Giving Back to Andean Communities: Apus Peru Student Sponsorship


Fernando Echame Melo

Apus Peru  strives to be the kind of company that takes our responsibilities to the communities of Peru seriously. We feel that it is equally important that our hosts, whose home this is, benefit from our presence on their “turf,” as that visitors enjoy their time in this unique and vibrant country!

We believe in a tourism that’s both beneficial to local communities and enjoyable for visitors. With this in mind, Apus is involved in several projects that benefit communities in Peru. One of our proudest is our collaboration with Mosqoy, a Canadian- Peruvian non-profit that “supports the educational and cultural rights of indigenous communities in Southern Peru.”  Apus has currently committed to sponsoring the education of an enterprising young man from the Quechua-speaking weaving community of Huilloc in the Andean highlands in the Cusco region. His name is Fernando Echame Melo.

Fernando himself took the initiative to contact Mosqoy several years ago about help with his future. He was orphaned at a young age and attended a school that Mosqoy did not normally work with. When he heard through a cousin that was already working with Mosqoy about a chance to receive an educational scholarship, Fernando made the arrangements to participate in the selection process and traveled many hours to attend the testing. When his efforts proved successful, Apus Peru happily came on board to sponsor Fernando, who is currently in his fifth semester at the Khipu Institute, studying tourism.

Fernando and Cristian

Fernando with his cousin, Raul

Fernando’s hopes for the future include teaching the villagers of Huilloc Spanish, so that tourism will be a viable economic option for his community. He also hopes to bring tourists to his community to teach them about the centuries-old weaving tradition the village centers around.

Fernando is learning all about his beautiful country’s history, landmarks, and flora and fauna as part of his tourism education. Here he is crossing Keshwa Chaca, which is the last example of an authentic Incan woven bridge. Once widespread, these woven grass bridges spanned steep canyons and river rapids. Keshwa Chaca overhangs the Apurimac River in Southern Peru.

Fernando on trip

Fernando on the Keshwa Chaca rope bridge in Apurimac, Peru

Fernando recently wrote a letter of appreciation to Apus Peru for our help. His youth and enthusiasm shine through as he thanks us and wishes blessings on us for his sponsorship. It’s both poignant and highly gratifying to read his earnest words of gratitude. We are proud and honored to be able to be of assistance to this worthy young man, and we hope to continue helping Andean youth in the future.

Here is an excerpt from Fernando’s letter to Apus Peru:

“The reason for this little note is to thank you for helping me in my college studies and to let you know that all of my childhood dreams are slowly becoming reality, thanks to you. I will always remember you for your unconditional assistance.”

Fernando letter

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Finally, Cara Catanoff of Mosqoy has this to say about Apu’s sponsorship of Fernando:

“I wanted to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude for your support of Fernando and the Andean Youth Program. Donors like you keep our programs thriving, and we cannot thank you enough. I think it is particularly special that Apus is based right out of Cusco and is supporting a local tourism student. Amazing! ” 

To learn more about Apus Peru’s projects and offerings for sustainable tourism, visit us at the following links.


The Two-Day Inca Trail Family Hike

Maria, Jesus, and their teenage daughters, Itzia and Maria, are about to start a new adventure in Cusco: a trek along the 2-day Inca trail. With their guide, José, this family from Spain is all geared up to experience the amazing natural beauty  and explore the ancient Inca ruins along this route.

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Ready to Start the Trek!

As we descend from Cusco to Km 104, passing through the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, the scenery changes dramatically. Jesus and Maria mention that it feels as if they are in the jungle. Actually, as we get off the train at Km 104 and cross the suspension bridge above the Urubamba River, we find ourselves hiking in the middle of the dense cloud forest with its many different hues of green.

My skin senses the warm air and the humidity. With every breath I take, comes the fresh smell of dew. That fragrance and the roar of the river accompany us for most of the day as we hike the opposite hill. Our guide emphasizes that the scenery here is green all year round.

In addition to the green color of the forest, we admire yellow, red, and pink orchids as well as white, brown, yellow, and black butterflies.

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The Wiñay Wayna Orchid, (Epidendrum Secundum) is  often found along the Inca Trail.

