Pyramid In Peru Destroyed By Developers

Dibojutri, WikiMedia Commons

For more than 4,000 years, a pyramid stood in El Paraiso, “The Paradise,” one of the largest settlements of its time in Peru. Last week, the pyramid stood almost 20 feet in height; today, it no longer exists.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the pyramid, just north of Lima, was completely demolished last weekend. The BBC states that three more pyramids would have been destroyed were it not for onlookers intervening. Criminal complaints have been filed by government officials against two real estate agencies believed to be responsible. Those responsible apparently feel as though they were within their rights as owners of the land.

This marks the second time in just as many months that an important pyramid has been destroyed by construction crews after a Mayan pyramid in Belize was destroyed in May.

Layover Report: Where To Eat At Miami, Lima, And Bogota International Airports

cuban foodI just returned from three weeks in Bolivia and Paraguay. In that time, I had 12 flights, five of which were required to get me from my home in Colorado to La Paz. Now why, you may ask, in this age of expedited air travel, does it take so many connections to travel 4,512 miles (or nine hours by air)? Budget, baby.

I’m also horrifically flight phobic, so for me to fly various Third World carriers from Miami to Bogota to Lima to La Paz (and then La Paz to Lima to Asuncion, and Asuncion back to Lima en route to Miami, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver), is probably the best example I can provide of just how much I love to travel. I really, really, really love it. I also really love having Xanax on hand when I fly.

One of the reasons I didn’t mind my layovers too much is that I happen to adore most South American airports, especially Jorge Chavez International in Lima (so many cools shops, free snackies, great Peruvian food!). And since one of the things I most like to do in South America is eat, I used my downtime to see if there was anything worth writing about, foodwise. Indeed there was, and so I present to you my findings. Feel free to send me some Xanax in return (kidding! I’ll take empanadas instead).

Miami International Airport
It’s hardly a secret that the Concourse D location of Miami’s beloved La Carreta chain rocks, especially in a sea of Au Bon Pain and Starbucks. Best of all, it opens at 5 a.m., so when I was rushing to make my 5:30 a.m. flight to Bogota, I was able to grab a jamon y queso sandwich en route. If time isn’t an issue, sit down and feast upon Cuban-style roast pork, stuffed green plantains or fufu con masitas, or a medianoche sandwich.
empanadasJorge Chavez International Airport, Lima
It’s all about Manacaru, the token Peruvian eatery in this gorgeous, progressive airport (they even recycle and post about water conservation). Every time I layover in Lima, I make a beeline for this full-service restaurant in International Departures, and order some empanadas and suspiro limon. Also known as suspiro a la limena; this achingly sweet, meringue-and-condensed milk pudding is the official dessert of Lima.

It’s no Gastón Acurio restaurant, but it’s pretty damned good for airport food; even the ceviche is sparkling fresh in my experience. It’s also great for when you’re dashing between flights, as they’re centrally located between gates, and have an entire case of grab-and-go.

They are open pretty much around the clock, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and coffee.

El Dorado International Airport, Bogota
Never having been to Colombia, despite repeated attempts to plan trips, I was desperate for a taste of the national cuisine when I landed in Bogota. Thank god for the (wait for it) Juan Valdez Cafe. I happily resolved my caffeine jones, and ordered up some arepitas, mini-versions of arepas. These corn-and-cheese cakes are Colombia’s most iconic street food, and I was thrilled to be able to try them despite being unable to leave the airport. Gracias, Juan.

[Photo credits: Cuban sandwich, Flickr user star5112; empanadas, Flickr user jules:stonesoup]

Beyond Machu Picchu: 6 Ways To Experience Peruvian Culture

Too many travelers land in Peru with only one thing on their mind: Machu Picchu. If you’ve come to the country with the sole purpose of crossing the Lost City of the Incas off your bucket list, then do what you must. But if you’re at all interested in Peru’s diverse and rich culture, don’t skip out on some other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Base your trip around the exploits below and you’ll have real bragging rights when you return home.

