Top 5 Reasons To Experience The Winter Farmers Market

Ithaca, NY (my current home base) is amazing for oh so many reasons! Many of those reasons I can’t wait to share with you in the soon-coming category on my blog called “Hey From HomeBase.” I’ll just start with my personal favorite thing to do in Ithaca, the Farmers Market! Ithaca’s Farmers Market is renowned, I have met people who have no idea where Ithaca is but they have heard it has an amazing market, and they heard correct. The Farmers Market is a pearl of our community; while not completely representative of all facets, it reflects the funky, eclectic, and homegrown vibe the town of Ithaca exudes. Although the Farmers Market is a local staple, some of us have no idea that its still around during the winter months. In the words of our local farmers, “YUP, we still grow food in the winter!” Here are a few reasons why you should check out the winter market this year!

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Crooked Carrot and Blue Heron Farm

Reason #5: Warm up with a cider

This is a secret obsession of mine, hot cider with a cider donut from Littletree Orchards’ stand. I love an ice cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day at the market, but all year I secretly can’t wait for it to be cold enough for hot cider! It is hands down the best, and there is nothing like it to make me feel cozy on the inside when there is snow on the ground right outside the door. They still make donuts in the winter, and they are the BOMB DIGGITY (yes I am proudly stuck in the 90s), try dunking them in a cup of cider if you want to experience what living really tastes like… enough said.

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Littletree Orchard apples

Reason #4: Plenty of time to meet the farmers

Our local farmers always try and make themselves available, but with the volume of people attending the summer market it may be difficult to get their ear for more than just a quick question. The small crowds and indoor space at the winter market allow for more opportunities to have a lengthy chat. While getting my groceries for the week, and researching for this article, I got to chat with farmers about everything from recipes for their products to what their eldest daughter and I have in common… farmers can be a chatty bunch ;). Get to the winter market, and get to know your farmers!

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Michael Burns of Cayuta Sun Farm!

Reason #3: You can enjoy it at your leisure

There is no denying that summer time is the busiest time of the year for the Ithaca  Farmers Market. On summer weekends we often have visitors from all over the country here to experience summer in the Finger Lakes, and at those times the market can feel a little overwhelming for those inclined to move at a slower pace on a Saturday morning. The winter market provides a smaller and more intimate setting, where you can peruse the different farmer’s tables several times without ever feeling rushed or crowded.

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My friend Kash’s beautiful family helping out for the day at her Balance Aromatherapy booth.

Reason #2: Get a quick summer-vibe fix

If it is cold outside, the sky is grey, and there isn’t enough money in your bank account to hop on a plane straight to Miami… the next best thing: The Winter Farmers Market! Seriously, stepping inside The Space @ Greenstar (the indoor location for the winter market), is like being served up a slice of sunshine. All the familiar summer market faces serving up your favorite market goodies with a smile. If you are a market fly, like myself, then just being in that space amongst that community, canvas tote in hand, will have you thinking summer thoughts. Every Saturday for 3 hours (11-2pm), you can shake off those winter blues!

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Can’t beat the winter market deals!

Reason #1: Cash in on those cruciferous veggies!

When you think winter market, I am certain a cornucopia of root vegetables and an array of squash come to mind. The winter market is host to the usual suspects, and so much more. The often overlooked cruciferous veggies, are in full force at the winter market and can be some of the healthiest vegetables to eat during the winter. While other vegetables’ prime season occurs during the summer, this family of plants actually protects itself from the cold by creating and storing excess sugar, putting their most peak season for flavor in the cooler months! In addition to being tasty, these veggies are also known for their wide array of potential health benefits, from cancer-fighting glucosinolates to the immense amount of vitamins they contain. Some examples from our market; radishes, rutabaga, cabbage, bok choy, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli!

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Cruciferous Goodness!

 

From markets flowing with a rainbow assortment of veggies, to handmade craft stands, a local market can be a window into the most subtle and intimate parts of a culture. A market is the place to meet the people, taste their food, and hear their music. I truly believe that to know a place, you must walk its markets. When traveling to a new place the first decision I make is what in the world to do, and typically my very first Google search is when and where are the local markets. When anyone asks me for advice on visiting my home base in upstate NY, I always point them straight to the Ithaca Farmers Market! If you are in New York, join me this Saturday at the winter market in Ithaca. Starting in April you can catch me at the pavilion market down on the waterfront, summer is just around the corner!

