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Steppes Big 5: Latin America Carnivals

Carnival Season, Brazil

It is carnival season in Latin America and with the residents of Rio preparing to drum, mambo and shimmy their way through the streets of the city this coming weekend, we thought we would share our favourite carnivals with you. Joyful processions, music and masquerade are not just the reserve of Brazil…

1. Brazil

Aside from the world-famous Rio Carnival, here are two others that we feel are well worth considering:

Olinda is a beautifully preserved colonial town and its annual festivities are known as the ‘carnival of participation’ during which people of all ages are encouraged to make their own costumes and join in with the street celebrations. Notable for the huge papier mache puppets, known as ‘bonecos’ which are carried aloft amidst the colourful parades and rousing music.

Probably best known as the first carnival to feature an electric parade float the colourful carnival of Salvador de Bahia is the second largest after Rio and nowadays features a huge truck decked out in some serious lighting and topped by a live band which forms the centrepiece of the celebrations.

2. Argentina

A carnival with the devil at its centre, the festivities at Quebrada de Humahuaca begin with the unearthing of Satan – a large devil shaped doll, buried at the end of the previous year’s festivities.  Mixing traditional indigenous and catholic celebrations, Satan is let out to play during 9 days of partying before being buried for another year.

3. Bolivia

Located amidst the Andean highlands at 3,710 metres above sea level, Oruru Carnival is the highest located carnival in the world and celebrates the traditional dress, cultures and dance from all corners of Bolivia. Recognized by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” the centrepiece of this 10-day festival is the ‘Dance of the Devils’ featuring hundreds of devils dressed in suitably scary costumes. The aim is to appease the devil through offerings, dance, music and costume. The festivities end with a huge water bomb fight.

 4. Mexico

Nicknamed the most joyful carnival in the world, the 9 day Veracruz carnival is the largest in Mexico. Opening with a huge bonfire to burn away bad moods the festivities feature numerous competitions for the best group based on anything from their costumes to their dancing and even their joyfulness.
The carnival ends with the burial of Juan Carnaval, a mock funeral and an amusing reading of his will.

5. Colombia

Set in the colonial town of Barranquilla, this 4-day carnival has strong European, African and Indian traditions and is the largest carnival outside of Brazil. Another carnival that has been recognised by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” the festivities stem from a mix of catholic and pagan celebrations. Beginning with a six-hour parade of flowers the festivities feature much drum and wind based music and many dances with strong African links having originated from the Congo.

If you would like to plan a holiday to Latin America to coincide with any of the above carnivals. Email inspire@steppestravel.com or call us on 01285 601 753.

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Dining out in Argentina – Meat and Two Veg

Tango Street Dancer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Now I have travelled in Argentina several times so should have known better but on my recent trip I made the mistake of ordering steak. Argentina is renowned for its steak so this is a great idea but please do remember they like big portions and vegetables are a side dish. The steak that arrived was two thirds the size of my dinner plate and was accompanied by two green beans. Technically that is meat and two veg.

meat and 2 veg

For a foodie Argentina is a great place to travel with plenty of meat options and great wines. The classic Parrilla is steakhouse restaurant where the meat is prepared on a grill, the most common way for beef, lamb or even guanaco to be cooked. You will find a wide range of them throughout all of Argentina. This is not to be confused with an Asado which is more of a social gathering and an event rather than just a meal out. Many estancias will have an Asado night.

Tango may sound like a rather touristy event but in Buenos Aires this is still very popular and a night out at one of the good shows will provide you not only with a fantastic meal but also a great view of the show. Pay the extra for the VIP service and you will get the best food and seats in the house, equivalent of the upper circle giving a great view down onto the stage. Even if you are not interested in dancing it is hard not to get swept up by the emotion of it all. I visited one of the oldest shows the Carlos Gardel which can be busy but the show changes to keep it fresh and the dancers are phenomenal, you will also learn some of the history of the dance.

