Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cevichi de Pescado

Ceviche is a popular cooking method throughout South America, using the citric acid in lemons or limes to pickle and therefore "cook" fish or thin slivers of meat with no heat used. It's very unusual but it works. The freshness and flavour is invigorating and perfect with a glass of chardonnay on a hot summers day. Thousand Flavours is a South American tour operator specializing in gastronomic experiences in South America. Travel Light are teaming up with Thousand Flavours to bring you some fantastic gourmet adventures throughout South America. Until then give your taste buds a real treat by trying the following recipe for Ceviche de pescado (fish prepared using the ceviche method). The recipe is from our friends at Thousand Flavours

Classic Cevichi de Pescado


Fresh white fish - 500g
Thinly sliced red onion - 1
Small red chili pepper - 1
Juice from 10 large limes or lemons
Ice cubes - 4
Salt to season

Cut fish into bite sized pieces. Cut the chilli in half and rub the inside of the shallow container you will use to marinade the fish in. Place the fish and onions in the container with the ice cubes to keep the ingredients cool. Season with salt and squeeze the lime / lemon juice over the fish. You need enough juice to cover the fish. Remove the ice cubes, cover the container with cling film and place in the fridge to "cook". The citric acid in the limes / lemon will cause the proteins in the fish to be denatured which pickles or "cooks" the fish with no heat. The process should take two to three hours. The fish will looked cooked with a strong white colour when it is ready.

How to serve
There are many variations from Mexico (add fresh coriander, diced tomatoes and serve with avocado) to Costa Rica (add garlic and more chilli) but I prefer it the Peruvian way which is the recipe above served with corn on the cob and sweet potatoes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Top 5 Big Cats

So, who is the coolest cat of them all? This list of 5 big cats represents the biggest, smartest and coolest cats around. See if your favourite feline made the final list!

#5 Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia): The elusive Snow Leopard is a close second for biggest small cat. For its environment, the mountain ranges of Central and Southern Asia, it is a big cat, weighing 77-121 pounds. This hunter's brown/grey fur changes to white in the winter to allow for ultimate stealth. To endure cold winters, its proportionately large tail doubles as a stylish scarf and camouflage.

#4 Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus): The Cheetah is the fastest of all land animals, travelling at speeds upwards of 100km/hour. Their semi-retractable claws and enlarged nostrils, lungs and heart, increase their running capabilities creating intense high-speed chases. This slender and long-legged cat weighs in at 90-140 pounds. They are found primarily in Africa and are easily the biggest small cat around.

#3 Lion (Panthera leo): Lions used to live in various locations around the world, but now wild lions are only found in Eastern and Southern Africa. The "King of the Jungle" is known for its distinctive mane and strong roar, a key component of big cats. We can't talk about lions without giving due credit to the lioness who has more speed and agility than lions and does most of the hunting.

#2 Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica): This is the largest natural cat on the planet, with males weighing in at about 800 pounds. The Siberian Tiger is critically endangered with only about 500 left in the wild. The remaining Tigers reside in Northern Asia and Russia. It has larger feet than most tigers to navigate through snow, and has brown rather than its fellow tigers' black stripes, just to be different!

#1 Jaguar (Panthera onca): This is the third largest cat, and one of only four "roaring" cats from the panthera genus. Typically weighing between 124-211 pounds, some have been recorded at 333 pounds! This compactly built cat excels at climbing, swimming and crawling. Currently, they live in a range of places from Mexico to Northern Argentina. It is an elite hunter with sleek features and is sometimes rumoured to be the only big cat to kill for "fun"!

We do have to give notable mention to a few other "big" cats out there. The Cougar (Puma concolor), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Bobcat (Lynx rufus), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and even the infamous Liger were all in contention and would round out a great "top 10" list!

Travel Light Reading
One of my favourite reads. A boy is adrift at sea with only a Bengal tiger for comapany. A masterful story of the surreal and one you may start to believe by the end.

Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Possessing encyclopedia-like intelligence, unusual zookeeper's son Pi Patel sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.
(click here to buy)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'On the Road' Celebrating Jack Kerouac's legendary novel

2007 marks the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's legendary American novel 'On the road', the only book that succeeds in putting down on paper all the mystery and promise of America's great open road.

Kerouac's original manuscript which was typed in 3 weeks on one long sheet of teletype paper affectionately called 'the roll', was sold in 2001 for $2.4 million. Now that's one damn good read.

'On the Road' traces Kerouac's spontaneous road trips across the states during the changing times of post war America, and inspired countless young writers, artists and musicians, helping to shape America's youth culture for decades. Viking Press who published the first addition of 'On the Road in August 1957, fifty years ago today, have recently publishing an uncensored version of the book with material that was deemed unsuitable at the time.

For over 30 years, TrekAmerica has been tempting travellers away from the "package" holiday approach and into the world of active and exciting small group adventure holidays. This is the world of TrekAmerica - the specialists in "off the beaten path" adventure travel across the Americas. So why not challenge yourself...not your budget.

Travel Light Reading

On The Road - Jack Kerouac
The novel that defined the Beat generation, this exuberant tale of two men traversing America is as fresh and fantastic as ever.

click here or on picture to buy this book

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Airplane Funny

It takes a college degree to fly a plane but only a high school diploma to fix one; just some reassurance for those of us who fly routinely.
After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet", which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form. Then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humour. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel . Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget
Travel Light Reading
The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies uncovers cinema's funniest and most varied genre, from silent slapstick, to 90s gross-out and the dark indie humour of today. The canon of fifty greatest funnies runs from The Gold Rush and Duck Soup to Airplane and Shaun of the Dead, plus double-acts, drag-acts and ensembles from Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Bros, to the Pythons and the Coen Brothers. Seeking out the films that have amused people the most - or simply amused the most people - the Rough Guide gives you the ultimate lowdown on laughter in the movies from Wes Anderson's Rushmore to Withnail and I, and from John Belushi to Billy Wilder.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nepal Airlines’ sacrificial goats


KATHMANDU - Technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft have led officials at Nepal's national carrier, Nepal Airlines, to sacrifice two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god.

Media reports said the sacrifice was made, according to Hindu traditions, in front of the troubled aircraft at the international airport here.

After the ceremony, an airline official said, "the snag in the plane has now been fixed". The B757 aircraft is back in action.

Travel Light Reading

The Rough Guide to Nepal ranges from the eastern most tea hills of Ilam to the grasslands of the far west, from Tibet to the Indian border and from Everest to Kathmandu Valley. There are accounts of all the attractions and details of the best places to stay, eat, or shop.
(click on book to buy)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Egypt Travel Guide

History, beautiful scenery, a friendly welcome and fantastic shopping are all elements for a wonderful holiday and these elements are in abundance throughout the magical country of Egypt. I worked in the travel industry in Egypt for over a year, 1997 - 1998, and have returned many times since. In fact I will never tire of the magic of the Pyramids, the beauty of the Nile and the warmth of the people.

If you are planning a trip to Egypt please read the advise below as part of your research

Best Time to go
Egypt sits on the Eastern edge of the Sahara dessert so it doesn't have a "wet" season, although you may experience some rain during winter months along the Mediterranean coast. Bright blues skies are the norm but the sun that we all love when travelling needs to be respected especially in Egypt. We will work on the Northern hemisphere seasons in this article. Summer, especially July and August, the heat is fierce and not to be underestimated. In the southern towns of Luxor and Aswan expect a high of +50C a couple days a year and a norm of +40C over summer. In December and January the temperature can drop to the low teens at night and a warm coat or fleece is advisable. You will find the most comfortable temperatures for travelling from March to May and September to November. Saying this if the only time you can travel to Egypt is in mid summer then I would still advise you to go. The sites and experiences in this great country will make it worth it. You can escape the heat of the day by doing your site seeing early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Staying Healthy
Along with the dangers of over heating travellers tummy can be common in Egypt, a couple of days of the Pharaohs curse can put a dampener on your travels. I strongly advise when in Egypt to drink lots and lots of bottled water, it's available everywhere and at around 1USD great value. See the "How to avoid Delhi belly" post in this blog for more good tips. As for escaping the heat you need to replace the liquid you sweat. The Egyptian Climate is extremely dry and your sweat evaporates on contact with the dry air giving the illusion that you are not sweating. A hat to keep the sun of your face is essential along with sunglasses and sunscreen.

