Cooking Classes with a Cusqueña view by Suzanne van Ommeren

To set the scene.. In the hills around Cusco, a walking distance of 10 minutes from Sacsayhuaman, there is a small village of no more than 50 houses. From the main square in Cusco it is around 20 minutes by car.

Thanks to Micheal Mosspop for this fabulous view over Cusco

Thanks to Michael Mosspop for this fabulous view over Cusco

In this beautiful location the owner of famous restaurants and hotels like the hotel Rupa Wasi and the restaurant Tree House in Aguas Calientes has started his own cooking school. In Aguas Calientes in the restaurant Tree House he already worked with a cooking school, but now you also can enjoy the intricacies of Peruvian cuisine in this peaceful and beautiful location in the middle of nature just outside the city of Cusco.

At 10am we were picked up from the Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco by a little bus. After a ride of 20 minutes with spectacular views over Cusco and Sacsayhuaman we arrived at the cooking school.The Rupa Wasi Kitchen table. Ready...

We encountered a spacious kitchen with a big table in the middle where groups of up to 10 people can gather. Outside on the terrace is a dining table with a separate building for the bathroom facilities. We were welcomed with two delicious pisco sours; pisco with hierba buena and pisco with sauco. With the pisco warming our body we started to cook. The menu this day was trout ceviché in maracuya sauce and a quinoa risotto. This promised to be a good morning!

Suzanne and Erika welcomed with a Pisco Sour with Sauco.. mmmmmm

Erika and Suzanne welcomed with a Pisco Sour with Sauco.. mmmmmm

Cooking up a storm

Cooking up a storm

The juice of the maracuya needs to boil for 45 minutes, this already been prepared to save a little time. After boiling the Maracuya, sugar is added for the taste and mayonnaise to make the sauce a little thicker. It is our honor to cut the trout and to put it in a bed of lemon, salt and pepper. Over the trout again add the lime, salt and pepper, topped off with delicious maracuya sauce. Those who like a little heat can cut a rocoto pepper and put it on top.

Risotto, Chicken

Quinoa risotto, aji and chicken, simple yet effective!

For the risotto we fried sliced ​​bacon, onion and yellow aji. Added the cooked quinoa and let it simmer in cream. An ideal combination was the fried chicken strips placed on top!

On the terrace with the plate and the pisco. Well done ladies!

On the terrace with the plate and the pisco. Well done ladies!

We enjoyed our self-cooked entrée and main course outside in the sun on the terrace.

We were honoured guests who had tried out the kitchen for the first time at the new location just a little bit outside of Cusco. It was a well organized, smoothly run morning without any setbacks, the result of a professional team with years of experience in the field. Definitely recommended!

Thank you to Erika our Head of Reservas and Suzanne van Ommeren Sales and Travel Consultant for their time and energy! For more information or to book a class see this address:  http://www.rupawasi.net/ingles/cookingclasses.html

The terrace.

The terrace.

Staff team profiles: Urbano Huayna Arredondo, GUIDE

Hi and welcome the new year! We thought it might be nice to kick off 2014 by beginning an introduction to the team here at Apus Peru. Over the coming months we will post various staff profiles from members of our internal logistics and operations team, our guides and our cooks. To get us started here is Urbano, to tell us a little of himself and why he does the job he does..

Urbano at Sibinacocha

Urbano at Sibinacocha

was born in Apurimac in 1979, spent the first years of my life in the field, keeping animals, plowing the land. I remember the years between 1986 to 1990, living in the center of terrorism, where weapon smuggling was common. During this time, I suffered the loss of my dear father largely a result of the insecurity prevailing in Peru at that time. In 1992 I came to the city, during these months I got to know and lived with my godmother who gave me huge support and education. I have now lived in Cusco for over 20 years.

When you did you come to work in Apus Peru and why?

