Trip Review – Custom Inca Trail

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We greatly appreciate those who write in with feedback about our trips!

Our trip was fantastic and there is nothing we would have changed.  We were fortunate to have Herbert as our guide.  As expected he was excellent throughout the hike, keeping us motivated when needed and educating us along the trail.  He literally knows every inch of the trail.  He seemed to quickly assess our strengths and patterns, or “rhythm” as he said which helps all of us to work together.  Very quickly we built a rapport and friendship with him and are grateful for the experience he gave us.  Apus is certainly fortunate to have Herbert.

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The porters and our cook were very hard working, professional and also fun and friendly.  The food was surprisingly really impressive – I never expected fresh fish and meet on a hiking trip.  Our only regret is that we couldn’t communicate with our porters – it’s something we should have better prepared better.  They worked very hard for us and it would have been nice for us to be able to thank them in their language.

The trip truly exceeded our expectations and we will highly recommend you to friends who consider the Inca Trail.  In fact, last week a friend inquired about our trip to pass to another friend.  The three day approach was also very manageable and I think it could become very attractive for other hikers.

Thank you for all of your support and service as we planned our hike.  Again, it was a fantastic time!

Best Regards,

Bridget

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Apus Peru Porters Gifted With New Headlamps

Sometimes our staff and trek crew leave such an impression on our clients that a bond of a lifetime has been forged!

The treks we offer are wide-ranging and tough, challenging and rewarding: as a result of the very real hurdles that have been faced together, strong bonds that transcend cultural barriers are often created among participants and crew. A journey of this nature can leave both staff and trekkers with long- lasting memories of having surpassed limitations, together, under tough conditions.

In December 2016, Apus Peru arranged a classic Inka Trail tour for some clients that hailed from the US. They were so impressed with the hardworking porters and cooks who made the logistics of the trip possible, that, upon their return home, they gifted the entire trek staff with brand new headlamps!

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Apus Peru Porters receiving their gift. 

Although we encourage our clients to be careful regarding gift-giving, we felt that the torches were an appropriate gift that fell well within Apus Peru guidelines for gifts and donations, which can be found here:

http://www.apus-peru.com/responsible-travel/travellers_code_of_conduct.html  (see section on giving gifts)

On the behalf of our staff, Apus Peru would like to thank the generous couple who provided these extremely useful headlamps.

Regarding the treatment of porters in the travel industry: in the past, some disreputable companies have been called out for their poor treatment of porters, who often were required to carry very heavy loads and were given inadequate clothing and little food during the trek.

At Apus Peru, we care deeply about the welfare of  our porters, guides, and cooks. Many porters are farmers with large families to support. The income they earn from carrying loads during treks significantly improves their quality of life and that of their families. We hire our porters from the  same remote villages where we have our weaving projects.

In addition:

  • We pay annual personal accident insurance for our porters.
  • We ensure that porters have adequate clothing and shelter for work on the Inca Trail.
  • We abide by the Porter’s Law and send the correct amount of porters for the weights/ amount of clients in the group.

For  further information about our philosophy regarding treatment of porters, please see this link:

http://www.apus-peru.com/responsible-travel/porter-welfare.html

 

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Mauro, our cook, receives his headlamp.

Our respect for Andes cultures and communities is a great reason to consider booking your Peru trek with Apus Peru!

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Trekker Review: Apus Peru Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Route

Scott Thompson and Megan Bishop hiked the Choquequirao Trek with Apus in May of 2015. Here is what Scott had to say regarding the trek and Apu Peru’s services.

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Mountainous View – Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

“As a lead-in, I think one of the common problems with most feedback/ratings, is that people share their experience as compared to what they had expected, but rarely are people asked to share what they expected. So, let me first start with what we had expected:

When my girlfriend and I decided to hike in Peru for our vacation, we basically stumbled upon Apus as a tour company through on-line searches. Our selection criteria in picking the Choquequirao trek was that it was the most difficult, was more isolated than other options, included Machu Picchu, and fit our timeframe.

Due to time constraints, we signed up for the 7-day trek option instead of the 9-day. My girlfriend and I, who are in our early thirties, are both reasonably active and in reasonably good shape and were looking for a hike that imposed somewhat of a physical challenge. Furthermore, we do a fair amount of hiking on weekends in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and, therefore have an appreciation for being outdoors.

To benefit my review of the trip, I’m going to divide the summary of the trip into two halves. The first half had us hiking into Choquequirao and then along the Inca trail to Yanama. For us, this part of the trip absolutely exceeded expectations. For starters, the landscape and scenery that you hike through to get to Choquequirao is quite breathtaking. The Andean mountains are just so large that it seemed you couldn’t see the top and the bottom of a mountain at the same time unless it was way off in the distance. As well, in a day you could hike through several different eco-zones ranging from dense cloud forests to wide-open alpine fields. We stumbled along a good range of wildlife including huge flocks of green parrots, deer, and even a condor. This half of the trek was our favorite because of how isolated it was. Along the trail you’ll pass through quiet farming villages, empty Incan ruins that sit waiting to be explored, and mountain trails that you’ll barely share with anyone else.

