Festive Peruvian family adventure!

We would like to share a review with you and a little anecdote from one of our clients while travelling with us on their Peruvian family adventure tour, Christmas 2014. We helped plan their bespoke ‘child friendly’ itinerary in which they spent time on the beach in Lima, went hiking in Chaullacocha, visited Maras Moray and Salineras, the Chichubamba Community project, onwards to Machu Picchu and last but not least discovered the Amazon jungle! Unfortunately, the children got a little sick whilst in Cusco but soon recovered and were able to complete their adventure…

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On the way to Chaullacocha

“I have been meaning to write to you and thank you once more for all your hard work that contributed to making the trip such a memorable adventure. I particularly appreciate your flexibility when things didn’t go according to plan (all part of the adventure).

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Village of Chaullacocha

The trek to the village was a highlight for everyone (even though we had to truncate it), and it made a huge impact on the kids. In particular, we have to thank Jose (our guide): when I asked what the villager ate, he replied “Potatoes”. “And with potatoes?”. “Potatoes with potatoes”. Now the kids don’t complain about dinner!

Here’s a lovely foto provided by the family of the girls in their Apus T-shirts enjoying the sunshine in Lima. Thank you to the Veitch family, for your comments and anecdote, wishing you happy future travels! From all the team at Apus Peru!

Tara and Tanaya soaking up the Lima sunshine

Tara and Tanaya soaking up the Lima sunshine

For personally programmed itineraries, please contact us at: reservas@apus-peru.com

Six things that may surprise you on a trek in the Andes!

Even for experienced campers and trekkers, a trip in the Andes is often a unique experience with new challenges.  Here are a few ideas and suggestions to take into consideration as you prepare for your trek!

Trekking in the Andes is challenging – but easier if properly acclimatised. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Altitude can greatly influence how you feel and what you are capable of. Depending on how long you are in Cusco or other high-altitude areas before you depart, the altitude of most Apus Peru treks can be very physically challenging!  For this reason we recommend at least 2, ideally 3 days at altitude pre trek, in order for your body to acclimatize and to recover from any symptoms of altitude sickness. During this time, it is a good idea to drink plenty of water, try the coca tea (it works :) ) eat lightly and get plenty of rest the first day. After that, mild to moderate physical exercise can help you prepare for your trek.
  • You will get very dirty! Depending on the length of your trek, quite a long time can pass without an opportunity to shower or bathe.  While most people expect plenty of sweat during a long day of trekking, there is also dust and mud to deal with depending on the season. Wet wipes, plenty of clean socks and liquid hand sanitizer go a long way toward making you feel comfortable at the end of the day.

Trekkers on the hike to Huchuy Qosqo, a little known ruin in the Sacred Valley. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Reading up on the region and route before departure will enhance your experience. The Andes and Cusco area have rich cultural histories and natural diversity, which you will be experiencing first hand! Our guides are well prepared to teach you about all of this, but arriving in Cusco with background knowledge in areas you are interested in will provide context and allow for deeper understanding.
  • The sun is extremely strong! Sunshine and UV rays are much stronger close to the equator and at high altitudes. You will be very happy to have your wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunblock once your trek is underway! If you have lighter skin or are especially sensitive to the sun, lightweight clothing to cover your arms and legs is useful for sunny days.

Guide Herbert provides an overview of the ruins at Huchuy Qosqo. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Communicating with your guide before and during your trek is important. Our guides are professionally trained and experienced in what they do. That said, every client is different! Letting your guide know about any new medical issues or dietary requests before departure helps them prepare. Updates regarding how you are feeling, walking pace, if you need more drinking water, or any other question or concern will help your guide ensure that you have a rewarding and enjoyable experience during your trek.
  • Be prepared for surprises. Many times, the most memorable events on a trek are the ones you don’t anticipate! Because Apus Peru tries to give our clients unique, “off the beaten path” experiences, treks and tours often include unplanned sights and opportunities. Keeping an open mind can help you make the most of your trip!
Nosey llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

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

Many thanks to Amanda Zenick for this article, updated for 2015

For more information please visit our pre trip planning page on our website:

http://www.apus-peru.com/trip-planning/

185 days until Christmas 2015

I know I know… who wants to hear it? But you would be counting down if you had your Inca Trail permits!! Maybe Machu Picchu has always been on your ‘bucket list’? Well why not fulfil that dream this holiday?

