Tag Archives: colombia

SALE: Solo Adventures with Alexander & Roberts

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Attention Solo Adventurers! One of our favorite small group vendors, Alexander + Roberts, is having a huge SALE for Solo Travelers on incredible itineraries through Colombia, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Greece. 

Single? Love to travel? No problem. When you book with us you can save outrageous amounts — better to pamper yourself during the trip!

+ Save $500 More when you pay-in-full at booking with your Travel Agent!

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NEW for 2018: Colombia Emerging

7 Days for $3,499 Now $2,999 Solo

Traveling in an intimate group of never more than 16 guests and staying in the country’s finest hotels, our terrific Trip Leaders will take you deeper inside Colombia’s history and its modern spirit as this friendly nation sheds its past.

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Ancient Crossroads

11 Days for $3,799 Now $3,299 Solo

This unique itinerary to Albania, Greece and Macedonia has proven to be one of our most popular journeys to Europe. With our original and intimate style and never more than 16 guests, we open doors and windows to the people, cuisines, and centuries-old traditions that still endure in this storied, lesser-visited corner of the Continent!

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New for 2018: Georgia & The Caucasus

9 Days for $4,599 Now $4,099 Solo

Acclaimed for its unique cuisine and hailed as the world’s first wine region, Georgia also offers rich history, soaring mountain terrain and fine medieval landmarks. Artfully designed for never more than 16 guests, our Original Journey features stylish hotels and congenial dining.

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New for 2018: Undiscovered Greece

10 Days for $5,999 Now $5,499 Solo

Steeped in ancient myths, the forested mountains and pristine coasts of untrodden Pelion beckon. With an intimate group of never more than 16 guests, enjoy a leisurely 6-night stay at our boutique hotel in the heart of Pelion. Then set out each day with our expert Trip Leader to explore the region’s fabled sites of antiquity, its timeless villages, and local food + wine.

Any of these amazing itineraries caught your interest? Give us a call at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for the specifics.

Stay in Touch with Solo Trips by joining our Solo Adventurers Email Blast today. Throughout the year, Wittravel receives notice from various travel partners offering special rates tailored just for you. Email frontdesk@wittravel.com to sign up today. We only send marketing information via email if you have signed up, and we never give away our client list.

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Filed under Colombia, Europe, Greece

Embark on an Incredible Voyage on the West Coast of South America

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Looking for that adventure of a lifetime? In 2016, Canadian-based G Adventures is sending its MS Expedition to the West Coast of South America. The ship will voyage from Ushuaia up the Chilean coast to Peru, and onward to Panama and Colombia.

The Expedition carries a maximum of 134 guest passengers, not including crew, so you can expect a personalized, one-of-a-kind voyage. Trips often include pre/post nights in hotels, guided tours, land excursions, transfers, and educational programs onboard. Meals are international and provided by professional chefs.

The trip is comprised of 3 core legs. You can join any of them for a two-week expedition or embark on a longer adventure by combining two or all three.

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Leg A: 15 Days Chilean Fjords, Ushuaia to Santiago. Ushuaia – Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales – Angostura Guia – Laguna San Rafael – Puerto Chacabuco – Ancud, Isla de Chiloe – Talcahuano – Santiago/Valparaiso.

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Leg B: 15 Days Santiago to Guayaquil. Santiago – Valparaiso – Caldera – Arica – San Juan de Marcona – Callao/Lima – Trujillo – Salinas/Guayaquil. Between Lima and Trujillo, your guides take you on a 3-day included trip overland to the Sacred Valley and explore Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu (local flights are additional).

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Leg C: 12 Days Guayaquil to Cartagena. Guayaquil/Salinas – Isla de La Plata – Bahia Solano – Punta Alegre – Pearl Islands – Panama Canal & Panama City – San Blas Islands – Capurgana – Cartagena.

Combos:

28 Days Ushuaia to Guayaquil. Combination of the first two trips.

25 Days Santiago to Cartagena. Combination of the last two trips.

38 Days Ushuaia to Cartagena. Combination of all three trips.

Solo Adventurers: Traveling solo but want to bunk with a fellow voyager? G Adventures will guarantee a shared cabin with one of the other guests. If you’d rather have a private cabin, G Adventures can offer one at a supplement.

Read about G Adventures in Antarctica here: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/g-adventures-in-antarctica/

Departures are in March and April 2016. Call your Willamette agent at 503-224-0180 to discuss options!

