Comfort Camping On Your Peru Trek

Apus Peru Comfort Camping

What is it and why should you do it?

About five years ago, long before we heard the term “Glamping,” we at Apus Peru innovated a “Comfort Camping” option so that folks could relax in comfort after a long, hard day of trekking. We included such amenities as a real camp bed, large tents for extra comfort, and even portable hot showers to freshen up after the trek.

Large tent you can stand ni

Comfort Camping includes large tents for extra space.

With a dash of luxury, this new style of camping/ trek adventure is for people who want an ideal camping experience at the end of the day. It is for folks who love the idea of sleeping under the stars but who still want to indulge in those creature comforts after the large effort they have expended – in other words, they want the best of all worlds!

We at Apus Peru don’t like to overstate things – but some companies might call this “Luxury 4-Star Camping” or “Deluxe Camping”. This alternative for your Peru trip opens up camping to a wider range of people: folks who might not otherwise have the chance to experience camping in Peru will be likely to choose this option.

Porters

Porters ascend the trail with comfort camping gear.

Comfort Camping enables you to concentrate on what is important: spending quality time with your family, friends, and loved ones. It allows your entire family to trek in comfort, and is a good choice for a multi-generational camping trip. That is not to say that you and your loved ones won’t be expending a strenuous effort during the daylight hours, as you climb Inca staircases at high altitude, and descend into verdant valleys; but at the end of the day, when everyone is likely to be hot, tired, and exhausted, the whole group will be able to relax in comfort.

A day of climbing and descending

Relax in comfort after a day of climbing Inca staircases at high altitude and descending into verdant valleys.

The Comfort Camping option offers, among other things, a thicker Thermarest mattress that’s six inches off the ground, an inflatable pillow, deluxe sleeping bags, and a larger tent you can stand up and move about in. Perhaps best of all, you will be able to take a short hot shower after a day of intense physical exertion!

Beds are off the ground

Comfort Camping- Beds are up off the ground.

For more information and specific inclusions please refer to:

http://www.apus-peru.com/make-a-booking/comfort_camping.html

Many thanks to Apus Peru’s past client Patty Hinz for sharing the photos.

 

 

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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Machu Picchu with Kids

The clouds dramatically drifted apart, opening the sky to reveal the famous lost city of Machu Picchu. Filled with the wonder of this perfect moment I turned to my 5-year-old daughter, with an expectant smile on my face. “So, this is Machu Picchu, what do you think?”

She frowned: “Where are the Incas? There are no Incas!” More petulance. “ I thought that there would be people dressed up as Incas.”

Yes, the reality of travelling with kids is usually different than we imagine. Wonderfully fulfilling- but not even remotely the same as if you were travelling solo.

These are my top tips for traveling to Machu Picchu with kids.

1_Ariana and Kids

Amazing view of Machu Picchu with Master L and Miss M-

  1. The steps are BIG for a 5 year old.

After an hour of climbing these gargantuan steps, our Miss M was exceptionally tired. To be honest, I also was fairly tired carrying around 22-month-old Master L, who weighed in at 15 kg and was becoming increasingly frustrated by the constant stream of people looking at him, the many stone walls, and the painstaking slowness of the climb. (Normally if he gets frustrated in the backpack I can divert him by jumping, playing and moving… but this is not feasible on the stone staircase at Machu Picchu.)

  1. Plan your visit.

Get a map or plan your day, preferably with a guide that knows the site. We divided our visit into a couple of different sections (with breaks in between) and this made it much easier on the kids and on us.

  1. The grazing Camelids are cool!

They were the most exciting thing at Machu Picchu for the kids, who really enjoyed them. Don’t be like some of those less savvy visitors, though, poking a range of different foods and snacks at the llamas while trying to get selfies. They’re not supposed to eat Cheetos, for God’s sake!

 

2_Grazing Camelids

Grazing Camelids at Machu Picchu

  1. Find a grassy area to rest.

There are a few grassy areas to run and play – but you have to look for them. We found that there were a number of grassy areas roped off, and more that had steep precipice falls on one side (not good for a 22-month-old eager to explore). Finally we found a safe place, had some snacks, and soaked up the atmosphere… it was in a less visited section of the ruins, which made it a pleasant break.

  1. Get a good lunch, rest, and then return to the ruins.

We lunched at the Tinkuy Buffet restaurant. While it wasn’t cheap, it provided another great break for the kids (e.g.; not looking at ruins) and offered a fantastic range of food and drinks. We really enjoyed this meal, there was so much variety. Also, the restaurant has bathrooms, a vital piece of info for families traveling with children: there are no rest rooms inside Machu Picchu, which can be inconvenient when you have small kids. After this break, we returned to the closer sector of the ruins, and were able to enjoy another hour at Machu Picchu.

4_Down the trail with 2 kids

Hiking the Trail at Machu Picchu

  1. Be Realistic.

Don’t set your expectations too high, as far as how much history you’ll be able to soak up with the kids. With a 5-year-old and 22-month-old, we enjoyed the ruins and the experience but truly didn’t get lots of the history. If this is important to you, consider taking turns caring for the kids with your partner! 

  1. We loved the train trip!

The Train Trip to and from Machu Picchu was the highlight for the kiddos. They both loved it, especially when a kind man gave up the front seats on the Vistadome carriage and we got amazing views of the tracks. Miss M was transfixed by the sight of the rails and mountains, and we all loved the journey. It was an awesome experience.

 

3_We loved train trip

Transfixed by the Train Ride to Machu Picchu on the Vistadome

  1. Consider a kid friendly splurge.

We stayed at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel – not only is this easily the most atmospheric hotel in all of Aguas Calientes but it has a kids’ program, and a small heated pool.   The kids’ program is targeted to youngsters a little older than Miss M (5 years old) but includes a variety of activities, some of which she could participate in. They also provide an eco-guide (nanny) service and we noticed that more than one family left their children in the care of the eco-guide doing activities around the hotel while the parents went to Machu Picchu for a second day, thus getting the best of both worlds: time as a family AND time as a couple.

Now that’s what I call smart.

5_Ariana and baby backpack

The Glorious Machu Picchu, toddler in tow.

We will be delighted to help you plan your trip to Machu Picchu with little ones. Visit us at www.apus-peru.com or contact us by email at reservas@apus-peru.com.

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Giving Back to Andean Communities: Apus Peru Student Sponsorship

Fernando

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

Fernando 2

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.

http://www.apus-peru.com/responsible-travel/community_projects.htm

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

 

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.

1ready to start the trek

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.

5colorful flowers

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.

2a view of Chachabamba

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

Best Outdoor - Bandage practise 2

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

Class room studies 3

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

CPR practise

Learning how to perform CPR

Indoor class work 1 -cpr

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.

Day time practical 2

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

 

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Communing with the Rainbow Mountain

Introduction

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.

PHOTO 1.A

Apus Team at the starting point for the trek to Vinicunca

 

PHOTO 1.B

Getting ready to trek out of the valley 

 

PHOTO 2 - kairahuiri

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.

PHOTO 3 - locals

Locals from K’airahuiri 

PHOTO 4 - route to top

 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!

 

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Team Vinicunca: A Feast for the Eyes

Summary:

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;

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/vinicunca_rainbow_mountain2d.html

By Matt Waugh   April 2016