Apus Peru’s Christmas Chocolatada in Chaullacocha 2014

Not only are Apus Peru adventure travel specialists but each year our staff, guides and some special guests make the trek out to Chaullacocha to give hot chocolate and toys to the children of this community at Christmastime.

Our social commitment to communities is not just about giving at Christmas – we work locally and sustainably with community groups in rural, high Andean communities year round.  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.

A picture tells a thousand words, it was a lovely day  – and the rain held off!! :)

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Truck ride Chupani to Challaococha

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Playing games whilst waiting for the hot chocolate

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APUS TEAM ASSEMBLING GIFTS

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Waiting patiently outside the classroom

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lining up ready for a game of ‘tug-o-war’

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here’s the game with Ruth from Team Apus Peru shouting encouragements!

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A good old fashiond game of “British bulldog” or “Sharks and Fish” or simply just “run for your life” :) great fun!

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Las Señoras Erika and Fely working hard, handing out the good stuff

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Our guides Joel and Mari getting stuck in!

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beautifully colourful!

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delicious hot chocolate!

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Posing :)

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¡¡¡HOLA!!!

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FELIZ NAVIDAD!!

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Apus Peru whole team enjoying the last chocolate pot! L to R Adrian, Ruth, Sergio, Señora Fely, Mateo, José, Erika, Emily, Joel and Maribel.

The team at Apus Perú would like to thank the communities in Chupani and Chaullacocha for their welcome and cooperation and a great day! We look forward to continuing to work with and support your communities in 2015. See you next year!

How to choose your tour operator.

With this week being the annual registration period for licenced Inca Trail operators, we thought we could offer a little advice when choosing who to trek with.

Thanks to Megan Gaston for this tantalising foto - 'Inca Trail - the start!'

Thanks to Megan Gaston for this tantalising foto – ‘Inca Trail – the start!’

1. Not all agencies are licensed tour operators:
There are two types of companies that will sell you an Inca trail package: registered tour operators and middle men also known as ‘endosars’. The registered tour operators are a handful of companies that run, sell, and operate their own trail packages. Companies like Apus Peru, Llama Path, Peru Treks, Quechuas Expeditions and G Adventures are all licensed operators who will personally take you on the trail. The representatives that you speak with are the ones who you will be working with directly, so if you have an issue, you can go straight to the source.

Middle men on the other hand, are companies that sell the trail package for each day, and then pool all these people together. So for example, if you buy a package through company X, they may send you along to tour operator Y or Z, where you will be joined by others who might have booked with Company A or B. So if you are having an issue on your trail, or would like to register a complaint, it’s much more challenging to report. Do you contact the original company you booked through, or go through the channels to find the office of the tour operator you were eventually placed with?

This also means that during the high tourist seasons you can be thrown together with much larger groups than are ideal. Registered tour operators will typically run tours every day, no matter how many people they have registered. If you are looking to join a smaller or larger group, you can always contact them to see what they have scheduled for your available dates, while with middle men operators you never know what you will end up with.

2. You get what you pay for:
One perk of booking with these middle men, is that they tend to offer much cheaper rates than the licensed operators. This can be great for the budget traveller, as well as the experienced trekker, who does not need much hand holding along the way. However, consider what things you may be giving up in exchange for a cheaper deal.
Registered companies offer superficial perks like group t-shirts, and uniformed porters for a more polished feel. They also tend to serve higher quality food, arrange personalized transportation from Machu Picchu and will accommodate most dietary and religious requests.

dessert Apus Peru

dessert Apus Peru

With middle men, you usually don’t know which company you are being placed with until the start of the trail. So it’s much more challenging to make special requests. The overall experience is decidedly less glamorous and less reliable.

If you are looking for a truly budget Inca Trail experience, and have relatively few demands, you may be fine using a middle man touring company. Just make sure you are completely informed on what you will be experiencing, prior to booking your tour. However, make sure you consider the things you may be giving up for a better price. At the end of the day, it all comes down to you, your priorities and expectations for this trip.

