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!

Cusco architecture and landmarks, photography courtesy of Megan Gaston

Cusco’s Plaza de Armas is a picturesque centre of calm in an otherwise hustle bustle city. Stop, take a break, sit on one of the many benches and simply watch the passersby. Take in the surrounds beyond the city walls where tiny houses creep up the hillsides overlooked by Cusco´s ever watchful guardian, Cristo Blanco.

Megan Gaston: Cusco Plaza de Armas
Megan Gaston: Cusco Plaza de Armas

Just two plaza´s across (oh yes, Cusco has many plaza’s) is the Plaza San Francisco. Great for food fayre’s, art exhibitions, and sometimes street comedy and drama plays, catch some theatre or just wander through the artesan markets. Also, this is the starting point towards the San Pedro Market, a hop, skip and a jump though the archway.

Megan Gaston: Plaza San Francisco
Megan Gaston: Plaza San Francisco

Cusco is fun just to walk around and admire the architecture, a wonderful mix of modern, old Spanish and Incan stone masonry. Cusco was given its rightful place on the UNESCO world heritage list in 1983, due to its, “..unique testimony of the ancient Inca civilization, heart of Tawantinsuyu imperial government”, and “exceptional example of the confluence of two distinct cultures; Inca and Hispanic”.  For more detailed information please see: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/273.

Thanks to Megan Gaston, a lovely example of Cusco's architectural diversity
Thanks to Megan Gaston, a lovely example of Cusco’s architectural diversity

The steep, cobbled stone streets that connect you to the city’s bohemian, artesan district of San Blas are no mean feat to navigate but are worth the dare! Leading you to more plazoletas and fabulous hidden gems of cafes, but with names like Choquechaca, Tecsecopcha, Waynapata, and Hatunrumiyco, it isn’t just your feet that have to navigate it’s your tongue too!

Leading up to Plazoleta Nazarenas thank you Megan Gaston
Leading up to Plazoleta Nazarenas thank you Megan Gaston

The Plaza de Armas at night has an exciting vibe, lit up and ready for fine dining, romance, dancing, Pisco tasting, or just a relaxed stroll through the centre; central, accessible, a great meeting place, busy and open. Whenever you visit, whatever time of day or night, it truly is the beating heart of the Capital.

Plaza de Armas, ready for the evening throng. Thanks to Megan Gaston
Plaza de Armas, ready for the evening throng. Thanks to Megan Gaston

So when you are in Cusco, be sure to head for the heart, venture outwards along the life blood of its walkways and soak up the history and culture of this architecturally magnificent city.

Ascend the alluring and fascinating city of Cusco and its surrounds. Thank you Megan Gaston
Ascend the alluring and fascinating city of Cusco and its surrounds. Thank you Megan Gaston

Happy Trekking!

TREKKING IN THE ANDES: Things I wish I’d have known

When I began my 5-day trek last month with Apus Peru, I didn’t know what to expect. I had done a bit of backpacking around the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and a 4-day trek in the Himalayas of Nepal, but I knew this would be a completely different experience.

Megan on a warm sunny stretch of the  Vilcambamba trek!

Megan on a warm sunny stretch of the Vilcambamba trek!

The first thing I noticed on my trek was the climate of extremes. In our 8-hour drive from Cusco to the starting point of the trek, we drove over a high mountain pass where I could see my breath in the thin cold air. A few hours later, we were in the jungle, eating bananas and sweating in the hot sun. In the Andes, the weather changes drastically from moment to moment, especially as the sun goes down. As soon as sunset is over, the temperature drops immediately to sub-zero Celsius. This means that, when trekking in the Andes, layers are essential. When we started trekking early each morning, I would shed my jacket, fleece, and thermal in the first thirty minutes of sunlight, eventually hiking in just a sleeveless top. Packing multiple layers that can be easily shed is a very smart move.

Camping at altitude - you need to be prepared!

Camping at altitude – you need to be prepared!

When I was sleeping up at the high-elevation sites, even equipped with a cold weather sleeping bag, I froze during the night. I’d definitely recommend renting a high altitude bag if you feel the cold! I remember waking up in the middle of the night shivering, even with a knit hat and gloves on. I would also recommend packing warm clothes even if it takes up room in your pack. You can send it with the mules during the day and use it at the campsite when the sun goes down. At Machu Picchu, however, the weather was scorching. In the humid jungle, when the sun is beating down, it gets very hot very quickly. I wore shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt, and still spent the day sweating my way around the ruins.

I almost did not bring a flashlight on my trek. That would have been a big mistake. In the Andes, the sun sets around 6:00pm every night, and its pitch black by 7:00pm. If I hadn’t brought a light, I could have run into some serious trouble with a misstep in the outhouse tent. A water bottle is another must; the cook boils water every night to fill the passengers’ bottles in the morning, and again at lunchtime. It’s important to stay hydrated after sweating out all of the liquid during the day, so one or even two water bottles should definitely be on the packing list. Another important item is bug spray. The insects are not an issue up in the mountains, but in the jungle they are relentless.

