Five South American Pursuits

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The Independent Travel

Wallow on top of a mud volcano in Colombia

Wallow on top of a mud volcano in Colombia

Volcan del Totumo, on Colombia's Caribbean coast, is a seemingly bottomless pit full of slime, an hour's bus ride from Cartagena. The slime is actually a mineral-based, thick, grey mud, supposedly endowed with therapeutic properties. Local women scrub you clean in the nearby lake.

Samba at the Rio Carnival

It's hot, sweaty and totally intoxicating. Carnival is a five-day festival in Rio de Janeiro starting on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday. Rio's Samba schools choose a theme, compose a song and design a float to compete in the procession in the Sambadrome. The atmosphere is electric.

Sail around the Galapagos

Lying on the equator, 970km west of the Ecuadorian coast, and formed from the peaks of giant volcanoes, the Galapagos archipelago is a unique environment where birds and mammals show no fear of humans. Swim with baby sea lions, watch the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies or visit lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz.

Eat a steak in Buenos Aires

Beef from the enormous cattle ranches of the pampas is still the staple fare in Argentina. It's served with side plates of green salad and chips since the steak itself fills the plate. Traditionally prepared over charcoal or a wood fire (see above), you can choose your cut as you walk into the restaurant.

Watch condors soaring in Peru

Get up early to catch condors sweep away on the early morning thermals in Peru's Colca Canyon. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, at 1km from cliff-top to river bottom, the mixture of spectacular geography and colourful local culture (the area still boasts fairly traditional Indian villages) has made it a popular stop-off for visitors to Peru.