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6 Things to Expect When Traveling with your Sister!

I am known to travel alone, I love the experience of traveling solo and the freedom that comes with being entirely responsible for just yourself. Yet, when I do travel with someone, which is a rare case scenario, making the choice of travel partner is a serious task and not to be taken lightly. The only person who has survived the test of time, and traveled by my side more than once would be my lifelong partner in crime, my little sis. Having now taken two big trips with my little sister, I have some words of wisdom to share before you take the plunge into sister-travel! This will be helpful for any sister traveling, it doesn’t matter if you are the bossy-pants, overprotective, extremely prepared sibling, or if you are the easy-going but secretly sensitive, always trusting, party animal, usually younger sibling (Full disclosure: I am indeed that bossy-pants sister!).

 

1.You will want to wring her neck… at least once, ok maybe twice.

I am just going to jump right in the deep end with this one. There will come a time where she says lets go left and you say right, or she loses the hostel key, or gets too drunk, or gets scammed while changing your money and brings back way less colones than she should have (these are just hypotheticals of course). There is no way around the fact that most sisters piss each other off every once in a while, and no amount of miles between where you go and your home will change that fact. You will absolutely spend some of the trip not getting along, but how you deal with that conflict is key. You didn’t spend a bunch of money to travel halfway across the world (or even the next state over, for that matter) to do what you can do at your Nonna’s house over the holidays, save the arguing for Thanksgiving! Drop the argument like it’s hot, and get back to making memories!

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Save the drama for when you’re home with ya Mama!

2.Expect your parents to worry twice as much.

From my personal experience… moms are particularly prone to worrying. When I travel solo I don’t hear much from my mom, she only begins to worry after maybe a week or so without an update. Now put two of her babies far away in the same place, and for some reason the worrying begins to multiply. I swear there must be some type of mathematical formula, but the more children away together the more they want to hear from you! The best way to tackle this phenomenon, is to share the burden… I mean the blessing of caring parents 😉 Take turns updating your folks about what you are up to, and where you are headed next. One of the best ways is with photos, and that brings me to my next point…

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“You are going to hike a volca-what!”

3.Expect to take the silliest selfies!

One of the best things about traveling with your sister, is that she already knows how impossibly weird you are! No reason to hold back with her, you can be goofy and raw and real and she won’t be the least bit surprised. Usually discovering new places, and new people, you can feel reserved or filtered until you get your bearings, traveling with my sister is the only time I have felt free to be my silliest-self 100% of the time.

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Only with the sis…

4.There will be things you want to do, that she just isn’t into. 

No big deal! Actually this is a good thing. It is important, especially when traveling with someone you are so emotionally attached to, that you take some time to yourself. It doesn’t matter if you just spend a couple hours checking out an art museum while she sleeps in, or you take a weekend and go learn to scuba dive. Having a little bit of time to reflect alone is healthy for you both, so don’t worry if she doesn’t share every interest you have.

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Take some time to yourself!

5.Expect to share your clothes.

When I was younger, this was not my favorite thing about having a sister… lets get real, in high school it was my least favorite thing in the world! Yet, it never is going to change so eventually you give in… and release the vice grip on that adorable mini skirt you secretly wish she couldn’t fit, but she magically fits in everything you own no matter what size it is! If you haven’t learned to share with your sister yet, you will learn it on this trip. Actually traveling together was the first time I realized it was fun to share clothes with my sister, it instantly doubled my available outfit possibilities!

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All apparel compliments of “Olivia’s Suitcase”.

6.Finally, expect to laugh your ass off!

I laugh more than I do anywhere else I go, when I have my sister by my side. I love to travel, but I will be the first to tell you it is far from easy. Yet, with your sis along for the ride, all those slip-ups and bloopers you usually have to navigate alone, are nonstop fodder for the collection of “inside jokes” you will be able to share forever.

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Here is to those times all your photos come out blurry, because you just can’t stop laughing!

Thanks for reading! Comment below, and let us know any tips you have for traveling with family. Like, Follow, Share!

Peace and Safe Travels!