Changing Money
There are ATM and currency exchanges in all the major towns and cities. Bazaars and hotels will take US dollars but you might not get the best exchange rate. The exchange rate is fixed by the government in Egypt so you will get the same ROE where ever you change.

How to avoid the crowds
Egypt is a very popular destination and official figures put the number of tourists visiting every year as 8.6 million. Quite difficult to avoid the crowds then? not necessarily. Operators such as The Imaginative Traveller pride themselves on giving you the real experience and could mean having dinner with Nubians on a Nile island, eating in good restaurants popular with the locals or even riding donkeys to the valley of the Kings through villages and farms.

Felucca or Nile Cruiser?

If you are not familiar with a felucca it is a traditional Egyptian sailing vessel that takes travellers on a three night sail up the Nile river. It is basically a floating mattress and has to be one of the most peaceful and relaxing ways to do the Nile cruise. There is a crew on board who sail the felucca and cook for you. Sounds ideal right? well if you asked where the bathroom was you will be offered a bush on the Nile banks. remember the Nile is a river and sea sickness is not an issue.

Felucca Positives:
Relaxing and a great experience
Great for travellers on a budget as felucca's are a fraction of the cost of a cruiser

Felucca negatives:
Basic comforts much like camping but meals are cooked for you.

Nile Cruiser
If you would prefer a more luxurious Nile experience then a Nile cruiser is the other alternative. These cruisers are basically floating hotels that have all the mod cons including air conditioned cabins, restaurant, bar, entertainment, sun loungers, shade deck and most have a splash pool for cooling down.

Important note: many cruisers are shared with different groups and many will do a lot of cruising at night time meaning you miss the most beautiful parts of the river. The Imaginative Traveller's MS Melody has only Imaginative Traveller clients on board and does most of her cruising in daylight hours.

History yes but what else?
There are other great places away from the main Nile Valley region in Egypt that are worth a look. Check out palm tree oases and the sand dunes of the Western Desert, the diving and snorkeling on the Red Sea and catch one of the most beautiful sunrises on earth at the top of Mt Sinai.

All Egypt travelcan be arranged at Travel Light

These are just some of the more common questions I get asked if you have any other question please feel free to post a comment or contact me at vagabond@travellight.co.za

5% Early Bird Discount!
Book your next Imaginative Traveller tour through Travel Light 6 months or more prior to departure and recive a 5% discount!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Vietnam Adventure

This time we are off to Vietnam
Jeremy Dale travelled to Vietnam with The Imaginative Traveller on their Vietnam Adventure trip. Here are his impressions on the Southern Mekong Delta region of this young and vibrant country.

Dawn in the Mekong Delta is heralded by the crowing of hundreds of cockerels followed by every dog in the delta providing a chorus of howling - might as well get up and go out. If you do, you will have a fantastic view of everyday life beside the slow, mud-brown Mekong. Girls in conical hats carrying baskets strung on poles across their shoulders make their way to market which is just starting to come to life - around 100 stalls spread out along the banks and small boats jostling for prime positions along the banks, all of them piled high with just about anything and everything you could ever need – fruit, vegetables, chickens, blankets, crockery, cosmetics, sunblock, toy windmills . . . . I was beckoned into a café by the owner who invited me to sit at a table with himself and his two sons. I asked for a ca fe sua – coffee with milk - which came in a glass with a centimetre of condensed milk at the bottom. The chainsmoking owner chatted to me in Vietnamese – he could have been highlighting places to visit or giving me his ancestoral history for all I knew but nods and smiles are all that were needed.

