the same travel time.

I chose a mainstream hotel with gorgeous photos on TripAdvisor, and while the food was good, the place lacked many other things that I expect for that price per night (hot water, elevator as restaurant was downstairs, towels, lack of peeling paint, cleanliness, etc.).

It’s probably a better experience if one stays a private villa with butler and cook. Or at K!chic (one can also eat there even if not staying there).

We flew through Tumbes and I think I actually enjoyed that experience more than Mancora. Tumbes just got its first mall.

The downtown part of Mancora is touristy like Thailand. It’s not a cute town that one would wander about soaking up the culture… I think you go to eat seafood fried rice, chicken wings, drink, and admire the crusty tourists.

In Mancora, the seafood is good and black clams are the specialty.

Trini Food – Trinidad and Tobago Foods

1XMd9O31H87nvZP8RkqIkYecnQY0_lIOd7nAM2wJLqi5vtmgezIT8cgCVdTuS3NTl0BLKGcMSkFM5SfCr39ejG0ndK7GeHAzLCjsflR7KbiZlmG5JLl_k3-yeD9Q_TrSofKhkbBKaKxGqa5jb2m_mM91Z6DFR0fX4MQ2FBsIeq9ApJTbc4ADJ3S3_jTrying the food in Trinidad requires learning the vocabulary:

Pepper (said, “pehpah”) sauce: made from pureed Scotch Bonnet chili peppers. In the lingo of the today, “they don’t play” in “scoville” here. This pepper sauce is flame-thrower hot. Tread lightly. When ordering pepper sauce, it’s “light, medium, and heavy.”

Doubles: this is the most famous of Trini foods. It’s eaten for breakfast and is comprised of two (hence the name) pieces of fried flatbread topped with cooked chickpeas (garbanzos) in curry, with sauces (see one in hand in photo above). Some of the sauces are pepper/chili sauce and some vendors have their own tamarind sauce to add a sweetness to the mix. At most doubles stands, there are two lines. One for eat-in and one for take-out. The take-out line takes longer as the doubles are wrapped in wax paper. The eat-in line is faster partly because some people will eat six to seven doubles at one time. Now, apparently, there are places serving “triples.” You pay after you have eaten.

Buss up shut: A dish of Indian origin with a large stretchy roti in two layers (inside is a think powdery layer inside) which is ripped up to resemble a ripped shirt. Hence the name.

Roti: is a flat stretchy bread. Eaten with curry (curry goat, curry chicken, etc.).

Callaloo soup: Also very popular. Callaloo is a vegetable. The soup is fairly thick and looks a bit like stewed collard greens.

Crab and dumpling (it is a large pasta piece, no filling). See below. In a curry sauce.

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Channa: is lentils.

atdjzIOw3_8VhLbOHW663vXaoc0FLR15Nmfdy7KGhxt36Uvtr_e4mVN-MYHz6QT8YXKVqHsXyDrCoujwOfxDfAaEzuTuH_wR_SKNlOQe72QdC8rAzEwoVjZ2PjKvqGZCvQ0XZJF1seKPTrmnkcMWgY2fZf7VXS1019ctBSs3HvZdyJgNSGyjfRp1gyDasheen bush choka: dasheen is another name for callaloo and when it is stewed, it becomes a dish called choka.

Fry Bake: is fried flat bread usually served as a breakfast sandwich with dried salt cod or smoked herring. Both taste slightly fishy so I’d recommend getting them with a good amount of pepper sauce.

Pl8SeAZ0KtSUysAl90Cn-pUP4y7Ctcw_oJHuDan0DdZavcR-yqk2mudunhojJyQLINBL67E7jV5LYCvXCHfPeaZ8CSnS8Opvbm98wpOw3Kdu0qk5tEwQEc8YQTrGYK5-kBrW4Nd166TtV_U_ycSEM-64w5a3NWIRNxDVFR2y3VV_4Q_ToPx8nit9rdBake and Shark: is a fish sandwich like a po’ boy in the U.S. The most famous place for this is Richard’s in Maracas Bay. Stop for some pineapple chow.

Chow: is fruit in a slightly spicy brine.

QDmsKqtmioCSImhaUi0XnFl5RPsKBnp59i6jZBUsVIKqTVCdjMo-rC-ZnUSYA7JWX389sFbdgLbuGqNLDnOQXEmcH1W_i3XoSrLNVbOpn2MTXg7LUPOqmLM09bub5TyLrpLnBuzMK9D_kTTz0ndQiZWRiF3o7rvCHgmIhdBz4Vp17Q8e6JvHIHN4FVOil down: is a stew much like chicken and dumplings in flavor but often made with pigtail. As seen here, it is served with “provisions” which are dumplings, plaintains, breadfruit, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

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Macaroni pie: like mac and cheese but cut in squares.

The drinks of Trinidad and Tobago are plentiful. They drink rum and more rum. I was told that the best rum here was Angostura. They also have a ‘punch’ which is made up of all kinds of other alcohol so strong enough to punch you down for a day or two. One person I talked to told me that he had something to drink that was so strong that it made him stop drinking! Again, the national pastime seems to be “to lime” which is to hang out somewhere to drink.

