Destinations Magazine

Equator: South America

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

This week Into the Wild is tracing the Equator around the world highlighting the best sites, amazing wildlife and a taste of the cultures and festivities which all flourish along this imaginary line. Today we’re following the Equator across South America. We’ll be stopping off in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil which all straddle the latitude of zero degrees.

Wildlife

As the equator runs across South America it passes through an array of landscapes and habitats hosting wonderfully diverse wildlife. Made famous by Darwin, the Galapagos Islands are rich in species diversity and are one of the most precious environments on Earth with 98% of these islands designated as a National Park. Amongst the wildlife to enjoy are land and marine iguanas, various bird species, including the famously studied Darwin’s finches, as well as Lonesome George – an 80 year old saddle back tortoise. Unfortunately he is the last male of his kind, and conservationists are trying to breed to keep his sub species going.

There are very few mammals on the islands due to the 600 miles of ocean separating the archipelago from the mainland, a distance which would be far too long for most mammal species to travel without access to fresh water. The few native mammals which do reside here would have gained access through other means, such as bats, sea lions and seals, as well as rice rats, which would probably have arrived on floating vegetation.
Hitting the Pacific coastline to the east of the continent, the equator heads up through the high Andean peaks before passing down into the deep Amazonian jungles before reaching Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The Amazon’s rainforests host an immense diversity of wildlife with thousands of species of flora and fauna including sloths, anteaters, armadillos, coatis, racoons, deer, peccaries, tapirs, foxes, big cats, countless monkeys, otters, snakes and caiman. 

Sites

The Charles Darwin Research Station in Ecuador is the must see home to a museum, a tortoise nursery and the main visitors center for the infamous Galapagos Islands National Park. When passing through Ecuador you absolutely have to spend some time in the country’s capital city, Quito, which sits just south of the equator. The city was once part of the Incan Empire and is now a world heritage site famous for its historical center offering an amazing assortment of museums and culture.
Sitting on the edge of the Amazon Basin, the Yaigoje Apaporis National Park in Columbia provides stunning views of the rainforest and brims with hundreds of exotic bird species. Finally coming to the end of our equatorial journey across South America we reach the east coast of Brazil where the Amazon’s delta merges with the Atlantic Ocean.  It is this merging of waters that gives rise to an incredible natural phenomenon known as the Pororoca – the tidal bore of the Amazon. The Pororoca, which in the indigenous Tupi language translates as ‘great destructive noise’ is the longest wave in the world and can be surfed for 30 minutes or more. Said to only break twice a year in February and March this is a spectacle not to be missed.  

Culture

The town of Otavalo in Ecuador is home to a colourful indigenous culture and one of the most famous craft markets in Latin America having been running since pre-Incan times.

Ecuador has a rich and varied cuisine and is well known for its abundance of exotic fruits, excellent fish and seafood as well as countless varieties of Andean potatoes. On the menu you’ll find traditional dishes such as scrumptious lemon-marinated shrimp, ceviche and the national dish, Encebollado, a delicious seafood soup. Here’s a recipe if you’re feeling hungry:

  • 2 lbs fresh tuna
  • 1 lb yuca, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 cups of water
  • 5 coriander sprigs
  • Salt to taste
  • Curtido de cebolla y tomate or pickled red onion and tomato salsa to serve on top

Equator: South America

  1. Heat the oil on medium heat to make a refrito with diced onion, tomato, cumin, chili powder and salt.
  2. Add the water and coriander springs, bring to a boil.
  3. Add the tuna and cook for until the tuna is fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
  4. Drain the tuna and keep the broth to cook the yuca.
  5. Separate or break the tuna into small to medium size pieces.
  6. Bring the tuna broth to a boil and add the yucas, cook until tender but firm, about 30-40 minutes for the frozen yuca.
  7. Take the yuca from the broth, remove the strings and cut into bite size chunks.
  8. Add the yuca chunks and tuna pieces to the broth, taste and add salt if needed.
  9. Re-warm the soup if necessary and serve topped with a good amount of pickled onion and tomato salsa, if desired can also be served with avocado slices and extra lime slices.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more daring you’ll probably prefer the popular cuy dish of whole roasted guinea pig, which has remained a speciality of indigenous highlanders for centuries.
The city of Cali in Columbia is known as the Salsa capital of the world and with its vibrant atmosphere the city has become an epicentre for popular cultural events. Brazil’s lively culture is never more energetic than during the carnival season. The annual Carnaval festival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become a massive event with the whole country practically coming to a stop for almost a week in order to celebrate day and night. In the coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo Carnaval is celebrated with huge exuberant parades through the city streets.

Come back throughout this week as we look at other continents and countries touched by the equator around the world.

By Hannah Jones


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