Later that day we moved northwards to Saigon – here for authentic street life visit the pho stalls in Phm Hong Tai Street. Pho (pronounced “fur”) is traditional noodle soup usually eaten for breakfast but is popular at any time of the day. Stalls line the pavements and customers perch on plastic stools at low tables. Each stall serves one kind of pho – there's pho bo (beef), pho tom (shrimp) pho ga (chicken – but possibly railway station if you're slightly off with the pronunciation). If you're vegetarian you'll need pho chay.

The pho stall I chose was at the corner of a road which became a giant market at night and even at 10 pm the tables were full of people slurping their noodles! Space was found right in the middle of a group of friends who seemed delighted at my arrival. After a brief game of charades with the waitress I was unsure of exactly what I had ordered but sat down to wait. The boss came over and began chatting in Vietnamese asking where I was from, whether I was married and how I liked Vietnam. Her son provided the translation – he lived in Sydney and had a broad Aussie accent. Halfway through this conversation an enormous cockroach ran under the table and up the wall. Without pausing for breath, the boss removed her wooden sandal and swatted the monstrous insect off the wall and into the gutter. Some time later I saw it zigzagging across a table nearby with its antennae knocked askew. I reckon it was about the size of a hamster.

When a vast bowl of pho arrived I followed the example of those around me and started drinking it from the bowl using my chopsticks to shovel in bits of vegetable. Immediately my spectacles misted over and the chilli went to work on my sinuses. Picking up a large clump of noodles I carefully guided them towards my mouth but at the last minute they slithered off and landed back in the bowl with a splash that covered me in vegetable stock and cause a small child opposite to get the hiccups from laughing so hard. With my dignity in tatters I took refuge in my bowl once again draining the remaining stock and encountering one last rogue chilli in the final mouthful I crunched my way through it, sweat running off me in rivers. Panting gently from the heat I spotted someone drinking what looked like chocolate milkshake but it turned out to be iced coffee made with condensed milk. It tasted as strong as whisky and had an effect more akin to amphetamine. Delicious but after the chilli I’d had more than enough stimulation for one day. I said goodbye to my new friends and with my heart pounding from the quadruple espresso, hair damp with sweat and shirt spattered in broth I wandered back to the hotel bearing the unmistakable signs of a full-on encounter with pho.

Jeremy Dale

Book The Vietnam Adventure and other Vietnam tours at Travel Light

Early Bird discount 5%
Book your Imaginative Traveller tour with Travel Light 6 months or more prior to departure and get a 5% discount on the tour price!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Trekking the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail has to be one of the best short treks in the world and is more popular with adventure travellers now than ever before. The Trek follows part of an ancient series of roads that connected the Inca Empire.

The ancient road network stretched over 16,000 kilometers but the Inca Trail that leads you to the lost city of the Inca's, Machu Piccu, is only 43km in distance.

With the help of G.A.P. Adventures we have compiled a f.a.q (frequently asked questions) list about trekking the Inca Trail

How long is the Inca Trail and how many hours do we hike per day?
The Inca Trail is 43 kms (27 miles) long and depending on which campsites are used the approximate hours hiked per day are: Day 1: 5 hours Day 2: 8 hours Day 3: 7 hours Day 4: 4 hours

How difficult is the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail is considered a moderate hike. It's not a technical hike but there are a lot of Inca staircases to walk up and down, and the altitude may affect some individuals. We recommend purchasing a wooden walking stick while in Peru as it will help with your balance and reduce the load on your knees. We ask that you not use a metal tipped walking stick as it can harm the fragile environment along the trail.

Is altitude sickness common? And how high is the Inca Trail?
It's impossible to predict who will be affected by altitude. Your ability to adapt to high altitude is determined by your genetic makeup and has little to do with fitness or health. Most people will have no problems as long as they take the time to acclimatize properly. A full day spent in Cuzco (3249m), taking it easy and drinking plenty of water, is usually enough for most people. The highest point you will reach while hiking the Inca Trail is 4200 meters. You will sleep at 3600 meters for one or two nights.

