Indiana June is the main character in a real-life Pick-A-Path Adventure story. She is cycling the globe and letting people vote to decide what she does next. Her fate is in your hands so get voting to choose how the story unfolds. Read more…

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Thursday, 01 March 2012

Going bananas for peanuts in Cuenca

Before this trip I was a BIG fan of bananas but after two weeks of eating them sweet, savoury, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner and as a snack, I've hit my limit. Plus, we've had the monotonous view of banana tree after banana tree for the last two days of cycling. From Guayaquil it was about 100km to Naranjal and then the following day we did another 100km to Machala, two unremarkable but banana-centric towns.


My trip to the Galapagos Islands leaves from Quito on Saturday so I took a bus to Cuenca ahead of the guys. The scenery was spectacular as we rose from sea level to near 3000 metres and the temperature dropped by two thirds from 33 to 11 degrees celsius.


I must say it's a lot easier to appreciate the beauty of the mountains from a seat in a bus rather than the saddle of a bicycle. (Where you're too busy trying to breathe and pedal, rather than contemplating the view.)


Arriving in Cuenca saved my stomach as there was an array of eating options that weren't yellow and banana shaped. I went to a Mexican joint and ordered a vegetarian burrito and while chowing down I overheard some women talking about a cooking class that afternoon. When they finished their meal I introduced myself and asked about it. Carol, an American expat invited me to tag along so we got a taxi to a beautiful house high on a hill.

Our chef and instructor was Carmita, a local women with a talent for creating delicious Ecuador dishes and not a banana in sight. We learned to make Cocoa mani, (chocolate roasted peanuts) Aji, (delicious hot sauce that enhances any meal) and seco pollo (a soupy broth with tender chicken floating around in it). They force-fed me a couple of glasses of red wine (didn't take much to twist my arm) and I entertained the table of expats with Indiana tales.

Below is a step-by-step explanation of how to make Cocoa Mani

WARNING: This recipe is so delicious you will eat an ENTIRE tray if given the opportunity.


Step 1: Put one pound of peanuts (with red skins) in a large pan with a pound of sugar and enough water to cover peanuts. Keep stirring until the water turns to a gloopy consistency.


Step 2: Stir in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.


Step 3: Keep stirring and moving the mixture until a crusty caramel forms on the outside of the peanuts, use lots of elbow grease to move the sauce from the pan to the peanuts.


Step 4: Pour out onto a tray and spread them flat, you can let them cool or eat them warm. They taste sensational with a glass of red wine. Mmmmm. When you pick up one peanut, 10 stick to it so the only responsible thing to do is eat all 11.


I don't think eavesdropping is always a bad thing, especially when it opens a door to local culinary delights. There's a big ex-pat community in Cuenca and they seem to have a thriving social calendar, exploring Ecuadorian customs and culture. If anyone wants the recipe for the Aji hot sauce or the Seco de Pollo let me know and a big thank you to Cheryl for hosting such a scrummy afternoon.


After a couple of days in Cuenca I'm off to Galapagos Islands for 8 days and then I'm heading back to NZ. Unfortunately my little pot of savings is running low so I need to go home and work or find sponsorship for the Indiana June adventure to continue.

Latest Poll Results
New York: What will Indiana June do in the big apple?
21% Track down and visit Oliver Jeffers:
Renowned Children's storybook writer & illustrator
11% Walk the High Line:
A linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated NY Central Railroad 
11% Be a NYC detective for a day: 
Part game, theatre and tour to discover some of NYC's most off-the-beaten path spots
13% Explore the City Hall Subway Station: 
Abandoned & hidden from the public for 60 years
12% Flying trapeze class:
Hone her circus skills learning how to fly on a trapeze 
30% NZ Flag + Statue of Liberty:
Bodypaint the NZ flag on her body and go up the Statue of Liberty
2% Go to Queens and find a 'Nanny' sound-alike:
Video someone with the nanny accent saying "noo Zealand, i love that place"
Voting closed | 204 VOTES
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