FWT Magazine: food wine travel - Issue 4, Summer 2016

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latin america

food wine travel

Mendoza Argentina • St. Lucia West Indies Copan Honduras • Patagonia Chile • Salvador Brazil Los Cabos Baja California • Ambergris Caye Belize Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve Peru Cancún Yucatan • Galapagos Islands Ecuador

explore! savor! live!



latin america

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38 60 44 50




depts Contributors 4

12 Bodegas Salentein

First class reporting from around the world

Defining the Wines of the Valle De Uco

From the Editor 5

16 Taking Refuge in Patagonia

Welcome to Issue Four

Patagonia Refugios

Gear 6

22 Saint Lucia’s Water Wonderland 28 Cruising Peru’s Amazon River

Android and iOS Applications to Ease Your Travel Experience

Wines & Spirits 8

A Voyage of Discovery on the Delfin II

Wining and Shining: An Interview with Alastair Rimmer

34 Deep, Dark and Delicious

Bon Appétit 10

The Flavours of Africa in Salvador, Brazil

38 Galapagos – Up, Down and All Around Unique Species Inhabit the Air, Land and Water

Acre Restaurant: Oasis in Baja’s San Jose del Cabo

My Hometown 11 Jacksonville: History, Art & Plenty of Kid-Friendly Activities

44 Central America’s Mayan Jewel

Last Shot 70

Copan, Honduras

Colorful street art in San Miguel de Allende

50 An Odyssey in the Tropical Sun Ambergris Caye, Belize

54 Los Cabos A Farm-to-Table Agricultural Oasis

60 Exploring Playa del Amor Cabo San Lucas

64 Seeking Culture

On the Cover

in All-Inclusive Resorts

Sunset over the Upper Amazon, Peru BILL GENT



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More information and links for individual authors are at the end of each article.


Icebergs from the glacier float on Lake Grey, Patagonia National Park, Chile

Anita Breland

Raquel Pineira

Jim DeLillo

Diana Russler

Andrew T. Der

Cori Solomon

Kristin Henning

Susanna Starr

John Lamkin

Christine Tibbetts

An award-winning journalist and photographer, he started writing as an escape from being an aerospace engineer.

Christine Tibbetts is a veteran journalist with 40+ years in writing, bridging classical journalism with social media.

Michelle Lamkin

Kathleen Walls

Karin Leperi

Elizabeth Willoughby

Irene S. Levine

Eugene Yiga

Anita Breland delights in sharing culinary traditions and her experiences around the world.

Jim’s photojournalistic, reality-based, eclectic style provides a refreshing break from stiffly posed shots.

Into environmental, science and travel journalism, he's a columnist at Elliott.org.

Kristin Henning is a writer and constant traveler. Read her stories at TravelPast50.com.

A writer and editor, she travels the Caribbean, Central and South America, and throughout North America.

Karin Leperi is a multi award-winning writer and photographer with bylines in over 90 outlets.

Dr. Irene S. Levine is an award-winning freelance journalist and blogger.




Raquel Pineira is a Southern California-based food and travel writer and blogger.

New York-based Diana Russler is an adventurer, freelance writer and photographer.

She shares her experiences and joy with her topics in a passionate, candid, caring and entertaining way.

A well-traveled and published travel writer, her books have achieved worldwide acclaim.

Kathleen Walls is the publisher, editor and general go-for at American Roads and Global Highways.

Since the late '90s Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine internationally.

Eugene Yiga has written for over 60 different websites, newspapers and magazines.


From the Editor

food wine travel


FWT Magazine: food wine travel

elcome to Issue Four of the quarterly FWT Magazine. It gives us great pleasure to bring you another issue, this one themed “Latin America & the Caribbean.” Latin America has played an important part in my travel life, starting with early jaunts across the Mexican border to Baja California with my parents. In adult life I've been checking off much of my Latin America bucket list, although there are still quite a few to go. So far, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia are checked off. And, I live on a beautiful lake in Mexico part of the year and conduct business in another fantastic part of that country. So, as you can see, Latin America has played a large part in my life and in my heart. In this issue we will travel to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean; through Mexico's Riviera Maya and on to the southern tip of Baja California. In Central America we will visit Ambergris Caye, Belize and the The Mayan ruins at Copan, Honduras. Then to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands; Peru's Amazon river; Salvador, Brazil; and down to Argentina's wine country and to Patagonia. I hope you enjoy the journey and please let us know what you think about our magazine.

Publisher: IFWTWA Publications

Executive Editor • John Lamkin Associate Editor • Rebecca L. Rhoades Assistant Editor • Christine Salins Contributing Editor • Susanna Starr Contributing Editor • Melanie Votaw Editorial Assistant • M’Liss Hinshaw Creative Director • Dan Kuehn Dan Frank Digital Design Advertising Director • Michelle Lamkin Wine Consultant • Hilarie Larson Publications Adviser • Allen Cox Webmaster • Timothy Lack Charlotte County Websites. Social Media Team: • Tom Westerhof • Mary Lansing • Debra Schroeder FWT Magazine is published in English, however, our audience is global as are our contributing writers. Each contributor writes using the form of English with which they are most familiar, thus you may see international variations on spelling, grammar and phrasing. We hope this eliminates any confusion.

Cheers, John Lamkin, Executive Editor

Thank you. – the Editors

"Sé valiente. Toma riesgos. Nada puede sustituir a la experiencia." –Gabriel Garcia Marquez

FWT Magazine: food wine travel is published by IFWTWA Publishing of International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association ifwtwa.org

"El que está acostumbrado a viajar, sabe que siempre es necesario partir algún día." –Paulo Coelho

© IFWTWA 2016



IFWTWA: admin@ifwtwa.org FWT Magazine: editor@FWTMagazine.com Advertising: ads@FWTMagazine.com Submission Guidelines

Executive Editor John Lamkin and friends

If you have a product you would like us to try email editor@FWTmagazine.com




Gear Android and iOS Applications to Ease Your Travel Experience


lanning a travel excursion, while very exciting, may sometimes be a bit overwhelming and darn right confusing. Now, if you’re at all like me, you’ve planned travel without relying on technology. However, I have recently learned, traveling without technological assistance is not the easiest or most efficient way to go. My “old school” thinking has been renewed to review applications that may assist with making travel life simpler. So, in effort to enter the 21st century of travel, and be of assistance to you, I have researched several applications that may be helpful. These applications range from planning your vacation, easily contacting and sharing with your family and friends back home, finding intimate locations to stopover and rest your head, or communicating with the wonderful local persons you meet. Just so you know, I am a user of both iOS and Android which allows me to be versatile, and also affords me the opportunity to research and test applications for general use.

Plan Your Trip

I have always been one to contact airlines, hotels, resorts and car rental agencies directly. I now know there are more useful ways of making these arrangements. Hence, I have researched some well-known apps – three which offer many valuable choices. TripAdvisor is a “one-stop shopping” app, extending many options to easily select where and how to travel. It provides reviews, opinions, videos and photos pertaining to myriad hotels, restaurants as well as comparing costs for accommodations and airfares. This app also provides a forum where you can review other travelers’ experiences. It is available at no cost for iOS and Android. Kayak is the app known for its ability to quickly search and book affordable hotels, cars and flights, both nationally and internationally. Kayak allows for the creation of an itinerary, tracking flights and price changes for any of your arrangements. This app is available at no cost for iOS and Android. Airbnb is an excellent app that has grown rapidly in interest and success. It is noted to store more than 450,000 listings in more




than 34,000 cities. These listings provide an alternative and unique choice to the traditional hotel or resort. Listings include personal residences available for use. The listing may be used for overnight or long-terms stays. Airbnb finds the ideal stay for your adventure, securely books a listing, provides an itinerary and allows you to communicate with your host. This app is available on both iOS and Android at no cost.

Get Connected

Being in an unfamiliar location may deter your ability to find a Wi-Fi network. We want to stay in touch, find local places of interest, and feel the safety of having an active internet. Open Mobile Wi-Fi Finder automatically connects a smartphone to many public Wi-Fi networks. This app will find the quality hotspots, and connect you to the best Wi-Fi performance. It has access to worldwide Wi-Fi. It also displays a useful dashboard, tracking data usage. You may find this app convenient to use. While most smartphones have a built-in Wi-Fi scanner, it offers many other useful functions (i.e. charting locations, and determining signal strength). Open Mobile Wi-Fi Finder is available for Android at no cost.

In Touch with Home

Viber – Last year, a dear friend of mine traveled to Turkey and Greece. We made an agreement to remain in touch. She suggested an application called, “Viber.” It is a five-star app that allows the user to send free messages, make free phone calls, send video and chat outside of your designated calling area. This is an iPhone only application that performed extremely well and is free to iOS users. WhatsApp – Since we’re not all iOS users, I researched a similar communication application for Android fans. It is called, WhatsApp. This application is one of the best for overseas texting and claims use anywhere. It is free for the first year; however, after that, costs $.99 each year following. It allows the user to share locations on Google Maps, including images, and video. It informs you when your text has been received. Multiple-person chats are available and it has been rated best for location awareness.

Coral reef near Mucuru Island, Colombia

Language Translation

Assistance with translation and communication is not only helpful, but also demonstrates respect. The following app is the best I’ve found to translate many languages. Google Translate is an application that is often appreciated because of its accuracy and ease of use. It is available for both iOS and Android and is free to download. This app translates 80 different languages and also offers audible translations as well as interpreting voice dictation. If you have a device capable of on-screen handwriting detection, Google Translate supports that, too. It also notates favorite or often-used phrases for ease of continued use within your desired location.

How’s the Weather?

Yahoo Weather is very easy to use and helps to prepare your adventure with accurate forecasts. Yahoo Weather is highly-rated at being committed to providing the best mobile experience. The app offers hourly, 5 and 10-day forecasts. “Flickr” photos are available to support the weather in your area. This app allows the addition of 20 cities for review as well as interactive maps which include radar and satellite. It is available for both iOS and Android at no cost.


Being able to convert currency while traveling is a bonus. I have located two apps that convert currency at the touch of a screen as well as a button. Easy Converter – Unit & Currency – this Android application will work with your cell-phone or tablet. Its features include automatically updated rates of exchange, many different units and currencies based on region, plus the acceptance of foreign symbols and names. This app is available at no cost. Amount – Unit and Currency Converter – this iOS application claims to be the most “intuitive, lightweight and easy to use unit converter you’ve ever seen.” It converts units with just two taps of a finger, listing all of the results you’re seeking in one display. Its features include a graphic interface, real-time conversions, lists for specific units, and the ability to view your conversion log. The available currencies cover global destinations. This app is available to download for $.99. Since this FWT edition is directed to Caribbean and Latin American travel, a bit of advice: I am an experienced scuba diver. One of my greatest desires, visiting these locales would be “going down” – scuba talk for diving


Finding a scuba dive shop while you are in either the Caribbean or Latin America is definitely not difficult. Although, locating the shops that teach, accompany on dives and truly pay attention to your needs and well-being, may be nerve-wracking given so many choices. Researching user-friendly and helpful dive shop apps has been difficult; however, finding the shop that best fits your needs is very possible, as well as extremely important. As Scuba travelers, I suggest connection with your guides, hotel management and travel assistants. Also, please use your instinct; it has produced my greatest experiences! Please, let me know if you find a useful app to locate dive shops. Also, if you come across the “instinct app,” let me know. I’m in. I wish you the best in all of your adventures, and hope to have provided some ease. Happy travels! (Please know these suggestions are not advertisements or endorsements; just me exploring technological ways to make things simpler).