In the Portland area this Fall? Drop by our office on Wednesday September 9 at 6:30pm. Join staff from Willamette Intl Travel and G Adventures for an evening of adventure travel! We’ll highlight Galapagos and Antarctica as well as G Adv’s special Arctic Cruise.

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Filed under Chile, Colombia, Panama, Peru, South America, Travel by Ship

Vendor of the Month: Avanti Destinations

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Willamette Intl Travel uses Avanti Destinations as one of our main tour operators in Central America, Latin America and Europe. Avanti is world-renowned, a member of the United States Tour Operators Association, and have been in the business for over thirty years. Best of all, they are based in Portland, Ore., right around the corner from Willamette Intl Travel!

Avanti offers fully customizable tours in a range of destinations—from jungles and mountains to deserts and islands. Their established, creative itineraries are designed to make the most of your cultural jaunt abroad—and can even be tailored to the minute details to your interests and needs. They even offer theme journeys, focusing on ecology, adventure, food and wine, romance, etc.

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Avanti’s services extend to transfers, tours, lodgings, day trips and more. They keep a range of hand-picked accommodation on list—from lodges, villas, and condos—and every property has been inspected by an employee. These visits ensure the lodgings are of the highest quality, while maintaining a range sensitive of varying budgets. Avanti can arrange shared and private transfers to and from the airport/each destination. In some major ports, they can even arrange pre- or post-cruise itineraries for comprehensive land tour. Day tours are booked with local tour operators, keeping you always on schedule, and with local guides who have grown up in and around the region.

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On a recent itinerary to Costa Rica, we booked some of our clients on an adventurous tour through cloud forests and volcanoes. They spent a week traversing treetop walkways, river-boating, swimming in hot springs, and horse-riding on the beaches of Guanacaste. To quote one client, “This was the best vacation of my life!”

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Travelers on an Avanti booking have:
– Taken a bus through the Andes to Puerto Natales
– Cruised the channels of Tierra del Fuego from Ushuaia
– Caught glimpses of the leopard and cranes in the forests, lowlands and wetlands of the Pantanal
– Spent a night overlooking the Iguassu Falls
– Wandered the cobblestoned streets of the colonial city of Paraty
– Explored the boutiques and glitzy restaurants of Buzios on the charming Costa Verde
– Savored wine in the Loire valleys
– Hiked Chile’s spectacular Torres del Paine National Park and the Atacama Desert with its salt flats and dramatic volcanoes
– Zip-lined in the butterfly-rampant Cloud Forest of Monteverde
– Visited the Uros-Iruitos floating reed islands and the quaint village of Copacabana
– Traced the cultural journeys of the pre-Inca Chimu and Moche civilizations, climbed the pyramids of Tucume, and visited the tomb of the Lord of Sipan in Huaca Rajada

Ask us more about Avanti or call us to find more about destinations. We can be reached at 800.821.0401 or info@wittravel.com.

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Top Ten Destinations for Diving

photo by Paul Toogood

Did you know that today is World Oceans Day? Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network have celebrated by promoting ecological awareness, community involvement, sustainable seafood events, and other ways to honor the world’s oceans.

Here at WIT, we are celebrating by taking a look at some of the best places to scuba dive around the world!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, Paradise Reef, a series of interconnecting reefs full of shellfish, crustaceans, and colorful fish. It is also the site of “The Abyss,” a 3000-foot vertical drop that descends into darkness. Lucky divers can catch a sight of the Splendid Toad Fish, endemic to the region.

When to Go: September to May

What to See: orange ball anemones, file-fish, sea turtles, octopi, French angel, shipwrecks, file fish, trunkfish, stonefish, moray eels

Cayman Islands

The three Cayman Islands are great locales to dive around—there’s great visibility, very little runoff from the land, and ample amounts of Caribbean fish and invertebrates. Scuba diving is fantastic all year long on the leeward side of the Grand Cayman, where the waters are protected from wind and waves.

When to Go: All year round, water temperatures range from 80F in winter to 86F in summer.

What to See: Stingray City (a series of shallow sandbars with dozens of rays), Kittiwake Wreck, shallow reefs.

Tahiti

With temperatures between 79F and 84F in summer and visibility down to 120 feet, Tahiti is a great diving destination for the novice and seasoned expert alike. The island is known for its large marine life: from manta rays with meter-long wing spans, to Napoleon fish reaching over 35 kg. There are also several excellent training facilities to get your CMAS and PADI certifications.

When to Go: Year round.