For a more intimate eating experience then try dinner with a local family. I spent a wonderful evening at the Posada las Juncos with Sofia, Lucas and their daughter Olivia. They invited me in as a friend, unfortunately the weather was not so good so the outdoor Asado was not an option but I chatted to them in the kitchen while the food was cooking, then sat in the bar trying the appetisers and local (very strong) aperitifs. We sat down for dinner as a family and chatted about everything from pop music to politics and everything in between. The amazing slow roast lamb dinner was accompanied by great wine and it would have been churlish of me to turn down a tasting of the local brewed whisky La Alazana, particular as my guide, who had joined us, was a local bag pipe player and very proud of his Scottish ancestry.

Los Juncos kitchen meal with a family

The ”Argentina Experience” is an evening of light-hearted learning, eating and quite a lot of drinking.  A welcome cocktail sets you up for the evening ahead. You will then learn how to create a number of wine cocktails before making the one of your choice. You then adjourn to the restaurant to learn how to make empanadas and partake in a three course meal with a selection of local wine. Ending the night with the quintessentially Argentinean mate, a communal “cuppa” not too dissimilar to lapsang souchong and definitely an acquired taste. You will also learn a few of the traditions and cultural nuances of Porteno life.

Get in touch to learn more about our holidays to Argentina. Email inspire@steppestravel.com or call us on 01285 601 753.

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Argentina – nature’s superstructures

Viewing platform of Perito Moreno

‘It’s falling’ someone shouted, as I turned to see a sizeable chunk of the front of the glacier breaking and crumbling into the lake below. Quite a site to watch as huge lumps of ice fell creating large waves across the lake below. Oh to be quicker with one’s camera but I was not disappointed, it was great to have witnessed this, a memory that won’t be forgotten.

Perito Moreno glacier iceberg

A three-hour flight south of Buenos Aires lies the small town of El Calafate. This southerly point, home to around 20,000 people, is the gateway to view unspoilt scenery at its very best. There are few towns in the world further south and upon arrival you feel a rewarding sense of discovery of a landscape far away.

Facts and appreciation of the scale of the area are key to understanding what a unique place you are in. Remarkably for a lake fed by such massive glaciers, Lake Argentina sits at only 187 metres above sea level. On my visit to the most famous of glaciers, Perito Moreno, the answer is offered as to how at this altitude it is  possible for such impressive glaciers to form.  It’s the Andes, plain and simple, the geographical wall that straddles virtually the entire Chilean – Argentine border that are fully responsible. As warm air currents flow east across the pacific, the humidity is dramatically absorbed by the mountain range. Only the coldest air is able to filter across, where it meets the arid Patagonian steppe on the Argentine side, is where snow regularly falls. Over a number of years this snowfall has formed some massive glaciers that totally dominate the landscape.

distant view of perito moreno glacier

At over 3 miles in width and boasting heights over 70 metres, as well as an impressive 170 metres below the waterline, the Perito Moreno glacier is really quite a spectacle. With a surface area of 96 square miles it is larger than the city of Buenos Aires and holds the third largest mass of fresh water in the world. Photos cannot do this area and the glaciers justice, in such vast mountainous spaces it is not until you get close that you begin to realise just how impressive they are.

The western base of the glacier is where I equipped myself with crampons ready to walk across a tiny section of this vast glacier. From here it looked like a smooth wall of ice, with the edges meeting the water with a completely vertical face. On top of the glacier you can see jagged peaks and bottomless crevices with an astonishing shade of deep sapphire blue. Walking on the snow the sound of the crampons crunching underfoot was strangely satisfying, whilst the creeks and groans of the slowly advancing glacier were not so. You do have to put your trust in the knowledge of the guides and thickness of the ice. What can only be described as the sound of an army letting off cannons would occasionally echo all around, a stark reminder that this glacier is constantly in motion. As the trek came to an end a well-positioned table, clearly a permanent fixture, came into view towards the edge of the glacier. This incongruous table was where I was rewarded by my guide with whiskey served over chunks of glacial ice thousands of years old. Without a doubt my most memorable place for a whiskey.

walkers on Perito glacier

As I sailed away from the glacier I looked back and saw people still trekking on the glacier. It was a perfect illustration of the scale of the scenery, so small they looked against the backdrop of one of nature’s superstructures.