We hike past Chachabamba, an administrative post located near the starting point very close to the river. We can also see, at a distance, the sites of Choquesuysuy, also by the river, and Intipata, perched upon a hill, as we approach Wiñay Wayna.

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The Chachabamba Ruins

After passing through a few streams and a couple of waterfalls, we reach one of the most impressive Inca archaeological sites known as Wiñay Wayna, (Forever Young), named for the orchid of the same name that can be found in this area. Wiñay Wayna features a ceremonial section with a double door and a room with 7 windows, as well as several finely carved water fountains.

9a view of Wiñaywayna

The ruins of Wiñay Wayna

José says that he was lucky enough to see a spectacled bear as well as a puma and a wolf during his previous treks towards Machu Picchu.

Suddenly, the family and the guide spot a bright greenish blue object on the branch of a tree. It’s a type of jungle bird known as a quetzal. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of quetzals playing cheerfully in the tree.

8Jesus and his family spot a quetzal

The family spots a Quetzal in a nearby tree.

A few minutes later, a hummingbird flies above us. We are excited about these encounters, but we are still anxious to find the most famous endemic bird of this area, the Gallito de las Rocas, or Cock of the Rock, Peru’s national bird. It is sometimes spotted in this excellent bird watching region.

We pass Wiñay Wayna, and after a couple of hours we reach a steep section of stairs: the last stretch before reaching the Sun Gate or Inti Punku, from which we attain our first spectacular view of Machu Picchu, the most important and magnificent archaeological site of the Americas.

We walk down the ancient Inca trail listening to José’s explanations about the two huacas or temples we pass on the way down to the archaeological site itself. We are tired but very happy because we have completed this challenge and we are excited to explore Machu Picchu more thoroughly first thing tomorrow morning.

Maria and her daughters admit they were a little bit concerned about the hike at first, but now realize that it was not as difficult as they had feared. They add that the experience surpassed all of their expectations.

Maria exults, “I will definitely recommend this trek.”

10the family at Intipuncu and Machu Picchu at the back

Both tired and happy, the family enjoys their accomplishment!

For more information about this trek, see: Apus Peru Two-Day Inca Trail Trek

First Aid Training for Apus Peru Staff

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Popular guides Arturo and Urbano Enjoy  A Lighter Moment During First Aid Training

Recently, Apus Peru’s guides and a few others from the office who have been long-term employees took the opportunity to refresh our skills in wilderness first aid during a two-day course.

This was our chance to enhance our knowledge of dealing with problem case scenarios in remote areas, as well as to become empowered to administer ‘duty of care’ to our trekkers and clients across the board, if it ever becomes necessary.

Apus Peru continues to enforce our policy of appropriate training for all of the team, especially our guides.

The photos included below are intended to illustrate some important aspects of mountain safety that must be considered when on the trail; as well as depicting the serious fun we at Apus Peru have out in the wilderness.

You are in great hands when you trek with Apus Peru, in large part due to our well-trained staff.  We ensure that our guides and other faculty are well-equipped to handle routine first aid as well as emergencies. Visit our trek page to view our 2016 offerings.

-Matt Waugh April, 2016

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Guide Mery and Erika from the Apus Peru office learn how to administer an injection.

CPR practise

Learning how to perform CPR

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The mannequin is used as an aid for teaching CPR

Day time practical

We continued the training outdoors, practicing on a live person who pretended to  faint.

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Practicing CPR in the field.


Everyone passing their examination

Happily, everyone passed the exam and received their diplomas.




A Trip to the Rainbow Mountain of Peru



Communing with the Rainbow Mountain


The ‘Rainbow’ mountain, ‘Stripy’ mountain, ‘Colored’ mountain…call it what you will, this natural geologic formation is fast attracting large numbers of visitors and is becoming as popular as more well-known attractions of Peru; and with good reason!

The mountain is known locally as Vinicunca. Cunca in Quechua means ‘neck.’ The meaning of Vini is unknown but could possibly refer to the different colors of mineral layers that comprise the rock formation. Therefore ‘Neck of Colors’ could be one likely interpretation.

