Foodie Friday: Perrito Caliente

Sure, yesterday was thanksgiving and we made  it back to the States in time to celebrate but featuring turkey just doesn’t seem right to us, given that it is virtually impossible to find anywhere south of the border.  Instead, in honor of Turkey Day, we figured we’d offer our readers a taste of another USA treat.  One we know and love that just hasn’t been the same south of the border: the hot dog.

There is an expression sometimes uttered in Washington, that the two things you never want to see made: sausages and  laws.  I don’t disagree.  So we’ll skip the creation process of these encased little snacks and instead focus on the different varieties we’ve tasted.

Guatemala– the rather tasteless cheveres scared us a bit and we generally shied away.  Only available after dark on the street they always smelled a bit foul and the fixins were never particularly appetizing.

Colombia– we had our first taste of the South American version of the hot dog, where it was actually called a perrito caliente (little hot dog).  It was smothered in smashed up plantain or potato chips, doused with an army of sauces and covered with onions.  The chips were really what separated it from the NYC variety, that and that in Colombia the one we had was microwaved instead of flame cooked or boiled in water. 

Brazil– I don’t remember what they called it, but we ate it at a stand in Cuiaba. It was on a toasted bun with cheese, ham, hot dog, lettuce, ketchup, mayo, crunchie fries and tomato.  It was by far the greasiest piece of meat we’ve eaten in our entire lives.  We felt sick afterwards.

Bolivia– Instead of just a hot dog, Bolivia is a fan of salchipapas (also common in Peru), cut up hot dog on french fries.  The hot dog isn’t the highlight, but with all that grease on one plate, it can’t taste bad.  Plus, they always had ketchup.  Yum.

Argentina- had in my opinion, the most fun with the hot dog called a Super PanchoIn these the dog was usually about a foot long, if not longer, and didn’t come close to fitting inside the bun.  The number of sauces piled on top (ketchup, mustard, mayo, golf sauce) is rather unsettling and these are almost never sold in street side stands and instead are sold in small Super Pancho shops.  The best part is that like Colombia and Brazil, crunchy potato sticks are put all over the top.

Chile- very similar to Argentina except that the sauces we tried were all… unsettling.  Also called a pancho, and the one we tried in Santiago, well we did have video, but trust us you wouldn’t want to see it.

In truth though, nothing comes close to a good Sabrett or Hebrew National dog from a NYC vendor, covered in ketchup (a rarity anywhere but the USA) mustard, onions, relish, and maybe some onions and if you’re really lucky some chili sauce.  In fact, just thinking about the late night dogs we used to get in college from Manouch has me salivating.  Washington, D.C.’s specialty is the half-smoke, a plump and short spicy beef dog served on a plain bun or better yet at Ben’s served smothered in chili.  Since we haven’t been up to New York (or even Washington, DC) in awhile we had to ask a friend to fine one to enjoy for us…it wasn’t too difficult to convince him to do it though.

(Jill’s Editors Note: Danny was raised by a New Yorker, so he’s completely biased. This post is clearly wrong.  He has left our the best hot dog on the planet- the Chicago Char-Dog.  A char-broiled beef delight covered in ketchup, mustard, onions and kosher dill slices served on a poppy seed bun. Hmm… it just makes my mouth water. Anyone know where I can get one of these on the east coast before mid-december?)

Country Guide: Bolivia

Heading to Bolivia?  Here’s our brief guide on what not to miss!

Access: Air – La Paz or santa Cruz. Land – Lake Titicaca (Peru), The Salar and the Atacama (Chile), Amazon and Pantanal (Brazil)

Points of Interest:

Bolivian Amazon – One of the cheapest and easiest points to access the Amazon rain forest. Travel to Rurrenabanque from La Paz via very scary/uncomfortable overnight bus or fly. Cancellations and changes to flight tickets are easy and not costly. Once in Rurrenabanque we recommend the pampas tour as you will have fewer insects and more wildlife, it is also cheaper than the jungle tour. You can book this in town, generally for the following day.

Death Road – At some point you will likely pass through La Paz and the death road is not to be missed. The trip is not much of a mountain bike trip so much as a thrill ride, but it is a lot of fun. Be sure to choose a company with a good safety record and just enjoy your carefree day. Most tours will bring you back to La Paz at the end of the day, in time to catch an overnight bus to Uuyni if you´d like to continue to the salt flats. Here’s our review of Pro Downhill a death road tour operator.