Michelle Lamkin Guest contributor Michelle Lamkin is a writer and editor of Cherokee descent, living in Lakeport, CA. Her life has afforded travel to many locations – the Caribbean; Central and South America; and throughout North America. She is a member of professional organizations, including SPJ and TWN. Michelle loves her community, serving as Director on the board of an agency supporting the developmentally disabled. Her recent passion has been assisting members of Native American Tribes all over Northern California improve their lives.




Kleine Zalze Cellarmaster Alastair Rimmer

Wining and Shining An Interview with Alastair Rimmer


s Kleine Zalze celebrates its 20th anniversary, Alastair Rimmer talks about his role as cellar master of the award-winning South African wine estate.

FWT: How did you first get involved in wine? Rimmer: I don’t come from a wine background at all. I grew up on the East Rand (Benoni) in Gauteng and went to school in Johannesburg. I got into wine by falling in love with it. My folks were visiting the Cape when I was quite young. I tasted a few wines and was just fascinated. FWT: What made you choose wine as your career? Rimmer: When I was looking at Stellenbosch universities, I had a chance meeting with Eben Archer, a viticultural professor. He talked about growing wine. And I said, “What do you mean? You don’t GROW wine; you MAKE wine.” And he said, “That’s where you’ve got it wrong. You GROW wine.” This was a great influence on me deciding to study Viticulture and Oenology. It determined my career path and where I am now. FWT: What experiences have you had with your work around the world? Rimmer: My travels in and around the wine industry have seen me visit many places. I have travelled through many of the wine regions of Europe as an assistant to a journalist. And as a winemaker, I have worked in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, and South Africa. All in all, I was living abroad for seven years and “out” of the South African wine industry for almost nine years, although I did keep close contact with many of my South African colleagues over the years. FWT: Could you tell us more about Kleine Zalze? Rimmer: Kleine Zalze is 20 years old; it’s a young winery in the greater scheme of things. But my predecessor Johan Joubert produced some extraordinary stuff and Kleine Zalze is now sitting on a nice position. Some of the classic notes that come through our wines are true to the terroir of Stellenbosch. We are confident that we can stand with the best in South Africa and say that we are as good. We can look vintages of our top wines and say that there are brilliant. FWT: What is your approach at Kleine Zalze? Rimmer: The winemaking is fairly simple. Vineyards that give us that lighter and more accessible fruit go into the Cellar Selection. The ones that give us that ‘medium’ intensity and depth will be Vineyard Selection wines. And what we think will be the most intense wines of the year go into the Family Reserve. The Vineyard Selection and Family Reserve are sourced off our own




property. The Cellar Selection we augment from other vineyards in Stellenbsoch and, in certain years, we augment from other vineyards in the Western Cape. Winemakers must be careful. The biggest job of a winemaker is not to make wine; it’s to let the wine evolve to what it wants to be. It’s a natural progression; it takes time. Certain things will work well in certain vintages. And a better understanding of winemaking, your terroir, and your vineyards will allow you to nurture them to where they need to be. A lot of that happens in the vineyard. FWT: Could you tell us more about your winemaker? Rimmer: RJ Botha is the current winemaker and he has been at Kleine Zalze since the end of 2012. He has, in a relatively short space of time, had a significant role in helping to evolve the style of the wines at Kleine Zalze. He’s passionate, vibrant, and has a fine, focused palate. He understands wine beautifully and we work extremely well together. He is one of the rock stars of South African wine and one of those talents we’ve got to nurture. RJ doesn’t try to manipulate the wines; he lets the wines be. So if you told RJ to make a “Kleine Zalze cabernet” and an “RJ cabernet”, they would be alarmingly similar because he’s not going to put a specific identity on the wine. He loves wine and expressing the terroir too much. There might be a little bit of a thumbprint but I don’t think there’d ever be a big conflict because we’re not trying to make fake, adulterated wines. We’re trying to express Kleine Zalze so Kleine Zalze is always going to shine through. FWT: What is your approach as cellar master? Rimmer: The most important thing I look for is balance. You can have big, bold wines that are balanced and you can have delicate, elegant wines that are balanced. Ultimately, wine is such a vibrant, beautiful thing. It brings so much pleasure to all of us around the table. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people happy. Food, wine, and the pleasure those flavours bring to people is like an adrenaline rush. Whether you like a specific wine style or not is sort of a grey area and a bit immaterial. It’s about bringing pleasure and flavour to people. The Kleine Zalze Cellar Door, situated right next to the winery, welcomes you for a relaxed yet informative wine tasting. Call +27 (21) 880 0717, email sales@kleinezalze.co.za, or visit www.kleinezalze.co.za.

Eugene Yiga Eugene Yiga graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. His career then took an interesting turn when he spent over 2½ years working in branding and communications at two of South Africa’s top market research companies. Eugene also spent over 3½ years at an eLearning start-up, all while building his business as an award-winning writer. Connect with him at www.eugeneyiga.com.


Wines & Spirits

Bon Appétit Acre Restaurant Oasis in Baja’s San Jose del Cabo


an Jose del Cabo, 20 miles up the road from Cabo San Lucas on the southern edge of Baja California peninsula, is the more sophisticated sibling of the two towns. With its arts district, colonial architecture, and festive central plaza, it’s no wonder that Mexican transplants, an older demographic, and expats are adopting this place. The hotels along the beach are complemented by real locally-owned restaurants and accommodations. A sanctuary on the north side of town attracts birders, and the hills beyond that are welcoming new residents and businesses, like Acre Restaurant and Cocktail Bar. Established by the Vancouver duo Stuart McPherson and Cameron Watt, Acre is an exciting new addition to San Jose del Cabo, founded on principles of locally sourced food served in an open air environment. The restaurant is constructed of local materials, and is designed for intimate dinners, al fresco casual crowds, or the party-hearty late night drink and dance divas. It’s easy to visualize weddings and other special occasions right here. This Acre oasis is built on 25 acres of farmland, and the restaurant feels like a giant porch. The lounge and multi-leveled dining areas are covered by pergolas created from local Palo de Arco trees. Views extend over landscaped paths to small vegetable plots and expansive orchards, then to the hills beyond. We found the owners in the orchard just as it was getting dark, adjusting some new lighting. Their planning began before Hurricane Odile hit in 2014. Damage to trees was significant, but the storm didn’t deter them. Their patience and perseverance emanates from every detail and each plate of food. The tasting menu, happily, is a regular feature, and it’s hard to imagine ordering any other way. Seven chef-selected courses (1100 pesos, or about U.S. $60 per person) demonstrate the kitchen’s respect for the gamut of ingredients. The ‘small bites’ starters combine textures and temperatures, like the gazpacho with tomato gelee, tempura flakes, radish, and sorbet, or the hibiscus-cured catch of the day. Tartars are sampled along with roasts, root vegetables along with candied kumquats. The sensations of crisp and cold mingle with zest and warmth. Graciously, cocktails and desserts are treated with the same creativity as fish and meats. Catch of the day with lemongrass and kaffir ice, green papaya, chicken chicharón

There is time to take it all in. Losing track of how many courses were to come, we felt our way through the meal. Between courses we admired the decor, breathed in herbs from the garden and the kitchen, and rested our eyes on the smooth flowing staff and preparations in the elegant open kitchen. In the property’s next phase, treehouse accommodations will offer a high-end overnight experience in tricky little sky boxes that allow air flow and peeking out, while protecting privacy within. Acre’s lofty future continues to be grounded in the landscape it inhabits.

If you go Acre Restaurant and Cocktail Bar http://acrebaja.com/ tel: 624.171.8226 reservations@acrebaja.com

Kristin Henning Kristin Henning is a writer and constant traveler, visiting over 55 countries since giving up her home in Minneapolis in 2010. She and her husband Tom share their photos and stories on the travel blog, TravelPast50.com. Prior to hitting the road, Henning was co-publisher of various periodicals in Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN), including City Pages, Minnesota Parent, The Rake magazine, and a guide book, Secrets of the City: Guide to Minneapolis/St. Paul. SHERRY OTT @OTTSWORLD

The St. Johns River from high in a skyscraper over Jacksonville.

My Home Town Jacksonville History, Art & Plenty of Kid-Friendly Activities


acksonville is often described as the hard-working brother in a playboy family, but it’s shedding that image fast. On the Southside, you can visit Treaty Oak Park. The huge oak inside is more than 250 years old. Nearby Friendship Fountain is the most notable feature of the Southbank Riverwalk, while the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) takes you from Florida’s prehistoric times to the newest discoveries in science. Downtown, The Landing is the heart of the area – Jacksonville’s festival and marketplace on the river with shops, eateries and entertainment. Downtown is walkable, or take the Automated Skyway Express (Skyway) both downtown and over to the Southside. You can also take the River Taxi across the river and back. Everbanks Field is the home of the Jaguars, as well as the location of the Veterans Memorial Wall, a 65-foot black granite monument that pays tribute to Jacksonville veterans of the armed forces from World War I through Operation Desert Storm and the ongoing war on terrorism. In front of the wall, an eternal flame flickers. Step back in time to the early 20th century at Merrill House History Museum, which depicts life in the city in 1903. The Gothic red brick St. Andrew’s church next door was constructed in 1888 and was the only major church to survive Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901. It’s the Jacksonville Historical Society Headquarters. Florida Theater, which originally opened on April 8, 1927, is the city’s last remaining example of a 1920’s movie palace. It’s magnificent-looking, but catch a live performance there, if you can.

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is filled with about 1,000 pieces in its permanent collection, making it one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the Southeast. It isn’t just for grown-ups either. Visit the fifth floor for some kid-friendly activities. There’s always something going on in Hemming Plaza, Jacksonville’s oldest public park. The Hemming Park Beer Garden has happy hour from 5-8pm every Thursday night. There are usually at least two food trucks operating. It’s hard to label Sweet Pete’s Restaurant, lounge, candy factory, ice cream parlor, and gift shop. It’s all KATHLEEN WALLS that, housed in what was the historic 1903 Seminole Club. You can watch candy being made in the second floor factory. You might think “a museum above a rescue mission is strange,” but as you tour the Dr. Eartha White Museum, you understand why. Eartha was the adopted daughter of Clara White, a former slave and founder of the mission. Eartha was well-educated and had a variety of upscale careers, including opera singer. She remembered her mother’s teaching and continued the mission. The rooms where she lived from 1932 until her death in 1974 at age 97 are maintained with her original furniture. Famous guests included Booker T. Washington, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and Eleanor Roosevelt. One of my favorite artifacts is a beautiful pump organ, which was a gift from Duke Ellington. The original Ritz Theater, constructed in 1929, was the center of LaVilla neighborhood. The museum showcases Jacksonville’s African American heritage. There is so much more to see besides what’s available downtown. The Jacksonville Zoo is addictive. Kingsley Plantation was owned by a former slave. These are just two of the many options available to you. Jacksonville is the largest U.S. city, area-wise. Like any metro area, it’s concerned about visitor safety and has Downtown Ambassadors around the downtown area. They wear orange shirts or jackets and patrol on bikes or on foot seven days a week to help in any situation. I live a few miles out of town, but I know when I come to Jacksonville, I can find whatever suits my mood.

Kathleen Walls Kathleen Walls is the publisher, editor and general go-for at American Roads and Global Highways. She writes fiction books, non-fiction books, and travel books. Her travel and food related articles have been published in Woodall’s Publications, Family Motor Coaching, Amateur Chef, Georgia Magazine, North Georgia Journal, Georgia Backroads, London, England’s Country Music People, many of the visit***online.com sites and others.