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Trek Horses taking a break – Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

We quickly learned that the Inca’s didn’t seem to care much for gentle graded trails. The switchbacks were aggressive upward and downward slopes and in a typical day we would easily descend over 1,500M before lunch only to ascend over 1,500M after lunch. We perhaps came into the hike a bit over-confident in our ability and were a bit humbled by the first few days. The altitude wasn’t too bad a factor for us. We had spent several days in Cusco (where stairs are a challenge), but found that with the exception of going over the mountaintops we weren’t generally short of breath.

At the end of the second day, you arrive in Choquequirao. For me, this was a highlight that surpassed Machu Picchu because of its isolation. It was quite spectacular to experience this place for ourselves, by ourselves, and on our own time. We didn’t appreciate at the time, how nice it was to be at these ruins, virtually alone, and to be able to snap photos of just the ruins without other people crawling around you. The complex is quite large and our guide was quite knowledgeable about archaeologists’ understanding of the place. It’s surreal that the Inca’s were able to build such structures on a mountaintop (and had the audacity to do so). Apparently Choquequirao is actually larger than Machu Picchu, but a majority of it has not been uncovered.

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Isolated Choquequirao Ruins- Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

The second major highlight for me came on the fourth day as we were approaching Yanama. You climb up and over a mountain at about 4,100M and the trail to do so is actually built by the Incas (i.e. the Inca trail). I loved the idea of using stone staircases that have literally been in place for over 500 years. We were fortunate to have beautiful views from the top that were totally breathtaking. Along this stretch of the trail the only other people you will pass are horsemen and farmers from the area. Everyone would greet us with a smile and we really felt welcome.

The second half of the trip had us trekking from Yanama to Machu Picchu, which offered a much different experience than the first. For starters, after Yanama you meet up with the Salkantay trail. This means you’ll be around many more people, and staying in busier towns, instead of the rustic experience in the villages.

Because we were on an accelerated itinerary, our hiking was supplemented with some driving (which we expected). After spending the first four days on much more challenging trails, this part of the hike was a breeze. Essentially we would just follow rolling or flat trails along the valley bottoms. The trails were also much busier with other larger groups of hikers.

The highlights of this half of the trek were the kitschy activities. On the fifth night we visited a hot springs in Santa Theresa, it was nice, but also busy with other hikers and people from town. The next morning we had signed up for the Mono Loco zip lines. Our guide arranged for us to do it privately before it opened which allowed us to avoid the crowds and the associated waits at each zipline. It was actually really fun, and I would recommend trying if you haven’t tried ziplining before.

Machu Picchu was day 7 for us. It was an incredible experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience it. Nevertheless, it is busy, and people begin lining up for their entrance at 4:30AM. Our wait for the bus up was 45 minutes. Considering our relaxed and solitary visit to Choquequirao, this was a bit hectic for us. I don’t think there is any way to see Machu Picchu without the crowds, so I’m glad we went and I’ll still recommend others to visit, but Choquequirao was my favorite.

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Floral Scene Near Choquequirao Ruins- Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

I should finish up our review with some good words about the team that looked after us along the way.

I can’t say enough about how good our cook was. Every morning at dawn he would wake us up with hot tea, which we would have in your tent while we warmed up and got ready for the day. All of our meals were outstanding, and were a good mix of local and international cuisine. Not to mention, at each meal there was always a variety of options and enough quantity to satisfy whatever appetite we had built up hiking. Apparently all of the cooks need to go to school to be certified and so we really found that all meals were quite expertly prepared. I actually found that some of the traditional dishes we had while we were hiking were better than at any restaurant we later visited.

The horsemen (there were two for us) were friendly and hardworking. They were essentially responsible for the on-ground logistics of the trip and are the unsung heroes from that perspective. They would set up and tear down our tent, help to prepare the meals, trail behind us on the long up hills in case we needed an emergency horse, and were generally there for anything we needed.

Our guide, Roger, was a true professional. I’ve already mentioned in a few of my highlights how he helped make our trip special. Along with that, he would share with us stories every night about the history of the Incas, modern Peru, and about his life growing up near Cusco. He was our leader and friend for 7 days and we wouldn’t have wanted anyone different.

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Excellent Support Team- Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

For more information about the Choquequirao treks Apus Peru currently offers, see the links below:

4-day Choquequirao Trek

8-Day Choquequirao Trek

9-Day Choquequirao Trek (includes Machu Picchu)

12-Day Choquequirao Trek (includes Machu Picchu)

The Espíritu Pampa Trek

The Essence of Espíritu Pampa: Manco Inca’s haven from the Spanish – The route is back on!

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The main site of Espíritu Pampa begins here!!

Those who have done some research and know their Inca history might have come across information about Espíritu Pampa, also know as the “Lost City of the Incas” – the last Inca stronghold after their escape from the Spanish Conquistadores, located in the high jungle region of Vilcabamba, Peru.

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Ruins of Espíritu Pampa

It was believed that ‘Espíritu Pampa’ was built in a hurry, without proper construction materials and resources. It was a short-term-refuge for the last Inca ruler, Manco Inca, and his family, to keep out of harm’s way from the Spanish. The royal Inca family took refuge there for around 30 years, until the Spanish sacked the site in 1572. They destroyed the majority of the temples, leaving it abandoned and forgotten for hundreds of years thereafter.