Visit an Indigenous Community: La Tierra de los Yachaqs (The land of the Wise), a community-based tourism project, can connect visitors with people who knit Peru’s distinctive fabrics (pictured above), harvest food using traditional tools, create belts and wallets out of plants, or make cuisine based on ancient practices. Through the program, there’s also an opportunity to spend six hours walking a route between two Andean communities, the Amaru and Chumpe. Programs are offered both as daytime activities and as overnight homestays, and most communities are located just one hour from Cusco.

Eat Like a Local: From food-on-a-stick snagged at street stalls to culinary masterpieces presented on white plates, Peru’s culinary scene is full of flavor. Dining at local restaurants is not only affordable, but can open your eyes to varieties of quinoa, corn and potatoes that you never knew existed. If you’re daring, you might even find you like cultural delicacies such as alpaca steak or roasted guinea pig.

Explore Peru’s Markets: Peru’s artisanal and food markets are filled to the brim with great buys. At artisanal markets – including the enormous market in Cusco – you’ll find high quality handicrafts like scarves, pullovers, tapestries, sculptures, carvings, jewelry, musical instruments, purses and more. Buying these handicrafts not only supports the use of traditional skills, but it also helps families gain what is most likely a modest income. Produce and food markets such as Lima‘s crowded Mercado Central (Central Market), walking distance from the central Plaza Mayor and adjacent to Chinatown, offer a taste of what life is like for locals. Take in the sites and smells, chat with a vendor or crack open an exotic fruit such as the delicious cherimoya, which tastes like a mix between pear and pineapple.

Plan Your Trip Around a Holiday or Festival: If you’re looking to experience something truly novel, plan your trip to Peru around Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) or Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun). Both holidays mix pre-Columbian and colonial traditions, such as the carrying of saints and virgins on platforms at Corpus Christi, a tradition born out of the ancient ritual of bolstering mummies in a similar fashion at festivals. Inti Raymi, once the most important Inca celebration, involves a procession and ritual reenactments (plus colorful costumes, music, food and plenty of dancing). Although both of these are celebrated throughout the country, particularly in the Andean highlands, Cusco is known for having some of the best festivities.

Celebrate Peruvian Traditions: Beyond festivals, there are several other ways to become immersed in Peru’s cultural traditions. The family-owned Sumaq Hotel, located in Aguas Calientes (the stepping off point for Machu Picchu), offers an emblematic culinary tradition called pachamanca, meaning “earthen pot,” that dates back to the time of the Incas. Meat, potatoes, beans, yams and corn are marinated in special spices and then placed on hot stones and covered with earth for 2-3 hours. At the hotel, visitors can also take advantage of a local shaman, who can read your fortune from coca leaves or ask pachamama to make your deepest wishes come true in a mystical ceremony. The shaman, whose name is Wilco, is also available if visitors would like to become spiritually married (or have a spiritual vow renewal ceremony).

Take a History or Culture Tour: Making sense of large cities like Lima or deciphering the meaning behind Inca ruins is far from easy. To make sure you don’t miss anything, particularly if you don’t have a whole lot of time on the ground, consider hiring a guide. These experts can ensure you don’t stare at a pile of rocks with a blank look on your face, and instead understand the various meanings behind the structures. Guides tend to be flexible and open to any questions you might have, and in many cases are willing to cater tours based on your interests. From guided airport transfers to eight-day excursions, companies such as Gray Line and Viajes Pacifico employ locals and do all the planning for you, making it a less confusing and more educational experience.

[All photos by Libby Zay]

Risqué Relics Inside Peru’s Erotic Art Gallery

There are plenty of museums around the world dedicated to sex. Besides the now familiar Museum of Sex in New York, the Czech Republic has a museum centered solely on sex machines and Iceland has one concentrating on the study of phallology (complete with hundreds of… ahem… male specimens). In Peru, however, an archaeological museum shows that our fascination with sex is far from a modern phenomenon.

One third of the exhibition space at Museo Larco in Lima is devoted to showcasing the world’s largest collection of ancient erotic artifacts, an aspect of pre-Columbian life that many people might turn a blind eye to. Spread throughout two rooms, the artwork is so explicit that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to enter the halls. The Moche civilization, who flourished from 100 A.D. to 800 A.D., represented pretty much every aspect of their lives in ceramics, and the ways in which they made love (and, as the exhibit shows, self love) were not exempt from being embodied in clay.