Bodegas Salentein

Defining the Wines of the Valle De Uco Story and photos by Cori Solomon

Bodegas Salentien – Primus Room or Winery Central Quad

Bodegas Salentien Vineyards


hen it comes to South America and wine growing, one might consider Mendoza Argentina the epicenter of Argentine winemaking. The Mendoza wine region is made up of several distinct areas; Luján De Cuyo, Maipú and Valley de Uco. Both Luján de Cuyo and Maipú are well-established regions that have been producing wines for well over 100 years. The Valle de Uco is relatively new to the Argentine wine industry being only 20 -30 years old. Forging its way early on was Bodegas Salentien. Bodegas Salentein was established in 1992. Not only was it one of the earliest pioneers of the Valle de Uco, it is largest cool climate estate in Mendoza. Its beginning was by happenstance. When Mijndert Pon, known as MP, retired from the family business of importing cars in Holland, primarily Volkswagens, he decided to sail around the world. His sailing days came to a halt when a freighter hit his boat in the Panama Canal. This ill-fated incident was the impetus for Bodegas Salentien. On a whim, MP decided to go to Argentina to hunt and fish. This trip ended with the purchase of a farm. That farm with the addition of a couple of other farms is now known as Bodegas Salentien, which is the name of the family’s farm in the Netherlands. Bodegas Salentien is made up of 2000 Hectares of which 800 hectares are planted




with vineyards. The vineyards are divided into three estates, known as fincas. They are El Oasis, La Pampa and San Pablo. El Oasis resides at the lowest altitude and has the longest growing season. The varietals planted here are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. La Pampa is in the middle of the three and consists of alluvial soils. Here Merlot and Pinot Noir are grown. San Pablo sits at the highest elevation growing primarily Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In the Valle de Uco the weather seems cooler and like the wines of California coast, the mountain breezes that drive the temperatures down at night play a vital role in the grapes growing process. The estate has at least several different microclimates. The typography and range of elevations above sea level at the different fincas on the property allow for diversity in the wines. The wines of this region especially Malbec are subtle and velvety with structure and elegance. Bodegas Salentien is not just a visit to a winery with a tasting, it offers a unique experience enhanced by both the fine and culinary arts. MP was an avid art collector of contemporary Killka Malbec

art. His passion for the arts both visual and culinary is an inherent part of the winery. There is sculpture throughout the grounds and the tasting room facility also houses an art gallery as well as a restaurant. The gallery known as Killka displays houses the permanent collection and a gallery with revolving Argentine artists. The permanent collection consists of 19th and 20th century Dutch artists and contemporary Argentine art. It is truly a destination winery. The concept behind the winery is the union of nature and culture under one roof. Nature is the sun that beats down on the Valle de Uco, the Cordillera winds that sweep down from the Andes and the landscape itself including the vineyards. This notion is carried down to the buildings, which are constructed of natural materials and almost blend into the landscape. This unification creates a harmonious balance similar to the consistency seen in the wines created at Bodegas Salentein. The winery was designed by the architectural firm of Bormida & Yanzon and built like a cruciform cross with a central courtyard. The two level wings that jet

out from the quad create two Bodegas. One floor houses the main area of winery functions, including the tanks and vats for fermentation. The second the underground cellars. The wine flows from one level to another through a gravity flow system. It is

Having visited Bodegas Salentein on a wine focused media trip in 2013 and being able to explore the wines further at a recent tasting in Los Angeles made it quite evident the changes and improvements this winery is having under the influence of their cur-

José “Pepe” Galante, Winemaker

the central area seen from either floor that gives the winery its commanding performance both figuratively and literally. The mosaic tile floor of this rotunda is surrounded by columns and oak barrels making this area become center stage for wine aging as well as a music hall whose audience is the aging wine. One has to wonder if the concerts are for human enjoyment or the melodic sounds assist in mellowing out the wine enabling humans to appreciate the Salentien wine even more. To further your appreciation of the winery and the Valle De Uco, Bodegas Salentien offers guest accommodations at the Posada, a small estancia with sixteen guest suites, a pool and restaurant. This boutique hotel is located in the vineyards of finca La Pampa.

rent winemaker José “Pepe” Galante. José is considered one of the pioneers of the Argentine wine industry. His work with Paul Hobbs helped revolutionize winemaking in Argentina. His career spans over forty years of which thirty of those years was spent at Catena Zapata. Under his tutelage some outstanding wine are being made. Actually the wine speaks for itself. Salentien has several different categories of wines. Beginning with the Portilla a wine that is fermented in steel for about two weeks and aged in bottle for 4 months. Among the wines of the Portilla label is a marvelous crisp fresh Rosé. The Killka series pays homage to the art gallery at the winery. Killka also means entry and this is considered one of Salentien’s entry-level wine labels. The bottles feature the art-

work of several different artists that are represented at the gallery. The Torrentos bears the artwork of Antonio Segui called, “Looking for Love in the City”. The Killka Malbec carries the artwork called “The Blue Arm Chair” by Carlos Alonsso, an 80-year-old painter from the Valle du Uco. The chair is empty because it represents the loneliness felt after his daughter died. It is a tribute to the style of Van Gogh. Although the chair is empty, the Malbec within the bottle is not. The wine is light and spicy with aromas of violets. Aging is done in stainless with the addition of staves to add hints of oak. Salentien’s sparkling wine is represented by their Gold label series. There is the Brut Nature that is created in Méthode Champenoise utilizing the following grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Mineure. Salentien now produces a single vineyard label. These wines primarily come from the La Pampa Finca. The varieties include Malbec, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In fact the Malbec in this vineyard is the oldest dating back to 1997. The Numbia label is a Bordeaux blend combining Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Finally there is Primus label, which is considered the most prestigious of all Salentien’s labels. The wine created under this series brings together what is considered the finest grapes from the entire estate. Sustainable in its practices, Bodegas Salentien continues to forge its path and making it imprint on Argentine wine in the Valle de Uco.

Cori Solomon My writing epitomizes “write what I know” and I share my experiences and joy with my topics in a passionate, candid, caring and entertaining way. Like my art where I am looking beyond the eyes to find an animal’s inner soul and spirit, I am looking for the story that is behind the restaurant, chef, winery, winemaker, artist or animal.




Taking Refuge in Patagonia Patagonia Refugios

Story and photos by Jim DeLillo

Dark skies, free of light pollution in Patagonia, render the stars in rich detail.

Patagonia’s W-Circuit offers views of pristine glacier-fed lakes.


lie on my bed. There is still commotion outside my door. Though, inside the four-bunk room, it’s mostly silent. The others are asleep, but some occasional snoring punctuates the quiet. It isn’t too bad, and I have earplugs, just in case. The refugios are hostel-like accommodations in Patagonia National Park in Chile’s Aysen Region.




Fantastico Sur owns and operates four Refugios: • Refugio Torre Central • Refugio Torre Norte • Refugio El Chileno • Los Cuernos A serpentine trail known as the W-Circuit connects the rustic lodgings. Each refugio has its own personality. The one common denominator is that they function as the respite for travelers making the trek. The W-Circuit is so named because of the shape it transcribes around the base of Paine Grande, the area’s dominant mountain peak.

Leaving the Hotel Los Torres, I arrive in the shadows of Los Cuernos “The Horns” on the first night. A pair of multicolored spires dominate the vertical view. The refugio here has a series of individual cabins situated on the lower slopes. Each cabin has two beds and a very efficient wood stove, which is warm and toasty. Dinner in the common area gives me a chance to exchange details of the day’s hike with the other trekkers. Dinner starts with crudités, salami, and cheese, and the mandatory Pisco Sours. Pisco is the native colorless or yellowish-to-amber-colored brandy produced by distilling grape wine

into high-proof spirits and is considered the national drink of Chile (See FWT Issue #3). Hot soup and hearty meats and potatoes fill my belly. The gathering moves from the dining table to a warm blazing fireplace, continuing conversation with newfound friends. As I get drowsy, I remember one last stop I must make. The unique feature here, besides the cabins, is the wood-heated open-air hot tub. An after-dinner dip eases my sore muscles. I gaze at the stars through the rising mist. That night, I sleep comfortably in the woodstove-heated cabin. The stove runs

all night without additional stoking. The soft orange glow gives this remote bedroom the cozy feel of one’s home. I am up at dawn capturing photos of the fleeting alpenglow on the peaks of Los Cuernos. The refugio staff packs my brown bag lunch. The sandwich of choice is salmon, chicken, or vegetarian (cucumbers, tomatoes, and dressing). A piece of fruit and chips balance out the offering with the feeling of being back in elementary school. Meandering around the base of the Paine Massif, all along I’m treated to views of lakes and glaciers, and of course, waterfalls. Constant streams dripping off the

glacial slopes provide abundant, clear, clean water for drinking. But more than that, I’m drinking in the view, a landscape punctuated by iridescent blue-green lakes of glacier milk, a suspension of fine silt in the water. Although this area was devastated by a massive forest fire in 2012, the resulting forest of burned trees creates an otherworldly scene of monochromatic, straggly saplings struggling to regain a foothold. At the end of the 10-11 miles, the next refugio is a welcome sight indeed, spanning the distance between each lodge. This refugio and the remaining ones lack the cabins. Here, each bunk is supplied




with fresh linen and a substantial quilt. This amenity makes it a welcome relief from backpacking a sleeping bag. This one particularly frosty evening, an additional quilt is brought to me, just for the asking. By morning, however, I kick off the extra blanket. Every refugio has camping facilities if you would rather stay outdoors. I complete the nearly 50-mile W-circuit, visiting the other refugios in turn. I return to the starting point by boarding the Grey II, a ferry boat that crosses Lake Grey. We stop to touch the icebergs as Captain Arturo maneuvers the ship with deft precision. A highlight of this excursion is…Pisco Sours – this time chilled with glacier ice scooped

from the lake. The trek is oft-noted for its gale-force windy conditions, where you can lean into the wind and not fall flat. While I’m here, there’s a continued lull in this wind phenomenon, presumably due to climate change. There are side hikes available to the higher elevations. Miradors, as they are called; a short jaunt from Italian Camp, the Valle del Francés. Vistas that look out over the glaciers or to the base of Torres Del Paine, a geologic uprising of three towers. The three instantly recognizable granite peaks extend up to 2,500 meters above sea level. Getting here is no easy feat. It takes

24 hours on a commercial airline out of New York, another 2 hours south on a puddle jumper from Santiago to Puerto Natales (only another hour and a half farther by air, and I would be in Antarctica). Finally, after five hours in a van headed back north, I’m in the middle of nowhere at the ends of the earth. The view of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field from the plane confirms that for me. I could see no roads, no habitation – just endless shades of gray and the white of the glaciers, including the Dickson, the Grey, and the Tyndall, set against a startlingly blue sky. Patagonia is another world, but the refugios make the trek more familiar and comfortable. All three meals are included in the trip, as are the fees for the guides.

Pisco Sours, the national drink of Chile

The Patagonia peaks of “The Horns”, Los Cuernos, are bathed in alpenglow towering over a Refugio cabin of Fantastico Sur in Chile.

If you go My tour was arranged by Fantastico Sur Reservations ventas@fantasticosur.com W trek Programs reservas@fantasticosur.com Getting There US departure to Santiago, Chile: LAN Airlines Round-trip airfare from NY: Approximately $1,000 Spend a night in Puerto Varas In-country transfers: Transfer from Santiago, Chile to Puerto Natales, Chile can be arranged through Fantastico Sur on LAN Airlines

Fantastico Sur Programs Option 1: Self-guided program (without guide), without meals Option 2: Self-guided program (without guide), meals included Option 3: Guided program (with guide), meals included Total length of the circuit: 5 days / 4 nights. Total Distance: 71 Km. Internet: The National Park and the Fantástico Sur’s Lodges don’t have cellphone or Internet connectivity. GPS devices: They work properly all over the Torres del Paine National Park.