Our fabulous Guide Urbana, leading the way!

Our fabulous Guide Urbano, leading the way!

The terrain on our trek was a bit different than what I had expected. I had envisioned spending the first two days hiking exclusively uphill, then after crossing the summit hike downhill for the last two days.  Although my guide told me that this is the pattern on some treks, on the Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu route (http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/vilcabamba_machu_picchu.htm) we crossed multiple passes each day, going up for a few hours, then down for the next few.

Snowcapped Splendour!

Snowcapped Splendour!

This afforded us some incredible vistas more than once per day. These downhill sections were tough on the knees; I didn’t bring hiking poles, but they would have been very helpful during these times and I’d recommend renting the poles if you don’t have your own.  The major challenges I faced were bug bits, sunburn, and hunger. Apus provides snacks for mid-morning, and the meals are very filling, but I was still glad to have brought little chocolate crackers to tide me over while hiking and burning so many calories.

Nosey llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

Nosy llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

Hopefully this blog helps give you some more background to what you might need to bring. Although I could have been a little better prepared if I had known exactly what I would be facing, I had an incredible 5 days trekking with Apus. The trek exceeded my expectations and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

World Food Day 16th October

Today is World Food Day! World Food Day was endorsed in 1980 to acknowledge that “food is a requisite for human survival and well-being and a fundamental human necessity.” This is a day to highlight the global issues of starvation, malnutrition and poverty.

Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) used bright colours and organic forms to express a reconciliation of humans with nature, notions that echo this year’s World Food Day theme. Image courtesy of the Hundertwasser Foundation.

Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) used bright colours and organic forms to express a reconciliation of humans with nature, notions that echo this year’s World Food Day theme. Image courtesy of the Hundertwasser Foundation.

Unacceptably, some of the more isolated high Andean communities across the country struggle with these issues all too frequently.

One of the World Food Day objectives set by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en/ is ‘to encourage the participation of rural people, particularly women and the least privileged categories, in decisions and activities influencing their living conditions.’

At Apus Perú our business is trekking the Andes. We do this on a ‘leave no trace’, sustainably and environmentally conscious basis. But what of the families whose paths we do cross? Those who live where we pass through?

Chaullacocha, Lares trek Photograph courtesy of Michael Marquand

Chaullacocha, Lares trek Photograph courtesy of Michael Marquand

From the onset, Apus Perú have supported local high Andean communities through the development and support of various projects from our mutual work with Threads of Perú, http://www.apus-peru.com/responsible-travel/community_projects.htm to our Annual Christmas Chocolatada: http://www.apus-peru.com/responsible-travel/christmas_chocolatadas.htm.

Every person who treks with Apus Peru donates $15 to Threads of Peru, or sustainability projects in the Andes.  Since starting out, Apus Peru has donated close to $50,000 to Andean communities with the direct intention of alleviating poverty and more specifically, acknowledging and supporting the role that empowered women can play in facing sub standard conditions.

Dana Blair, Project Coordinator for Threads of Peru meeting with the women weavers of Chaullacocha

Dana Blair, Project Coordinator for Threads of Peru in a business meeting with the women weavers of Chaullacocha

We firmly believe that the work we do with rural Andean communities greatly reduces the risk factors contributing to the core issues that World Food Day is all about. For more information about how Apus Perú and their partner NGO Threads of Perú address poverty in indigenous rural communities please visit: http://threadsofperu.com/missionandmodel/.

The women of Chaullacocha displaying some of their wares

The women of Chaullacocha displaying some of their wares

Now for a more ‘foody’ perspective… two staple produce of Perú; Quinoa and Potato, can be made into deliciously heart-warmingly, tasty recipes. Here are two of the best (and easiest) to try your hand at: 

Quinoa in plant form, beautiful, colourful and best of all .. tasty and good for you!

Quinoa in plant form, beautiful, colourful and best of all .. tasty and good for you!

Risotto de Quinoa. Ingredients:  onion, bacon, aji Amarillo, white, black AND red quinoa, (who knew?), chicken breast, salt, pepper, crema de leche (sour cream), cheese.

Now for the technique: Cover with cold water and bring the black, red and white quinoa to the boil until it is tender. Fry the chicken breast and cut it in parts. Fry the bacon, onion and aji Amarillo and put the quinoa in it. Add salt and pepper and fry it for a few seconds in the crema de leche. Serve on a plate with the chicken on top with a sprinkle of cheese for the final taste! YUM!

Delicious: boiled potatoes in a creamy, spicy sauce

Delicious: boiled potatoes in a creamy, spicy sauce

For the Papa Huancaina click on this page for a visual step by step recipe treat! http://perudelights.com/papa-a-la-huancaina/

Then once you have finished your delicious plates of Peruvian goodness, consider this for suggestions on how to limit your food waste: http://www.greenworks.co.za/reducefoodwastepage.html

Eat thoughtfully! Happy Trekking!!

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation