La Morada, Montserrat, Buenos Aires – Locro and Empanadas

On this day last year I was in Buenos Aires with my beloved Andrew eating empanadas and locro. And today I found out that I may have relatives in Argentina.

A cousin who is is researching the family history along with my sister and I said that our great-grandfather Antonio Pergolini had a cousin called Camilo Pergolini. Camilo had 2 daughters, one with the married name of DiFuria, a son named Atilo who went to America and another son named Camilo who went to Argentina!

So, another trip for family research is in order! Calling all Argentine Pergolinis with Abruzzi heritage.

January things

Locally grown avocados and stone fruits at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmer’s Market, my husband’s birthday (he just turned 50, young thing), Tour Down Under and the Big Day Out.  These are the January things that have me talking this year.

I dusted off my old Avanti bicycle today and rode over to the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmer’s Market.  It’s just a 12 minute cycle away and is a great way to start a Sunday morning.  Though I should have had breakfast first. I ended up buying almost too much to carry home on my bike. Andrew usually goes with me and we share the load of the veggies and heavier items like olive oil and potatoes. I get excited when I see all that fresh food.  Just as well no one had watermelons on sale.

You wouldn’t think that our dry climate was suitable for growing avocados, but sure enough some guy in the Adelaide Hills gets them to grow in a bit of a micro-climate. Other market winners today; nectarines and peaches.

On Friday I participated in the Tour Down Under’s Mutual Community Tour Challenge with a group from work.  This year’s ride options were 149.5k, 111k or 35k.  Our team had riders in each of these distance categories.  I was in the last group, riding 35k.  Friday was rather warm and the last 35k of the ride was characterised by extreme cross winds  for 23k then a blessed tail wind for the last 12. My goal was to complete the ride without needing to dismount on any of the hills.  I was successful.  It took 2.5 hours but I made it!

Friday was also my young husband’s 50th birthday. We went to our local pub for dinner with good friends Stu and Toni, then on Saturday night Andrew and I went to an Argentinian restaurant in Hutt Street. Very strange crowd in the restaurant.  Some tattooed guys who kept going outside for a smoke and what appeared to be ‘deals’ with people who drove up, parked illegally then disappeared.  The whole dining experience had some disappointments and some highlights. The steaks were excellent as was the Marta’s Vineyard 1999 Malbec. The crème brûlée was generous. The Empanada was deep fried though and the filling tasted like a Bolognese sauce. Not the highlight for sure.

Announcement: I am not going to the Big Day Out this year. I love the web site and poster with the ‘Day of the Dead’ inspired skeletons and paper cut-outs. But none of the bands really excite me. Maybe the Decembrists, but not enough to go for the day (they’re on at 3.45 or thereabouts) or even the evening of a really hot day with a bunch of drunken 23 year olds.

One more January thing – our anniversary – married 19 years and still best mates.  Well done us!

Buenos Aires – 25 May 2009

Hola chicos,

Excuse typing errors – very worn out keyboard…We are back in Buenos Aires and I must say, this could be the undisputed capital of empanadas.  Today we went to a place called Ña Serapia, Las Heras, Av. 3357, and the empanadas were fragrant, delicate and so very delicious.

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As well as the empanadas we had Locra which I can only describe as a soup or stew with heaps of corn and beans and other yummy things.  And just because it looked so good, we also had by far the best tamale I have ever had, anywhere.  This is definitely one to experiment with when we get home. We only have 24 hours left in BA and we are considering going back tomorrow before our flight…

So a bit of a recap since the transport strike.  We did manage to get to Machu Picchu and it was quite a journey.  Once in the town of Aguas Calientes one must locate the office to buy the entry pass and pay a rather large sum of money.  I think it equaled about 60 Aussie dollars.  Then you locate the place where you buy the tickets for the bus, and fork over another 15 or so bucks for a 20 minute all uphill, hair-raising, nail-biting bus ride.  Once inside the grounds you go up about a thousand steps to get the vantage point for the postcard photo of the actual Inca Ruins and the huge hill, Waynu Picchu!  Unbelievable.  After seeing it in so many documentaries and photos it is hard to believe you are actually standing there.  The depth and scale of it all is overwhelming!  I am so glad we got there.

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We spent about 5 hours walking around and I think Andrew took over 100 photos.  It seemed we walked forever.

Back in town that evening we made good use of the hot springs that give the town it’s name and soaked our aching muscles.

Machu Picchu was the pinnacle for sure, but we also visited many other Inca ruins (Sacsayhuamán, Pisac, Ollantaytambo to name a few) and walked up and down numerous sets of stairs and terraced agricultural sites! The combination of altitude and stairs has been tough!

We got back to Cusco and enjoyed a few more meals at a favourite traveller’s haunt called Jacks where we had warming soups and herbal teas.

