Friday, June 21, 2013

Trip Tips: Hidden mountain-jungle gem Quillabamba

A few months ago, a friend and I had planned to take a short weekend trip. The destination we'd planned didn't work out since we didn't bring our passports, so we brainstormed other options. Spur of the moment, we hopped onto a van to Quillabamba, the closest jungle city to Cusco. The van was about 35soles.

At the highest point of the mountains, it was very eery as the fog and cold encircled us. My mom would describe this type of fog as ''thick as split pea soup''. The descent was a dramatic change in climate....
              From split pea soup
                                                                     lush, tropical mountain-jungle.

We finally arrived the city of Quillabamba, after a 6 hour trip (1 hour because the road was closed for construction). I noticed the humidity and huge variety of fruits being sold. We found a hotel that was central and decently priced. Then we wandered around the town.
One thing I immediately noticed and loved was how green it was. Especially, parks and plaza were full of plants and flowers. Also, the abundance of fruits growing. We came to the conclusion that people wouldn't go hungry living in the jungle.

Lotssss of bananas!
The next day we went to explore. We heard there were piscinas (pools) and waterfalls so we headed out of the town to find them. After about 45 minutes of really bumpy roads, we got off where the waterfalls were. A local man pointed us in the direction of the free non-touristy ones. They were breathtaking (and way too cold to go in).

The hidden waterfall we were pointed toward, Huaynapata

After we took pictures and found cool bugs and plants, we met a woman who had a store and lived there. She offered us coffee, bananas, and avocados. Her 'yard' was full of these and she offered to take what we wanted. Across the road, we invested in coconuts and cacao pods.
Stopping for some snacks :)

Then we headed to the little town of Echarate, where we were told the piscinas were.  
Entering Echarate from the backside.

We walked and walked, and met a warm man and his son who were setting out cacao to dry. By the time we got to the top of the hill, we were glad to arrive at the pool. It turned out to be like a community pool and there were lots of families there. Echarate was a nice little town. We found a delicious little restaurant too.

Cacao drying

Coca leaves, sponge-like thing from tree, honey, coffee, pure chocolate
After this short 2 day 
adventure, we stoked up on a few essentials from the jungle and headed back to Cusco. 

>>>The essentials >>>

It was a lovely little trip with good food, nice and helpful people, and lots of beautiful nature. (The only downside was that the mosquitoes think I'm their friend hehe) 

Have you been to a jungle? What's your favorite thing?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Recipe: Sweet potato croquetas

This croqueta recipe comes from a new Latin cookbook my friend gave us for our wedding. Then I kind of tweaked it around and re-invented it. Ohhh, this makes me miss Spanish food (even though the book recipe is from Cuba)! 


~ Pinch of salt and pepper
~ Pinch of cayenne powder
~ 1/3 cup flour
~ 2 lbs of sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes)
~ About 5 slices of ham
~ 1/2 of medium sized white onion, diced
~ 1/3 cup of diced zucchini
~ 1/4 cup of diced olives (I used purple salty ones they have in Peru, but green will work fine too)
~ 1/3 cup of cheese
~ 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
~ 1 large egg
~ vegetable oil for frying
*cut all veggies, ham & cheese very tiny (about 1/4 of a dime size). They will be the filling.

Chop it
Mash it

1. Peel and boil sweet potatoes. Let cool and smash with fork until smooth. Mix in egg, flour, and spices.

2. Cube and cook onions and zucchini.

3. Cube ham, olives, and cheese.

                        4. Mix cooked and raw filling ingredients.

Flour may help it not stick to your hand
5. Now take a spoonful of your dough mixture and flatten in your hand. Place a dime size amount of filling and seal up.  Roll in bread crumbs.

Ready for frying
Just a few at a time
6. In a deep frying pan, add about an inch of vegetable oil and heat. Place a few in at a time and make sure all sides are well browned on all sides. They should take about 5 minutes each.

7. Repeat process until they are complete, or save the mixture in the fridge and make more later.

            8. Set on plate with paper towel to absorb excess oil.

                    9. Voila! Serve as an appetizer or even a side dish.

A few helpful tips:
 * All filling ingredients should be chopped very finely, since they will be inside the small croquetas.
 * Opt for oblong, not circles. After a few trials, I found that oblong shapes cook more easily than circles in the frying process.
 * While I like my marshmellows lightly browned, that's not the case with these ones. You know they're done frying when they're a darker brown color. Otherwise, the cheese doesn't melt and there's not a flaky exterior.
  * This recipe is said to make 20 croquetas. Maybe I made them small but I could have gotten about 40!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Expat to Expat Q + A: Travelin'

Happy weekend! Thanks to Belinda and Bailie who are hosting Expat to Expat link-up we have a new theme for June: travel! And a few of my questions were even added in at the bottom, cool! Here we go...

1.  Which airport would you like to never see again? 
I recall Florida is pretty crazy. My parents just had to go through there with a short layover, but luckily made their next flight. Phew what a relief after running across the airport frantically!

2. What is your travel nightmare? 
Missng a flight is never fun. Or loosing things like bank cards, wallet, or phone.
3. Would you rather stay in a fancy hotel and do less activities or stay in a hostel and do more activities?
Hostels and local activities is way more my style! I like to explore and find the hidden little spots to feel like I know the place.
This hostel was so neat because it was full of hammocks and mosaics.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
 Also, I love and WWOOFing when possible!

The volunteer house at a wonderful farm I worked at in Costa Rica.

4. Do you have any pre-travel rituals?
I usually have a little type of reunion with friends and family. I also try to savor every last luxuries about the states, from baths to homemade food.
5. What is your favorite airline to fly with?
Whichever is the cheapest, which definitely doesn’t equate to top-quality. In Europe: Ryan Air. South America: LAN, TACA.
6. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’m dying to drive across the US and explore the state parks!
Roadtripping around Washington and Oregon
7.  How do you survive long haul flights?
Books, music, notebook, and a pillow.
8. What is your favorite stamp in your passport and why?
Hmmm…I suppose Chile and Colombia because they’re multi-colored :)
Questions from Lisa at Meanderings, Adventures & Crafty Inspirations (me!)
    1.    What are your top 3 necessary items for travel?
A large scarf: it’s so versatile! It can be a sling bag, a blanket, head-wrap, first aid bandage….the list goes on.
Notebook and pen: to write contacts, notes, and collect little papers in a new place.
The right shoes: I think we know why this one’s important.
 2.    What is your favorite off the beaten track trip in your current home?
This is a tough one, because there’s so many. I loved my trip to Quillabamba and wandering around the non-touristy towns outside of the city, finding waterfalls and all kinds of tropical vegetation! A blog on this trip is comin’ soon.

Thanks for joining and looking forward to seeing everyone else's responses!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm back, with a new prefix!

Hey all, so I've been on blog hiatus the past few weeks because a lot was going on: wedding crafting, coordinating and organizing details, friends and parents flying in... It all turned out wonderful and I am so excited to announce that Rafa and I are now married!

So, I am back and trying to post more frequently. Very unfortunately, my camera was stolen last month so you'll have to excuse any low-quality pictures until I find a better alternative. 

More posts comin' your way, have a lovely day!