Olivia

 

 

R&R at a B&B 

This past weekend I took an extra couple days off for some R&R at the BEST bed and breakfast in Virginia. OK I am slightly biased but very rightfully so. In Hillsboro, Virginia a quiet town of 88 residents there is a magnificent bed and breakfast, owned and operated by my great aunt. I grew up with it as a family home and it’s now been converted into this amazing Inn in an equally awesome location. Gourmet farm-to-table bistro’s and wineries producing bold flavors are beginning to pop up in towns surrounding Hillsboro. The tiny town of Hillsboro, and the surrounding countryside, are slowly but steadily becoming more commonly known as wine country for the socialites of the Washington area. For me to refer to this rural slice of Virginia as “wine country” says a lot coming from a girl living in the finger Lakes!

 

Fieldstone Farm

 

I’m just going to give you the highlights of the trip, but for you to get the whole picture, I first have to tell you about the B&B. To say the Fieldstone Farm bed and breakfast is luxurious would be an understatement, to say it’s inviting another understatement, and to call it inspiring yet again an understatement. My aunt’s property will always just be a family home to me, but it’s now equipped with all the modern amenities you would find in a hotel with even fancier soaps and an outdoor pool! Watching this family home evolve into this “resort like” country-get-away, has been such a fun journey. The grounds which I have had many a Easter-egg hunt on, are now home to magnificent flower, herb, and vegetable gardens, perfect places for reflection. One thing that hasn’t changed is my aunt’s love to decorate, every season gets its fair share! When I was just there, every room smelled like cinnamony-goodness and my aunt was ushering in Fall in the best ways. Despite all the modern amenities it can still feel like a trip through time to 1770, with fires blazing and antique furnishings. My Aunt has done a fabulous job keeping most of the decor to date, as this property is one of the premier historical homes in Virginia. This trip I brought my partner, and maybe if I haven’t done a sufficient job getting across how amazing this place is his words will do it best. According to him, Fieldstone Farm is an antique store mixed with a Hilton hotel… or what it would look like if a colonial museum had a baby with a luxury spa, so eloquent that man of mine!

 

Welcome Home

 

Tranquility Anyone?

 

Felt like summer for a day

My Aunt recommends the best places around to all of her guests, so we are always in good hands when we go out with her. This trip she took us to one of her favorites, Market Table Bistro. This is a place one would expect to find in NYC or DC, it is hip to the local farm-to-table food scene and delivers at the highest quality. The premise of the restaurant is comfort food in a gourmet fashion… I couldn’t ask for more! Considering myself a “global gourmand” I feel arbitrarily qualified to judge this eatery, and I give it an A+. The flavors are absolutely delivered as promised, highly evolved yet familiar. I am a huge fan of restaurants with the “fancy comfort food” philosophy, it creates a space where unique and complex flavors become available to those not so comfortable outside of their comfort zone.

 

Shrimp and Grits!

 

Quail and Kale… YUM

 

The potato flight (potatoes done 6 ways)

Visiting Fieldstone Farm and my Aunt Amy is always such a treat, and since I’m back on the writing wagon I wanted to share just a bit of that magic with you. Having the chance to relax in such a positive space played a huge role in me renewing my dedication to follow my dream of travel writing. If you are ever in the Northern Virginia area, my aunt would love to have you at the Inn, and maybe some of the magic of that place will inspire you as well!!

Machu Picchu!! The Poor Man’s Adventure Trek.