It has been an amazing adventure, not without a few hitches. Our flight from Cusco to Lima went fine then we sat in Lima airport for 5 hours waiting to get back to BA.  We finally arrived at our accommodation at 2am.

The B&B we are staying at in Recoleta is friendly and very comfy so we are resting up for the big flight back home.

What do we miss?  Our own bed and decent pillows! And Andrew’s Prawn and Pernot Risotto which he’ll make soon after we get back.

Would we do it again?  YES!  We are already starting sentences with “next time we come to South America…”.  There is so much more to see.  We would like to focus on Southern Argentina and Chile (and La Cumbre to see Tuti!).  But that’s another email.  We’ll let you all know when we get home safely and will post pictures on our Flickr site, eventually…

Ollantaytambo, Peru – 21 May 2009

Hola Amigos!

Due to a transport strike we are stuck in Ollantaytambo Peru…but we can think of worse places to be stuck.  The scenery here is stunning and there are Inca Ruins.  And we are in a comfortable hotel with good food!  Not an empanada in sight though, sadly.

We made a mad dash via various forms of public transport (2 local buses, a collectivo – a 12 seater van with 21 people and one chicken in it – then a motorcycle taxi) to Ollantaytambo a few nights ago so that we are here when the strike ends.  We have booked tickets on the train to Machu Picchu on Thursday morning from here.

Going back to our last bulk email I think we were in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.  Since then we did an overnight bus to coastal Arica, got a good night´s sleep, then crossed the border into Peru.  Caught a bus up to Arequipa, a beautiful city in the foothills of the Andes at about 2400 meters.  There are multiple volcanoes surrounding the town.  We did an overnight trip into the Colca Canyon, second deepest in the world and deeper than the Grand Canyon.  Saw majectic Condors gliding over the canyon scavenging for food.

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On way from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – eating cactus fruit on the side of the road
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Colca Canyon, Peru
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Flight of the condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
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Road sign

After 5 days in that area we moved on to Lake Titicaca where we went out to the Uros Islands (islas flotantes – floating islands) which are build upon staggered layers of totara reeds and large clumps of totara root masses. We also went out to Tacile Island which is UNESCO heritage listed.  The way of life appears not to have changed for a very long time…

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On Lake Titicaca

Made our way to Cusco, a grand city with winding, narrow cobbled streets where the views get better the higher you climb. Happened upon a University Graduation Parade in Plaza de Armas which involved a great display of national costumes and dancing in the streets!

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Dancing in the streets
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Streets of Cusco -literally breathtaking

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Cusco is pretty high up, over 3000 meters but we are well acclimatised to the altitude now and ready for some more hiking at Machu Picchu once we finally get there tomorrow!  On our way from Cusco to Ollantaytambo we stopped in Pisac, where we had planned to spend the night, we visited our first Inca ruins…the engineering know how has really blown us away and everyone says Macchu Picchu is even more incredible.  Can´t wait!

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Pisac terraces
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Pisac terraces – see town below

As for empanadas, we did have some wood fired oven ones in Pisac.  We were looking forward to a second round but had to dash to Ollantaytambo ahead of the strike!

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Some of the best empanadas we ate were in Pisac, Sacred Valley of Peru

We will be on our way home in a week but still have some more days in Cusco then BA to go.

Cheers for now.

Lou & Roo

San Pedro de Atacama, Peru – 6 May 2009

Hola Chicos!

Well, we got to San Pedro de Atacama on Sunday night and checked into a quite unexpectedly cool accommodation…A mud brick little private cottage!

The town is all made of adobe and with no measurable rain in the last few years is unlikely to wash away.

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San Pedro de Atcama, northern Chile
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San Pedro de Atacama
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San Pedro de Atacama
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San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile
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San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile

We are at 2400 metres altitude in town and have done some day trips that took us over 4000 metres.  Andrew was fine up at El Tatio Geysers and was bopping about disappearing into the mist taking photos.  I however was taking it very slowly and had a bit of a tight headache until we came down a bit lower.  Puno/Lake Titicaca should be interesting, altitude-wise!

The geysers were pretty amazing.  We had a 4 am pickup at our hotel and a 2 hour very bumpy minibus ride with other weary travelers to the geyser field.  There is also a thermal pool that one can swim in which is one of the highest in the world. Let me remind you that we were over 4000 m and it was minus 10 celcius.  But I am proud to say that I took the plunge and was warmer there than in three layers of polar fleece, 2 pairs of wool socks and boots. Andrew, as ever, took photos!

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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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On way back to San Pedro de Atacama from El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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On way back to San Pedro de Atacama from El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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On way back to San Pedro de Atacama from El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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On way back to San Pedro de Atacama from El Tatio Geyser, Chile
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Valle della Luna, San Pedro de Atcama, Northern Chile

That was today.  Yesterday afternoon we headed out to the Vale de la Luna which as the name suggests, was quite lunar!  We stayed for a sunset like you only see in the desert!  Really fabulous rock formations and canyons and in the distance, the view of 8 or so volcanoes, 2 of them active.

