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ASK JOURNEYS: Common questions about South America

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As you read today's column, we are making ready to set sail on what we believe will be our cruise of a lifetime.

Travelling out of Valparaiso (Santiago) Chile, we will sail south through the Chilean Fjords, the Cockburn channel and to Ushuaia, Argentina before heading back north via the Falkland Islands before disembarking in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It will be the first time we will have been on a vacation where we will require the coolest of summer garments at the beginning and end of the cruise and fall-weather-like clothing as we approach Antarctica.

Preparing for this journey has helped answer many of my own, and others', questions about travel to South America.

I hope these answers will help plan, or motivate you, for your South American adventure.

QUESTION: We are going to be travelling extensively through South America and would like to know the power-supply requirements for countries such as Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina?

ANSWER: This trip will not take us to most of the countries you will be visiting, but recognizing the configuration for each country will be extremely important since the range of both power source and wall-outlet configurations is quite wide.

What makes it complicated is some of those countries use both 110-v and 220-v power, and depending upon the region will have outlets like ours, Europe's, Australia's and even Italy's.

Most of the configurations can be found easily online, with adapters and converters available at many stores.

Argentina uses both a European-style outlet as well as an Australian configuration. Chile, on the other hand, utilizes the North American and European configuration plug-ins, as does Peru.

Uruguay uses our outlets and our 110-v power, so nothing more is required for this country.

It is an important note that if you will be staying in the Falkland Islands, you may also require a British-style adapter.

While Brazil also uses both of the above, a third outlet usually associated with the Asian continent is also utilized in parts of the country as well as the Italian three-pronged version..

What this means is you need to do research on the specific regions you will be travelling to or simply buy a kit that gives you all the options around the world. For 220-v regions, you will still need a converter for most electrical appliances. Most chargers and computers have dual voltage built into them.

QUESTION: We are thinking about going to Machu Picchu this year. Is it easy to find tours, and is it convenient to get there from Lima?

ANSWER: If you are travelling to South America, whatever it takes, make certain you visit this great archaeological site.

It has been many years since I was first there, and it is only time that prevents me from going back there this trip.

This is an experience that is in high demand during peak seasons, with a limit of only 2,400 people per day allowed to visit it.

That is far lower than the demand, so booking well in advance is advised. You will travel to Cuzco first and should stay there a couple of days to adjust to the elevation. Altitude sickness can be serious and debilitating, and can ruin the joy you want to have at Machu Picchu itself. Take a couple of days to adjust before starting.

One of the best companies of its kind in the world, Gap Adventures offers a really excellent Inca Trail tour that includes Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. The hiking tour should only be considered by those who are in excellent physical condition.

However, all the other tour options are excellent, requiring only minimal exertions other than that placed on you by elevation changes.

The impact of seeing the site below with nothing but air and mountain peaks surrounding you is certain to make a lifetime indelible impression on you, as it did on me.

QUESTION: While Canadians think we invented the summer barbecue, my understanding is South Americans really lead the world in this style of cooking. Is that correct?

ANSWER: That is a really good question. It is really hard to isolate where and how this cooking process started.

While we often associate the barbecue with beef, it appears more likely it started with a slow-cooking method for pork or goat, and may have originally started in the Caribbean.

However, Australia, Argentina, the United States and others have laid claim to it today.

In terms of beef production, as heavy a producer Argentina is and has always been in the top five, Brazil in fact is the leader with almost 200 million head of cattle scattered throughout the country.

India is second only because they don't eat their religious icons. China and the U.S. follow, with Australia and Canada way down the line in numbers.

But there is no doubt the next couple of weeks will find us consuming at least one or two meals of beef, cooked over a hot barbecue.

It will give us the jump on summer and perhaps we will gain an education on new and different ways to cook our chops and steaks even better.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com . Ron Pradinuk is president of the Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca .

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 D6

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