Jim DeLillo Jim DeLillo is a travel and adventure photographer who specializes in creating transporting imagery, capturing local color in travel, editorial, and commercial photography. His expansive landscapes are layered, narrative, and rich in tone. They are lit from within having a luminous quality and show a strong attention to detail, composition, and production. His 35+ years of experience includes international publications including Woman’s World Magazine. His photojournalist, reality based, eclectic style provides a refreshing break from the stiffly-posed shots. Based near NYC, Jim is available for assignments globally. Jim has recently added Milkyway photography to his skill set.




Saint Lucia’s Water Wonderland Story and photos by Andrew T. Der Underwater photography by Bernd Rac

Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain, Scuba Saint Lucia during misting rain



xchanging glances with glowing sea creature eyes that only come out at night distracted me from the air bubbles rippling past my ears from the scuba tank regulator. Weightless and in the dark except for an underwater flashlight beam, I eagerly observed the annual floating confetti clouds of spawning coral egg packets floating upward like falling snow,




sovereignty with English becoming the predominate language. English, colorfully blended with Patois (Patwah), a local Creole dialect mix, sets the scene for an unspoiled island experience. This self-contained, sustainable, and nature-compatible destination is on many premium travel lists. Agriculture is perfected into a superior, eco-friendly industry of farm-to-table produce which is considered second to its tourism industry. During your stay, you will find pampering, treetop hotels, glamping, and fine dining; however, there are also many appealing local attractions: rare nature activities; sea creature appreciation; birding; scuba diving; kayaking; hiking and bicycling in the exotic Anse Mamin Nature Preserve; and the respect of sea turtle conservation. In keeping with the island’s ecologically sensitive development, Anse Chastanet (“ons shastanay”), a remote and environmentally sensitive resort is brilliantly constructed around the natural environment, using only local materials, no tree removal, rainwater runoff, or earth moving. The resort includes full service beaches with snorkel gear, stand-up paddle boards, windsurfers, kayaks, and Sunfish sailing; take a yoga class, imbibe at the local beach bar, or get pampered right on the surf with their beach accessible spa. Anse Chastanet’s 600-acre estate also just days after the first August full moon. includes the internationally famous Jade The West Indian island of St. Lucia Mountain Resort. Frequented by celebri(“Saint Looshia”) is a cultural mix of ties, Jade Mountain features in-room infinFrench, English, African, and Creole which ity pools, private open-air accommodations serves, not only as an unexpected getaway and a personal butler. Anse Chastanet and to tropical seashores and rainforest moun- Jade Mountain are also on many premium tain preserves, teeming with critters, but wedding and honeymoon destination lists, also as an educational experience. St. Lucia where the Anse Mamin forest and jungle was part of a colonial struggle between the nature backdrop is a popular reception and British and French which was caused by a photography locale. slavery-based boom in the tropical produce If you need a break from relaxation, the trade. This struggle resulted in the island’s resort’s sister operations of Scuba Saint Lu-

cia, Kayak Saint Lucia, and Bike Saint Lucia will keep you busy below, on, and above the water. Next door, the Anse Mamin nature preserve includes remains and ruins of an 18th century colonial plantation which are now a beachside forest natural area. Anse Mamin offers unlimited hiking among exotic plants and medicinal herbs; jungle forest bike riding; history appreciation; and world famous bird watching, alone or with a local guide. At Anse Mamin’s beachfront bar and grill, you may appreciate the best hamburgers ever grilled over re-purposed, relic molasses boiling kettles from colonial occupation. If above-ground critter action is your thing, landlubber naturalists need not despair. Anse Chastanet attracts serious birders from all over the world, where a lucky observer may discover birds found nowhere else on earth. The St. Lucia Pewee, St. Lucia Warbler, Mangrove Cuckoo, St. Lucia Oriole (once only 60 pairs in existence), the national bird “Jacquot”, or St. Lucia Parrot are some of the recovering species waiting to behold. July through October is sea turtle hatching season. Usually observed underwater, the female turtle may appear ashore to deposit egg nests along the beach. Some may even hatch right in front of the resort. No lights or flash cameras are allowed during the evening exodus so as not to confuse the newborns. A critically endangered animal, the Leatherback sea turtle – the largest of all living turtles – is a popular species to see; a gentle lumbering adult can weigh 2,000 pounds. If you choose, bypass the mainstream beach resorts of the touristy northern capital city of Castries for more of St. Lucia’s gems in the lesser traveled south. Take an afternoon guided trip to the nearby town of Soufriere (sulfur in French), and explore the volcano lands, botanical gardens, or historic town square. Soufriere was named after the sulfur-laden odor and springs associated with the Caribbean’s only drivethrough, active volcanic area. Volcanoes are the basis of St. Lucia’s formation, with breathtaking mountains and rocky seashores. Two main remnant volcanic peaks (or Pitons) are popular postcard images. Also, in the heart of the Soufriere Marine

Management Area and Reserve, Scuba St. Lucia, is ideal for many desired water adventures. Scuba St. Lucia offers underwater voyages for the novice or experienced. This one-stop-shop dive facility, founded in 1981, provides dive masters who aid in your diving, providing equipment and accessories to enhance your underwater enjoyment. If you visit in the August off-season, one of many events St. Lucia embraces is an internationally, rare marine biology occurrence available for all to view. Anse Chastanet’s annual coral spawning may be witnessed in the evening waters of a night dive. Tiny white dots of sperm/egg packets float upward from the coral surface, in unison and precisely on cue, within a three-day window. Brittle Starfish spawning is usually triggered on the coral surface, right after, by a chain reaction, so vivid that Jacques Cousteau would be envious. What’s the big deal? Discovered in the 1980’s at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, this annual mass reproductive phenomenon overturned a long-held belief that most coral species reproduce by internal egg fertilization. This new external phase of reproduction is critical to the coral reefs, and our own ecosystem’s survival. Each year, coral releases millions of egg and sperm cells that drift to the sea surface for fertilization, until it is slick with coral larvae. Then, they settle to the bottom, destined

Lesser Antilles Bull Finch Shares Breakfast

to build the next generation of one of the ocean’s most vital organisms. It is this spawning phase of reproduction that is the weak link of reef survival, which can only happen when conditions are just right. But wait – there’s more! Observing coral is one thing, but being a steward of conservation is critical to visitor appreciation. With coral mortality increasing worldwide, Scuba St. Lucia recently launched St. Lucia’s first pilot “coral farm” in collaboration with “Crew 3000” – a volunteer reef conservation organization of like-minded marine specialists and travelers. The “3000” rep-

Snorkeling the reef Anse Chastanet

resent the goals of achieving ocean health by year 3000. Anse Chastanet works with Crew 3000, annually, to establish strategically placed artificial underwater structures on the ocean bottom, with fragmented

Staghorn coral fragments, to accelerate reproduction and growth. A visiting diver may observe this activity with a guide, or even volunteer with Crew 3000 by making arrangements in advance. For more diving intrigue, get ready for a short boat ride to combine nature with historical artifacts. Exploring the organism-encrusted wrecks of Lesleen M, Anse La Raye, and Anse Cochon is fascinating; wreck-diving is usually for the advanced, but not here in these shallow blue waters. For something different, try the walls or the drift dive of Superman’s Flight in the shadow of Petit Piton where the cliff face was the backdrop of a scene in the film, Superman II. Visiting the wonderfully diverse island of St.

Lucia (especially seeking out Anse Chastanet), with all of its history, amazing culture, adventure-filled activities, eco-friendliness, relaxation, pampering, and culinary indulgence, will leave you wanting to discover more of the Caribbean’s West Indies.

Andrew T. Der As an environmental consultant, Andrew T. Der has, for the last 30 years, written for land development companies and government agencies requiring technical and scientific guidance in the environmental disciplines. For the last 10 years, his interests and expertise have wandered into travel journalism as an opportunity to establish a successful published story-base to explore more diverse and creative professional opportunities. In addition to nature, primary destination interests are creative and cultural family destinations, unique resorts, eco-travel, and the occasional offbeat experience.

Coral releasing spawning packets

Cruising Peru’s Amazon River A Voyage of Discovery on the Delfin II by Diana Russler Photographs by Bill Gent Sunset over the Upper Amazon, Peru


urrounded by Peru’s tropical rain forest, where the Ucayali and Marañon Rivers meet to form the mighty Amazon, sits the 8,000-acre Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. With no roads, the only way to explore is by riverboat, but just reaching this remote part of the planet requires effort. Our journey begins with a flight from Lima, over the Andes Mountains, to Peru’s largest rainforest city, Iquitos. From here a two-hour bus ride on the only paved road in the entire Peruvian rain forest takes us to Nauta where we board the Delfin II Riverboat, our home for the next week. The 135-foot long, air-conditioned boat is unexpectedly luxurious. Fourteen en-suite cabins are spread over two decks. Included in these are four suites on the bow with 180-degree panoramic windows providing views of the ever-changing scenery. The cabins are exquisitely decorated with local hardwood and earth tone fabrics. Exotic, fresh, tropical flowers provide a dash of color. Peruvian pima cotton sheets cover the beds, accented with a locally-made raffia butterfly perching on the end. Meals are served on the second deck, in a dining room with wrap-around windows, where tables are set with linen tablecloths, china settings and crystal glasses. Local handicrafts – whimsical raffia creatures of the rain-forest, fresh flowers and raffia

Dining Room on the Delfin II

place-mats – give the tables a festive air. A blackboard at the entrance lists the menu for the meal. The food is unfailingly delicious, made almost entirely of produce from the rainforest, including novelties like carpaccio from local Donatella fish and sorbets created from jungle fruits, such as Ungurawi (the fruit of an Amazon palm tree), most of which do not have an English name. The servers are professionals, welltrained in the finer points of food service and etiquette. They even wear white gloves when they serve us a breakfast picnic on skiffs, deep in the rain forest. Whatever their other functions, in the evening the 18-person crew become musicians, playing infectious toe-tapping music with guitars, charangas and panpipes, using an old wooden crate as a drum. Eventually they have even the most introverted pas-

sengers up and bopping around the dining room. On the top deck, an observation platform, complete with bar and comfortable armchairs, provides a place to meet for a Pisco Sour (Peru’s national drink) and a front row seat as the sun sets over the river in a fiery display. You can even opt for a sunset workout or massage. Our schedule for the week is simple: sail the river, tie up against the bank, then use skiffs or kayaks to explore the many tributaries, landing periodically to look for wildlife. Early each morning and late in the afternoon, we board our 10-passenger aluminum skiffs, each staffed by a local naturalist who knows the area intimately. This is one of the richest habitats on earth with the most types of plants and animals per square acre. By the end of the week we have seen over 160 species of




birds, monkeys (including howlers, squirrel monkeys, and the diminutive owl monkeys) and three-toes sloths, as well as many amphibians and reptiles. We have also caught sight of the grey dolphins and the Amazon pink river dolphins, gamboling in the waters. Our exploration of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is not limited to cruising the river. Several times during the week, we don knee-high rubber boots, cover ourselves with insect repellent, and pick our way gingerly through the rainforest. Within minutes we are drenched in sweat in the dank, musty jungle, so much so that upon our return to the boat many people simply walk into the shower fully clothed to cool off. Distances in the rainforest are measured in hours not miles as you plod through ankle-deep mud in a dim landscape. In certain spots, only about 1 percent of sunlight reaches the ground. You can walk for an hour and only cover a few hundred yards. Lianas, some twisted into corkscrews, hang from the 180 ft. high trees. Water drips from everything, including the wildly colorful lobster claw flower (heliconia) and the enormous kapok trees. As outsiders our eyes don’t immediately see the treasures hidden within. Periodically, our guide reaches down into the leaves and triumphantly finds something unusual– a neon-colored poison dart frog, an enormous land snail, a red-tailed boa constrictor, hissing at being disturbed. We even see a 17 ft. long anaconda, captured

by fishermen after it becomes entangled in their nets. During one hike we climb to a 1,000foot long canopy walkway that gives us an unobstructed view 90 feet above the rainforest. As we look across the never-ending tree line, iridescent blue morpho butterflies flit about in the sunlight. It is a pleasant sensation to be away from the oppressiveness of the forest floor. Another hike takes us to a quiet backwater lagoon where giant water lilies, their leaves up to nine feet in diameter, float on A bedroom suite on the Delfin II