What to See: gray shark, reef shark, sleeper shark, barracudas, dolphins, turtles, humpback whales (July-October), shipwrecks.

Galapagos, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands boast a marine life as diverse and wondrous as the one on land. The waters are rich in phytoplankton, casting them a deep green shade. But do make sure you are with experienced divers—those currents are not to be trifled with!

When to Go: February to April

What to See: whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, creole wrasse, seahorses, batfish, frogfish—and out of the water, marine iguanas and penguins!

Fiji

The Fiji archipelago is encircled by a huge reef, making shallow lagoons and a plethora of amazing scuba sites. Diving is a major attraction here, with a visibility of 130 feet deep, and warm waters from 77F in winter and 86F in summer.

When to Go: Year Round.

What to See: Astrolabe Reef, Bega Lagoon, Rainbow Reef

photo by Paul Toogood

Bali, South Pacific

The incredible diving in Bali is due to the island’s currents and its rich marine life—with a list of over 600 coral species and 3000 reef fish species. The Indonesian Throughflow is a flow of water that exits from the Indonesian archipelago into the Indian Ocean, carrying organic nutrients, plankton, and larvae that provide a healthy diet for the area’s fish and mollusks.

When to Go: April to November

What to See: Big Bumphead parrotfish, ghost pipefish, cometfish, anemonefish, morays, ribbon eels, octopi, mola-mola, or the ocean sunfish. Tulamben Wall—its purple gorgonian sea fan that stretches over 2 meters in diameter.

Cocos and Malpelo Islands, Costa Rica and Colombia

The Caribbean is home to some incredible samples of sealife. Nowhere else in the world can divers swim with such a plethora of sharks and large fish. Cocos Island has around 20 dive sites, with both shallow to steep options available. Malpelo Island’s main attraction is the scalloped hammerhead shark, which can swim in schools of up to 300 sharks.

When to Go: September to March

What to See: hammerheads, silk sharks, Galapagos shark, whale shark

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

At 2,600 km, this gigantic coral reef system is the largest in the world. It runs along the Queensland coast of Australia, and is composed of around 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. Due to its size, it offers scuba challenges for both amateurs and professionals, and is home to a great diversity of sealife—sharks, dolphins, or a saltwater crocodile if you’re really fortunate!

When to Go: August to January

What to See: tiger sharks, whale sharks, pufferfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, hawkfish, 360 species of hard corals, sea snakes, 6 types of sea turtles, giant groupers, Caribbeam reef shark, nurse shark, saltwater crocodile (rare), humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called this sea “The World’s Great Aquarium” due to its biodiversity. This is a great destination for North Americans due to its proximity and size. Also known as the Gulf of California, this strip of water separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, and shares a coastline of around 2,500 miles.

When to Go: June to November

What to See: marlin, dorado, sea lions, whales, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, shipwrecks, devil rays, cow-nose ray, mola-molas, amber jacks, goatfish, turtles, moray eels, pufferfish, porcupine fish, flute fish, scorpionfish, lobsters, seahorses.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu in the South Pacific is a diver’s paradise—with a vast collection of caves, lava towers, coral mazes, grottoes and wrecks. A chain of 83 tropical islands, it’s a great spot to witness some great underwater sights—including the must-see SS “President Coolidge,” at 22,000 tons, the largest wreck dive in the world.

When to Go: April to October

What to See: SS “President Coolidge,” swordfish, marlins, barracuda, dolphins, unique starfish, dugongs, and Million Dollar Point (a stockpile of equipment dumped by the U.S. military).

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How to be a responsible, eco-friendly diver

  1. Maintain proper buoyancy: greater weight increases drag on your body, increasing the risk of damaging the reef or disturbing the floor
  2. Never touch a creature: touching can remove protective layers of oil or skin and possibly damage the animal. Watch out for the more delicate living coral.
  3. Be aware of your dimensions: Pay attention to what is around you and where you are going—divers operate in terms of front and back, sideways, and up and down. Make sure you keep aware of your surroundings.
  4. Secure your gear: firmly attaching your gear keeps it from banging around or potentially falling.
  5. Leave no trace: don’t leave anything, don’t take anything. Minimize your carbon diver’s footprint, and keep the reef intact.

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Willamette International Travel has worked with a variety of diving companies who tailor their services around your needs. We have sent clients on day excursions, shoretrips and multiday LiveAboard experiences alike in destinations such as Australia, Bahamas, Fiji, Christmas Island, Mexico, Hawaii, Egypt, and more!

