I first developed a love for Latin American when I visited Peru with my family when I was eight. I remember posing with llamas at Machu Picchu and trekking through the Amazon jungle enthralled by the sound of the howler monkeys. This trip ignited my passion for the continent, and I went on to study Spanish with English literature at university. Keen to return to South America, I spent a year in Santiago de Chile as an exchange student and used my time to travel the country from the Moon Valley in the Atacama Desert to the glaciers in Patagonia. I later returned to Peru and took trips to Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil. While I’ve been lucky enough to explore these countries, there is still so much left to see. Since joining Audley, I’ve revisited Peru, Bolivia and Chile and can’t wait to help others explore the region’s treasures.
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Q&A with Ellen
What's the best local dish you've tasted?
While not as well-known as the classic ceviche dish, causa is another popular Peruvian speciality. You’ll find over 4,000 varieties of potato in Peru and if you visit any market you’ll be astounded by the options on offer, so it’s not surprising that this dish uses mashed yellow potato as its main ingredient. Seasoned with lemon juice and the Peruvian chilli pepper ají amarillo, this creamy mashed potato stack is layered and stuffed with vegetables, meat or salad and served cold. As a vegetarian, I found this was a great go-to option in Peru with so many variations to try.
What's your most vivid travel moment?
I completed the W-trek, a circuit of the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia which was challenging but incredibly rewarding. On the final day we were hiking the trail to the Torres viewpoint but knew our chances of seeing the granite towers were pretty low due to poor weather conditions. We had been on our feet for nine hours and had covered 22 km (13 miles) before we reached the summit. As we sat and enjoyed a well-deserved picnic, the clouds parted and the outline of the mountain appeared before us. It was quite magical. The immensity of the landscape left me completely in awe.
Which book, film or artwork captures South America the most?
Reading The Motorcycle Diaries or watching the film adaption is a great starting point for understanding the variety of landscapes and cultures in South America. It’s a memoir written by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and follows his journey with a friend through Argentina, crossing the Andes into Chile, through the Atacama Desert to the Peruvian Amazon and Machu Picchu. Along the way his growing sense of injustice at the disparities of wealth he encounters fuels his political awakening. What I loved most about the film wasn’t just the cinematic landscapes, but the exploration of cultures and the fascinating people the would-be revolutionary met along the way.