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Malbec in Mendoza

Vines, Mendoza

Mendoza is located on the border between Argentina and Chile, at the base of the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua at an altitude of 6,962m. The views are stunning; from the lines of grape covered vines, the tall swaying poplar trees there to protect the vines to the stunning back drop of the snow-capped Andes. Where better to visit the wineries, many dating back over a hundred years, to sample many different grape varieties, particularly Malbec.

Vineyards of Mendoza

Fine Dining in Mendoza

The wine is famous in the Mendoza region and particularly the new world grapes from the Uco Valley. You can stay in places like The Vines, where you can visit the winery, which produces over 200 different bottled varieties, and you can eat in one of the finest restaurants; Siete Fuegos, with food inspired by the chef Francia Mallmann. After all the mouth-watering food and wine, stroll the 100 metres to your individual 2 bedroom villa, set amongst the vines and laze in your pool, sipping a glass of Malbec watching the sun dip behind the golden Andes.

Asado, Siete Fuegos Chefs, Mendoza

Relaxing in Mendoza

Argentina is a huge country and offers many great places to explore and discover, however the beaches are quite desolate and the sea cold. Therefore when travelling throughout Argentina, the region of Mendoza offers the relaxing element at the end of a trip, where rather than sitting on a beach, you can relax in the warm surroundings of a vineyard and indulge in great food and wine.

Dining at Casa de Uco

Mendoza has now really come of age and is now the gastronomic and wine capital and one of the places you must visit in Argentina, along with the capital Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Patagonia.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia

 

Get in touch to learn more about how we operate in Argentina. Email inspire@steppestravel.com or call us on 01285 601 753.

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A Gastronomic Mendoza Holiday

The Argentinians take their meat seriously; so too their wine. Given that Mendoza is the gastronomic and wine capital of the country, my expectations were high. My Mendoza holiday did not disappoint.

Flying into Mendoza, I was immediately struck by the views – from the lines of grape-covered vines, the tall swaying poplar trees to protect the vines, to the stunning back drop of the snow-capped Andes. Mendoza is located on the border between Argentina and Chile, at the base of the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua at an altitude of 6,962m

With over three hundred days of sunshine, it is ideal for visitors – so too the terroir – and wine tourism is on a roll. Mendoza now boasts almost a thousand wineries. The experience is more than just sampling the wines. You can picnic among the vineyards, you can cycle between them or you can even fly over them in a hot air balloon.

Mendoza Vineyard, Argentina

There is a wealth of new accommodation from rustic lodges to high concept places like The Vines, one of my favourites. Here I loved the winery, which produces over 200 different bottled varieties, and the  restaurant Siete Fuegos, or ‘seven fires’, with food inspired by the chef Francia Mallmann. The open-flame cooking techniques, inspired by Argentine gauchos, were enthralling and the rustic, fiery flavours of the nine hour slow-grilled rib eye were outstanding.

My last night at The Vines began by the pool, sipping a glass of Malbec watching the sun dip behind the golden Andes. It was a night that got better and better and, uncharacteristically, I did not make it up first thing the next morning to go horse riding in the Andes and watch the sunrise. I am now a devotee to Dionysus and an advocate of Epicurean travel.

Get in touch with us for more information on a holiday to Argentina, call us 01285 880980 or email inspire@steppestravel.com.