The Delfin II moored to the riverbank

top of the water, their nocturnal pink and white flowers still unfurled in the early morning light. Most days we are safely cocooned on the riverboat, wine glass in hand, before sundown. However one day, after dinner, we embark on a night hike. Armed with headlamps, and feeling just a little apprehensive, we set off to experience the jungle. All around us eyes peer from the bushes and from the edges of the river where caimans lurk. We turn off our lights and stand

perfectly still to experience the sounds of the night – cicadas and a myriad of other insects, the distant hooting of an owl, an alarm call from a group of monkeys, the annoying high-pitched whine of a mosquito that has taken a liking to my neck. In the complete darkness we try not to brush up against anything, afraid of what passengers we might inadvertently pick up. Clearly, we are the interlopers in this unique land. Yet for thousands of years, tribes have lived along these rivers. As we move

through the waters, we periodically see thatched huts on the shore. Fishermen in log dugouts are a common sight, pulling piranhas or barracudas out of the water. We wave and sometimes they wave back. Mostly they ignore the intrusion. The riverboat company is deeply committed to social responsibility and to ensuring that the villagers are not overlooked as tourism develops in the area. We stop at two villages to drop off school supplies that we have brought. The children, with deep dark eyes and beautiful smiles, stare shyly.




Hoatzin bird in Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve

Some of the bolder ones gather around giggling and pointing to see pictures of themselves in the camera viewfinders. They thank us by singing songs, and we return the favor, our out-of-tune voices attempting a rendition of “Row Your Boat”. They laugh and clap before running alongside as we board our skiff and “row” away, regretting that we cannot stay longer in this enchanting land in the Peruvian rainforest.

If you go LATAM offers flights from the US to Lima, Peru with connections to Iquitos. Other airlines (Delta, United, American) offer flights that connect in Panama City to Lima. Delfin Amazon River Cruises If you are an independent traveler, you can arrange a river cruise on the Delfin II, direct with Delfin Amazon River Cruises tel. (844) 4-DELFIN). Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic If you prefer to have someone make travel arrangements for you or want to visit other parts of Peru as well, Lindblad Expeditions/ National Geographic offer several cruises on the Delfin II with the option of add-ons elsewhere.

Diana Russler New York-based Diana Russler is an adventurer, freelance writer and photographer who, together with her husband, Bill Gent, delight in sharing their discoveries, especially those from more unknown areas of the world. Their work, which has appeared in Nature Photographer, International Living, and various other magazines can be seen at www.thewingedsandals.com and on www. allegriaphotos.com.

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Deep, Dark and Delicious The Flavours of Africa in Salvador, Brazil by Elizabeth Willoughby

Photography Š Embratur Image Bank

Bahian moqueca

Bahian woman


n the dank heat the drumming starts, beating life into the dark night air. Three alabés (drummers) in brilliant red shirts and stark white pants are perched at the head of the room and belt out a rhythm on their tall, conga-style drums. They’re calling the orixás (gods). In front of the alabés stands the babalorixá, the priest who leads the night. He begins chanting. He is answered by a chorus of women. Barefoot ladies in bulging hooped skirts float in – their long colourful necklaces swaying against white lace blouses, keeping time with graceful, swinging hips; their hair bundled in white turbans against black skin. Repeating the lines of the priest, and in step with the sonorous beat of the sacred drums, they weave into a growing circle in front of the babalorixá, dancing counter clockwise around a tall centerpiece of axes. Arms gesture in unison indicating to which orixá they are currently singing: hands float over imaginary waves for Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea; they cover one ear for Oiá, the goddess of the river who cut off her ear to make her husband love her more than his other wives; or they fan themselves like conceited Oxum, the goddess of beauty, fertility and sweet waters. This night, the second to last of the Candomblé year — the ancient religion transported to Brazil from Africa centuries ago — is the night for the iabás (female gods) to gather together and celebrate. They do this by possessing the bodies of the “children” (the dancing ladies) who have just begun the interminable ritual. They chant and prance to the booming percussion as the air ripens, hot and thick. Finally, when each of the orixás have been honoured with psalms, the babalorixá leads the hymn calling for the possessions to take place. All at once the ladies fold in half, eyes closed, derrieres extended, ululating in unearthly voices, pixilated, entranced.

Helpers rush to their aid, removing their waist bands and retying them around their chests to hold in the spirits. The possessed begin dancing disorderly, fervently. Each is led out of the chapel and returns in the Candomblé costume of the particular god that is possessing her. On and on the spirits

dance. There are several terreiros (Candomblé temple grounds) where one can watch such a ritual. They used to be hidden away in the forest surrounding Salvador where the slaves from Nigeria would practice their religion out of the watchful eyes of the




masters. Attempts to force African arrivals into Catholicism brought to light certain similarities between the Catholic saints and Candomblé orixás, providing a way for the slaves to honour both sets of saints/gods and not give up their own. Today the city has engulfed the terreiros, reducing some of the mystique but allowing for easy access through favelas (ghettos). Throughout the year, most of the ceremonies are for specific purposes rather than celebrations. Candomblistas, for good intentions and for bad, address their personal orixás for assistance through a terreiro’s priest or priestess. Many of Brazil’s modern-day politicians still look to their orixás for advice and help. Capoeira also developed secretly in Ba-

hia. Originally an African form of martial arts, slaves either feinted dancing in order to practice it or, where banned by slave owners, stealthily exercised it in the woods. Today, it’s an impressive athletic type of game accompanied by the music of the berimbau, a wooden bow with a single string and a hollow bowl fastened at the bottom end. Two participants at a time perform in the center of a human circle, spinning and kicking at each other, faster and faster, somehow managing never to make contact. Berimbau, percussion and song keep time. Groups spontaneously launch into Capoeira presentations on Salvador’s promenades, street corners and in the downtown area that is surrounded by colourful, colonial building facades. There also stands

pelourinho – the whipping post where slaves were publicly flogged, tortured, bought and sold. Nearby is Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, the slaves’ church. Verily, an abundance of museums, churches, architecture, exhibits, shows and artisan shops display local history and African-Brazilian themes. Saturated in African influences, few Brazilians would dispute that the strongest element in their national cuisine is also African in origin. Africans not only introduced several of their own herbs and spices into the pot, but they substituted ingredients into Portuguese and aboriginal dishes and created new concoctions from scatch. Feijoada, the mixed meat stew that slaves made with discarded leftovers, is Brazil’s

A colonial church in Salvador

national dish. At various street corners in Salvador, hungry pedestrians find another favourite. Black ladies with warm smiles, white turbans and lacy petticoats serve up acarajé. Made from a batter of dried shrimp, skinless dried beans, onion and seasoning, spoonfuls of the mixture are dropped into hot dendê oil (African palm oil) and deep fried until they puff up like elongated dumplings. Removed from the oil, they are drained, slit down the center and filled with acarajé sauce (malagueta peppers, shrimp, onion, ginger, palm oil). It’s also commonly garnished with fried shrimp and a most popular Afro-Brazilian dish, vatapá, a kind of creamy shrimp pudding. And let’s not forget Bahian moqueca. Originally wrapped in banana leaves and roasted in coals, nowadays moqueca is a shrimp, fish or seafood ragout with dendê oil, coconut milk, peppers and onions, Capoeira dancers

cooked in a covered clay pot and served with rice cooked in coconut milk. Culture and tradition, rhythm and dance, religion and ritual, as alive today as ever it was — the flavours of Africa in Salvador.

If you go Remember that Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, so the warmest months are December through February. Many nationalities require a visa to visit Brazil. Don’t forget to check if yours is one of them. www.visitbrasil.com

Elizabeth Willoughby Since the late 90s Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine, maintaining home bases in North America, South America and Europe. Hopscotching across the globe to gather stories and photos, she is the author of “Tales from the Road,” the adventure travel page at worldguide.eu, she designs the ultimate wine and cuisine road trips for writeshots.com, and for a time she wrote two regular columns for Brazil’s only bilingual newspaper, Sunday News, on South American travel and culture clash.




Galapagos Sea Lion

Galapagos 3 Ways – Up, Down and All Around

Unique Species Inhabit the Air, Land and Water Story and photos by Karin Leperi

The distribution of tenants of this archipelago would not be nearly so wonderful, if for instance, one island has a mocking-thrush and a second island some other quite distinct species… But it is the circumstance that several of the islands possess their own species of tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous plants, these species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder. — Charles Darwin


he remote Galapagos Islands are on the bucket list of many a traveler and wildlife-lover. With a dramatic and desolate beauty borne of volcanic eruptions spewing over 4-5 million years ago, these islands harbor some of the most unique species in the world. From blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants to Darwin’s famous finches and the Galapagos tortoise, species wander about with a fearlessness that comes only from a lack of natural predators. The Galapagos were accidentally discovered in 1535 by becalmed Fray Tomas




A cruise with sustainability and environmental awareness

The best way to see the islands is by boat. My sister Carol and I chose the expedition cruise company Ecoventura for its commitment to environmental sustainability. A family-owned business based on the mainland in Guayaquil, Ecuador, their small size and the headquarters’ proximity to the Galapagos inspires their vision and de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, who gives them a flexibility that’s attractive in actually was sailing to Peru. Subsequent this market. to its scientific discovery, the islands were Ecoventura emphasizes green cruising visited by pirates on the run, whalers and on their three yachts, the M/Y Eric, Flamaritime fur traders. As a result, they were mingo, and the Letty, with each capable of known more as a hideout and way station carrying up to 20 passengers for one-week for outliers than for its unique species. and two-week cruises. What’s important It was the visit of the H.M.S. Beagle in to know is that their green emphasis is September of 1835 that literally brought the comprehensive of both the ship and the Galapagos to the attention of the world. Exislands they visit. For example, they offer pedition naturalist Charles Darwin made the lowest naturalist guide-to-passenger detailed observations of the geology and ratio by capping group size to no more biology of the islands, in particular, noting than ten passengers per guides. This starkly differences between species of the various contrasts to the average of 16 passengers islands. His 1859 publication, “The Origin per guide offered on most other Galapagos of Species,” a scientific theory of evolution cruising vessels, including some of the based on natural selection, would eventualbetter known operators. According to our ly rock existing notions on the evolution of Captain Pablo Salas of the Letty, “We have mankind.

some of the best naturalist guides in the Galapagos.” They also have great food. My vegan sister was most appreciative of their very adaptive cuisine, while those of us less restrictive in our diet enjoyed Ecuadorian and international delicacies fixed daily by Culinary Institute-trained chefs. Plus, the local beer and house wine are complimentary while served with dinner.