As you’ll see in the gallery below, not much of what happens behind closed doors has changed over the ages. What the erotic art gallery really teaches us is sex is a part of life, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of – although, admittedly, it is something many of the museumgoers couldn’t help but giggle at.

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Travel meets journalism at Roads and Kingdoms

travel journalismLast month, writers Nathan Thornburgh (a contributing editor to TIME and recent guest of Fox News) and Matt Goulding (food & culture writer and author behind the Eat This, Not That! book series) launched a new website with the intriguing tagline: “Journalism, travel, food, murder, music. First stop: Burma.” Combining on-the-spot reporting on current events and politics with in-depth cultural observations, rich photography, and engrossing narratives, Roads and Kingdoms feels like a travel blog we all want to write: a bit daring, occasionally foolhardy, and often inspiring. Fresh home from their first major trip and recovering from Burma belly, Gadling talked to co-founder Nathan about Roads and Kingdoms.

How would you describe your blog in one sentence?
Travel meets journalism.

How did it come about? How has your background in news helped (or hindered) your travels?
Matt and I felt like our work – he writes about food, I’m a foreign correspondent – actually had a lot in common. As writers on assignment, we found that the best parts of being on the road – the amazing meal on the street corner, the back-alley bar with the great live jams, the sweaty tuk tuk ride through the outskirts of the city – are left out of the final product. It’s those parts that we want to provide a home for. It’s a different kind of travel mindset, whether you’re going to London or Lagos. Journalism is all about being curious, which is a quality great travelers have as well.

It’s not meant to remain a blog: we’ll be launching our full site soon, which won’t just be our travels, but a variety of dispatches in the Roads and Kingdoms style, from writers and photographers and videographers around the world.
Why did you choose Burma as a first destination?
First off, we think Burma is going to be a huge tourist destination in the years to come, if the country continues to open up. It’s an amazingly vivid and warm country, and has a lot of the traditional rhythms of life that Thailand, for example, has lost.

Burma also had the perfect combination of stories for us to launch Roads and Kingdoms with. We were able to report on the killer hiphop scene in the south, up-and-coming graffiti artists in Rangoon, and of course, the amazing (and all but undiscovered) Burmese cuisine. Then Matt went to Bagan, this breathtaking valley of temples that will become a big part of Burma’s tourist boom. While he took in the temples, I visited the heart of the war-torn north, where I was able to hang out with gold miners and Kachin refugees and see a part of Burma that not a lot of people get to see.

What do you hope to inspire in readers?
We’d love to inspire readers to travel the way we do: with a sense of wonder and a big appetite, with curiosity and an awareness of the backstory behind the destinations.

Flashback, Burma Day One: Bad Crab from Roads and Kingdoms on Vimeo.

Roads and Kingdoms did not get detained in Myanmar for being journalists entering on a tourist visa. But Nathan still hit an unexpected roadblock on the first day in Burma: a plate of chili-slathered, rancid crab.

What are the challenges in blogging somewhere like Burma?

We were fortunate that our trip coincided with Hillary Clinton’s historic visit to Burma. The government didn’t want to create any problems that week, so we were incredibly free as journalists there; much more so than I could have ever imagined the first time I went in 2003. I was followed and watched when I visited the north, but they didn’t interfere with my work. However: Internet access still sucks. You can’t blog if you can’t connect, and that’s a huge problem in Burma.

How is social media adding to the blog?
Social media is huge for us. We’re starting out as a Tumblr, for example, not just because it’s great for articles/photos/videos, but because it’s so shareable. We want people to get involved, not just as passive consumers, but as advisers and compañeros along the way.

Where are you going next?
We have a short list, and we actually want readers to help us decide. London? Moscow? Lima? It’s a big world out there!

Follow the adventures at RoadsandKingdoms.com and connect with Nathan and Matt (and assorted interns) on Twitter @RoadsKingdoms and Facebook.