Salt Flats – Easiest to travel to Uyuni from La Paz overnight via bus, booking a tour once you arrive in Uuyni, beginning later that very day. (Busses to points east do not run overnight.) Tours can range from 1-3 days and are generally all inclusive. If the salt flats is all you care to see then a 1 day trip will be fine. Days 2-3 visit other natural landforms (gysers, lakes, mountains, hot springs, etc) of the area and can also take you to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile for free if you choose. Three day trips can also be booked in Chile. When booking a trip it is best to already be in a group of 6 (the number of passengers that fit in the vehicles) as this represents a full tour and guarantees that you´ll get a good price and be able to start when you want. Additionally, be aware that tours here are known for being very “hit and miss” so take care when choosing a tour company.

Spanish Study Sucre is probably one of the best places in all of Latin America to study spanish. The charm of the city combined with the purchasing power of the dollar or euro make this both cheap and comfortable at the same time. The location is also close to several nearby activities (such as the mines of Potosi) which are worth going to.

Prodownhill (La Paz, Bolivia)

Only three months old, Prodownhill has certainly made a name for itself on the South American travelers circuit. Prodownhill came so highly recommended for the death road by several backpackers on their way north through Peru, we didn’t even consider booking the death road with another agency.

Suiting our group of 7 up for the day, the equipment was in excellent shape and clearly taken care of. From the protective moto-cross quality clothing, to the top-quality helmets and pads, it was clear Prodownhill had our safety in mind. Decked out in flash gear, our bikes were tuned and ready to go without a lot of fiddling around. Our guides were friendly and did a great job of keeping us together as a group while allowing people to go down the death road at their own speeds. Stopping the group every 10-15 minutes for a safety stop, our guides were constantly telling us about the next section of road and checking to make sure everyone was having a good time. The seven in our group ranged from an ironman competitor to someone who had never used a mountain biked before and I can say with 100% certainty that everyone felt safe and had a great time on the trip.

Taking lots of video and photos, which they gave us at the end on a CD, the entire Prodownhill staff was attentive, fun and professional. The bikes were in good condition and the protective gear they provided was so significantly more than any other tour operator we saw that we were almost embarrassed knowing that some of those people had paid almost double, for the same death road, what we did! Our experience with them was so incredible I would actually say the death road has been one of my favorite days in all of South America.


  • Nobody was killed or otherwise dismembered, deformed, or injured in any way.

  • We were the sexiest group of bikers out there, everyone else was jealous.

  • Prodownhill gave us so much food throughout the day that I never got hungry.

  • The brakes on all of the bikes worked.

  • Prodownhill kept the office open late and burned the DVD for us that evening.

  • We paid way less for the death road than probably everyone else out there.

  • I didn’t have to think or worry about anything.

  • Prodownhill helped us find a bus for later that evening.

  • I wasn’t able to buy a cool jersey, instead I was given a free t-shirt and DVD of all our photos and videos.

  • I only had one free beer to go with my free lunch.

  • Prodownhill had a movie for us to watch on the 3 hour ride back to La Paz.

  • On the bike I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted, totally up to me.

  • Prodownhill gave us a perfect day, for a perfect price. THANK YOU PRODOWNHILL

We’re late, for a very important date

Once we finished up with the Salt Flats, it was time to get a move on. The rest of Bolivia is a bit of a blur as all we really did was move, move, move. We’d won a trip to a lodge in the Pantanal of Brazil and we now had a very finite amount of time to get there. Our guidebook warns that transportation in Bolivia can be unpredictable at times and to make matters worse, we had no idea how long it would take us to travel east through Bolivia to Brazil. Some accounts put the final leg as 17 hours while others put it at 3 days.

Generally when we travel we do so without a time frame or any need to be in any one place at any specific date. When we started the trip we had nothing booked, not a single airline ticket. When we do stray from this method it is often very stressful for us as we have to cut things out and generally end up spending more money on lodging and transportation.

Leaving the Salt Flats we learned that the overnight bus we had planned to take to Sucre did not exist and we’d have to take a 9 hour bus the following day…oh fun. I’m not sure which was worse, this bus or the one we took to the Amazon a week prior. Although this road wasn’t so twisty and turny, it was still dirt and early in the journey a rock of some kind took out most of the windshield…oh fun. Add to that the several [very smelly] indigenous people who throughout the day decided that my body could be used as a seat, (this was done to no one else on the bus so I can only assume this was their way of harassing the gringo) and we were just happy to arrive in Sucre alive and without any new friends trailing us to a hotel.