Galapagos 3 ways

Over the course of the next week, we experienced the variety of Galapagos species in three distinct ways: by land, sea, and air. With roughly 9,000 species living on the islands, in the air, and in the waters, the Galapagos are a scientific laboratory for species adaptation. Much of the wildlife is endemic meaning that they are native to the islands and found nowhere else in the world. In fact, it might be an understatement to say that endemic species are what put Galapagos on the map.

By land

Endemic anomalies on land include prehistoric-looking lizards such as the land iguana. From 5,000 to 10,000 land iguanas are found in the Galapagos, with each island exhibiting variations in morphology and coloration. But it is the Galapagos Giant Tortoise that is one of the most popular attractions. Despite threats from poaching to introduced species such as goats and dogs that greatly reduced island populations, the tortoise has persevered, but only with intervention of conservation efforts worldwide. Notwithstanding these heroic efforts, a male Pinta Island tortoise named Lonesome George – the last of his subspecies and known as the rarest creature in world – succumbed to old age on June 24, 2012. Sadly, he went from endemic to extinct. Today, he continues to be symbolic of the islands’ tenuous biodiversity and his image serves as a rallying cry against further species extinction.




Clockwise from top left: Galapagos tortoise , Galapagos Land Iguana , Blue-Footed Booby, Frigatebird




Letty with moon

By sea

Interesting enough, the marine iguana actually emerged from the land iguana by a process involving selective adaptation. (Due to sparse food conditions, their survival required that they adapt to a different food source.) Surviving exclusively on underwater algae and seaweed, these docile herbivores have unique sizes, shapes, and colors on each of the islands. For example, on Espanola Island only, some of the marine iguanas take on a beautiful green and red coloring which has rendered them the name of the Christmas iguana. On most other islands, their shades range from gray to black, helping them blend in with strewn lava rocks. This is the only marine iguana




in the world and they are considered to be vulnerable to extinction. Technically, the Galapagos penguin is a flightless bird, one of five endemic seabirds in the islands. If lucky, you might encounter them as you snorkel, swimming around like a bullet with an agility and speed that contrasts markedly to their clumsiness on land. They are the only tropical penguin in the world. And then there are the Galapagos sea lions which seem dispersed everywhere. As a swimmer and snorkeler, Carol delighted with their curious yet playful antics underwater. However, when on land, keep a cautionary distance from them as they are sunning on sandy beaches and flat rocks.

By air

The bird population in Galapagos has some of the greatest and yet strangest diversity. Take the case of the comical blue-footed booby, where the bluer the feet of the male, the more enticing they are to the female. Within a couple feet of my GoPro camera, I watched as several boobies choreographed an elaborate dance of high-stepping, bowing, and wing-spreading. These fearless birds nest on the ground with nothing but a small circle of guano to mark boundaries for their eggs. Equally amusing is the frigatebird, an outstanding flyer with the largest wingspan to weight ratio of any bird in the world. In this world the female chooses the partner:

the male inflates his red heart-shaped pouch in hopes that a scouting female will find him as a suitable mate. I can almost hear the refrains of the Rod Stewart song, “Do you think I’m sexy?” We traveled to a total of seven islands, each with variances in geology, elevation, and precipitation: From cactus-cloaked desert isles and lava-strewn lunar landscapes, to mountainous highlands enveloped by lush verdant forests and shallow waters of tropical mangrove lagoons. Together these are the Galapagos Islands, resplendent with a diversity and quirkiness not found anywhere else in the world.

If you go When to go

December through May is considered the hot rainy season while June through November is considered the cooler dry season. (I went in March and it didn’t rain once. The bonus was that the landscape was more lush and greener than you will encounter later in the year).

Good to know

A cruise is the best way to experience the Galapagos and Ecoventura with 20-pasenger yachts is one of the more intimate ways to see the archipelago. Ecoventura administratively takes care of individual park permits and transit cards as part of their service. Itineraries may vary slightly from week to week, subject to the Galapagos National Park regulations. Departures are every Sunday and offer two unique 7-night itineraries visiting the outer islands.

Captain Pablo Salas

Getting there

Ecoventura will book RT airfare on AirGal from either Guayaquil or Quito, and can arrange for bookend nights in Guayaquil through their partnership with the 5-star Hotel Oro Verde. They own and operate a fleet offering weekly departures every Sunday from San Cristobal in the Galapagos; three identical superior firstclass, 20-passenger motor-yachts, Eric, Flamingo & Letty. Each yacht features ten double cabins with polished teak interiors.

Karin Leperi Karin Leperi is a multi award-winning writer and photographer with bylines in over 90 outlets - magazines, newspapers, radio, internet, and mobile media-based platforms. She is infatuated with crafting compelling stories and creating arresting images that immerse readers in culture, cuisine, cruising and travel. To her, It's all about flavors, color, texture and dimension as well as contextual meaning. And it's about chromatic purity, a freedom from dilution.




Central America’s Mayan Jewel Copan, Honduras

Story and photos by Susanna Starr

Eating out Mayan style, Copan village

View from our balcony, Hotel Marina Copan


hy visit Honduras? ...although many travelers are familiar with the Caribbean island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras and the spectacular ruins of Copan on the opposite side of the mainland, there are many other tourist destinations to explore in Honduras. It is a country with much variation in terrain, from the higher, dryer climate of the mountains of the district of Copan to the tropical rain forest outside of La Ceiba on the Caribbean coast. Clear, rushing rivers abound affording great river rafting and kayaking. There are a number of different cultures weaving the fabric of the country,




from crafts to agriculture. Then, too, is the history of this country, which has always been a supporter of and connected to the United States. Although its currency is in “lempira,” U.S. dollars are used extensively and many prices reflect both currencies. English is spoken extensively, especially among young people, making it easy for the traveler who doesn’t speak Spanish. The biodiversity and abundance of various eco-systems has made Honduras a prime destination for tourism. Known as a poor country, it is rich in culture and agriculture and offers many different experiences within the same country. There is a wide range of accommodations from basic to luxurious. In Copan we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Marina Copan with it’s lush gardens and courtyard pool. The rooms are

highly individualized and although traditionally Spanish Colonial in style, it had the wood beams and carved stone providing the feeling of mountain décor. Morning breakfast is presented in a spacious dining room with gracious service to enhance the excellent food. Some of the rooms have small balconies overlooking the delightful courtyard and there are extensive tropical plantings providing lush blooms in vivid colors everywhere. It’s the kind of hotel you hope to find in Central America, small and personal, and with upscale comforts. The coffee in each room is from the owners’ own coffee plantations where they do their own processing as well, providing an outstanding coffee, Café Welchez, that they export everywhere. Also in Copan, a little outside of the

town, but within sight of the archeological site, and up a winding hill, is the Hacienda San Lucas. Owned and personally operated by Flavia Cueva, this rustically elegant Hacienda has been lovingly and artistically restored with another section of additional rooms added in the same architectural style. Its view is spectacular and recently they’ve added Gaia, a place for yoga and meditation in the large palapa with the same impressive view. The food, too, is excellent — creatively prepared and elegantly presented on the outdoor terrace. Inside, a woman prepares tortillas by hand with a blackened wall as a backdrop, testimony to the decades of use in the kitchen. Everywhere are beautiful floral arrangements, in the rooms, on the outdoor patios, the dining terazza, the bathrooms, the library, gift shop and reception. Much care has been taken with details everywhere and the entire operation is run without the benefit of electricity but uses solar light instead, augmented with many candles which contribute to the romance of this hacienda hideaway. Close to the Copan ruins and to town, as well, it feels completely apart from everything and offers the ultimate in privacy and quiet. While there, I purchased a beautiful hand carved pendant designed by Flavia’s daughter-in-law as a memento of my 40th anniversary of connection to the Mayan empire. The archeological site of Copan is known worldwide not only for its size but for the amazing standing stelae with much of the intricate carvings still intact. Our guide was seventy-five years old and spoke English fluently from the time he was in the service of the U.S., as well as speaking several other languages in addition to his native Spanish. Obviously, he had traversed the site innumerable times and was extremely knowledgeable. This ancient Mayan site is one of the most remarkable of all the Mayan Empire, rich in ancient historical recording and stunning in its beauty. We were also delighted to see the brilliant colored macaws flying free, stopping without fear at some of the feeders. They’ve

thousand years ago. Leaving for the return trip to San Pedro Sula, 3½ hours away, we stopped off first to see the coffee processing of the Welchez family who also own the Hotel Marina Copan where we stayed. Both brothers, one of whom we met the day before at the hotel, are gracious and devoted completely to all their enterprises where their personal attention for generations has provided something special in the ways of hospitality. Not far along the road, we also stopped at the Macaw Mountain,Bird Park and Nature Reserve where many injured or abandoned macaws are kept to be re-introduced into their natural habitat. We knew by now that these birds are monogamous and we saw many different pairs in plumage that seemed too vivid to be real. The repatriation program has been going on for decades and depends on private donations to keep their project going. They also have made Copan their home or perhaps are descendants of those birds who have made it their home for close to two thousand years. The high, relatively dry climate of the region makes Copan extremely comfortable and the charming central plaza is well kept with people strolling around at all hours of the day and night. It’s an ideal destination in Honduras. While we were there, we enjoyed walking around and seeing all the extensions of the shops and restaurants with plantings and sculpture artistically arrayed outside on the sidewalk. During the daytime, we enjoyed checking out the various stands that displayed the work of various artisans from clothing to jewelry. The various small art galleries are also worth exploring. The town remains unspoiled and although tourism is definitely happening, it is on a relatively small scale. Even at the amazing archeological site of Copan, the feeling is one of discovery as, unlike some of the other well known Mayan sites, it is not over-run with tourists. We were able to take our time exploring the various buildings and staggeringly beautiful standing stelae without feeling any imposition of flocks of people chattering next to us. There seems to be a feeling of connection to the land itself as being unchanging since the temples were first built a Above and right, detail, Copan Mayan Ruins


Susanna Starr a really nice gift shop where you can buy excellent coffee that they grow themselves, as well as other hand-made crafts of the area. With a couple of streams plunging through, and old growth trees adorned with several kinds of orchids, it was a special nature walk and an experience to be remembered. We stopped off in the gift shop to buy a few more packages of their coffee to add to the stash we had already acquired at our previous stop at Café Welchez. The aroma of all the coffee in the car was better than perfume! I brought back the coffee as well as some beautiful jade pieces from the jewelry store located across the street from the Hotel Marina Copan, all enterprises owned by the Welchez family. I also brought back a memory of a visit with Flavia, whose Hacienda San Lucas was a labor of love. The climate and the terrain and natural environment of Copan was another memory that will stay with me. But, the visit to the archeological site, was one of those special lifetime experiences. I have spent 40 years exploring ancient Mayan sites and this visit




was a long time in coming, but something that needed to be experienced. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that and would strongly recommend it as a destination for those who treasure the feeling of relative “discovery” of an important ancient culture.

If you go Honduras Tourism Maya Temple Tours has an extensive menu of Honduras and Central America tours and will arrange custom tours. Taca Airlines flies out of several US hubs Hotel Marina Copan Hacienda San Lucas

Susanna Starr, entrepreneur, photographer, speaker, artist, writer, holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York, Susanna is the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association‘s Regional Membership Coordinator for Riviera Maya & Oaxaca Mexico. She is a Contributing Editor for FWT Magazine: food wine travel, Contributor to Travel Writers Network, Your Life Is A Trip, Examiner.com and other freelance venues. Susanna has over twenty years experience in the hospitality business as owner of Rancho Encantado, an eco-resort and spa in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. She lives in Northern New Mexico. Susanna is the author of the book: Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being published by Paloma Blanca Press. Look for her latest book, Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers, available in fine bookstores and online at amazon.com and others.