As you might have already guessed, I enjoy the wilder side of things… and so when it came to visiting Machu Picchu I was on the search to find a more “exotic” route to take. Rather than the much traveled and quite pricey (but phenomenal and classic) Inca Trail, I booked the more economical Inca Jungle Trek. What not everyone knows is that there are actually two trails traveled by the Incas to get to Machu Picchu, well technically one wasn’t traveled by the “Inca” because Incas were actually just the royalty or ruling class. The commonly known trail is the route the royalty took to reach Machu Picchu, but the common people or Quechua people took a route through the Andean jungle. This isn’t a beautifully crafted stone walkway like the images conjured by the mention of the Inca Trail, it’s a winding overgrown footpath through the thick of the jungle. To go on this wild adventure with a tour company, there are usually 3 and 4 day options offered, but to do it as cheap as possible yet still have enough time to explore I chose a 5 day plan that was all walking and buses… rather than enjoying the comfort of taking the train. The first day consisted of a thrilling and slightly terrifying mountain bike ride down from a peak in the Andes into the jungle below, with the option to go whitewater rafting in the valley for an extra $30. The second day was a 6-8 hour hike straight up and over a mountain then ending the day in a natural hot springs. The next morning there was another $30 option to go zip-lining and then take a car to the town of Hydro Electrica, if you don’t go with that option you do save 30 bucks… but you have a 4 hour hike bright and early to get to Hydro Electrica in time to meet up with the zip-lining crew. After having lunch together at Hydro Electrica, everyone does the 3 hour hike along the train tracks to the town located below Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes (or as it is now being called… Machu Picchu Pueblo). The next morning at 5am pretty much the entire town begins the 2,000-step climb to the top. Once at Machu Picchu, halfway through the day most people doing the jungle trek have to leave and hike the 3 hours back to Hydro Electrica in order to catch their 3pm bus to Cusco, the lucky ones take the train that night. I didn’t want to sacrifice a second of sunshine at the top, and I could barely walk after 4 days of hiking nonstop, so I spent one extra night in Aguas Calientes and slept in before my 3 hour hike to catch my 6 hour bus back to Cusco. I went on this incredible trip my last week in Peru with the last of my funds… and so I opted for the most basic plan, which was mountain biking, hiking, hot springs, and a visit to Machu Picchu!! The company I used was called Aita Peru, the woman running it was amazing and thorough… tailoring the trip to the individual needs of every person (I highly recommend them as I shopped around a lot beforehand and was so happy with my decision). I couldn’t have asked for a more adventurous, inspiring, and motivating end to my journey through Peru.

The bike ride was by far the most adrenaline-junkie part of the trek. We got all geared up and then went barreling down a mountain road for two and a half hours. My heart would feel like it was going to explode every time I was passed by a bus or construction vehicle while making a hairline turn on one of the many switch backs. Starting up at 4,000 m above sea level where I had wished I put another layer on under the odd “biker” jacket we were supplied with, we ended the ride in the valley surrounded by lush jungle and I couldn’t wait to strip down to my tank top. The most amazing part for me (being more of a naturalist than a crazy thrill chaser), was the incredible change in foliage over the 2.5 hour ride… and being able to see the way the plants have adapted to a completely different environment all on the same mountain!

All geared up and getting instructions on how NOT to die...

All geared up and getting instructions on how to NOT die…

The following day we set out on the toughest hike, up and over a mountain. During the hike we stopped at the Monkey House, which was a working coffee plantation where tours can stop for a break and learn about cacao, coffee, and coca. We marched on after that delightful break, over rickety bridges, back and forth along insanely narrow switchbacks, and ended in the hot springs!

Our guide Junior giving us a lesson on jungle crops.

Our guide Junior giving us a lesson on jungle crops.

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Yucca, fresh coffee beans, jungle liquors, cacao beans, and purple corn!

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Beautiful Valley!

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That silver bunch of buildings by my elbow… yeah I came from somewhere near there that morning. BAMF-status!

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My companions for those glorious 5 days.

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You see that red speck in the center of the photo?? That’s a person…

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Rickety Bridges… not for the weak of heart!

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Nothing like a bucket pulley over a raging river.

The third day only two of us opted out of zip-lining in the morning, and so we were each other’s hiking buddies for the first 4 hours of the day. Our guide stayed with the other six and drew us a crude map that looked like something you would follow to get to Narnia… “You go down this ladder, around the mountain, over this bridge… there will be a guard then blink twice say my name and you’ll be there”… ok not quite that weird but pretty close. It’s a shame the other 6 people got to take a car for this section of the trip because that 4 hour hike was truly beautiful! After lunching all together, we finished the day with a 3 hour walk along the train tracks to finally reach the town of Aguas Calientes.

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Gorgeous bridge in the valley surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains.

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Beautiful waterfalls showered the mountainsides.

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This is the first time my friend and I came across another hiker during those 4 hours…   can you spot the stranger-danger?? LOL

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Train tracks to Machu Picchu.

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As I was grumbling about the pain in my legs… getting this shot made me remember how good it is to be on foot instead of rushing past in a train.

The next morning at 5am, I pretended that every inch of my body was NOT in pain, and I jumped out of my bed like it was Christmas! I headed to the line and waited my turn at the bottom of Machu Picchu to get my ticket checked. When you look up it seems to be a sheer cliff face, and you can’t possibly imagine how anyone… let alone little asthmatic me… could get to the top. Then I did it! I hiked up those nearly vertical 2,000 steps huffing and puffing, but I made it!!