The Route:

Ten members of the Apus Team drove the three hours from Cusco to Pitumarka, and then it was another hour on some fabulous winding roads through local farming terraces, rock formations and picturesque canyons to reach the village of ‘Hanchi-Pacha,’ a small farming village located at 4180 meters above sea level. From here we began our hike, which gradually ascended out of the valley to reach K’airahuiri, after another 1.5 hours and 400-meter altitude gain.


Apus Team at the starting point for the trek to Vinicunca



Getting ready to trek out of the valley 


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Matt Waugh, from the office near the tiny hamlets of K’airahuiri

K’airahuiri actually consists of two villages: ‘K’airahuiri Bajo’ or ‘lower’ and ‘K’airahuiri Alto’ or ‘higher.’ After a half-hour hike, we passed through K’airahuiri Alto, where the local community greeted our team. We discussed some options with the villagers for future groups that we plan to bring to the region. We then trekked for another 1.5 hours to the pass. Our climb quickly became steeper and our breathing more labored, as we reached an elevation of 5000 meters in this last section.

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Locals from K’airahuiri 

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 Route to the top

All our hard work was rewarded as we crossed over the Vinicunca Pass and attained magnificent views of the mighty glacier, Apu Ausangate!

We had reached our final destination and attained a height of 5000 meters with a total hiking time of 3.5 hours and a distance of 9.5 kms. trekked. However, just a few more meters of climbing up the “neck” gave us a better glimpse of why we had come to this particular spot. At last we could see the amazing view of Vinicunca and its fantastically colorful layers of rock sediment…turquoises, oranges, browns, and reds! We never would have believed this brilliant natural beauty existed had we not seen it with our own eyes!



Team Vinicunca: A Feast for the Eyes


I first saw a photo of Vinicunca in a gallery and art shop in Cusco called ‘Tawa Concept’ back in 2015; I honestly thought an artist had drawn a very imaginative painting and I subsequently wondered where he had drawn his inspiration. I was then informed that this was actually a photo of a real place in Peru.

Now I know that the place is indeed ‘real’ and not just a figment of someone’s imagination!

Vinicunca, The Rainbow Mountain of Peru: truly a glorious feast for the eyes!

For further information and bookings, go to;

By Matt Waugh   April 2016

Complete Travel Insurance is Essential For Your Peru Trip

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Come to Peru to see spectacular Machu Picchu – but remember to first buy travel insurance!

We get it. There is already so much planning involved in your trip of a lifetime to Peru. You have to make sure you have packed everything you need, make sure someone is there to take care of your pets/kids/plants, make sure your job is covered, your car stored, your home protected—everything safe and secure waiting for you to return. You don’t have time to get travel insurance, and besides, what could go wrong? You have medical insurance, is that not enough?**

Turns out….No. Your home medical insurance will provide little to no assistance should you encounter an emergency in a foreign country. Say you are vacationing abroad and you left home without a travel insurance policy. An emergency happens, something beyond your control. Travel insurance was your best bet and now it’s too late- what could have cost you very little in terms of money and time has now cascaded into enormous expenses involving emergency evacuation, medical care in a foreign land, and guess what- you still have to pay for your tour.


Weeks before your trip, the hotels, porters and services for your trip have already been commissioned. They cannot be “unhired” without a huge loss to the company and to many folks who were involved in purchasing supplies, preparing services, and blocking out time/ space to accommodate you during your stay. This is why we clearly state multiple times on our website and during the booking process that we very strongly recommend that you protect your trip with complete travel insurance.

Travel Insurance- full coverage, not just the medical portion, can compensate you for the loss of many of the expenses involved should your well-laid plans be interrupted by unforeseeable circumstances.

Your best bet is to do your research among the various websites that sell this important coverage, and then take a few minutes to sign up. If the emergency that you thought unlikely to occur does occur, you will have one less issue knowing that you have managed to take the best precautions possible in an unpredictable world.

As an adventure travel company, Apus has accumulated several of our own tales that illustrate the woes encountered by folks who failed to take the time to get coverage.

In one case, a family consisting of a dad and his grown kids booked a trip with us. Unfortunately, the day before the trip was to begin, he suffered a heart attack in his hotel room. The family had failed to obtain travel insurance and were terribly upset when they realized that the trip expenses were not covered and they would have to pay for the entire trip, including hotels, services, and porters, because of their failure to take a few minutes to obtain travel insurance before leaving home.