The Classic Shot of Machu Picchu. Photo by Michael Mossop.

The Classic Shot of Machu Picchu. Photo by Michael Mossop.

Selling of the Saints a typical Cusqueño Yuletide festivity

The Plaza comes alive all through Christmas Eve and right into the night selling handmade artisan prducts

Submerse yourself in the fabulous Peruvian culture that celebrates Christmas with a mix of Catholic and Andean beliefs, like the “Selling of the Saints” or “Santurantikuy” in Quechua.

Santurantikuy: local people come in from their villages to sell plants that are used to decorate the Nativity scenes for the Christmas celebration.

Apus Peru have carefully designed special Christmas itineraries and tour packages that enable you to choose your prefereces, including a special once a year trek that involves one of the most beautiful Peruvian Christmas traditions –  the Chocolatada which involves the giving of hot chocolate, bread, and toys.

Merry Christmas in Chaullacocha, foto Apus Peru 2014

Merry Christmas in Chaullacocha, foto Apus Peru 2014

Other features of our Christmas and New Year itineraries highlight little known community projects in the Sacred Valley, as well as knock-your-socks off sites like Sacsayhuaman and typical Cusquenean events such as El Sinkuy in Ollantaytambo on New Years day.

Natural slides Sacsayhuaman, foto Emily Doherty

Natural slides, Sacsayhuaman, photo Emily Doherty

El Sinkuy

El Sinkuy – men in masks!!

So, get away this year and make the most of your Christmas break, or vacation period by taking a holiday in Peru and experiencing a very different culture from your own!!

Apus Peru provide unique itineraries which make a solid foundation for any visitor’s exploration to Peru. From these foundations you are able to create your own bespoke itinerary. Here are our links to the varied and exciting packages that could make this Christmas a very special and memorable one for years to come… Happy Holidays!

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/classic_inca_trail_2.html

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/a-very-different-christmas.htm

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/a-machu-picchu-christmas.htm

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/cusco_christmas_packages.html

Ausangate Sibinacocha trek to Yayamari: a personal account

Paul Seery and his friend Chris Vayansky trekked with us in May this year, read Paul’s account of that experience here:

“We elected to trek with Apus Peru for the opportunity to get away from the places where most people were trekking. Their profile seemed to fit with what we were after. The excellent communication and professionalism from the planning stages (thanks Matt) throughout the adventure made the entire experience worthwhile.

Our guide Joel was friendly and knowledgeable about the local region. His insight into the history and culture made this more than just a hike. The food prepared by our cook Joseph and the horsemen was excellent.

The trek itself was challenging but definitely worth the extra effort to have the experience of trekking through the higher elevations.

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We saw many things along the way: snow capped peaks, rugged rocky terrain, the animals of the region and some local people. We even saw an avalanche on our 3rd day (which was quite loud though we were a good distance away). At night there were more stars visible than you could imagine.

Seery Avalanche photo for blog

Crossing the Abra del Condor pass on day 4 was definitely a highlight. The opportunity to actually trek through some snow was awesome. The views from the top were amazing.

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We camped near Lake Sibinacocha as well as hiked around the south end and up the western coast the next day. The views of Sibinacocha were absolutely breathtaking. A massive lake with incredibly clear water.

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We would definitely recommend the option to scramble up Cerro Yayamari. You get to be one of the few to reach its summit. Perched on the narrow rocks of the peak, we became aware that we were higher than many mountain peaks around us. Cerro Yayamari (5500m/18040ft); It’s a pretty cool thing to do, to get so high with a non -technical climb! The views in every direction were beyond what I could explain here.

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For anyone looking for a truly off the beaten path experience (and a few challenges) we highly recommend this trek and Apus Peru.”