Hiram Bingham, who re-discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, believed that it was the lost city and the last refuge of the Inca, but this has since been proven otherwise by many other explorers and historians. In the 1960’s, archaeologists Antonio Santander Casselli and Gene Savoy finally made the connection between Espíritu Pampa and the lost city of the Incas. Since then, archaeological restoration work of the ruins has been attempted and abandoned throughout the years.

Vincent Lee brought the site to worldwide attention over the last 15 years with his book, Forgotten Vilcabamba. Lee’s influence and archaeological work there has led to an increased interest in the area. In fact Apus Peru encountered a team of local archaeologists working at the site on our recent visit there in November, 2015.

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Espritu ruins

Route safety:

Until recently, there had been some security concerns about trekking in this area. However, there were no indications of any problems when we hiked the trail this November.

We spoke with some of the local porters and farmers in the region: they indicated that they had not heard of any other groups of tourists hiking the route for many years, since warnings had been put in place. We were the first group they had seen in a long while.

Trail standards:

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The Espirítu Pampa trail, middle section

In general, the trail is very well kept and you can be certain that, in parts, you are walking on the ancient & original Inca Trail.

Regarding the sections that are comprised of dirt or gravel footpaths, the campesinos, or local farmers, have kept the route relatively free from vegetation and overgrowth, since they use the trail for transporting their harvested crops and for herding animals.

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The Espíritu Pampa trail, upper section

For the main part of the trail, it takes trekking a good chunk of 50 kilometers over 4 or 5 days before you reach the first part of the archeological site (there are two). Upon arrival, you encounter a small area of restored ruins, rather like a control point. Then you head down some Inca steps, taking approximately 40 minutes to reach the second and superior site.

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Inca steps leading down from the first site to the second one.

Conditions/climate:

Weather-wise, November was particularly wet this year. There were muddy swaths of trail, and our team had to cross some washed-away river crossings, as well as a small landslide.

For the best chance for drier conditions when you trek this route, it is highly recommended to undertake this trek between the months of May and September.

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Crossing one of the many make-shift bridges

We experienced very wet conditions on the trail, thus we advise you to do this route in the dry months only.

The Espíritu Pampa trek is truly a beautiful route. On the way to the ruins, you experience a mix of diverse terrains, including scenic mountain backdrops, rolling high Andes plains, and once you have reached the ‘lower’ section, lush high jungle forests, including banana and coca plantations. You will observe a wide variety of sub-tropical flora. You may well have the chance to sight some bird life such as parakeets, Andean hawks, eagles, and perhaps even the famous ‘Tunki’ – ‘Cock of the Rock’- Peru’s national bird!

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The team at Vista Alegre- and below, a valley provides hikers with lush scenery for all to enjoy.

Summary:

Those who expect the equivalent of Machu Picchu, with its massive and plentiful ruins, would be disappointed with this trek: however, if you are seeking a truly ‘off-the-beaten- track’ route with some less touristic ruins located at the end of a truly magnificent trail, then you will be justly rewarded!

Matt Waugh, November 2016

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The team at the start of a wet day on the trail – Left to right. Michael a.k.a. Pescadito or ‘Little Fish’ (porter), Melton (Apus cook); Matt (Apus sales team/photos and blogs); Herbert (Apus Guide); William (Apus guide)

Photo 10 - crew at finish (Espiritu Pampa camp)

At the finish of the trek, we received a most welcome coffee and yucca – both of which are produced locally on the surrounding farms.

To see more details about our Espíritu Pampa trail routes, please check out the following links:

9 day Vilcabamba – Espíritu Pampa

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

15 day Vilcabamba Range Grand traverse

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lares to Machu Picchu in pictures…

Sharing – this year we’ve received some great fotos from some great clients – BIG thanks to all of you – keep a look out for foto blogs and facebook posts!

THANK YOU to Dee Andrews and Theresa Seiwald for these beautiful shots of your 4 day Lares to Machu Picchu trek http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/lares_machu_picchu.htm with us in June.

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The unsung heros of the trek our Arrieros and their best friends

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Theresa Seiwald up high in the fabulous wide open spaces of the Andes

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Lush Lares Valley

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A warm welcome!

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Local girls

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For more information on this or any other of our treks and tours please contact reservas@apus-peru.com

9 day Choquequirao, Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu – foto blog

Many thanks to Father and Son team Matt and Russ Wood for their photographs and our Chef Mauro and Guide Herbert for their skills along our 9 day adventurous trek from Choquequirao up to Vilcabamba including a visit to Machu Pichcu as a just reward!

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

We have 4 confirmed departures ready to join for this trek on 19th July, 2nd and 17th of August and 5th October. Check out our trekkers wanted page: 

https://apusperublog.wordpress.com/trekkers-wanted/

We think you will agree a truly magestic route, enjoy the photographs…

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For more information or to join a confirmed departure via our Trekkers Wanted page please contact us at:

reservas@apus-peru.com

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