We started breaking camp at sunrise. The fog was thick and wet. Within an hour we were ready to head back to civilization. Ready to begin the trip out, the sun broke through and was easily seen as it rose above a nearby ridge opposite us across the Rio Tocache. In the mist shrouded distance a huge bird carved of stone became visible. It had been placed high on the ridge facing eastward. We crossed the river to investigate.
Kathy studied the strange markings for nearly a half hour before explaining to us what she thought they meant. In her opinion the markings directed us towards the lost city we had been searching for! Excitedly, we finished packing camp and loaded the burros. Without adaquate supplies, we decided to pushed onward. Our destination was to be found much higher, and much deeper into the distant Andean cloud forest.
Hours later it became cold and rainy. Our PahaQue Green Mountain and Tee-Pee tents we quickly set up. Our guides, mountain people who were used to this weather, rapidly constructed a framework of small saplings. To finish it off they covered their shelter with huge green banana and palm leaves, which we also used too cover the floor of their new shelter. After this we were informed they were leaving for awhile and should return before sundown. We were left to wait.
At about 3 in the afternoon we heard them shout as they returned. Our Q'uechua Indian guides us were all excited, whooping and hollering! They had killed a Sacha Huagra (Tapir). The beast was skinned and ready to cook in no time at all. Limes and oranges were sliced and held in place on the carcass with black palm thorns. Then the carcass was wrapped in banana leaves. A bamboo spit was prepared and the carcass slow cooked above the fire. The scent was wonderful. Remembering we still had our Bush Beans, an array of jungle goodies and seasonings, Kathy decided to make "Jungle Chili". The curious nativo's watched as we started another fire nearby and mixed our ingredients into a large pot. The pot Kathy had started, and the Sacha Huagra, cooked slowly throughout the night. Oh man, the aroma was unbelievable!
By the end of the next day we had thoroughly explored the mountainside we had camped on. The ancient site we had hoped to find was just a few hundred meters about our camp site! As we headed back to camp we encountered a brief burst of rain and now we were cold, wet and hungry from our jungle trek.
Kathy started some fresh jungle coffee as I checked the pot she had prepared. Following her advice, I added a little water and placed a few pieces of dry wood on the low fire. Lorenzo pointed to the second fire to let me know the Sacha Huagra had finished cooking. The banana leaves were carefully removed revealing a blackened carcuss. The flash of a long knife glinted as slabs were cut away for each of us. Fresh banana leaves were cut and made into our dinner plates. It was incredible.
After we had eaten all we could, Kathy and Lorenzo shredded the remaining meat. It was moist and tender. Lorenzo sampled a bit as shredded pieces were was added it to Kathy's simmering pot. He and the other men still had not quite figured out what she was making. They stood nearby laughing and talking to each other. Their huge smiles let us know they were excited to try whatever it was she had concocted! It smelled fantastic!
We all feasted that night under the warm glow of torches lighting the walls of an ancient fortruss that had been all but forgotten by the rest of the world. Overhead, the sky had cleared revealing the brilliant stars of the southern sky. Everyone wasremained silent as the feast continued.
Here, upon an Andean mountainside and at the entrance to a fantastic ancient site, "Kathy's Lost City Chili" was born.
You won't find Sacha Huagra in your local market. You might instead try pork since it tastes similarly. Besides, the Sacha Huagra might be on an endangered list... I'm not really sure about that.
Lost City Chili Recipe
Start with a 5 pound pork butt roast
(or Sacha Huagra)
Cut into several 2 inch wide strips
Thinly slice 2 ripe Limes and one ripe Orange
Use a 10 inch pan or dish with a tightly covered lid
Cover bottom of pan with Orange and Lime slices
Add meat strips to pan
Place remainder of Orange and Lime slices across and in between the meat
Marinate 4 hours
Remove Orange and Lime slices
Drain the pan of all juices
Season meat with1.5 teaspoon of "Spike"
(Gaylord Hauser, salt free, all purpose, all natural seasoning)
Cover tightly and bake slowly at 200 degrees (F) for 8 ~ 10 hours
(Roast may look pink, but is safe as long as inside temperature reaches 165 degrees )
Begin Chili (Bush Bean) pot 2 hours before roast is complete
Using 12 whole tomatoes, core and blanche
(Blanche: Boil cored tomatoes in water for 1.5 minutes. Then, remove tomatoes from water and peel)
Place tomato chunks into bean pot, including the following items:
1 chopped sweet onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 chopped green bell pepper
4 stalks of scallion chopped finely
4 chopped hot yellow banana peppers
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon flaked cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1.5 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cans of Bush Black Beans (include the liquid)
2 cans of Bush Dark Red Beans (include the liquid)
Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer 2 hours
Remove pork from the oven and shred the meat into thin strips
Do not include juices from the meat
Add pork to bean pot. Cook 10 minutes on medium heat, then simmer for 1 hour
Serve with your favorite garnish's!
Dabbles of sour cream
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Sliced (hot) Ortega chili's
Frito's dipping chips
Eating off a Banana Leaf!