An Odyssey in the Tropical Sun Ambergris Caye, Belize

Story and photos by John Lamkin

View of Caribbean from balcony, Pelican Reef Resort

Our villa at Victoria House


mbergris Caye (pronounced key) is one of the beautiful, tropical Caribbean islands off the coast of Belize, Central America. The official language of the country is English, and the currency is fixed to the U.S. Dollar at two to one, making it easy for the English-speaking tourist. Ambergris is the largest island in the country and the most popular of Belize tourism destinations. The second largest barrier reef in the world is located just a mile from Ambergris’ shore, making it one of the premier dive destinations in the world. The reefs teem with tropical fish of every size, color, and description, along

with exotic corals, sponges, and sea fans. Windsurfing, sea kayaking, catamaran sailing, jet skiing, parasailing, and kite boarding are among some of the water sports available on the island, but if you think this is just a Caribbean diving and snorkeling destination, think again. The traditional Maya communities and ancient archaeological sites, uncovered in the dense, lush jungles of the Belizean mainland, should also be on your “must-see” lists. We took a water taxi from mainland Mexico (Chetumal Bay) and arrived at one of the main docks of this lively island at San Pedro Town. The waterfront was bustling with activity. There were dive shops, restaurants, craft and gift shops, vendors selling crafts on the beach, and people playing volleyball. Others were enjoying the sun, soaking up the wonderful Caribbean ambiance.

The sound of reggae wafting across the beach said, “You are in the Caribbean!” The islanders are so friendly – it seems the people of Ambergris are eager to share their island with everyone who happens upon its sun-drenched shores. The allure of the deep green-blue Caribbean waters, fringed with powdery soft white sand beaches, are hard to resist. The visitor here will not feel like an outsider. The San Pedranos, whether old-timers or newer arrivals, delight in sharing their island with visitors. Securing a golf cart, the main means of transportation on the island, we headed for our resort. The resort for this visit was just south of San Pedro; the island’s only town with a population of around 15,000. San Pedro is located on the southern part of the caye (island). The town has many excellent restaurants and shops, of which we sam-




View of pool from O Restaurant roof top, Las Terrazas Resort

successful Belize Chocolate Company out of their home. Their “Kakaw” brand chocolate is free trade with all ingredients from Belize. When asked about safety on the island, expat and local realtor John Turley answered, “Like when I was a child – unsupervised – no danger.” Referring to his kids riding their bikes to and from school, “It’s 100% the best place to raise a family.” The mainland of Belize is only an hour away from Ambergris by boat or 15 minutes by plane. There, one may visit many of the world-renowned Maya archaeological sites, including Lamani, Altun Ha, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Caracol, El Pilar. Tikal (a world famous Maya site) is close to the Belize border in Guatemala. These traditional Maya communities and ancient archaeological sites – uncovered in the dense lush jungles of the Belizean mainland – should be on your “must-see” pled quite a few. Phoenix Resort, three restaurants, Caliente, list. Also, one can enjoy many adventures on the mainland, including caving, cave Some of the resorts on the island have Blue Water Grill and Red Ginger, a wine tubing, hiking, zip lining, river canoeing, been featured on TV series such as Tempshop and wine distribution business. If tation Island, The Bachelor and Family Jew- you visit Kelly’s Caliente restaurant, try the and horseback riding. Traveling from either Mexico or mainels. Over our time on Ambergris, we have Mango Chicken. It’s delicious. Her philand Belize, you will find Ambergris Caye stayed at several of the fine resorts you will losophy is, “Leave the world a little better an enjoyable Caribbean adventure. The find listed below. than you found it.” According to Kelly, memories you are likely to take home with Quite a few of the expats we met on the she wouldn’t live any place else. Chef Amy you are that of the friendly island people island are successful entrepreneurs. Kelly Knox’s Wild Mango restaurant is located on you have met. McDermott, whose family is from Texas, the beach and has a very special Caribbean was raised on the island. Along with her ambiance. South of town a young couple, husband, Mukul and a friend, she has the Jo and Chris Beaumont, have started the




If you go For more information:

Where to stay in luxury:

Travel Belize

Pelican Reef Villas

Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America

Victoria House Las Terrazas Resort

Getting there:

Coco Beach Resort

Several airlines have flights from the U.S. and Canada to Belize City

The Phoenix

By air one can get to Ambergris from Belize City or Corozal (near the Mexican Border) by


Tropic Air From Belize mainland or Chetumal, Mexico one may go by water taxi: San Pedro Water Taxi

Palmilla Restaurant (Victoria House) Admiral Nelson’s Beach Bar (Victoria House) Red Ginger Blue Water Grill Caliente Wild Mangos

While on the island, golf cart is the preferred means of transportation: San Pedro Golf Cart Rental

Our island chariot, #55

John Lamkin An award-winning journalist and photographer, John started travel writing as an escape from the drudgery of being an aerospace engineer – dropped the engineering, kept the writing. John went on to study at the San Francisco Art Institute, then on to found the now famous San Francisco Camerawork. He may be found on horseback riding through the jungle to explore an ancient Maya ruin, or sitting on the balcony of a five-star plus resort, sipping an exotic drink, or interviewing a fashion celeb, or…. John is the Executive Editor of FWT Magazine: food wine travel. He belongs to several professional organizations including the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association where he serves as a Board Member and as the Publications Chair. His recent book about the Zapotec weavers of Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley is reaping critical acclaim. John will go anywhere for a story and believes as Isabelle Eberhardt once said, “A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.” For more information about John Lamkin: http://ifwtwa.org/author/john-patrick-lamkin or visit his website: http://www.travelwritingandphotography.com/




Los Cabos

A Farm-to-Table Agricultural Oasis by Irene S. Levine

Photos by Jerome Levine

Farm-fresh Hoja Santa leaves form the foundation for a pizza-like dish made with local cheese


t is hard to envision large tracts of fertile farmland in Los Cabos, Mexico, an area at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, adjacent to craggy shores and sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez. One may assume the desert terrain is far too dry and dusty to sustain anything but cactus and brush. The natural landscape is so rough that it is reminiscent of a cowboy movie set. Most of Los Cabos looked like this prior to 1976 when Fonatur, the Mexican agency responsible for sustainable tourism, began to develop the area as a resort destination. Surprisingly, the mix of sunshine – abundant more than 300 days per year; a growing season, plentiful throughout the lengthy winter; and excellent irrigation systems, compensating for average rainfalls of less than 10 inches per year, create a setting which is agriculturally friendly. Los Cabos, which is the second most visited resort destination in Mexico, after Cancun, attracts celebrities, “snowbirds,” and business and leisure travelers, as well. Fine dining experiences, although more limited in number, are comparable to those in many major North American cities. The range of culinary options include Baja-style, traditional Mexican, Asian fusion, French, Italian,

seafood, international fare and more. As food-lovers across the globe are demanding more local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients on restaurant menus, farm-totable has truly come of age in Los Cabos. Located just minutes from downtown San Jose del Cabo, there are three “off the beaten track,” open-air, farm-based venues serving foods provisioned in the locals’ backyards. *San Jose del Cabo is one of the two anchoring towns of Los Cabos; the other is Cabo San Lucas. A hotel corridor stretches between them.

Huerto Los Tamarindos

Chef Enrique Silva of Huerta Los Tamarindos might well be considered one of the pioneers of farm-to-table dining in Los Cabos. Trained as an agricultural engineer, he came to Los Cabos almost three decades ago to work in the hospitality industry. Silva’s technical knowledge, coupled with his passion for cooking and farming, enabled him to envision this fallow land as an agri-

cultural oasis. He realized that the alluvial soil is rich in minerals, relatively free of insects, and conducive to organic farming. About eight years later, he and business partner, Fernando Hernandez. opened Tequila Restaurant. This restaurant has become a mainstay in downtown San Jose del Cabo. Before it became trendy, the partners nurtured relationships with local farmers and fishermen to serve fresh, local fare. For years, Silva had been eyeing a piece of land once used to raise sugar cane. When the 17-acre property with a brick house dating back to 1868 became available, he purchased it. In 2003, he began to create a restaurant with an outdoor kitchen, cooking school and event space. Then he started cultivating the land to meet stringent standards for organic certification set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Silva named the farm Huerta Los Tamarindos (huerta is a Spanish word used to describe a fertile piece of land). Before dinner, guests can tour the fields to learn about organic farming while they sip lemongrass iced tea. The menu features

Farmtinis: Wild hibiscus infused cocktails made with ice cold Grey Goose Vodka

Fresh, organic greens at Flora Farm

traditional recipes and cooking techniques that Chef Silva learned in his mother’s kitchen, many embellished with an inventive twist. The rustic al fresco tables, which overlook the crops, are set with colorful Mexican pottery ware. Based on what is in season, diners order from a menu on a blackboard outside the kitchen. Sustainable fish like the yellow-tail, used to prepare delicious Fish Veracruz-style, comes from fisherman at a nearby beach called La Playita.

by Gloria and Patrick Greene of Northern California, who founded the local organic farm market in San Jose del Cabo ten years ago. The ambiance at The Field Kitchen restaurant is a perfect blend of laid-back Baja and sophisticated California. The architecture, décor and design of the restaurant, as well as the plating of the food, make every moment at Flora Farm seem Instagram-worthy. The organic farm market beside the restaurant could pass for a produce museum. There’s also an on-site wine bar; a trendy James Perse Concept Store; an old-fashioned ice cream cart; and a set of curated shops selling arts, crafts and The setting for Flora Farm is manicured soaps. The layout of the entire site resemand appealing. It almost feels like a luxury bles a Mexican pueblecito (small village) culinary theme park. The ten-acre farm with the Field Kitchen as its church. with its sprawling outdoor restaurant is All the cooking ingredients (as well gently tucked beside the foothills of the as the fruits, vegetables and herbs used Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. It is owned to prepare craft cocktails) are cultivated

on-site; home-baked breads and incredibly delicious pizza comes out of the wood-fired oven. Free-range meats come from the owner’s nearby ranch. The Farm Bar is a lovely place to sip a cocktail, beer from the farm’s microbrewery, or a glass of wine, champagne or fresh garden juice as you wait for a table. Live music adds to the festive atmosphere, which is just as pretty after dark.

Flora Farm

Open since fall 2015, Acre is the newest addition to the Los Cabos farm-to-fork threesome. This 25-acre property is owned and operated by Canadians, Cameron Watt and his business partner, Stuart McPherson. They also own the popular Keefer Bar in Vancouver. The visually sleek, architecturally-stun-





Chicken liver mousse with tomatillo jam, chicken chicharrĂłn and pickled turnip

ning Acre breaks new ground in Los Cabos. The contemporary structure is hidden in a mango grove surrounded by lush foliage with palm trees and succulents, and five acres of organic crops. After sunset, it is so dark that a valet escorts you with a flashlight from your car in the parking lot to the restaurant’s entrance. The restaurant has a young, urban, Zen-like vibe; ascending the wide steps at the entrance feels akin to entering a temple. The over-sized cocktail bar, busy open-kitchen, and long communal tables encourage friendly conversation. The bar sources small batch wines and spirits from Baja and other parts of Mexico. Executive chefs, Kevin Luzande and Oscar Torres, have designed an eclectic menu, showcasing global cuisine with a Baja influence that relies upon organic For directions, opening hours and fruits and vegetables from the garden, and reservations: local meats and seafood. The tastefully selected furniture, dishware, lighting and Huerta Los Tamarindos accessories are from Baja, the Mexican Flora Farm mainland, and Oaxaca. The owners plan to build twelve tree-houses so guests can relax Acre Baja Restaurant and rejuvenate in this magical eco-setting. That should be a delightful addition.

