Dakshin Ranga – By Meena Prabhu

This time Meena Prabhu has teamed up with her Daughter Varsha and Son Tushar to explore the normally unexplored part of the world “The South America”. The two months of extensive traveling has resulted into an interesting travel story, giving a good perception of this totally different world called as “Latin America”.

At times the trip gets real hectic and there have been few tough moments and bad patches due to adamant visa authorities and bad means of transportation etc, but the writer has kept the ball running and came out of all such difficulties and made most out of her trip.

The countries she visits out here are Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Columbia. The storyline starts right from the different experiences at different embassies, the travel preparations and then the writer takes you through each country along with her and makes us acquainted with the astonishingly different cultures and pre-Columbian civilizations. The flora and fauna, the animals and birds peculiar to this region, the landscapes and the history associated with each of these countries are totally different and still we can see few similarities there.

Among all Peru seems to be the most interesting place in terms of places related to ancient civilizations. Its has various wonders of nature and you to get an idea of culture in this part of the world. The Machu Picchu still has many of the Inca ruins, quite well preserved, as they are situated in quite hilly area and so the Spanish conquistadors could not reach them. Cusko was the center place for the Inca civilization and Inca’s believed that its the center of earth too. There are many Inca ruins around Cusko and one of the architecture wonders is the Sun Temple.

The Llama and alpaca are the most useful animals here. Llamas and Alpacas are to South American’s as Cows and Goats are to us. The condor bird seems to be the largest flying bird and makes you remember the Sindabad stories, talking about such huge bird who could pick up humans in their claws. The locals out there say that the condors lay only one egg in their lifetime and the mating partners don’t change over their lifetime. Currently this bird is on the verge of extinction. This region seems to have given “corn” to the world and one can find different colors of corn out here.

Iguazu Waterfall is the most enchanting and fascinating waterfall. Writer has become quite poetic and emotional at this place. This fall is multifold and gets beautiful at each level. Just like Niagara this also spans over the border of two countries Argentina and Brazil.

Chile has some of the astonishing sites like huge standing granites stones called Torres Del Paine, the Andes mountain range, some of the great National Parks and Punta De Arenas, the breeding grounds for Penguins.

Buenos Ayres seems to be a buzzing city and has its distinct architecture inspired from Europe. The Tango dance is one of the contributions of this city to the world and you can see many Tango theatres out here. The Beef being the staple food out here, sight of restaurants with a life-size Bull statue and the parts of freshly cut bull at display is common site out here. Argentina is quite famous for its grazing grounds and has meat as its top export items. Writer talks about a drink called matte, quite close to our tea, but the taste is not quite as interesting.

The burial grounds in Argentina seem to be worth visiting and there is ample artwork that goes into the beautification of those rich, famous and dead in Argentina. In fact there have been incidences of dead bodies being kidnapped and exchanged against each other. Isn’t that quite funny.

The Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro seems to be famous for its night life and not quite a place for family people. Those interested in enjoying the night life, this seems to be the most interesting place. The people out here are a mix breed of indigenous and African slaves and the Spanish rulers. While the Rio indulges you into its dark nights, a tall statue of Christ called “Christ De Redeemer” teaches salvations and gives that divine sanity to the Rio’s skyline. Rio is also famous for its Carnivals and Samba dance.

The Peruvian Capital does not carry that western charm and is quite chaotic and exhibit its third world characteristics. The Chilean capital is quite close to New York and quite adapted to American lifestyle. Argentina seems to lack the local charm and indigenous population. On the contrary, it is quite European, as its been populated by most of the migrated Europeans. The Bolivian capital, La Plaza seems to be one of the cities situated much at a height and carries the charm of typical Latin American cities, ample population being indigenous out here.

It’s interesting to know, that people out here were quite sophisticated in terms of architecture, food, traditions and customs but never had a script to write, unlike other ancient civilizations in other parts of the world. The Spanish came with horses, modern weapons, which these people had never seen. The Spanish destroyed all these age old civilizations, their culture and religion, used them as slaves and converted them to Catholicism.

Colombia, although is well known for its drug lords and mafia’s, seems to be quite scenic and worth visiting place. Simon Bolivar, the leader of independence movement in Latin America, has high regard in this country and this was one of the first countries to get out of Spanish rule. The salt cathedral seems to be one of the worth visiting places out here and is actually a salt mine been converted to a cathedral.

All these countries have Catholicism as the religion, every city has Plaza De Armas in the center of the City. Plaza De Armas is generally a huge square area in the center of the city and is generally a market place and has surrounding historic structures. There are beautiful catholic churches all around and the lavish use of gold in those churches reminds you that this land was pouring with gold at some point of time. Although Inca’s never got to know what iron is, they had all their instruments made out of gold.

Patagonia and Galapagos seem to be interesting places to visit. Galapagos being the volcanic islands, the flora and fauna out there is quite unique. The interesting thing about Galapogas is that they came into existence quite recently and so the evolution of birds and animals out here, have attracted many scientists, including Darwin. The Blue footed boobie birds, the huge turtles and many such animals have been point of study and attraction out here. The sanity of the place is maintained by strict rules and definitely a place worth visiting. Patagonia is the south most end of this continent and generally the Penguins come down to this area for breeding from Antarctica.

So although, not so called “top of the list” tourist destinations, these countries and places are worth visiting for their uniquely different cultures, flora and fauna and some of the thickest and most adventures trails like Amazon river and the Amazon forest. The ruins of the ancient civilizations acquaint us with some of the parallel cultures that existed and flourished in this totally unknown part of the world. Happy Traveling!!!

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