I have now been working with Apus Peru for over five years. This came at the recommendation of another guide, Felix. We used to see each other on some routes and he saw my style of work. I went to the interview with Ariana and the rest as they say is history!

What is it about Apus Perú that you like?

From the moment I arrived at Apus I felt like family, it is a company that gives you confidence, and freedom without any pressure, for this reason I feel comfortable to work.

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Do you have a favorite trek route?

So many routes that Apus operate are striking! All are unique, but the ones I like most are the routes that do not have much foot fall, that are quieter. The route I like the most is Sibinaqocha, this is a unique route due to the geography presented to you.

Sibinachocha Lagoon

Sibinaqocha Lagoon

Tell us something about Cusco that not many people know.

Cusco is a magical city that has no description. There is so much to see and explore. I like mostly the traditions of rural communities, that fact that there is still a core of our ancient culture here represented throughout different months. http://www.apus-peru.com/trip-planning/cultural_events_calendar.htm

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

All of the earth is unique. I would like to know a little more of global modernity, for that reason I would travel to a modern country like Singapore.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Urbano! 

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Apus Peru offer a 6 day trek to the Apu Ausangate and Sibanaqocha Lagoon http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/ausangate_sibinacocha.htm. For more information contact reservas@apus-peru.com

Cusco Wining and Dining.. a continuation

Given the fact that 40% of travellers come to Peru for gastronomic tourism we are following on from Megan Malley’s ‘foody’ blog about Cicciolina in November. Here we have a review of another of Cusco’s high end restaurants; Limo! Go ahead Megan… https://www.facebook.com/limocusco 

limo

Thank you to M GASTON for the foto View from the balcony at Limo, Plaza de Armas

Thank you to M GASTON for the foto of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas

Limo restaurant has one of the greatest dining views of the city. If you book ahead and request a table on the enclosed balcony, you will be looking right out over the beautiful flower-filled Plaza de Armas and the surrounding cathedrals. It is also the best place to go for gourmet Peruvian food, and is particularly renowned for its ceviches.

limo2

For those with an interest in gourmet Peruvian food, this is one of several restaurants run by Coque Ossio, an internationally renowned Peruvian chef. I started the night with a Pisco Sour, the traditional cocktail of choice here, but the menu also includes an enormous selection of drinks made with different types of Pisco. The kitchen always sends out a complimentary cup of crispy potato wedges with three traditional Peruvian dipping sauces. I ordered a main course of Asian-style ceviche, which was absolutely delicious.

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The menu is well thought out, and the dishes are complex and flavorful. The sushi at Limo is unbeatable, and if you sit at the bar you can watch the chef make each roll by hand. 

limo4

Well then, thanks to Megan for her Limo review. Look out for the third and final installment covering 4 more unmissable eateries in Cusco, Peru: South America’s leading culinary destination 2013, World Travel Awards http://www.worldtravelawards.com/winners2013-12.

Chichubamba agro cultural tourism project

This blog comes with huge appreciation to Kathy Steinbruegge and her sons Robert and James for their positive feedback and photographs of their experience. BIG thanks!!

A potter showing the produce of a ceramics workshop

Introducing our one day hike to the Chichumbamba agro-cultural tourism Project! http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/chichubamba_community_tourism.html 

Located in the Heart of the Sacred Valley, Chichubamba, is on the outskirts of Urubamba, about 20 minutes of Ollantaytambo and 30 minutes from Pisac. The community is dedicated to agriculture, horticulture, and a multitude of activities that are only found here.

Chichubamba agro-cultrural tourism project provides workshops to visitors to see first-hand how this diverse and welcoming group live in the Sacred Valley of the Inca.

Expert at work

Expert at work

By participating in this project you are helping families improve their quality of life, preserve nature, create personal self esteem and respect local culture. This is a highly recommended project for the sensitive traveller, who would like to visit local homes in an organised way.