This family, whose enormous stress was of course understandable, had to suffer the additional and unnecessary pain of losing most of the cost of the trip simply due to their neglect of this essential item.

In another incident a traveler with full travel insurance left valuable items in a taxi. We helped her to fill out the forms to make a claim on her travel insurance, which she had had the foresight to acquire before leaving home. No worries!

With all the expenses involved in your trip, it seems silly not to pay the small amount necessary to protect it. Full travel insurance costs a tiny fraction of the amount you have laid out for this trip. You won’t even notice this small but essential expenditure next year, but if everything doesn’t go as planned you will certainly notice your failure to have acquired it.

When traveling with Apus, remember, too,  to check the fine details on your policy and make sure it covers the activities you will be participating in, especially high altitude trekking and emergency evacuations. During our treks you will be traveling more than a day’s walk from any road – and should you need to be evacuated, the only way out is by an extremely expensive helicopter evacuation.

Even the most conscientious travel companies, a group we are proud to belong to (see our Trip Advisor reviews here), can’t account for random events that are not under anyone’s control. So please do us all a favor and plan full travel insurance into your trip.You’ll barely remember the expense, but in the rare case that something does occur, you will be very thankful for one less hassle if and when you have to deal with difficult circumstances far from home.

**For more detailed information about the differences between travel and medical insurance see this link:

The US Travel Insurance website, contains comprehensive information about travel insurance options for United States travelers to foreign lands.





Apus Peru Giving Back to Communities: Christmas Chocolatada 2015

Christmas Chocolatada 2015 – Apus brings a bit of Christmas spirit to those living in the remote region around Lares, Peru.

Apus Peru’s Lares Valley to Machu Picchu Trek is the signature trek we offer to this gorgeous mountainous region located approximately three hours by car from Cusco. High mountain lakes, thatched roof houses, graceful llama herds, and the sight of authentically dressed villagers going about their daily tasks are a few highlights of this beautiful scenic trek.


Lares Country- high mountain lakes

Apus Peru loves to give back to the communities around the region by offering the communities a Christmas Chocolatada every year: we bring Christmas treats and gifts and serve them up to the delight of the village children and their parents. This year, although he weather wasn’t perfect, our hot chocolate, festive panetón bread, presents, and clothes were well received by the communities of Chupani and Chaullacocha.


First cup of chocolate being poured!

The day began at 5am, when we loaded everything we had bought in the previous days into the van, and then travelled 3.5 hours from Cusco to Chaullacocha. Our first job was to unpack all the goodies, including 100 cans of milk, in order to prepare hot chocolate for the entire community.

Mauro Chocolate

One of our cooks Mauro, using the secret chocolate recipe that only he knows!

One of Apus Peru’s main guides, Urbano spoke to everyone in Quechua and coaxed the kids into singing for their presents, which were the traditional Peruvian mini-Christmas fruit-breads, known as Panetones- one was gifted to each child. It was quite a festive sight to see children all ages gathered together wearing the brilliant red-fringed ponchos and fancy top hats that are a mark of this region.


Beautiful Sight: Children gathered together in colorful traditional clothing

 Lourdes Hancco  from Threads of Peru played soccer with the women along with our operations assistant, Ruth Gutierrez. Lots of fun was had by all, even though everyone involved got pretty wet and muddy.

Womens Soccer

A soccer game- fun in the mist!

Our guide Urbano Huayna got the kids to sing for their prizes (mini panetones- a traditional Christmas cake in Peru. Some of the kids were a bit shy, but took it all in good humor.


Urbano asks for a song

The community members lined up for their Christmas treats. It was great fun pouring out the chocolate and giving everyone some bread to eat. Since the day was cold and wet, the community was happy to get a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a piece of bread to accompany it.

Bread and chocolate

Bread and Chocolate for all

 Our Threads of Peru team, Arturo  (Guide), Ruth (Ops team) and Adrian (Inventory and stock room caretaker)) gave out donations of warm coats and jackets, so the kids in the community will be able to wrap up extra warm for the cold, wet season ahead.


Distributing warm clothing to the children

 You can see the recent Chocolatada promotion on Threads Instagram here:




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.

valerio, herbert and client en route to victoria pass

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)