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I did not have cow heel soup which is also a famous Trini food. It’s a thick soup made with cow hoof.

Maracas Bay, Trinidad, West Indies

IMG_4476Probably the most famous outing from Port of Spain is the beach at Maracas Bay. It’s about 35 minutes outside of the city along a windy hilly road.

IMG_4468The view from the viewpoint is not the only reason to stop. There are chow stalls where you can try the famous “pineapple chow.” Chow is a dish of fruit in a brine with shadon beni (culantro) and chili peppers. They also make chow with green plums, mango, and cucumber. The pineapple is the best with its contrast of juicy sweetness, salty brine, and slight spice. All the basic electrolytes in one bite!

IMG_4460Maracas Bay is a popular beach for the locals and it’s a good place to hang out. There are lifeguards on duty, a good thing considering how fierce the waves the day we went.

IMG_4484For a foodie, the reason to go to Maracas Bay is to eat “bake and shark” or a fried fish sandwich. This sandwich was made more famous by Anthony Bourdain. The most famous place is Richard’s with the many condiments including pineapple chow. Uncle Sam’s is on the beach side and overlooks the beach. You buy the fish sandwich and then put on the condiments of your choice from garlic sauce, tamarind sauce, pepper sauce (pureed scotch bonnet peppers), slaw, pineapple chow, mayonnaise, etc. The sandwich reminds me a bit of po’ boy sandwiches.

IMG_4482

Playa Bonita at Las Terrenas

nI-JCyIIkicfFpz-fbRg6XvKuaTCF9-p7PiY3j74gQQqlxrbM015LvTp2OKUwxS_GM77paf9LZ38zmEzUr8y5K0qbFHry9-yrwA_xE_S1OSeP2yI2c2vvT5tTmnn8UHEoyQCyBjUD62cmlT_X_Y5HtUH23tRKS2g6hhPUmS2cYKZUNHtD5v5meqtPGIt’s not Punta Cana. I hear that Punta Cana is popular. Instead, the beaches at Las Terrenas are not as populated. Hardly anyone to be seen. Which is slightly surprising considering all the villas and hotels on the beach.

Szo6e03G7tzJe__tD4PJs3jbp32HdjNF9hfnXoLWtpxS7EmqECZiwyokghF_942yaDhjq4KJVDvbcKJ-OlwcEut5YGCLSbJdtAs-iTclVEEyiYNbr1G8h57gQVQ4akwP4JYaFcXmmhXjeMN-7Br4HM4GN6hukBinFQiumbScNnqe-Xqk59hgEUD-ThI was lucky to get driven there so I don’t know how to get there. But, I do know that we paid many tolls of hefty amounts (as in 8 bucks, 8 there, etc.) in Dominican cash. The drive took about three hours and went through an area of natural beauty.

1P90szb-4IVEZixPRAEgAZl6-CuNv8EmTE-bRTxSguU9SFQJuV25Uz6s5-gFAwu7yHFmYJaz_ids6_uXoipCe7_2bqzBA1gT5gQm5YiMSFfxgO09KG7zQJpLxGyUL-TXNYOWExubkkJ8mnh98vxI1MCFHgOjiyA_720xGb98B8zRFDBdaB8Wwn6k50Along the way, we stopped for some famous barbecue, at a gas station. It’s the Gran Parador Bellamar, Autopista Nordeste, Carretera Samana KM 1, Santo Domingo. After the first toll. It’s a good pitstop with toilet, cash machine, kiosk, etc.

dlTrmzkFwNOtb_t2x0-fmvTSVfDqJPMiRi-4nm_u1CNCEQ0lxqXdUZJMfJI1W05mNNzJNiDNJABcB7JCHKp3OKAIsBC1_vNNitOEmhlHvVCkQRoPhROaA5XmKfeLLroEtHl8sSRaEsownzQHwMKoV-eCyEienpi-eLu-6-Kdk64PkBKOuBKesviYm1We rented a luxury villa. I think there were enough beds for 10 or more people, and it was a good party house. But, also great for relaxing.  Our villa cost $500 per night but I’m sure there are much cheaper options.

l8XNYRx4W90alMLhaVppD7K0Z_QL_GcF7Xp668Rq0pWQVmHVFsd4PfYBNCDbDubeBcPYBhdcERSTRUnX_QEchXrqQz0TouKuplMSXoC1jwJRmBxrWE5ihY0dulEgI9LY-QtMLCQa89O93xvogARmD4jcNRzcupNUJgERVrluR8ZcGXVUBPo5AmWP_SSo pack up the cooler with drinks and food! You can probably find a colmado that will deliver!

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I can’t tell you the location because it simply appeared, like magic.

