Ecuador’s Arriba and Cacao Nacional cacao beans are considered some of the finest in the world and international chocolatier’s have long recognized their superiority. Only recently however, have artisanal labels sprung up from within the South American nation, much of it organic, fair trade, and of superior quality than has ever been produced before.
Rubber trees grow wild in the Amazon rainforest and at the beginning of the automobile industry the world’s rubber trade was completely reliant on the Amazon jungle. Rubber tappers, mostly indigenous families who were widely exploited, gathered rubber from vast reserves near large Amazonian cities such as Iquitos, Manaus, and Santarem. The trade brought considerable wealth to the region and the rubber barrons lived like royalty in these cities, importing Azulejo tiles and even gourmet foods from Europe.
I’ve been on an Amazon kick lately, partly because I’m headed in the region briefly next week, but also because I have long been fascinated by Amazon exploration. New York based David Grann, a not too adventurous writerly type, goes to Brazil in search of the remains of the legendary explorer P.H. Fawcett, a man considered to be the most famous of all Amazon explorers…
Iquitos, Peru is the largest city in the world not connected by roads. The capital of Peru’s northern Amazon rainforest sits on the Rio Ucayali, not far from where it meets with the Amazon River. The city was officially founded on Jan. 5, 1864 by the Peruvian Navy, however, the Spanish conquistadors were in the area as early as 1542, and numerous native tribes were there well before that.
John Hemming, the historian who penned Conquest of the Incas, one of the definitive texts on the arrival of the Spanish in Peru and South America and the battles that followed, has released this gem of a book that covers the breadth of Amazon history.
While writing a guidebook of Peru I was quite fortunate in that I was able to visit a variety of Amazon jungle lodges. Most are found in Peru, Brazil, Venezuala, and Ecuador with a few others in neighboring countries. Almost all are a great experience and give you insight into the flora and fauna that few get the pleasure to see.
Of all the river routes in the Amazon, this is one gets you far away from modernity as you could ever imagine.
The Amazon rainforest, including the Amazon River and jungle, cover 1.2 billion acres which is much of north-central SouthAmerica in parts of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and the Guyanas.