The Inca Trail is all about YOU. Why not have the best possible experience?

Many thanks to Leora Novick for this great information!

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

Cusco Peru with Apus Peru, a reflection – Diana Untermeyer

by Diana Untermeyer
author, Qatar: Sand, Sea and Sky

http://dianauntermeyer.com/

My favorite kind of trips are those that leave me hungering for more. Our trip to Peru facilitated by Apus Peru and guided by Arturo Mantilla was just such a trip — visually, intellectually, and gastronomically. I’ve wanted to visit Machu Picchu since I was a teen, such that it had taken on the significance of a pilgrimage — a chance to experience the incomprehensible enormity of ancient accomplishment and the sheer beauty of the Andes and Andean culture.

Then, last spring our 20 year old daughter Elly found a position volunteering in a medical clinic in the mountains of northern Peru, so we planned a family trip to Cusco and the Sacred Valley beforehand. We decided to use a guide in Cusco and the Sacred Valley to set the context for our visit to Machu Picchu, which we wanted to explore at our own pace. After researching various companies, we decided on Apus Peru because of their commitment to the environment and the development of micro-businesses in the places where they trek. While we didn’t have time to trek on this trip, their philosophy resonated. This was the best decision we could have made.

Arturo greeted us right on time at our hotel in Cusco, and we liked him immediately. We set out at the kind of brisk pace we like as Arturo brought the Inkan world alive. In a separate blog, my husband recounts some specifics of our days, so I’ll focus more on the socio-cultural context Arturo taught us, which was the framework for our entire trip in Peru.

Before our trip, I really expected to focus primarily on the Inka and the Spanish conquest. What Arturo was able to teach us both by words and by example was a richer story of cultural assimilation, approbation and conquest. In building techniques, ritual and costumes of the festival dancers, Arturo pointed out what was Inka, what was pre-Inka and of course what was Spanish colonial. I hadn’t realized how much of Inka culture derived from the other historical cultures of the region that preceded it. The brilliance of the Inka was their administrative ability to unite disparate civilizations from Chile to Columbia and to refine best practices, most visibly, building techniques.

The Inkan conquests contrast so starkly with the Spanish that I found myself feeling angry while visiting churches and cathedrals even while admiring the lovely Cusquenan decorative arts. The cultural arrogance of the Spanish as they systematically obliterated Inkan civilization including destroying the knotted strings known as khipu, which the conquistadors suspected records of history and religion, is tragic when one thinks of the history forever lost. To their detriment, the Spanish ignored the ingenious Inkan construction methods and built using European methods which to this day are susceptible to earthquake damage.

We had a few days in Cusco, but one could imagine spending a year there feeling the rhythm of the festivals combining indigenous culture and Roman Catholic ritual, exploring the local markets and restaurants and getting to know the people. But on we moved towards Machu Picchu visiting the Sacred Valley with Arturo. I loved going at our own pace so that we could linger at Awana Kancha, a llama farm and living weaving museum.

Awana Kancha is a tourist stop, yet, a wonderful one. Llamas and alpacas welcome visitors who are welcome to touch and feed the animals. The shy vicuñas are pastured on a close hillside. The weaving process comes alive from shearing to dying with natural plants and insects. Indigenous weavers in their colorful village dress work on intricate patterns. The weavers work at the farm for a few weeks or months and then return to their villages. The shop has exquisite handicrafts, mostly labeled with the artist’s name and her story.

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Arturo finally had to pry us away because fascinating archeology as well as an epicurean’s delight awaited us. We worked up an appetite hiking around Inka terraces and the Temple of the Sun, and jumping out of the car to photograph snow-capped peaks and handmade adobe bricks drying on small village roadsides. When we arrived in the town of Urubamba, our driver negotiated the narrow streets until we were within walking distance of el Huacatay (a type of wild mint) restaurant. Our own flowering vine-covered pergola awaited us as we settled in the garden for midday Pisco sours and a lunch that was painterly and delicious. Delicate sauces, architectural creations and the freshest herbs, vegetables and fish marked each course.