Argentina - An Epicurean Discovery

Argentina – An Epicurean Discovery

16 days from £8,595pp

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Argentina - Lake District & Casa de Uco, Mendoza

Argentina – Lake District & Casa de Uco, Mendoza

17 days from £5,495pp

View Holiday Idea

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Steppes Big 5: Gastro Experiences in Latin America

5-gastro-experiences-of-Latin-America

Latin American food is as expansive and contrasting as it is flavourful and robust. Its colourful history and diverse culture all culminates in a wonderfully rich and exuberant cuisine. Here are a few areas of interest to whet your appetites and perhaps ignite a desire to travel muy pronto!

1. Mexico

Mexico is renowned for its cuisine and whether you are up for a taco street tour or prefer to embark on a traditional Oaxacan cookery course, the gastronomy here is out of this world. However, worth mentioning is the new culinary era that has emerged in the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende. World famous Chef, Enrique Olvera, is cooking up a feast of contemporary Mexican food at the poolside restaurant Moxi. Frequented by San Miguel de Allende’s elite, the 7 course taster menu draws crowds and the chocolate mousse with mandarin and mescal is not to be missed.


2. Peru

Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores District of Lima is located on a pre-Inca archaeological site. It is a spectacular setting, especially at night when the site is lit. The gastronomic experience is phenomenal. Traditional Peruvian dishes including ceviche, guinea pig, beef heart, and fantastic array of use wild vegetables grown across the country in the different microclimates. They also make a mean Pisco Sour.

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3. Argentina

Siete Fuegos Restaurant at the Vines Resort & Spa is making headlines. Cooking beef here has become an art form, and most recently our own celebrity chef John Torode visited Siete Fuegos in BBC documentary ‘John Torode’s Argentina’ to learn a thing or two. With an open –flame cooking techniques and 9 hour cooking times, there is no question that the Siete Fuegos is serving up some of Argentina’s finest beef (and fish) and paired with exceptional wines, creating one of Argentina’s culinary highlights.

4. Cuba

Progressive Dining by Vintage Car. If you just can’t decide on where to eat, then this is the answer. Have a different course in a different restaurant. And so you don’t have to pace the streets, we’ll chauffeur you in a vintage car. Begin with cocktails at the famous Hotel Nacional or the Rooftop bar at the Saratoga. Your vintage car will then take you on for starters at Dona Eutemia by the San Cristobal Cathedral before main course at the incredible La Guarida – a sensational paladar, now with a roof top rum bar. If you like sharing, the Cuatro Leches desert at Chef Ivan Justo is a fun way to round things off which is presented in the original can of condensed milk – and 2 spoons! If the night is still young, the after dinner options are endless – it is Cuba after all.

5. Colombia

Bogota is fast being recognised worldwide as a fantastic international city with a growing social scene and some great dining experiences. Most notably Club Colombia is one of the best known upscale restaurants attended by the city’s movers and shakers. Enjoy the taster menus or a contemporary twist on the traditional dishes such as Ajiaco, which is a potato soup typical of the Bogota region, livened up with chicken, corn and capers. However, if you want to sample the real thing, Colombian street food is delicious. Go to restaurant El Solar for the best Bandeja Paisa – it’s a heart attack on a plate but if you have a 15 hour day in the fields ahead of you – it is just the ticket. (At least the half an avocado on the side is ‘good fat’). Arepas are baked dough with cheese inside; warming and filling and served with almost every meal. But when you are feeling peckish you can buy them from a vendor on the street for just up a $1.

Start your gastro adventure with us, call us on 01285 880980 or email inspire@steppestravel.com for more advice.
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Steppes Big 5: Estancias in Argentina

When I think of Argentina it is the Estancias that immediately spring to mind. Before a career in travel, I was lucky enough to work in Argentina as a fly-fishing guide on one of the largest Estancias in South America. It was the size of a small country, like Suriname in fact. 400,000 acres of achingly beautiful country. Every day I was overwhelmed by the extreme beauty of Argentina’s Patagonian landscape. Farming is a way of life, the Gauchos are a unique people, the Criollo horses are thrilling to ride and the fishing is out of this world. Due to the sheer size of Argentina, many Estancias cover tens of thousands of acres of land. They cross continental divides; boast snow-capped mountains and represent quite simply, raw wilderness.