Thinking about incorporating diving into your trip abroad? Ask us about some great scuba opportunities! Email our in-house certified diver at pamd@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Filed under Features, Travel by Scuba

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Cartagena, Colombia

Today Linda is flying into Cartagena’s Rafal Nuñez Airport and checking in to the gorgeous Sofitel Santa Clara. This hotel was built as a monastery in 1621 and overlooks the Bay in the historic quarter. After she settles in, she will be free to explore the UNESCO town and wander through palaces, gardens, forts, and churches, some of which date back five centuries. One of the city’s major highlights is the massive, tawny-colored fortifications, which still evoke that nostalgic sense of romance. Grab some cheese and enjoy stunning sunsets over the sea from any one of these weathered walls.

There’s plenty to do in this town. Cartagena is perfect to explore on foot, as many places in the newer district of Bocagrande are within walking distance. You can stroll down to the harbor, or wander through the Convent of La Popa and San Felipe’s Fort. For chilling tales and replicas of instruments of torture check out the Palacio de la Inquisición.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, we recommend slogging through the mangrove swamps, swimming around coral reefs, taking a boat tour, or riding in one of the famous Chiva Buses—a colorful way to see the city while enjoying good music and drinks. For a more relaxing experience, head down to Playa Blanca where you can rent a hammock, slurp down oysters or get a massage.

If you have some extra time you can head outside on a day trip. Check out one of the neighboring fishing villages or the Jardin Botanico de Guillermo Piñeres—or for a real unique experience, try the Volcán del Totumo, a 15-m high mud volcano and bathe in the mud.  Don’t forget to swim in the nearby lagoon to wash it away when you’re done!

From this stop Linda will be returning to Miami and back to Portland. We can’t wait to hear how it went! Thanks for joining her on the tour of beautiful Colombia!

Interested in how Linda’s trip went? Call her when she returns on June 4 at 503.224.0180 or email lindaf@wittravel.

photo by Jorge Bruzual

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General Tours: Treasures of Colombia

9 days from $2,699

Take off $600 per couple when you pay-in-full at time of booking by Aug 31, 2012! Our Small Group Tour with never more than 16 guests includes Bogotá, and Armenia, Colombia

With our handpicked Trip Leaders at your side every step of the way, this intimate guided tour to Colombia promises immersive and authentic experiences that are sure to be a highlight of your escorted travel to South America! You’ll enjoy attentive service and comfortable carefree travel as you explore Colombia’s wealth of natural, cultural and Colonial-era riches!

Bogotá, Zipaquirá, Cocora Valley and Salento, Colombia

Small Group Discoveries for our World Travelers

  • On a high-mountain plateau, beautiful Bogotá sits amidst towering Andean peaks… In the company of our attentive Trip Leader, discover the best of the city – from La Candaleria to the Gold Museum!
  • Marvel at the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, carved into an underground salt mine; beautifully illuminated, it’s large enough to welcome 8,400 worshippers!
  • The sustainable traditions of the Coffee Triangle were just recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site… Spend time on an authentic working coffee plantation and then explore the unique flora and fauna of the pristine Cocora Valley.
  • Step out with your knowledgeable Trip Leader in Cartagena, where well-preserved fortifications and palaces bear witness to its Colonial-era grandeur… Then cross the bay to unwind amidst the tranquil beauty of the Rosario Islands!
  • Discover 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Our Small Group Adventure Value

  • Extensive, fully-escorted sightseeing with never more than 16 guests including all entrance fees
  • 8 nights accommodation in our carefully selected hotels
  • 12 meals: 8 breakfasts and 4 lunches
  • All on-tour transportation, including all 4 internal flights
  • Luggage handling, hotel taxes and service charges, and all airline fees and fuel charges for your 2 included flights
  • GeneralAssist, our toll-free 24/7 emergency on-tour assistance

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Filed under Colombia, South America, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Armenia, Colombia

Today, Linda will take a flight to Armenia, the heart of the Coffee Triangle. She will be escorted to the charming hotel of Hacienda El Delirio, located just below the Andes—a prime base for spectacular views.

Officially known as the Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis or Eje Cafetero, this region is famous for the production of some of the best coffees in the world. Here visitors can tour the plantations, and learn about Colombia’s fine art of coffee harvesting and roasting. The tour is naturally followed with a tasting of delicious samples. You can also hike in the beautiful Cocora Valley and view the 200-foot wax palm tree. The lush Cocora valley is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, which covers 58,000 hectares and protects a number of endemic species: palms, toucans, sloths, pumas, tapirs, the Andean condor and many more. There’s some great hiking through the valley, especially via the Acaime route, 2 ½ hours walk starting from Salento. As this is a physically challenging walk, bring your gear—you can also opt for a guided horseback tour.

