Family trekking in the Andes.

My name is Matt, I work as a Travel Consultant for Apus Peru. I’d like to introduce myself as a new and regular blogger to report first-hand information on some of the Apus Peru treks and to obtain up-to-date relative trip information and experiences of the treks associated with Apus Peru. I am absolutely mad for the mountains and since I am in the middle of the Andes why not take the chance to explore what’s just a stones-throw from our office.

So here goes the first blog! This week I had the pleasure to accompany 2 families with children aged between 8 and 10 walking 16 miles (just under 26 kilometres) over 2 days across the high Andes to the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo in the Sacred Valley.

This would be a tough test for all!

6 Walking through Pongobamba village1 hour in and I caught the first, “are we nearly there yet?” from one of the kids. This did not become a habit I am pleased to announce. The reason for this may well have been the opportunities of interaction with animals, the locals, ever-changing scenery and great weather that we had ensuring that the younger trekkers did not become bored in any way.

One of the children could speak some Spanish, which was a blessing as at one point several children from a local school caught our eye whilst picnicking. She was gently encouraged to go over and make introductions and soon followed a little bit of banter and exchange of conversation.

Local children during the trekA little later, as we made our way onwards we were accompanied on our journey by some more locals who asked us where we were going – easy to answer that  “Huchuy Qosqo” – understood in Quechua as ‘Old Cusco’ – the language of which most people of these parts speak.

17 Chatting with the locals

Our climb to the top was hard-going but we made it to our camp spot.

The following day we passed through a very remote village called Pucamarca, which still uses thatched roofs that are rarely seen amongst the modernization of Andean villages these days!

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Then we ran into some problems. We were stopped in our tracks. We could not go any further for at least 30 minutes. Our trail was blocked!!! Landslides no, llamas were the issue here!

They had our route guarded and were not moving – that was that!

27 Llamas!!! 50 of them

We met a local trader who offered to sell some handicrafts. We liked buying from her and giving some income to someone who probably doesn’t see tourists coming through her village often.

Did we pass any other tourists along the way of the entire trip?  No, not one!

31 Maybe a little more than the first price given though

The next section on from the village was rather ‘cool’ as we proceeded through a canyon where there were some waterfalls and wooden bridges – could well have been a set off an Indiana Jones movie!

33 Bridge 1

We arrived at the Sacred Valley in dramatic form. There were some amazing panoramic vistas and all the way to the site of Huchuy Qosqo itself. It is claimed these ruins were built under the orders of Viracocha –  the 8th reigning Inca and were constructed to house Stone Masons working in the area while they were constructing the surrounding villages and temples.

A 2 hour, steep descent on switch-backs to the valley floor got us to our final stop of the journey, Lamay. This town was definitely not like that of Pisac or Ollantaytambo and full of tour groups.

41 making our way down some seriously steep switch-backs to our final goal, the village of Lamay

A nice shaded spot with a cold soda and beer was just the right touch to mark the end; flake down on to the grass with weary legs but contented trekkers, before heading back to Cusco.

42 Happy ending, although tired

We asked the kids at the end of the trek, to count how many kinds of animals they had seen on the way and they got to 11 – Pigs, sheep, llamas, Condors, Ducks, Chickens, Cows, Donkeys, horses, Guinea Pigs, Alpacas – this took a while, but then they started on the bugs….!

Are you an adventurous family with children that would like to trek in the Cusco region?  Missed out on the Inca trail, then why not contact our family oriented sales consultants who can offer honest and helpful advice about trekking with kids? We run many private treks for families all over the Andes and our guides are experienced in making your trek a family adventure work for you and your children!

Huchuy Qosqo trek http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/huchuy_qosqo_adv.htm, being “easy” by Andean standards (that is, with not too many climbs) and also short with just 1 nights camping, is the perfect way for a family to test their trekking abilities as a group, while also having an adventure right on the doorstep of Cusco!

Matt Waugh, 3rd of June 2014

 

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 

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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.

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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. 

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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