Whatever your interest, an estancia stay is a must on any visit to Argentina. Share a maté with the gauchos, try a traditional asado, ride across open country; round up cattle; fly-fish for the finest brown and rainbow trout, or simply read a book and enjoy the views.

Our experts can talk you through them all, but below, in no particular order, are our Top 5.

1.Estancia Los Potreros

Los Potreros, Argentina

Estancia Los Potreros located in the hills of the Sierra de Cordoba is an upscale authentic Estancia. Covering over 6000 acres, it is a working cattle farm that provides fantastic riding opportunities for novice and experienced riders alike. Their magnificent collection of Criollo horses will take you out on trails, riverside picnics, or a sunset hack after a leisurely lunch back at the Estancia. Polo lessons can also be arranged. If riding is not your thing, don’t be put off. The beautiful gardens and tranquil valleys lend themselves perfectly for self-guided walks and the swimming pool is an inviting location to simply soak up the surroundings.

2. Huechahue

Estancia Huechahue, Argentina

One of our favourites, Estancia Huechahue is located in the picturesque region of San Martin de Los Andes in the foothills of the Andes mountain range. It is an authentic working Estancia, family owned for four generations, offering some of Argentina’s finest riding and fishing. Guests can fully immerse themselves in 15,000 acres of Argentine life. Learn to lasso like a gaucho, observe majestic condors, or go with your guide and fly-fish world-class trout rivers.

3. Estancia El Colibri

Estancia El Colibri, Argentina

Close to Cordoba is Estancia El Colibri. French owned and built in the style of the old twentieth century estancias, El Colibri provides charm combined with 5* European accommodation. Whether you wish to ride, fish, mountain bike or dove shoot, it can all be arranged. El Colibri is great for kids too. Aside from the riding, children can help around the farm fruit picking, milking the cows, shearing the sheep or try some cookery lessons.

4. Nibepo Aike

Nibepo-Aike,-Argentina

On the shores of Lago Argentino is a charming family run estancia, near El Calafate, that has been passed down through the generations since the start of the 20th Century. Originally set up as a sheep farm with some bovine breeding, today this 12,000 hectare estate is a working estancia of mostly Hereford cattle. Visitors can choose to participate in rides from one hour to four of varying ability and landscape. Ride to hidden glaciers. Explore the dramatic scenery on foot, or spend the day in the corrals to help with cattle branding and milking and watching the gauchos demonstrate their skills and techniques.

5. Pueme Hue

PUEME HUE, Argentina

In the beautiful Lake District of Northern Patagonia is Pueme Hue Estancia. Just 20 minutes from Bariloche in the Nahuel Huapi National Park Pueme Hue offers guests a whole range of resort activities amidst striking scenery. This is a great option for those that want more than just riding. Kayaking, trekking and fly fishing are all available, however due to its location, bird watching, dingy sailing and lake swimming can all be arranged too. The estancia also provides additional activities such as yoga and tai chi.

Begin your Argentinian adventure with us, call us on 01285 880980 or email inspire@steppestravel.com for more advice.

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Space Travel – A Puna Experience

For western travellers used to concrete and the clutter of consumerism, space is a commodity worth travelling for. The emptiness of a desert or a savannah reawakens a part of the brain that hundreds of years ago looked on such open spaces and thought “what if?”

I am travelling across the puna in North West Argentina in the region of Salta. The skies are big and blue and the horizons untouched by human intervention. The landscape is unlike anything I have ever seen.

