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.

choq 4 day 2

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!

IMG_5718

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!

mapi 3

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.

PHOTO1 (2)

PHOTO2 (2)

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.

PHOTO3 (2)

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.

PHOTO4

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.

PHOTO6 (2)

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!!!

PHOTO7 (3)

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.

PHOTO8 (3)

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’!

PHOTO9

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

Off the Radar Ruins!

I recently hiked our unique to Apus Peru ‘Inca Traditions Weaving and Pumamarca’ one day hike. Here’s my blog.

Pumamarca was supposedly a control point allowing access to the Inca town of Ollantaytambo from multiple valleys and above the site is part of the old original Inca trail which is now not accessible.

The ruins themselves are still well hidden from most of the popular trails and thus rarely visited by any tourists.  They also happen to be extremely well preserved.

Rumira Sondormayo

From Cusco, the drive to Ollantaytambo is around 90 minutes, then it is less than a 1 hour journey to get to the first stop, the weaving village of Rumira Sondormayo. Rumira  is one of three villages that our sister NGO Threads of Peru works with on weaving revitalization with the women. http://www.threadsofperu.com/weaving-culture/communities/

ruins at Pumamarca

After some explanations and weaving demonstrations we have a local lunch before heading out to the ruins

The Valley

There are several ways to get back from here as it can be hiked or biked from the top to bottom!

Scenic!

There is plenty of time to admire the view of the Patacancha valley which is simply beautiful!

By Matt Waugh, March 10th, 2015

To book this trek with a visit to the weaving village of Rumira, please see our link at – http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/inca_traditions.html

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!! :)

IMG_1318

Truck ride Chupani to Challaococha

IMG_1347

Playing games whilst waiting for the hot chocolate

IMG_1288

APUS TEAM ASSEMBLING GIFTS

IMG_1300

Waiting patiently outside the classroom

IMG_1339

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

IMG_1367

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

IMG_1396

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

IMG_1400

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

IMG_1409

Our guides Joel and Mari getting stuck in!

IMG_1414

beautifully colourful!

IMG_1418

delicious hot chocolate!

IMG_1424

Posing :)

IMG_1446

¡¡¡HOLA!!!

IMG_1461

FELIZ NAVIDAD!!

IMG_1465

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.

IMG_2744

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.

IMG_2793

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?

choq 2

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