Waiting in the line at 5:30am to get let across the bridge to begin the hike up.

Waiting in the line at 5:30am to get let across the bridge to begin the hike up.

Hiking up 2,000 steps, and as the sun began to rise... it was so obvious how it was worth every bit of pain in my aching body!

Hiking up 2,000 steps, and as the sun began to rise… it was so obvious how it was worth every bit of pain in my aching body!

Beautiful steps made by the Quechua people for the Incas to reach Machu Picchu.

Beautiful steps made by the Quechua people, during the time of the Inca empire.

Finally up at the top and through the gates Machu Picchu is still clouded by the morning mist.

Finally up at the top and through the gates, Machu Picchu is still clouded by the morning mist.

Amazing doorways that have lasted the test of time.

Amazing doorways that have lasted the test of time.

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Before we went off to explore on our own, we walked around for 2 hours with a guide who explained the history of this incredible site.

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In all its splendor!

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The only building with a rounded wall… believed to be a temple of the sun.

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It is thought that this was an architectural design to keep Machu Picchu from sliding off the top of the mountain, but another theory is that they were used for agriculture… and some say these terraces were for both.

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“Don’t touch the ruins!” Im not touching… I’m thinking!

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Breathtaking!

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Machu Picchu… The Land Of #Selfies

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On top of the WORLD.

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Don’t forget me! The llamas at the Machu Picchu site are actually there to maintain the grass!

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Channeling the essence of the Picchu… actually I was fixing my hair for the pic, but meditating makes it seem like I’m making a much cooler face!

This was one of the most incredible things I have done in my life. I made memories and friends I get to keep forever by going through the amazing tour group Aita Peru, but I still had that time I need when I visit a place to sit and be with just myself. I like to say that when I travel I never “sight-see”… I commune. Machu Picchu proved to be one of those incredible places where as I stand in awe, my soul expands to connect with the land and I am forever changed… elevated and never to be the same.

Happy place! Happy face!

Happy place! Happy face!

Travel Tip of The Day!

Nothing like waking up to the sunrise from the airport floor! I love to travel and fortunately enough for me I honestly don’t mind red-eye flights or layovers sleeping on airport seats. The way I can travel so cheaply has a lot to do with the dirt cheap flights I find that have the worst layovers possible. Not everyone feels the way I do, and often times for travelers, getting there is by far the hardest part. For all those that fear the airport floor, there are a few things I always bring that make my airport stay a bit more comfortable. When my layovers are short I try to bring nothing more than a small bag, but traveling around the world requires something more substantial. I typically pack one carry on, and the easiest is by far a small backpack. If you are a backpacker then your 10-20 liter daypack will work great. To make my comfy airport bed I bring an eye mask, ear plugs, a small sweater, another sweater I use as a pillow, a lite weight sarong just to cover the seat or floor, and a small blanket (mine is actually an airplane blanket I “collected” a while ago). A book and headphones are critical, and I always bring a change of clothes (thin fabric to save space) and my toothbrush so I can arrive in a new place not feeling like I’m covered in thousands of other people’s germs. One last thing I bring that I don’t think is on most people’s airport list is peppermint oil, rubbing some on your tummy helps with nausea on the plane not to mention it smells a lot better than stale airplane air! Before I head out I often check tripadvisor for the restaurant ratings in the international wing to make my decision of where to eat easier when I’m starving and my legs are wobbly from sitting for 7 hours. If you are ever in the Bogotá airport, Orleans- American Bistro is pretty tasty… but aside from Tabasco there is nothing there that reminds me of New Orleans, that said their chowder is incredible. They also play great movies (on mute), and awesome 90s music videos at a reasonable volume during the day… at night you might mistake it for an empty discoteca. I hope this helps make it a little easier on those that loath the overnight flight, if you really need to save some bucks go for that dirt cheap flight with terrible hours and make the best of it. Happy Traveling!!