In Sucre we visited the dino prints which we believed was the main attraction of Sucre. The prints are left over from the Cretacious period and were found in the nearby cement quarry. To be honest, we could have lived without the trip but we did fall in love with the city on our brief stay there. Sucre is the “white” city of bolivia (all the buildings are white) and used to the country’s capital. While there we felt as though we’d crossed some border into another city as the streets were clean and filled with people just enjoying town. It is also a great (and cheap) place to study Spanish and if we ever find ourselves in need of a Spanish school again we will likely give Sucre as shot because the city itself was so livable.

But we were on a time schedule to get to Brazil so we had to press on. Luckily we had some company for the ride to Santa Cruz, a group of 6 South Africans we’d met on our Salt Flats tour who took the opportunity to give us loads of advice for our upcoming journey to their country.  We parted ways with them, I got myself a haircut, and we then boarded another bus to the border with Brazil. Looking to get our passports stamped in town we went from one immigration office to another before asking a police officer for help. The first officer told us there had to be people there, we said their weren’t, so he actually tried to send us to another office that was closed. Thanks @sshole. Another officer called a few numbers and confirmed but guaranteed us that when we got to the border the office there would be open.

So we went to the border, got there much easier than we expected (one overnight bus, rather than 3 days worth of buses) but found immigration to be closed. Luckily a couple of Brazilians we’d met took us under our wing and the taxi we’d hired to take us to Brazil knew to took us to the immigration officer’s home to get us our stamps…only in Bolivia…

Doritos Bags, Coke Bottles and a Pringles Can…

Can’t say it was actually my first time “diving” into a Dorito’s bag, but it was the first time I didn’t come out with artificial cheese smeared on my fingers. Lining up the camera angle, Danny yelled to me to diving head first… it was certainly going to be a long day. There’s one reason and one reason only we came to the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, the pictures. A huge flat expanse of salt (surprisingly called the salt flats), in fact the largest in the world, the Salar is probably one of the only places in the world that you can stand on top of a coke bottle without crushing it. And that’s because you’re not actually standing on it. The great expanse of whiteness makes it difficult for the viewer to perceive depth, giving the photographer a great opportunity to do some pretty crazy things. Or a husband and wife to do some pretty crazy things… like eat each other or stand on the other’s head.

If that wasn’t enough, altiplano of Bolivia, including the Salar has incredibly clear weather, which means… incredible star gazing. Unlike neighboring Chile, Bolivia has yet to cash in on the potential for international astronomic researchers, so no telescopes for viewing, but plenty of open sky. In fact, the flatness, whiteness and openness of the Salar is so perfect that according to our guide satellites use it to calibrate their instruments.

Actually Bolivia is really big into not cashing in on what they have. Besides salt, the Salar also holds more than half the worlds reserve of lithium, thats a whole lot of batteries, but the government won’t open lithium mining up to foreign corporations. The only mining is done by hand. Locals pay a fee to a cooperative in order to gather, refine and sell the salt. The lithium in other words, stays behind. And not to pour salt on an open wound (had to work that into the post somehow), but the salt would provide great profits for the impoverished locals except that they can’t export it because they have no sea access and their neighbors have their own salt. Ouch, talk about a cut that stings.

Unfortunately the coolest part of the tour, the Salar was only one day. The other two days were spent jumping in and out of our jeep to look at crazy high altitude flamingos (and you thought they were tropical birds), volcanic lakes (green, red and white) and early morning unstable geysers.  The flamingos were out of place enough, but add to that some strange fossilized algae caves, a pre-incan cemetery with mummies, rusted out trains and galloping llamas and vicuñas, and well it was a very surreal experience.

Arriving in Uyuni we happened upon two other English speaking, married couples. Let me repeat that again, because this is truly rare- two other English speaking married couples! This has NEVER happened to us in 6 months of travel. We’re a rare breed out here, so of course we joined forces. Put 4 brits, 2 yanks, three married couples together with a collective 4 years of travel stories and 6 bottles of wine and well you can imagine the hilarity that ensued.