Lava cones as black as stout float like mirages on vast oceans of salt; sedimentary ribbons of sandstone and quartz stretch out like giant rashers of bacon across the never ending horizon; sand glistens on top of gigantic stacks of granite like freshly fallen, alpine snow and ebony rocks of basalt sit like giant burnt croutons, dropped onto the puna floor. Pachamama has found her muse in the puna and has gone to work to produce a masterpiece of breath-taking beauty.

 

I try to convey my sense of wonderment to my guide Fabrizio but become tongue-tied. He laughs and says “You’re not the first to be lost for words and you won’t be the last – just wait until you see the pumice stone fields.” As we approach Campo de Piedra Pomez the vehicle falls silent as if in collective reverence to the sight that greets us. Ivory coloured pumice stones stand like giant pavlovas, whipped into elaborate shapes by the wind and toasted on top by an unrelenting sun. I climb on top of the flattest, highest rock I can see, being careful not to break the honeycomb structure and try to look beyond the heat haze for signs of life. The panorama is as remarkable for what isn’t visible as what is.

It is confounding that such a seemingly malevolent land can provide enough sustenance for living things to survive but underground springs called vegas give life to grasses and other vegetation, which in turn feed the hardy vicunas and guanacos.

Jarrod in the Puna

Bonsai like bushes known locally as tola, bleached virgin white by the sun, provide fuel for the hardy human settlers who choose to make the puna their home. People like Dona Carina, a septuagenarian who lives alone on her simple estancia at Oasis Antofallita, 4200 metres above sea level. Remote takes on a whole new meaning in this part of the world but choosing to make the salt flats of Antofalla and Aricaro her only neighbours is by no means a sign of misanthropy. Far from it – when we turn up unannounced she chats, giggles and holds court gleefully and noticeably flirts with Fabrizzio, our guide. They laugh together without inhibition and with tangible affection he tells me the story of this remarkable woman. How she loves the land of her ancestors and takes strength from the solitude; how her brother built a small house on the oasis, next door to her but she chose not to speak to him; how she is making provision to secure a future for the small holding after her death; and how she has a younger man drop into her help her with the small holding – “he is her helper 360 degrees” he laughs, with a glint in his eye. Dona Carina shakes my hand and wishes me a safe journey. For Fabrizio, she opens her arms and gives him a warm embrace. As we climb out of the oasis in our 4x4s, Dona Carina’s estancia quickly becomes a dot in the distance, swamped by the magnitude of the surrounding terrain.

The landscape is harsh and the environment is hostile. The air is devoid of moisture and thin on oxygen while the dust stings and the wind bites hard. Yet in spite of this, the puna is soul touchingly beautiful and it would take a heart of granite not to feel moved by its simple splendour.

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Top 4 Festivals

Rajasthan woman

With Glastonbury and Wimbledon on everyone’s lips and with the promise of a summer full of festivals, we were inspired to come up with a list of our top 4 festivals from around the world. With Steppes Travel coming from the home of the Cheese Rolling competition we have put together some ideas that offer something a little different than just Music and mud…

Colombia

The Yeepao Competition in the Quindio region of Colombia celebrates the humble Willis Jeep. A vehicle that has become synonymous with the region is honoured each year by the residents who compete to fit as much in, on and under the jeep. They then drive through the main streets of the town, trying to get further than any of the other competitors. Not only a beautiful area of Colombia but a fantastic opportunity for unique and amusing images.

India

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival in the beautiful Indian region of Rajasthan is bursting with colour and life. Held in the desert city with the Golden Fortress of Jaisalmer it showcases the colourful heritage and folk culture of this region with dancing, costumes and festivities. The friendly locals will invite you to join in and judge the moustache and turban tying competitions!

Kenya

The Lake Turkana Festival is all about the bringing together of the communities within this remote and little visited region of Kenya. The festival is full of cultural dances and local traditions, aimed to offer insights into the lives of the local tribes and to breakdown stereotypes. The festival not only offers a lively atmosphere but also provides the perfect excuse to get off the beaten track and visit a wild and very different Kenya.