La energìa de Cusco

My arrival in Cusco is off to an amazing cosmic beginning!!! I was bombarded by taxi drivers at the airport giving me fares between 30-15 soles… And I stuck it out like a champ and found colectivo buses which cost me .70 cents! Once I arrived in the center I got a map and asked about cheap hostels, which here in Cusco will run you 20 soles a night. I walked and walked but everything was either full or more than I wanted to pay. I was getting very far from any touristy areas and figured I would have to settle… When a gorgeous man appeared in front of me out of nowhere. He was clearly an artisan carrying a board with handmade trinkets.  “You couldn’t find a hostel”, he says as a statement rather than a question. I’m little weirded-out that he knew exactly what was going through my mind, but I know how the universe works so I smiled and told him I was still searching for something cheaper. He wants to know where I am from and I tell him the Caribbean, The Virgin Islands. To which he responds that he is from Puerto Rico!! I have yet to meet anyone other than sailers who know where my hometown is in the Caribbean, and here is a man that lives on the next island over. I felt so at home suddenly. He tells me that there is a place around the corner where he is staying called “Sol Latina” or Latin Sun, and they have backpacker beds (aka multiple bunk beds in a room) for 8 soles a night. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me, because this is less than any hostel I have come across in the 2 months I have been here in Peru, he gives me directions to the building with green balcony… which is completely unmarked. It looks like a regular home, no sign… nothing, but everything in me knows this is a gift from the universe. The door opens and inside, sure enough there is a busy hostel. Filled with true “travelers”, everyone is from some South or Central American country, the majority are artisans with their crafts traveling as a lifestyle. The air rings of Spanish spoken in so many different accents, it’s beautiful. Everyone is loud and happy, welcoming me warmly… The most beautiful Argentinean women embrace me and kiss me on the cheek. I can not believe this wonderful warm secret found me, the energy in Cusco in strong… filled with warmth and wonder.

Three Tomatoes, Two Bags of Rice, and a Can of Tuna 

I recently spent 5 days camping in the Amazon, this is the tale of my culinary journey through the jungle. I was definitely not planning on having a global gourmand story come from my camping trip, if anything I was hoping to lose a few lbs after eating my way through Lima for 2 weeks, but to my surprise it would prove to be the foodie trek of a lifetime!

Disclaimer before I begin… I have so many amazing vegetarian and vegan friends I love and deeply respect, and so I would like to just take a minute to alert anyone who would be offended, that there are photos in this post of fresh uncooked wild game. If seeing this would make you feel uncomfortable, but you would still love to learn all about the delicious fresh foods I enjoyed in the jungle, message me and I will send you the article without those photos.

Onward!

To paint the scene of what I was expecting to be eating on my trip, I have to get a little into the details of the tour I signed up for. This jungle trek was an unusual offer, it was by far the most rugged and pure experience available. Most multiple-day tours of the Amazon in Iquitos take your group of 2-6 people to a lodge with the majority of amenities you would find in any rustic retreat. Obviously there is no wi-fi… But there are beds, and running water, and a bathroom, and maybe even electricity. Yeah the trip I opted for… Not so much. Although I must say I am rather partial to a bed, I knew I wanted a more unadulterated experience in nature. We sat down with the organizer for the trip in his office… aka his mom’s house (who I sat and had some juice with… Turns out she is 96!), and he basically asked my friend and I how much we could spend and how “authentic” we wanted this trip to be. He showed us where most tours go, where all the ones we had looked into had lodges, and explained its just a river lined with lodges and a few villages nearby who keep jungle animals as pets to insure that every tourists who visits gets to “find” and “touch” a wild animal. According to him this area is commonly referred to by the guides as “Gringolandia”. He offered us a 5 day trip that goes to a different river and deeper into the jungle, where we will have the chance to see primary forest and waterfalls. He let us know that it wasn’t going to be comfortable living, and that when it comes to animals he can’t guarantee a thing… because it isn’t someone’s backyard filled with pets. A little rugged trek in the wild was just what the doctor ordered, I was sold! In total there were 4 of us, my friend Trent (who I met on the 5 day river boat), Humberto our naturalist guide, and Manuel our local guide (and medicinal plant specialist) who lives with his family in the jungle close to where we began our adventure.

Along with modern comforts like refrigeration, went the potential to bring with us much in terms of fresh produce. When we met up with our guide we did some last-minute shopping in a small town along the river. For the couple of nights we would be sleeping on the jungle floor, he picked up 3 tomatoes, 2 bags of rice… and a can of tuna. As I thought of the different combinations of those ingredients I decided I wanted nothing to do with any meal that resulted. I was set to turn this trip into a 5 day cleanse… fasting, exercise, the whole 9 yards.