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It has become almost cliche to say that Peru is in the midst of a gastronomic renaissance, but what sets the food apart is that so many restaurants are farm to fork. In fact, one restaurant in Ollayantaytambo grew its produce on ancient Inka terraces just behind the kitchens. Peruvians seem to take great pride in their food, whether it is roasted cuy in the city square, the richest hot chocolate, or a simple pastry. My personal quest was to find the best alfajores, dulce de leche sandwiched by two delicate cookies, the secret of which is adding cornstarch in the dough. I went to fancy bakeries and local coffee houses, but the best by far was at the little bakery at the Ollayantaytambo train station. So if your train to Machu Picchu pauses there, jump off and see if there are any remaining in their daily supply.

I’d like to jump off the train almost anywhere in Peru and stay there a long while. Our family had a wonderful trip and look forward to trekking the Andes with Arturo or perhaps floating through the rainforest on the Amazon River.

Apus Peru would like to thank Diana and her family for travelling with us and Diana specifically for her lovely relfection on the wonders of Cusco and the surrounding region. Diana, Chase and Elly experienced the following tours with Apus Peru:

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

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/four_ruins_tour.htm

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/sacred_valley.htm

Why trek to Choquequirao now?

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Choquequirao is a must see site in the Andes – currently only reached on foot on a stunning 4 day trek.

Why trek to Choquequirao in 2015?

 

If you enjoy solititude, amazing views and the satisfaction of a trek we recommend that you start planning your trek right now!   If you visit these breathtaking ruins before November 2015 you will be able visit without the impact of the cable car construction. The project is approved and going ahead with an estimated start date of November next year.

Having recently returned from a short 4 day hike to the ruins of Choquequirao, it is obvious to see why this is a trek that few people are currently taking on. There are some tough ascents and descents and it also happened to be extremely hot!

IMG_1052The path itself is solid and sturdy with just a few technically trickier sections such as the switch backs, built into some of the steeper parts, taking you down to and then up from the Apurimac river. This is quite a test for the legs, but for most it is a test of will power and perseverance with the seemingly endless zig-zags and exposure to the sun.

choq 1Choquequirao (which means ‘Cradle of Gold’) is also known as the ‘sister city’ to Machu Picchu but is more than double it’s size. Restoration work is still very much taking place here and discoveries are regularly being made by archeologists. Once at the ruins you are rewarded with incredible 360° views of surrounding mountains and very few people… for now!

llama wallA unique feature of Choquequirao is the Llama terraces with impossibly steep steps, not for the faint hearted! These are situated outside the main complex, to get here it is best to consider our in depth 5 day Choquequirao hike which gives you more time around the Choquequirao ruins themselves.

IMG_1060With Inca Trail permits not meeting public demand and trekkers saturating other nearby trails, the Choquequirao trek is a great alternative – and currently – off the beaten track option.

Our advice, consider trekking within the next 12 months. I trekked the route in August – peak high-season – and only saw 1 other small group. Other than us, there was not a soul at the ruins themselves. I could have a very different report to make in 12 months time!

Matt, October 2014

To take on one of our Choquequirao routes contact us at reservas@apus-peru.com or please see the following links;

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/choquequirao.htm

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

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

For more info about the cable car click here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/28/choquequirao-tramway-mach_n_3829270.html

Chicharrones de chancho

Delicious chicharrones (deep fried hunks of succulent pork), served on a bed of Andean accompaniments such as ‘choclo’ (huge niblets of Corn), red onion, mint and locally grown potatoes. Associated with many traditional events throughout the year such as Corpus Cristi, Inti Raymi and Qollor’iti around the Cusco region, not seizing the opportunity to try this very Cusqueñan dish would be an opportunity missed.