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Valle della Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile
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Valle della luna, San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile
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Valle della Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile
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Valle della Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile
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Valle della Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile
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Valle della Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile

Food – it has been pretty good here!  Interesting courtyard restaurants with tourist oriented food. Well executed chicken, fish and beef dishes with local twists like the addition of Quinoa (a grain) and local herbs and spices.

Today´s empanadas were (as my nephew Gram says) nearly as big as your head! Muy Grande and hand made of course.

Tomorrow night we have an overnight bus ride to the Chilean coast to the town of Arica, where we will relax a few days at the beach before charging feet first into Peru!

Until our next instalment, keep well and stay away from pigs!

Cheers, Lou and Roo

Santiago Chile – 3 May 2009

We are in Santiago and getting ready to fly to San Pedro de Atacama (Calama) this arvo.  Our flight from Mendoza to here was canceled as it is a small airport with  no health screening facilities for the Swine Flu.  So we had a fantastic bus ride during daylight hours over the Andes!  It was really beautiful and potentially breathtaking over the high pass (over 4000 meters).  All the foreigners had to have a temperature check.

We have only had one empanada here as there are some good cheap restaurants here.  I had some Patagonian lamb and have had some seafood which is quite fresh here. We have been to Valparaiso, which is colourful but very ratty looking and dirty.  A real shame because it has world heritage status.  Santiago is actually very nice and has a great, clean and safe metro.

Of course we have been taking heaps of pictures, particularly of markets and architecture.

Ciao for now.

Lou & Roo

Mendoza Argentina – 29 April 2009

First let me apologise for my typing on a spanish keyboard with different characters and some of the letters worn off!

Greetings from Mendoza Argentina, wine country.

The vuelta de empanada continues.  We would like to say we have not had a day without an empanada but that would probably be false. However some days we have had two lots to make up for it.  By far, the best we have had was a Quatros Quesos (4 cheeses) in Puerto Iquazu!  It had delicate pastry and inside were the 4 cheeses: manchego, cream, parmesana and roquefort!  Had to be tasted to be believed.  The super-chilled Patagonian beer washed it down perfectly! And it topped off a pretty grand day of walking around the falls at Iguazu!

There have been other highlights and Andrew is attempting to photograph them before we scoff them down. Refer to our Flickr page for photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lou_roo/sets/72157619047932933/

Empanadas seem to be found in the loftiest restaurants as well as the humblest corner stores.  Most advertise that they are Artesanial indicating that they are home made on the premises by a master!

We have had other food.  With a large Italian heritage, there are pizza and pasta joints everywhere as well as the ubiquitous ´Parilla´ or charcoal grills where huge sausages and slabs of meat are cooked.

Our hostel in Buenos Aires had a live music night up on the rooftop garden on Saturday and the did 10 peso (less than $5 Aussie) Beer and Churi Pane.  Churi Pane is a Big sausage (Churi) in a crusty bread roll (Pane).  It was great value and we went back for seconds.

Sunday night we went to a more fancy Parilla with our friend Amalia and her husband Gustavo.  They introduced us to some fantastic Argentine Malbec wines.

Deserts are pretty special here too.  Flan is very popular as is ice cream called Helados here.  We have sampled a few flavours.  Another unique food is a sweet breakfast spread called dulce de leche kind of like a thick caramel spread.  Of course it is also a helados flavour and as a filling in chocolate covered cookies.

So although this is a vuelta de empanada, we are by no means restricting our diets.  And we have done other things besides eat!  We have been to the falls at Iguazu, and in BA been to the MALBA (Museo del Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) museum, seen the strange National Library, been to Evita´s mausoleum at Recoleta, seen the Botego torso sculpture and the giant flower in the park, walked the modern Puente de Mujeres at Puerto Madera strolled Calle Defensa on Sunday for the San Telmo Feria (markets), and visited La Boca briefly (it was very touristy so got a bus the hell outta there).  There are paintings from both Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera at the MALBA for my fellow fans!!  Oh and we spent a day in Colonia Uruguay, the ciudad vieja which is World Heritage listed! Very charming indeed and an hour´s ferry ride away frm BA. Photographer´s paradise!

We are hoping to do a short bike ride around the Maipu wine area tomorrow befor heading off to Santiago Chile on Thursday.

We hope this finds you all well.

Cheers for now.

Lou & Roo

Buenos Aires – 20 April 2009

Just a very jet lagged message to say we have arrived in Buenos Aires.

Our Culinary Vuelta de Empanadas officially began today soon after our arrival.

Empanadas are the South American equivalent of pasties with different savoury fillings!  So many choices!  We tried three types today.

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Flight was just bloody long but met a few nice people.

Catching up with a travel mate from 1980 tomorrow.  Time for nana nap now!

Love, Lou & Roo