A few caveats:

If you go

The cost of cultivating and serving organic foods is not inexpensive, but worth

the cost. In the unlikely event that rain is in the forecast, cancel your reservation. All the restaurants are open-air and less than ideal in rainy weather. If you are driving to one of these farms for the first time, you may want to opt for lunch rather than dinner. Although worth the adventure, they are located on remote, bumpy, unlit dirt roads ridden with gullies. When it rains, the roads become even more difficult to navigate. If you prefer, taxis are available.

Irene S. Levine House-made ricotta cheese appetizer at Flora Farm

Irene S. Levine is an award-winning travel journalist and blogger who is a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune, PBS NextAvenue. org and other print and online publications. She produces MoreTimeToTravel.com, a source of information and inspiration for the over-50 luxury traveler, with her husband/photographer/travel companion Jerome Levine. Trained as a psychologist, Irene holds as faculty appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.




Exploring Playa del Amor Cabo San Lucas

Story and photos by Raquel Pineira

Majestic rock formations offer a historic presence at Lover’s Beach

El Arco, Cabo’s famous arch, beautifully crafted by nature


laya del Amor (Lover’s Beach), is a lovely escape that is just a boat ride away from Cabo San Lucas’ main beach, Playa Médano. We visited Cabo San Lucas in January, when the welcoming warm climate produces sunshine with an average high of 75-80°during the day. We took the two-hour plane ride from Orange County, California and were surprised at how quickly we were at the base of Baja. We decided to visit the intriguing




beach based on the recommendation of our hotel. The view of Playa Médanos’ exquisite beauty while you pull away from the coast is worth the boat ride alone. We took a glass-bottomed boat, which gave us a peek at the abundant sea life in the area. The waters are so beautifully clear that it didn’t take long to see schools of fish that decided to accompany us on our trip. When we arrived at Lover’s Beach, we hiked for a few minutes from the landing area to the beach, where the sand was powdery soft, and the views were stunning. We quickly noticed that unlike the main beach, there were no street vendors, food sales, or facilities. It was late afternoon, and there

weren’t a lot of other people at the beach. Still, while the name may suggest privacy and intimacy, there were a few other tourists there, who seemed to be longing for the same escape we desired. The magnificent rock formations greeted us, and the caves beckoned us to explore their depths. Some of the rocks appeared to be sleeping giants or fantasy animals with their distinct colors and textures. We relaxed on the beach, explored the mini-caves and peaceful coves, and enjoyed the view of Cabo San Lucas. The calming beauty of nature and the somewhat isolated location offered us a wonderful and soulful gift.

If you go The best way to get to Lover’s Beach is by boat, kayak, or water taxi. Boat rides average $10-$15, including tip. Stay away on days that the cruise ships are docked at the nearby marina. The beach gets very crowded, as many passengers descend on this lovely beach. Pack some drinks, snacks, Raquel Pineira is a Southern Caliand plenty of sunscreen. fornia-based food and travel writer and If you’re planning to swim or snorkel, blogger. With a career and Lover’s Beach is your place, whether that education in productivity, aligns with your current relationship status Raquel enjoys sharing tips on or not. The water is so clear, and many boat making the most of time with services offer snorkel equipment for rent. others. Check out www.wildcabotours.com.

Raquel Pineira

Some of our friends enjoyed snorkeling right off of the beach. We noticed that wave runners also offered a way to see the land formations up close. Lover’s Beach is on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula. Not surprisingly, about ten minutes from Lover’s Beach is Divorce Beach – named so because of the rougher waters, strong undertow, and windy climate. This beach that faces the Sea of Cortez is not recommended for swimming. Lover's Beach is a lovely excursion in Cabo San Lucas.

View of Playa Medano Cabo San Lucas from the boat

Seeking Culture in All-Inclusive Resorts

Story and photos by Christine Tibbetts


ayan ruins and jungle communities propelled my first few visits to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Oh, and so did the beaches. Gazing at the steps of the 79-foot tall pyramid at Chichen Itza during the Equinox when sunlight and shadow converge mystically to behold the feathered serpent god – that’s my notion of incentive to plan a trip. I did that, yet a few years later something shifted and I returned to Cancun and nearby Playa Mujeres with a specific intention to analyze my aversion to all-inclusive vacationing. Explore. Embrace. Discover. Those are more comfortable travel terms than “Get over a bad attitude,” don’t you think? The Caribbean soothes souls and relaxes stressed-out bodies so I was hopeful it could work mental health wonders with me, shedding my judgment of others’ vacation styles. My skeptical side doubted I’d be able to engage in local culture or notice the nuances of community life – only immersing with vacation-minded revelers. After all, aren’t the beverages all included too? Do replicas of heritage sites enhance history? This is not Chichen Itza. If my research reflects more than the two resorts that I experienced, then I comfortably proclaim my original attitude was shortsighted. My aversion to all-inclusive has ceased. Proud-of-themselves names distinguish my Caribbean locations: • Excellence Riviera in Cancun – adults only • Finest Resort in Playa Mujeres – family friendly They’re part of a group of six resorts in Mexico with another opening in the Dominican Republic, all named Excellence or Finest or the third moniker – Beloved. My perceived, and enduring, need for




Lazy rivers connect to swim-up suites.

cultural heritage interaction started in the spa where I only anticipated pampering and healing touch but not a shaman. A full body massage or two clearly define vacation for many travelers and that’s possible at Excellence Riviera and Finest Resort. So is taking the waters. In fact, an hour in an astonishing array of 17 water treatments is considered the ideal preparation for each massage. No ad-

ditional cost, and your own personal valet accompanies you each splash of the way. Since I consider the baths in Baden Baden, Germany, also in Budapest and the outskirts of Machu Picchu among my finest international experiences, discovering these waters in Mexico was a heritage surprise. Abandon any notion of a hairdo because water pours from above in several of

the treatments. Neck and shoulder pulsing sprays, lower calf and foot reflexology, icy cold plunges balanced with steam rooms and dry sauna dozing, lower back jets and belly jets are among the easy flow from one treatment to another. The very idea that booking a massage also provides the personal attention of a valet for an hour of water care to strengthen my immune system reinforced my changing attitude about all-inclusive holiday life.

Unmentioned cultural surprises

My tip for all-inclusive surprises is look beyond the beauty and that’s not easy because gorgeous is good, and is everywhere. Neither Finest nor Excellence seemed concerned with pointing out the art, literature or traditions with depth, but clearly built them in place. You’d be right to expect an abundance of colorful perfectly-sculpted landscaping. I found more within the hedges. Roaming about one afternoon in Finest Resort I happened to look over a manicured hedge and found a labrynth. The next hour I had my own private party, the meditative kind on a winding path of big flat stones leading to a central peak, one rock higher than the others. Contemplating a snooze in a hammock tucked into a cove of trees away from the main path at Excellence Riviera I was happily distracted discovering a sweat lodge. Participating would have taken more time and planning than I had allowed but a few specific questions led me to this: I could have spent 90 minutes in a formal ceremony with a shaman: steam, tea, volcanic rocks, ancient traditions. This experience is outside the all-inclusive but I’d pay the $100. Those routine massages cost too.

Artful small bites

Would you call it a paradox, or an oxymoron? I expected the all-inclusive version of a foodie vacation to become gluttony. Instead I discovered art. With 10 restaurants at Finest Playa Mujeres and 11 at Excellence Riviera I discovered 21 executive chefs, each with skill subsets and culinary styles distinctly Pleasant-size servings distinguish the abundance of all-inclusive dining.

different from the other. None of my dining experiences repeated the others so even though always on the resort property, I engaged in restaurant selections as if in a city exploration. Portions were perfect: elegant and artful, enormous never the goal. Unlimited courses could appeal to those seeking gluttony and I’ll own up to eating widely and abundantly — but always with the chef ’s skills clear and obvious. Linen tablecloth at breakfast in an open-sided palapa overlooking the sea

oozes vacation. My huevos motulenos were more than fried eggs on a tortilla; their sauce of ham, green peas and white cheese with fried plantain on the side suggested art and the blue agave honey for side breads balanced thoughts of tequila. However, the vast serve-yourself buffet breakfast fed my cultural needs better. Unlikely conclusion I thought. Buffets can be so pedestrian. The waiter suggested orange juice and I declined because the juice bar is a rainbow of rich colors — juices made from fruits

Lush views balance beach scenes in Playa Mujeres, Mexico resort.

If you go not found on trees in my neighborhood. I drink my coffee black but this buffet at Excellence Riviera Cancun offers eight sugars: muscovado, anise, walnut, cocoa, almond, coffee, powdered and cinnamon. Toast is complicated because this is a two-room buffet with one devoted to breads. At least half are Mexican breads of exquisite varieties, prompting much questioning of the baker on duty. That’s a room of culinary heritage. An entire table is allocated to toppings and I never was sure what to top off with all of them, including amaranth, ground wheat, dried apricot, pistachio, pumpkin seeds, fine chopped nuts, and grated coconut. Lunch and dinner experiences at both resorts offered equally different details and opportunities to explore local flavors consistently emphasizing the art of elegant presentation.

outside wall with a housekeeper key. No used dishes in your room, no intrusive knocks on the door, no unsightly trays in the hallway.


Pillow menus generally indicate a hotel intends to help your comfort levels and if the six on my bed weren’t just right, I could order from a menu of five more. So I did. My Finest room flowed from sleeping space to balcony in a luxurious way I’d not experienced. A Jacuzzi tub for two also serves as a discrete entry to an outdoor sofabed. Should you prefer keeping your clothes on to enjoy a balcony with a grand view, sliding glass doors and comfy chairs are also part of the scheme. Ground level suites offer swim-up access if you think you’d like to float directly from your room to the interconnected pools, lagoons and lazy rivers. My Excellence room included a sofa, I rarely frequent hotel room minibars comfy chairs and desk space, but created a but the all-inclusive life invited me in. This sense of anxiety because the gorgeous mar‘frig intends to be emptied. Same for the ble floors throughout included a step down shelf above it with spirits—bottles of rum, to the living room. tequila, gin, vodka, whiskey. With expansive picture windows luring Put the empties, or room service dishes my eye outward, and sleek color lines in if you ordered any, in the nifty corner the marble floor, I was spooked I’d forget to cupboard and they’ll be silently removed or step down. My solution? Put the desk chair a new order delivered. This clever cupboard right in the middle of the passageway. opens from your room, and also from the

Secret passageway




Ground transportation is readily available from the Cancun airport and between resorts. Chatting with taxi and shuttle drivers always gives me new insight to a local community. The Riviera Maya region and all of the Yucatan Peninsula is rich with Mayan experiences and tours can be arranged through the resorts. www.excellenceresorts.com www.finestresorts.com

Christine Tibbetts Christine Tibbetts is a high-energy veteran journalist known for writing engaging, compelling tales about people in places, enabling travelers to better experience the rich dynamics of a destination. She serves as Destinations editor of TravelingMom.com, writes travel features on assignment for southern regional print magazines and for the web zine American Roads. A member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, she earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri in 1970.

Last Shot Anita Breland


Colorful street art in San Miguel de Allende celebrates Mexico's reverence for corn. Photographer Anita Breland has contributed to several anthologies, and has worked with numerous tourist boards and destinations in Europe and Asia. Anita is a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA), Geneva Writers Group and Thin Raft Writers (Basel, Switzerland).

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