Stop in charming Salento for the colorful Antioquian architecture or to sip on the local anise-flavored liquor, Aguardiente. The region is famed for its food: from the Bandeja Paisa—a blend of rice, beans, meat, avocado, sausage, bacon and sweet plantains—to the buñuelos cheese balls and caramel wafers.

 Interested in visiting Colombia? Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

photo by Joshua Heller

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Spotlight on the Wax Palm Tree

Known alternately as Ceroxylon quindiuense and Palma de cera del quindio, the wax palm is native to the Cocora Valley and Colombia’s national tree. Until recently it was widely used in the making of candles, timber, food and in celebrations of Palm Sunday. The Colombian government has since declared the trees under federal protection, and they grow relatively unharmed in the mountains—much to the benefit of several other species, including the endangered Loro Orejiamarillo (yellow-eared parrot), who make wax palms their homes.

Palm trees are often associated with sand and sun, but this subspecies only grows in the high altitude of the Andes, making for beautiful frontispieces against the backdrop of rolling clouds and lush mountains. Reaching up to 50 m tall, the wax is the tallest palm in the world and can live up to 100 years. The journals of famous German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt describe it in 1801.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Bogota, Colombia

We just celebrated the return of Pam, but we have yet another agent heading off for fresh research!  In the next week Linda will tour Colombia’s cities and coffee plantations with some of our local partners.

As a tourist destination, Colombia hasn’t always had the best reputation. However, due to improvements in infrastructure and security, the country is opening up—and there are plentiful vistas, cultural centers, and heritage sites for travelers to see.

Over the weekend Linda boarded a flight to Miami, where she caught a connection to Bogota, the country’s charming capital. Bogota is a bustling city with 8 million people, a model mass transit system, and the world’s largest bicycling network. She was met upon arrival and escorted to the JW Marriot Bogota, an excellent 5 star-hotel located at the heart of the entertainment and financial district.

Linda spent a fun and fast-paced Sunday inspecting the historic quarter of La Candelaria, the Gold Museum (with its El Dorado exhibits) and the art collections in the Fernando Botero Museum. The district has retained its colonial houses and cobblestone streets that lead to its charm. After lunch, she took a cable car up to Montserrat and enjoyed panoramic vistas and a visit to a pilgrimage church. Visitors to Bogota can also visit the large botanical garden, the planetarium, the Catedral Primada, and the flea market at Usaquén.

Today, Linda will also get to tour Zipaquira, about an hour north of Bogota. The town’s main tourist attraction is its Salt Cathedral, a church constructed almost entirely of salt that lies 200 meters underground.

Stay tuned until Wednesday, when Linda will head over to the world-famous Coffee Triangle and beautiful Cartagena!

Interested in visiting Colombia? Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

photo by Pedro Szekely

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RECIPES FROM THE ANDES

Ajiaco is the definitive dish from Bogota. It’s a heavy soup made up of chicken, three types of potatoes, corn, and the guascas herb. Said to have derived from the Taino word aji, or hot pepper, it covers a range of tasty regional variants. The stars of this show are the buttery papas Criollas, yellow and tender potatoes. You can substitute the herb for bay leaves and parsley and the golden papas for Yukon Golds. Garnish with a blend of sour cream and heavy cream, and serve with cilantro, capers and avocado (in soup or on the side).

photo by Mauricio Giraldo

Ajiaco Bogatano

Time: 4.5 hours

Ingredients:

3 lbs chicken breast on bone with skin
6 quarts water
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
6 lbs new red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
3 lbs papas criollas, cut into 1” chunks
4 ears corn on the cob, cut into 3” pieces
2 handfuls of quascas

Preparation:

1. Stick the chicken and a handful of quascas into a large stock pot, add water and bring to a boil. When the meat is tender, remove chicken and set aside in foil to keep warm.

2. Add the potatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2-4 hours. The tiny yellows should start to break up in the soup—you can help this process along by mashing some of them.

3. Remove the skin and bones of the chicken. Cut the meat into small pieces and put them back into the pot.

4. About 5 minutes before serving, add remaining guascas.

5. Serve in deep bowls, making sure that each bowl gets some chicken and a piece of corn on the cob. Garnish and serve with rice.

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Filed under Colombia, South America, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?