Many thanks to Paul and Chris for choosing Apus Perú and especially to Paul for taking the time to write this blog and for sharing your fabulous photos! Paul and Chris added the extra day to climb Yayamari http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/ausangate_sibinacocha.htm . Contact us for more information: http://www.apus-peru.com/make-a-booking/contact_us.htm

Happy trekking ! :)

A photograph is worth a thousand words!

We would like to share a photo story of our 12 day Choquequirao, Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu route, from this year at the end of March. Thanks to the fabulous Jenkins’ couple, our excellent guide Urbano (gracias por las fotos!!) and absolutely not forgetting the trek team and our chef Mauro, “the magician”. Enjoy..

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Readying the 4 legged team members

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Mauro the magician with the Jenkins’ at trek start

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take off!

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First glimpse

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the Apurimac Valley in all it’s glory

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Rio Blanco

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Heading out towards Salkantay

Urbano!!

Urbano!!

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At the top of the world

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Abra Salkantay

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Apu Salkantay

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The Glacier

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bambi!

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Inca Trail

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Team tent :)

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Camp dining, happy faces

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12 days, isolated ruins, 4600m glacial pass, the infamous Inca Trail.. Made it!!!

For more information about this amazing route http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/choquequirao_salkantay_inca_trail_machu_picchu_2.html please contact reservas@apus-peru.com

Why change a trekking route?

Hot off the press: Choquequirao to Machu Picchu hikes to follow new itineraries!

Everyone agrees – the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek is a wonderful hike through the high, isolated Andes visiting amazing Incan ruins along the way.

First glimpse Choquequirao

First glimpse Choquequirao

“I clearly remember talking to an old campesino as he pointed over the mountains and said – well of course you can hike to Choquequirao from here, and Machu Picchu too. It seemed so obvious to him, that all sites were linked by Trails, as they were in Incan times,” says Ariana Svenson, Co Founder of Apus Peru. “Six months later, in 2003, we armed ourselves with topographic maps, and old trekking guide books and set out to hike those Trails. But the key was that we hired local muleteers and they guided us from place to place. To them it was just following a trail, from A to B, that they had known their whole lives. To us, it was a great adventure.”

simply natural beauty

simply natural beauty

Several years later, Apus Peru was established as a travel agency and given the incredible nature of the route, the Founders felt that it was a “must see” trekking route for visitors to the region.  Memorable ruins, stunning mountain scenery and plunging river canyons – the glorious isolation of the Andes, Choquequirao and beyond became accessible. Two great ruins in one great trek!

Now, many years later, we have had many trekkers pass through our doors and enjoy this wonderful route with us, whether it was our 7, 8 or 9 day trek. However, Apus Perú strive to offer great experiences, and are constantly listening and responding to our clients’ needs, suggestions and feedback. This brings me nicely on to the reason for this blog.

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We have taken the plunge and recently made some necessary changes to these classic routes. Here we would like to take the opportunity to explain why – and how excited we are to be offering new itineraries!

As mentioned, back in the day of ‘trail blazing’, the tiny village of Yanama, situated about half way between Choquequirao and Lucmabamba and home to some of our arrieros, was exceptionally isolated and only reached on foot.

By 2012, with the onward march of progress, a road had been bulldozed in allowing vehicle access.  It has to be acknowledged that this is great for locals, easing the task of transporting goods and general all round connectedness. For more perspectives on roads and what they mean for small Andean villages, please read Co-Founder Ariana Svenson’s thoughts on roads accessing other remote villages: http://threadsofperu.com/road-to-chaullacocha/

So while we celebrate better services for the locals, we recognize it is not so great for the purist trekker looking for solitude and a taste of Andean wilderness!

Walking the last day of any trek along a road is not ideal, in addition to meeting a section of the now very popular and busy Salkantay trek, we felt that our guests were looking for remote hiking experiences – and it was time for change.

Now, our new, revised 9 day  Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek route as goes via Vilcabamba!! Three great ruins in one great trek!