Argentina

Celebrated for over 70 years, in early November gauchos descend on the little town of San Antonia de Areco to join in Argentina’s version of a rodeo. The gauchos take to the cobbled streets, dressed in all their finery for a week of celebrations. Perhaps the most impressive day is the jineteada gaucha which ends the celebrations which is of course accompanied by the most mouth watering BBQ laden with famous Argentinian steak.

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Happy 12th Birthday Steppes Latin America

Steppes Latin America celebrates their 12th anniversary today. We started from humble beginnings on the 1 February 2000 in a small office in Clapham joining the Steppes Africa team making a total of 5 in the office.

Head office has always been close to Cirencester and since 2001 based in the centre of Cirencester. I remember on my first day, Denise the Accountant, drove up to London from Cirencester, she always got lost trying to find the office in Clapham; and inevitably ended up stopping a cab driver and paying to follow it!

Destination South America was our original name and we produced a leaflet brochure rather than our beautiful coloured brochures we have today. This first year we organised for 22 people to depart on a holiday to South America, covering many of its countries. The office then moved to our home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire – at the time I had no idea where this was! The idea of some good bracing country air for my three young children sounded fantastic and we decided to make the move, we just had to work out where Cirencester was and find ourselves a house! In fact I swanned off to South America for 6 weeks to set up contacts, see hotels and establish ground handlers in each country, while the small task of a move across the country was left to my wife. Twelve years on we are still in the same beautiful Cotswold House, just 7 minutes drive to the office, surrounded by fields and typical honey coloured stone walls.

After 3 years we had a name change from Destination South America to Steppes Latin America, as we expanded into Central America due to rising demand. Over the years we have steadily built up the business and new staff have joined the team that is now made up of seven experts. Each has incredible product knowledge on their specialist countries and between them they cover all of the countries in South and Central America. Sales have grown steadily over the years and we continue to discover new places, which we know our clients will wish to visit and enjoy. Our travels have included conquering fears of deep water in the Galapagos Islands, sampling mouth watering Argentinean beef, spotting jaguar in the Pantanal and discovered a passion for reggae music in Jamaica to name but a few!

Argentina is our most popular destination and we pride ourselves on our expertise and service that we offer to our clients. You can be sure we continue to seek out those hidden gems that can make your holiday extra special and can help you experience that ‘Wow’ factor in Latin America. I hope the next few years will be as rewarding as the past decade.

Happy Birthday Steppes Latin America! Thank you to all our past clients that have made my job such fun and to all our future clients we would like to help introduce to the amazing sights, people and wonders Latin America.

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Volvo Classics Adventure: The Pan American Highway

100 classic Volvos and 200 participants have arrived in Buenos Aires for an epic journey through Argentina, up South America along the Pan American highway and all the way to Cartagena de Indias in Colombia.

Organised by the Dutch Volvo Classics association, this incredible drive sets off from Buenos Aires on 10th December, heading south to the ‘End of the World’ in Ushuaia and driving through Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and ending in Cartagena on 14th January.

The cars will make 10 border crossings and travel over 15,500 kilometres, passing some of the most spectacular landscapes on the continent. From the towering granite peaks of Las Torres Del Paine and the glaciers of Argentine Patagonia to the snow-capped volcanoes of the Chilean Lake District and shimmering Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia; not forgetting the incredible history of Cusco and Machu Picchu, before heading north to the historic cities of Lima, Quito and Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.

Why not follow the Pan American Highway as part of your own epic South America holiday?! Steppes Travel’s Latin America specialists can put together an incredible holiday to South America, completely tailored to your personal travel requirements. We have first-hand knowledge of Latin America and know the region intimately after our work travels and our own holidays.

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Alternative Safari – Ibera wetlands

Arriving in a thunderstorm, after my journey on the overnight bus from Salta, “Bienvenidos a Corrientes” (Welcome to Corrientes) was my welcome, for which I replied thank you and thought I do hope this clears soon! We then set off on the four hour journey by 4×4, as the rain cleared and it began to get light, the real gaucho territory of Argentina and some incredible wildlife revealed itself.