Sheltering In Place – In Florida

14484861_10154539848049618_3798888653102113882_nAlthough I lived in Bangladesh for two years, both of those years, the monsoons were not so bad (okay, one night it was awful, walking in the dark potholed street with flooded open sewers) but as Dhaka is located up the river, I didn’t get to experience the risks of coastal living. When I lived in Dhaka, the power went out on a frequent basis, but not for weather related reasons. In the U.S., I’ve experienced more power outages and flooding caused by weather and it looks like I will, again. Welcome to Florida in hurricane season.

I paid attention to the experts. I moved inland. Two days ahead. Then I bought food for ten days (I’m not quite sure why I thought chips and dip were essential foods, but maybe it counts as an activity as well?). Then I turned on the local news to watch the show.

This morning, I went out to check on the shopping frenzy at the local grocery store. It wasn’t a frenzy. Everyone was calm and shopping. Like any day at 11 a.m. (a note about price gouging: call the watchdog phone number if you see price gouging. It’s illegal to profiteer off of a situation like a hurricane. Sheesh.), just with hurricane shutters going up.

14563585_10154539848069618_2250615844766550418_nNow, I hope we don’t lose electricity. I have blogging to do!

The Flora and Fauna of San Andres, Colombia

Blue sea and palm trees.
Blue sea and palm trees.

Everyone told me to go to San Andres. So I did.

Waiting for the tourists.
Waiting for the tourists.

San Andres is nice and has all the usual activities of a sun and sand vacation. Plus, San Andres has some decent restaurants and lots of duty-free shopping.

The walk along the beach.
The walk along the beach.

The only thing that I didn’t notice were too many spas. There was a spa on the beach. But as they appeared to be the only game in town, they only had 30 minutes massages available. They only had one massage table and it was separated from the public by a bamboo bead curtain (which was never closed). The main “spa” activity in the hut seemed to be the fish foot spa. Even with a reservation, we did not manage to get a spa treatment on the beach. We did find a hair salon that also had massages and manicures and pedicures.

There are seven colors in San Andres, starting with sand.
There are seven colors in San Andres, starting with sand.

Apparently, the smaller (less crowded) Providencia is much nicer than San Andres. Perhaps another time.

Cartagena de Indias – The Most Beautiful Town in the World?

The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.
The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.

It’s just possible that Cartagena de Indias, on the coast of Colombia, is indeed the most beautiful town in the world. The old city, the “ciudad antigua,” is well preserved and pleasant for tourists, with lane after lane of prettiness and plazas. Wander from gelateria to ice cream shop (two are right next to each other which makes an comparisons much easier), after a dinner al fresco. The humid weather makes the juice (50 cents a glass) from the street vendor taste extra refreshing. Maybe try one of the “plantain hotdogs” which is a deep fried plantain stuffed with shredded meat and topped like a hotdog.

So pretty!
So pretty!

While this town is expensive, I recommend staying inside the walled city anyway. The city is different at night, and it’s nice to call it home for a while. During the day, enjoy the ridiculously picturesque lanes. Sure, it’s touristy but the vendors are not unpleasantly aggressive.

Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.
Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.

If you want, take a day trip to one of the nature reserves located out in the Caribbean. The main attractions in Cartagena for tourists seem to be the warmth, the beaches, the castle of St. Philip (“castillo san felipe”) and the walled city itself. Just outside the walled old city is the Getsemani, a neighborhood getting more publicity these days for its culture rather than for being the red light district.

The modern hotel strip of Cartagena (pronounced “Car-ta-heh-nah”), called the big mouth, “boca grande,” is a bit outside the walled city.

The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small portholes.
The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small gates under your feet.

Speaking of “Car-ta-HAY-nah” — If you go looking for scenes from the movie, Romancing the Stone, you will not find it since that was film was filmed in Mexico. But never mind, Cartagena de Indias will romance you (couldn’t resist!) even if you are made of stone. And yes, you can buy emeralds here (more on emeralds later).

The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena from the castle.

Waitakere Day Tour from Auckland, New Zealand

Heartbreaking vista to eternity in New Zealand.

Yes, this is a shameless promotion of a day out with Shane of Waitakere Day Tours. Read this great review on TripAdvisor here. For $150 (New Zealand dollars), you get a great day out.

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The group will never been more than seven and you get a healthy home cooked picnic lunch. You will see so much on this day out that I cannot explain it all. Just know that if you don’t have time to go to South Island, then this tour will be great value.

Healthy slaw salads and egg pie picnic.
Silky cool soft water running through a kingdom where we roamed.

My favorite part of the day is hard to pick but it was probably when Shane said, “you can leave your shoes in the van.” This was followed by a walk on the silky cool river bed. Shane was so personable that you will want him to be your friend. And not just because he can introduce you to his ancestor trees… New Zealand is a paradise on the bottom of the world. The tourism machine of this land of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc. is well oiled but Shane’s family run business, eco-friendly brochure, Maori cultural insight, and price make him the ultimate tour guide. I highly recommend taking six friends and having a fantastic day out. Did I mention that the time spent in the van is never more than 45 minutes? And, take comfortable shoes for the rain forest walk.

Tell Shane that I said hi.

Trees nurtured by family placentas makes talking to ancestors easy.