Managed and run by the families of Chichubamba and the local NGO ProPeru, the Agro-cultural Tourism Project strives to preserve the traditional way of life of rural Andean families, while also generating funding to improve the standard of living, healthcare, and education in the community. All proceeds are directly reinvested back into the town of Chichubamba, thus your money directly benefits the families involved.

In house chocolate making

In house chocolate making

There are a myriad of workshops to choose from; bee keeping to chicha preparation, from guinea pig raising to chocolate making. Each workshop is presented by expert community members.

Apiculture (honey bee keeping)

Apiculture (honey bee keeping)

Kathy said, “I am sharing some photos from our wonderful visit to Chichumbamba. We hope that more tourists will take time to visit this special community of people in Peru. We loved our experience.. and would love for more people to enjoy the experience of meeting such wonderful people who were willing to open their homes to us and share their crafts and traditions. Lunch hosted by the family was delightful.”

Fresh local produce for lunch, with a local family

Fresh local produce for lunch, with a local family

For a little more info click on: http://www.grassrootsjourneys.com/explore/south-america/peru/community-of-chichubamba/

HAPPY TREKKING!

Apus Peru, Whole Foods Market and Rumira Sondormayo Volunteer Project

Over 20 volunteers have given up vacation time in the last couple months to work on a unique home renovation project in Rumira Sondormayo, high above the Sacred Valley!  The project was designed to connect foreign visitors with local indigenous families who want to host visitors in homestays.

Homestay: noun; a holiday or other period abroad spent staying in the home of a local family … the dictionary definition of the word homestay, but my word, there is so much more to it!

Aristotle once said, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. In this case a homestay, it can be safely said, is a great example of this.

This sustainable and empowering local community project set high in the rural Andes is an initiative of the Peruvian NGO Threads of Peru, http://www.threadsofperu.com. Threads of Peru works to alleviate poverty and revitalize cultural traditions in rural indigenous communities.  Their principal work is to connect the world to handmade Peruvian textiles; helping to preserve ancient craft techniques and empower indigenous artisans.

Rumira Sondormayo weavers and their textiles

Rumira Sondormayo weavers and their textiles

Many families in rural highland communities are interested in developing homestays in order to host foreign visitors. This is an excellent project for these families, as it allows them to earn income without having to alter their traditional lifestyle, or leave their homelands.

Therefore, when the women of Rumira Sondormayo asked for Threads of Peru’s assistance in creating a Homestay project, they saw how the idea had great potential to help local families, but also empower them to showcase their culture.  When the coordinators of the Wholefoods Market Team Volunteer Program Trips contacted Apus Peru, they were able to connect them to the project in Rumira Sondormayo.

2013 Whole Foods Market Volunteer Group 2 and the family of one of the renovated houses

2013 Whole Foods Market Volunteer Group 2 and the family of one of the renovated houses

In 2012 the first Volunteer WFM team landed in Peru. Armed with enthusiasm, an eagerness to contribute in a meaningful way to a rural indigenous community, while learning about traditional lifestyles in the Peruvian Andes, the work began.

During a hardworking, fun and culturally educational three days, the team completed specific objectives to physically improve two local houses to ready them for travellers who want to experience local culture, get off the beaten track, and really connect with Quechua families.

2013 Wholefoods MArket Volunteer group 1 with the family of one of the renovated homestays

2013 Wholefoods Market Volunteer group 1 with the family of one of the renovated homestays

In 2013 Whole Foods Market Team Members had volunteers in such numbers that two teams came to carry on the great work done in the first visit and increase bed capacity. Apus Peru had identified four more houses in Rumira Sondormayo, home of the Puka Turpay Weaving Association (alt. 4000m).

With the same desire to serve as their predecessors the 2013 teams set to work. The same effort and quality of work was just as evident. This was no easy task, work included construction, cleaning, sanding, painting, installation of windows, and decoration, among other things!  Both houses were completed, the project a resounding success once again. The volunteer teams had received a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of and positively impact upon rural indigenous life, while the community received the opportunity to develop a sustainable project of benefit to the whole village.