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Our 8 day trek option has been created with the purist in mind and is a real adventurer’s option. We get off the beaten path, literally, at Yanama and take our new alternative route to the Qhiswa Pass and on to Totora. Difficult? Most definitely. Worth it? Ultimately. However, this is not a trek to consider unless on day 6 of an already tough trek you will have the physical capacity for a long and demanding 22km one day loop!

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Our 7 day itinerary, removed the Yanama – Totora hike section and created an extra day to play with. The 7 day Choquequequirao to Machu Picchu now includes a very special introduction to Machu Picchu – the hike of Lucmabamba to Llactapata ruins. A wonderful way to end a memorable trek – by hiking back into civilisation with your first glimpse of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu from the East.

We look forward to exploring with you! For more information please contact: reservas@apus-peru.com

Señor Qoyllorit’i Pilgrimage

Qoyllorit’i 2014 -Pilgrimage and cultural festival of dance and religion – where the mountains meet the people of Peru!

All our treks  aim to immerse the active hiker into the Andean culture and way of life, offering something a little bit more special than just stroll up a mountain. One of the Peruvian Andes traditional and authentic  cultural events that most definitely achieves this is the annual Pilgrimage to Qollor’iti near to the mighty Apu Ausangate. This trek combines hiking with something in the realm of a spiritual experience.

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I knew as much about this trip as it said on our web page, http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/qolloritty_pilgrimage_trek.html which enticed me to want to know more. I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about.

Background: The Qoyllor Rit’i (Quechua for ‘Lord of the Star Snow’) Festival is a Peruvian indigenous spiritual / religious gathering held annually just before the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi. It takes place at an altitude of about 4,700m in the Sinakara Valley, 3 hours drive south of Cusco.

The beginnings of Qoyllorit’i have been suggested as pre-Incan or at least pre-date the arrival of the conquistadores. It is said to celebrate the stars and specifically the mid-winter disappearance of the Pleiades Constellation and then its reappearance in the southern skies. This marks the transition from old to new and is largely associated with the forthcoming harvest. The arrival of Christianity brought with it its own adaptation for the worship of the Lord Qoullorit’i, with an appearance of the image of Christ.

Many people making the Pilgrimage bring offerings in the form of toy houses, cars, or money with the hope that on their fourth visit El Señor Qoyllorit’i will make their wishes will come true.

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It’s hard to believe so many Peruvians from all across Peru come to this event and yet so few tourists find their way. This is a huge and extremely important event for those that attend.

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The route: Starting from the town of Mahuayani we make our way over 8km of trail to the Qoyllorit’i Sanctuary ana a large campsite that grows to house between 70 – 80,000 other Pilgrims.

Qoyllorit’i (spelt a dozen different ways) is definitely not a display for the benefit of tourists. As part of a group of ‘gringos’ we somehow spectated and settled into being part of the whole event without anyone taking a real interest in us. For anyone considering attending, they must be prepared for a degree of physical hardship, bitter cold during the night as well as a profound experience of cultural disorientation.

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The choice of food on offer ranged from Chicharrónes (fried pork) and Lomo Saltado (sautéed beef) to a donkey head stew, with the latter on display as its big selling point and I was told, although I never saw it, that at various locations you could find the frog smoothie!!!

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There are nine crosses on the pilgrimage route between Mahuayani and the sanctuary, each marking a kilometer of the route. Many Pilgrims stop to light candles, pray and the band ensembles arrive to perform dances and musical tributes too!

For the last of the crosses each group must await their inauguration ceremony and pass through onto a circuit of various sacred sites, including the sanctuary itself and perform their dances lasting many hours.

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The Ukukus

The Ukukus bears (dressed so) are the guardians or law keepers of Qoyllorit’i. If anyone is caught not respecting the rules, by drinking alcohol or by not removing hats in the presence of prayers, they shall have stern words or in the worst case they are allowed to whip the offender’!

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The show goes on and on be it 3am or 8pm. Simply put this was one of the most surreal, profound and emotional experiences I have encountered in my lifetime!

By Matt Waugh, June 2014