Is it possible to skip the Inca Trail even if the tour includes it?
Yes! If you do not wish to hike the Inca Trail please advise Travel Light at the time of booking (it is very difficult to make these arrangements once you have already confirmed). If you choose not to hike the trail you will spend two nights in Cuzco and then take the train to the town of Aguas Calientes for the third night. At sunrise you will rejoin your group at Machu Picchu. You may also choose to book a trip that includes the slightly higher and scenic Lares' Trail. This popular 3-day and 2 night trek, ends in Aguas Calientes, where you will spend the night and catch the early buss to Machu Picchu.

When do we reach Machu Picchu and how much time do we spend there?
You will reach Machu Picchu at sunrise on Day 4 (the hike begins at approx. 3am). After viewing the sunrise you will be met by a local guide who will take you on an informative 3-hour tour of the ruins. After the tour you will have a few hours of free time to explore the area on your own before the group travels by bus to Aguas Calientes where we catch the train back to Cuzco.

Do porters carry our luggage while on the Inca Trail?
Yes! In Cuzco you will be provided with a large stuff sac in which you can place up to 7kg of personal items. These bags will be carried by our porters while you hike the Inca Trail (please note they will be weighed before we leave Cuzco). Items not required while on the trail can be stored safely at our hotel in Cuzco. All you will be required to carry is a daypack containing items you will need during the day (ie. Water, camera, sunscreen, rain poncho, etc..).

How cold does it get on the Inca Trail (will I need to bring hats and mitts)?
The altitude means it can get quite chilly, especially during the Andean winter (May - September) when the temperature can drop to below zero degrees (Celsius) at night. It can still be cool at other times of the year and so we recommend bringing thermal underwear and a warm sleeping bag. You can purchase warm, inexpensive and locally made hand-woven mitts and gloves in Cuzco.

What type of accommodation is used on the Inca Trail?
Three-person tents are used to accommodate two same-sex travellers. There are a few places where permanent but very basic toilet facilities exist and when they are not available our team will set up portable toilet tents. Trekkers are provided with a bowl of hot water (and a hot drink) every morning in their tent.

Is a sleeping bag and mat included?
Sleeping bags are not included and so we recommend bringing a compact three-season sleeping bag. A popular alternative is to rent a sleeping bag in Cuzco. They are clean, warm and cost approximately USD$10 (for all three nights). Some renters may choose to bring a sleeping bag liner or sheet. Foam mats are provided however some travelers also bring their own self-inflating mat (ie. a Thermarest).

Is purified water available on the trail?
Bottled water can be purchased on day 1 and on the evening of day 3 of the Inca Trail however we discourage trekkers from purchasing bottles as it increases the amount of garbage that must be packed out. Boiled water will be provided every evening after dinner so that you can refill your water bottle(s). If you wish to add water purification tablets you should bring these with you.

What type of food will we get on the Inca Trail?
Our cooks prepare excellent high-energy meals appropriate for a trek of this nature. The menu usually includes pasta, rice, chicken, fresh fruit and vegetables and a variety of oatmeal, eggs and other breakfast foods. Vegetarian alternatives are available upon request at the time of booking.

How much should I tip the guides and porters?
Tipping is at your discretion but always appreciated. A good rule of thumb is anywhere from $2-10 dollars per day for the porters.

What are the requirements to hike the Inca Trail?
To hike the Inca Trail with GAP Adventure you must be over 12 years of age, with moderate level of fitness, and hold a passport that is valid for up to 6 months after you return to your home country. We will require your passport at the time of booking, as this is essential to purchase the Inca Trail permits. Bookings should be made 3-4 months in advance to ensure a permit could be obtained. A limited amount of permits are available each day for hikers, in an effort to preserve the trail.

Travel Light offers a vast selection of Inca Trail adventures. If you have any other questions about the Inca Trail, Peru or travel please contact vagabond@travellight.co.za

Travel Light Reading

Lonely Planey Peru I have no preference of what guide book is best and usually go for what one is most up to date. This Lonely Planet guide to Peru was published in 2007.