One of the houses pre renovation!

One of the houses pre renovation!

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During renovation work…

Post renovation... HOMESTAY!

Post renovation… HOMESTAY!

If you are interested in volunteering or would like to experience a homestay in one of the communities involved, please contact our team info@apus-peru.com or oficina@apus-peru.com

Happy Homestay!!

Happy Homestay!!

Cusco wining and dining, by Megan Malley

Megan has finished her internship with Threads of Peru, http://threadsofperu.com/ but while she was here managed to get around the city and sample some of Cusco’s ample and varied eateries. Here we have one of a set of Blog articles providing a tantalising insight to tickle your taste buds! Thank you Megan for your time..

Trip Advisor ranked no. 15 our of 353 restaurants in Cusco! Thank you TRIP ADVISOR for the foto.

Trip Advisor ranked no. 15 out of 353 restaurants in Cusco! Thank you TRIP ADVISOR for the foto.

A short one-block stroll from the Plaza de Armas, Cicciolina is arguably the best restaurant in Cusco. Tucked up on a side street, the atmosphere is great for a romantic dinner or a fun night out with friends. The style of the food is a creative fusion of Italian and Peruvian, using traditional South American ingredients like quinoa and alpaca steak. They also have a very nice selection of wines from Peru, Argentina and Chile. When the plates come out, the food is arranged like a work of art. It’s almost a shame to eat the beautifully designed meals. Our appetizer was 4 polenta squares wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with a reduced balsamic, which turned out to be one of the most creative and delicious dishes I’ve tried. For the main course, we ordered golden beet ravioli with a pesto sauce, as well as a tagliatelle with sautéed Mediterranean vegetables. Everything tasted fresh and delicious. Find out more for yourself at: http://www.cicciolinacuzco.com 

Also run by the same owners, Baco Wine Bar comes highly recommended: http://www.cicciolinacuzco.com/english/baco_location.html

A view of the restaurant bar, Megan Malley

A view of the restaurant bar, Megan Malley

Who wants hot chocolate?

Now that I have your attention, I would like to share something with you about Apus Peru. Not only are we adventure travel specialists but we also work locally and sustainably with community groups in rural, high Andean communities. We achieve this through our work with and support of our partner NGO Threads of Perú http://threadsofperu.com/ in remote communities, specifically Rumira Sondormayo and Chaullacocha.

Games in the community of Chaullacocha

Games at last years Chocolatada in the community of Chaullacocha

What’s that got to do with hot chocolate I hear you ask. Well, every year we organize, participate in and fund a Chocolatada in Chaullacocha. It’s a very special occasion and includes all the staff at Apus Peru and the whole community of Chaullacocha.

Anyone for Hot Chocolate?

Anyone for Hot Chocolate?

Come and participate in making and enjoy drinking the hot chocolate! Always wanting to share the fun and spread the love and gift of giving, Apus have made this unique event part of a fabulous trek through the awe inspiring scenery of the Lares Valley all the way through to Machu Picchu. Our trek itinerary can be found here: http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/cusco_christmas_packages.html

Part of the Lares trek, no explanation necessary!

A section along the Chocolatada –  Lares – Machu Picchu trek, no explanation necessary!

So, for something completely different this year, leave the shops behind and spend the run up to Christmas visiting a completely “off the beaten track” village in Andean Peru.  All this combined with a visit to Machu Picchu and Christmas Eve in Cusco for ‘noche buena’. It really would be a wonderful and unforgettable way to round off 2013!

A community member enjoying the refreshments!

A community member enjoying the refreshments!

Lares Valley to the Machu Picchu Citadel - foto courtesy of Megan Gaston, many thanks!

Lares Valley to the Machu Picchu Citadel – foto courtesy of Megan Gaston, many thanks!

HAPPY TREKKING!