Our first task, after settling in, was to set out our net or “trampa” to catch tomorrow’s lunch.

Seeing as we just set the nets I was dreading that the first meal would surely involve that can of tuna. When we got back to base camp I offered to help in the kitchen, as I stood there chopping a single tomato for our “salad” Manuel came in beaming. He tells us he is giving us a gift for dinner, he will be selling the rest of this “gift” at the market but for us he saved a piece… and then right next to me he slaps down a foot…

… A very scaly foot.

Manuel had caught an alligator in his trampa at home, and by the looks of his foot it was a sizable one. I’m not into eating possibly overfished jungle animals… but it would be really rude not to accept this gift, and I am always preaching about eating local. (I actually don’t eat meat at all unless I am traveling, and I do so then mostly to gain the most out of a cultural exchange… and to make situations like this enjoyable rather than awkward or culturally offensive). The alligator which I thought was called a caimán is locally known as lagarto. The funny part about it all was I  couldn’t for the life of me remember why the name lagarto sounded so familiar, until we sat down to eat it… and then I realized it was what I had for dinner in town the night before we left, and I had been raving about how delicious it was to Trent all day! I was told it was a type of “pescado” at the restaurant, which means fish NOT reptile. Fried up over an open flame in a jungle kitchen, or served gourmet in a complex cream sauce… lagarto is one of the most delicious meats I have ever eaten. 

The menu for the following day would consist of what we could find in our trampa… which I was praying wouldn’t be an anaconda. The good news when we pulled out the net was that we would be getting to try piraña… the bad news was there wasn’t much of a variety of other things, thanks to the pirañas. It looked like our net had become a piraña “all you can eat” buffet! The few that did manage to survive were bokchico, lisa, and a few pirañas.

On the way back to our base camp, another critter almost ended up on the menu. As we floated downstream Humberto spotted something in a tree… an oso peresoso (a sloth)!! Of course it took me like 10 minutes to find it, and by then we were so close I could just about touch the tree he was hanging out on. Manuel insisted on pulling it off, which did not make Mr. Sloth a happy camper. It was only until I started taking photos that i learned the true reason we got it down from the tree. “Mmmm, vamos a comer” says Manuel… “Ummm I don’t think so” says I. No way I was eating a sloth, “ok, princessita” Miguel said as he grudgingly put him back. I don’t think the sloth was very happy about posing for pictures (I could tell by the growling), but it was that or the grill so I think he got the good end of that deal.

Side note: All those adorable photos you see of people with “jungle” sloths on their hips hugging them close… Pets! If I had turned this guy around so his arms could reach me I am most certain I would have some pretty awesome scars to show for it.

Lunch was delicious fresh-caught fried fish with tomato salad, plantains… and of course bread with another kind of bread because carbs are always served with more carbs in Peru.

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After lunch we set off for the deep jungle, and a wilder side of the menu. After a 2 hour or so walk into the jungle we stopped to make camp and began our hunt for supper. First on our list was piwaillo, it is the fruit of a palm tree and comes red, white, or yellow. Manuel fashioned a hook-shaped stick to another stick with some vines and we all took cover as he plucked the fruit down from a lethal height. To be honest I’m not sure if these are fruits, veggies, or something else entirely but they were pretty tasty. We boiled them up and pealed the skins, which revealed a fibrous starchy inside. The taste was nutty with a slightly bitter aftertaste… which totally could have just been the bug spray on my fingers… Let’s hope otherwise. This is commonly called jungle bread,  I said before Peruvians need their carbs typically two a meal but we had to compromise being in the jungle and all.

Next for some churo and chonta! Churo is a commonly eaten jungle snail… Yes I ate a giant jungle snail! I actually ate quite a few of those yummy things, and Humberto made an awesome necklace out of the evidence. We waded through the muddy flooded areas near a stream to find the churo, which were the exact same color as dirty wet leaves and thus quite impossible to find. Humberto’s strategy was to stomp and smack his machete around until he heard something like the crunch of a shell, which I didn’t like very much… despite the fact they would all be dinner soon. The churo was reminiscent of conch with a less sweet ocean flavor and a more murky mud-puddle taste… to be honest it was pretty delicious, basically jungle escargot! We also hacked up a fallen wacrapona tree to look for suri, a grub worm that makes its home in the wood causing the center of the tree to be soft and sweet-smelling. Although the center of this tree is soft, the outer ring is some of the hardest wood in the jungle, we used it to carve traditional spears later that day. “Unfortunately” we only found one tiny suri, which Trent was brave enough to eat. Suri and churo are both served grilled on sticks in the surrounding jungle towns and even in the big jungle city of Iquitos.



