!nternational Youth Day

It was International Youth Day yesterday, 12th August, so we thought we would post to acknowledge the day and let you know a little of what we get up to ‘behind the scenes’…

Amongst our other contributions to the local community and sustainability (see this link for details of our projects http://www.apus-peru.com/responsible-travel/community_projects.htm ), Apus Perú have worked to support a Mosqoy student here in Cusco and we have in our current employment an ex student of Mosqoy, Adrian.

We thought it would be a nice idea to offer Adrian the opportunity to give his side of the story. But first, here’s a little about the Mosqoy organisation… Mosqoy means ‘Dream’ in Quechua and was founded in the Peruvian Andes in 2006, by Canadian and Peruvian youth. Their mission in Peru is to “help break the cycle of poverty that impacts the indigenous Quechua people of the Andean mountains by providing post-secondary educational opportunities for the region’s promising youth”. Their mission links in very nicely with our approach of seeking out projects which recognize that insiders (Andean Peruvians) and outsiders (foreigners) all have strengths and weaknesses – and that by working collaboratively we can reach best practice. As Mosqoy appropriately quote ‘hand-up instead of a hand-out.’

For many of the higher Andean communities the cycle of poverty is escalating while their traditional way of life is increasingly threatened. Mosqoy´s aim is for this to be alleviated by providing students in Peru with opportunities for advanced education, enabling Andean youth to possess the tools necessary to be local leaders and role models! A philosophy that is core to our commitment to making a positive and sustainable contribution to the quality of life for rural Andean communities.

And now over to Adrian:

The Apus Team! Adrian first left.

The Apus Team! Adrian first left.

Hello my name is Adrian Jimenez Suma. I’m from Ollantaytambo and live in the community Mandolista. I have 3 brothers, I studied tourism in 2006 with the help of the NGO Mosqoy.

It was a beautiful experience to be a part of Mosqoy, they helped me a lot in my life and that is why I always stay in touch with them. I was with Mosqoy for four years; three years as a student and one year as manager of the students. My job was to organize trips with students, to support social aid work in the communities of Rio Mapacho, and one of the trips was to Rumira Sondormayo it was there where I met Apus Peru!

When I finished my contract with Mosqoy I spent a long time without work and then I found an adevrtisement for Apus Peru, I contacted them the same day and the next day began working!

I have now been working with Apus Peru for 1 year. My work is in the area of ​​stock preparation equipment for treks and I have occasionally worked with Threads of Peru (www.threadsofperu.com) as a Quechua to Spanish translator. What I like about Apus is that my co-workers are friendly and they all work well as a team, we all help each other and I like traveling with Threads, because I can show my culture by speaking Quechua. I am also studying English and would like to join Apus, not as caretaker but as a guide, I hope to have that opportunity.

Adrian!

Adrian!

Thanks for making me part of Apus Peru. Thank you Adrian for sharing your story!

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

Descending to the Sacred Valley – a rewarding route, suitable for most levels of hikers!

As I have the opportunity to do some of the treks that Apus Peru offer, I can only be inspired every time I go on one. Every day hike that is available offers something different, new views of the surrounding mountains of the Cusco region and always an experience to be shared.

Photos and words tell only half of the story – you have to go there to really understand!

Last week I had the pleasure to accompany a group of keen and able trekkers on a stunning route through to the Sacred Valley.  It took approximately 4 hours to cover the 7kms (about 4.5 miles) of traverse down into a lush valley of trees and farms from the Inca market town of Chinchero to Urquillos in the Sacred Valley. We started from 3600m and ended down by the Urubamba river by the small town of Urquillos at 2900m.

We started by descending from some awesome Inca terraces at Chincheros.

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We then headed on down an ancient Inca trail that skirted some small streams and miniature waterfalls

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About 30 minutes in, the valley opened out and we were left with jaw-dropping views of the way down to the Sacred Valley

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On the way down we encountered a little forest and took shelter for a bit of a picnic

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At the bottom where we ended our trek we found the quaint town of Urquillos. I think most gave it a mark of 10/10

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Simply put, this is a great little intro to the Andes and an adequate warm up hike for those going on to do the 4 day Inca Trail, Salkantay or similar.

To book this trek or similar 1 day hikes within close reach of Cusco, please see our link at -http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/descending_sacred_valley.htm

La Veronica –the mightiest mountain of the Cordillera Urubamba in the Andes

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Veronica is the mightiest mountain in Urubamba Mountain range and here she stands at a height of 5860m/16830ft overlooking all of the Cusco region. She is coated in a horn of snow most of the year round and named Wakay Willca, or Sacred Tears in Quechua. This is taken in the valley of Urubamba and not far from Ollantaytambo, a famous town of the Inca’s. This is part of the trail to the Inca Quarries of Cachiccata, a good days warm up hike on the way to Machu Picchu if you happen to be staying the night in Ollantaytambo or the close-by in the Sacred Valley.

For more information on our Sacred Valley tours and 1 day hikes please see other options at our links: http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/sacred_valley.htm and http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/one_day.html

Thanks to Matt Waugh, Apus Peru Travel Consultant, for his local insights!

Curry in Cusco!! Foodie review – a continuation. Megan Malley

Last year Megan Malley, Threads of Peru intern, had the delightful task of sampling a variety of Cusco’s restaurants for our Blog. A continuation from her earlier posts, here is another to wet your appetite for a cuisine other than that you may have expected in Cusco!

As surprising as it may sound to find Indian food in Peru, make sure not to skip over Korma Sutra in the artsy and quaint San Blas hillside neighborhood.   With a completely open kitchen, this small candlelit restaurant allows the mouth-watering scent of curry to waft out onto Tandapata street to lure in passersby.

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Although the curry bowls aren’t cheap, they are sometimes discounted for occasions such as the restaurant’s anniversary. If you order the “very spicy” level of chicken, lamb, or tofu curry, make sure to accompany it with a mango or banana lassi to cool off your mouth!  Run by the owners of the former innovative Sumaq Misky, they bring the same Andean pizzaz to Indian food.

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Alpaca Curry anyone? https://www.facebook.com/KormaSutraCusco For alterntaive suggestions see our restaurant link: http://www.apus-peru.com/trip-planning/restaurants.html

A special thank you!

Apus Peru has always been interested in being a responsible business that treads lightly and ‘gives back’ to the communities where it travels.

This desire eventually grew to be a not for profit organisation, Threads of Peru. $15 from every Apus Peru client is donated to Threads of Peru as a way of directly supporting these high Andean communities.

coin purses - a selection

coin purses – a selection

Now, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for your support, Apus Peru has ordered coin purses from Huaran, a weaving community at the beginning of the Lares trek. Every Apus Peru traveller will receive one of these gorgeous coin purses, perfect to stash your stuff or even carry your USB.
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“These coin purses provide Apus Peru clients with a reminder of their Peru visit while also providing a tangible investment in local communities,” said Ariana Svenson, Apus Peru Co-Founder.

Here we have two of the wonderful weavers, Bacelia and Juana.

Bacelia Condori Quispe

Bacelia Condori Quispe

For more information about Threads of Peru, go to http://www.threadsofperu.com
Or, should you love the coin purses and want more please check them out here
http://threadsofperu.com/alpaca-clothing/accessories/wool-bags/

Juana Paola Siccus

Juana Paola Siccus

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!

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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