If you are game, street stalls sell it for less than $2US! or you can try it prepared at a Quinta style restaurant. It is ready on the spot so there’s never a lot of waiting time for your (usually huge) plate to be served. You could even venture out to the village of Saylla, south of Cusco, renowned for their Chicharron.

For information on one of our one day cultural/gastronomy hikes see this link: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/wari_al_fresco.html

by Matthew Waugh 2014

LARES TO MACHU PICCHU clean up trek – handy in the Andes

I have just recently returned from experiencing one of our Apus Peru treks, which happened to be a specially requested ‘Clean up’ hike.

I accompanied a group of 8; a family of 5 with 3 girls under 12 years old, a father/daughter couple and a teacher. The trek was our Lares to Machu Picchu route, http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/lares_machu_picchu.htm a 4 day trek, hiking 3 days, 2 nights camping and ending with a visit to Machu Picchu.

We passed through the Andean communities of Chaullacocha and Chupani with which Apus Peru work directly through supporting their sister organisation Threads of Peru http://threadsofperu.com/ in promoting production of their traditional textiles.

We started on day 1 heading up from the Patacancha valley where our guide, Herbert, got us to do some team preperations.

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As we made our way up to 4100m we collected trash located around the road side and managed to get two big sacks full of rubbish.

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We passed through some local farm communities and gave out bread to the locals as there are literally no bakeries around for miles.

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Three of our youngest group members were especially keen to interact with the local children. Here’s the Apus Peru clean up “team” foto:

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As we passed through the communities later in the day the opportunity came to buy some local textiles from the people who made them, further supporting the communities which we encounter during our treks.

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Day 2 began well and ended better. After a fair spell of rain it dried up just in time for a dip in the thermal baths near to Lares and our final nights camp.

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During the course of the trek we had collected 7 and a half bags of rubbish and not passed by any other trekkers. Our trek culminated in a well deserved visit to Machu Picchu.

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By Matt Waugh, 17th September 2014. Photographs, Matt Waugh and Sophia Kohler.

To book this trek or find out about other similar eco-hikes, please see our link: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/special_treks.html

Agricultural jewels of the Incas, Salineras and Moray

The Sacred Valley can be reached from Cusco in less than 70 minutes by car.

“What is so special about the Sacred Valley anyway?” people may ask. For anyone who gets out and explores the area on foot, or bike for that matter, they will soon understand the answer to that question!

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The Incas thought the Sacred Valley was an impressive and holy place.  As such, it is a place where many of their ruins are prominent features, strong and proud against the mountainous back-drop.

Most of the Sacred Avlley ruins were built in strategic, agricultural or sacred places. Almost every smaller valley heading out of the Sacred Valley hosts something rare and unique.

On one side of the Urubamba river, just outside of the town of Urubamba, sit the Saltmines (or Salineras) of Maras. They offer the visitor a unique photographic opportunity, nestled into the Canyon, featuring a fascinating mix of colors.

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Moray also offers something special to the visitor with its conundrum of concentric cylindrical terraces, which is very different to other Inca sites across the Andes. This is thought to have had an agricultural purpose, possibly test-farms but there are many other theories to the origins of this complex. 

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There are several ways to get to this wonderful place, it can be hiked or biked from the top to bottom!

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As part of the trip Apus Peru clients have the choice to do some down-hill mountain biking through the specatular surrounds, to get you down to the Sacred Valley floor. 

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Here is one of our guides, Jose, showing Apus Peru trekkers around.

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Many thanks to Thayer Allyson Gowdy http://thayergowdy.com/ and her partner for the great shots of this location from our Apus Peru ‘Shapes of the Past’ hike http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/shapes_past.htm that they took with us this year. We offer this hike on any day of the year, as well as a number of other one day hikes all within close reach of Cusco. For more information, please drop us an email at reservas@apus-peru.com . Happy Trekking!