We also got some chonta for our meal, or as you most likely know it… heart of palm. It was nothing like I expected, practically tastes like it’s of no relation to the final product pickled in a jar that I am accustomed to. It had the most delicate flavor and a delightful texture, soft and slightly sweet. Humberto peeled it thin like a pasta and… unfortunately cooked it with the damn can of tuna! It actually didn’t turn out too bad considering it was canned tuna. Overall I have to say my dining experience was quite nice… and the meal was well-rounded, aside for all the bugs doing nose-dives into my food… more protein right?

From there we trekked onward to the next site about 3 hours away… in a torrential downpour.

Yes I am wearing a hot pink poncho… and I love it, I can still be girlie and kick-butt hiking in the jungle! My nickname became princessita… Not because I acted like a princess, but because I could get down and dirty in the Amazon and still look like one 😉

Most of our other meals were composed of fresh fruit. One of my favorites was granadilla, an orange fruit resembling a maracuya (passion fruit) in structure, a shell outside with small seeds surrounded by jelly inside. It has a much milder taste as opposed to the sour bite of a passion fruit, that is until you crunch down on the seeds… each one erupts into a sharp citric explosion on your tongue.


Also there was mame, a red fruit with an odd shape but the tree blossoms the most incredible neon-pink flowers. The fruit was the texture of an overripe pear with a gently sweet watered-down taste, reminiscent of a fruit from my childhood in the Caribbean. I am pretty certain it is the same fruit we commonly call cashew on the island of St. Croix.

Another favorite of mine was chari chuelo a little yellow ball bursting with flavor, honestly if I could get these at my local grocery store I would never buy candy again. The perfect balance of sweet and tart, these reminded me of sucking on a jolly rancher… without that toxic unknown element taste.

To my surprise we stumbled across a random pineapple… I couldn’t believe pineapples were growing wild in the rainforest, but then I saw another and another. 

What the hell, I began to feel like I was in The Truman Show… we had been told we were deep in the jungle but maybe in reality there were condos around the corner filled with locals having a laugh at our “jungle expedition”. I questioned Humberto, he laughed at my suspicions and assured me we were at least 3 hours from any other people… that would be a really creepy statement if it weren’t the answer I was looking for. He explained that farmers hike 2-3 hours into the jungle to make small plantations, otherwise their crops would all be eaten by their neighbors. I thought to myself, that going that far just to hide your crops seemed a little excessive… that was until we turned the corner an came across a small patch of sugarcane, Humberto must have been reading my mind because as I stood there mouth-watering he handed me a freshly cut piece. Then I realized why it was all the way out here, if I was going to plant a field of candy sticks I’d prob have to hide them from my neighbors too. While I stood there sugar juice dripping all over my face, I heard Manuel scream from some distant bushes something about guaba. My heart skipped a beat hoping he was referring to the delicious “guava” I grew up eating in the Caribbean… and then he walked out with an oversized green bean 😦 Despite my initial disappointment, this guaba quickly became my new favorite jungle fruit! To get inside you simple wring the pod as you would wet clothes and vuala! Inside are giant purple beans that are all beginning to sprout, each bean is surrounded by a fluffy white coat of deliciousness! These white clouds of awesome are just thick enough to make you feel like you are actually eating something substantial, but airy enough to be reminiscent of cotton candy… so juicy and sweet I couldn’t get enough! Due to my horrible self-discipline, between all the guaba and sugarcane I ended up eating, I spent the rest of the walk feeling as if I had been drugged with amphetamines.

On the final day, as we said a few sad goodbyes, we loaded our packs with mounds of fresh jungle fruit for the boat ride. Never in my wildest dreams would I have suspected all the tantalizing flavors awaiting my taste buds in the jungle. This was a culinary experience unlike any market could provide, it was a deliciously wild ride in La Selva… that I can’t wait to taste again.