Yesterday I rode through the diverse habitat of Ibera. What could be better than riding on a comfortable horse admiring capybara, parrots flying past with twigs to build their nests, Crab-eater Foxes scavenging for food, Chinchilla’s coming out at dusk whilst watching the sunset! You would be forgiven for thinking this sounded like Africa! Well try a safari in Ibera staying at Estancia Rincon del Socorro in Argentina, it makes for a wonderful alternative!

This morning post breakfast and whilst others were sleeping I took a 4 seater plane across to the island of Laguna Parana to visit the second small remote lodge. Accessible by plane from Posadas or Rincon del Socorro or now by boat – just an hour and a half from Corrientes. Upon arrival there was a definate change in climate and was met by a small family of Howler Monkeys and clouds of dragonflies.

I’m now off on a boat trip on the Laguna… watch this space for further blogs. . .

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Travel is all about the little things

It’s a quirky old world. Every day, all over this wondrous planet of ours unusual things are taking place. Chance meetings are leading to random conversations, animals are behaving in spectacular ways and the forces of nature are painting great masterpieces on imaginary canvases. And if you stay at home you might just miss it all.

For me travel is, in part, about seeing the highlights but beyond that it is about the little things, the unusual occurrences, the random conversations. Here are a few snap-shots, Kodak-moments if you will, of my own chance meetings with the small things that make this world beautiful and travel just about the best thing you can do.

Years ago I found myself sat on top of a temple in the great complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was late in the afternoon and I was staring out at a view of jungle and ruins below, the sun gently warming my face. A Cambodian boy approached me and sat next to me. “Do you know who I am?” he asked, “My name is David Beckham, I play for Manchester United.” We conversed for the next half-hour and the boy in question never broke character. That was the day I met David Beckham on top of a temple in Cambodia.

My first trip to Rwanda was some years past. Like many people I had been drawn to Rwanda by the lure of seeing Mountain Gorillas, an experience which, to this day, still ranks as my best and most intense experience whilst travelling. After seeing the Gorillas I decided to visit the town of Gyseni on the shores of Lake Kivu in the west of the country. On our way to Gyseni the public mini-bus we were travelling in made some stops in small villages to drop off and pick up passengers. At every stop the sight of two Mzungus (white people) turned the head of everyone who noticed. One of our fellow passengers asked me whether black people attracted this much attention in our home-lands to which we replied that there were sizable black populations where we came from so it wasn’t an unusual site. A second man came and shook my hand and told me “today I am happy it is the first time I meet a white man.” That was the day I realised the world still had places where discovery was a two-way street.

Staying on a small estancia in the Argentine pampas our hosts took us on walks through the fields pointing out the local wildlife of prairie birds, armadillos and rabbits, on horse-rides to through the pampas in the company of a local Gaucho and made sure that our stay was relaxed and comfortable. And if this hospitality wasn’t enough in the evening we all sat down together, guests, hosts and gaucho, and spent the evening drinking wine and enjoying a traditional lamb asado (cooked on a fire), joking and laughing under a star-filled sky. That was the day I embraced fully the Argentinean cowboy culture.

And there are so many more such moments, all over the world: drinking vodka with Russian guards on the Trans-Siberian and Ukrainian scientists in Antarctica; swimming with Whale Sharks in Mozambique; playing dominoes with Brazilians whist navigating down the Amazon; finding myself in the heart of a parade of 500,000 Cubans celebrating May Day; seeing an Anaconda in the Amazon; singing around a fire with Karen tribesmen from Thailand; watching a lightning storm in Uganda; star-gazing in Chile’s Atacama desert; watching a birdsong competition in Surinam…. and the list goes on and on and grows with every trip, with every new chance encounter, with every random conversation, and with every new animal encounter.