Ausangate Sibinacocha trek to Yayamari: a personal account

Paul Seery and his friend Chris Vayansky trekked with us in May this year, read Paul’s account of that experience here:

“We elected to trek with Apus Peru for the opportunity to get away from the places where most people were trekking. Their profile seemed to fit with what we were after. The excellent communication and professionalism from the planning stages (thanks Matt) throughout the adventure made the entire experience worthwhile.

Our guide Joel was friendly and knowledgeable about the local region. His insight into the history and culture made this more than just a hike. The food prepared by our cook Joseph and the horsemen was excellent.

The trek itself was challenging but definitely worth the extra effort to have the experience of trekking through the higher elevations.

594

We saw many things along the way: snow capped peaks, rugged rocky terrain, the animals of the region and some local people. We even saw an avalanche on our 3rd day (which was quite loud though we were a good distance away). At night there were more stars visible than you could imagine.

Seery Avalanche photo for blog

Crossing the Abra del Condor pass on day 4 was definitely a highlight. The opportunity to actually trek through some snow was awesome. The views from the top were amazing.

547

We camped near Lake Sibinacocha as well as hiked around the south end and up the western coast the next day. The views of Sibinacocha were absolutely breathtaking. A massive lake with incredibly clear water.

602

We would definitely recommend the option to scramble up Cerro Yayamari. You get to be one of the few to reach its summit. Perched on the narrow rocks of the peak, we became aware that we were higher than many mountain peaks around us. Cerro Yayamari (5500m/18040ft); It’s a pretty cool thing to do, to get so high with a non -technical climb! The views in every direction were beyond what I could explain here.

637

For anyone looking for a truly off the beaten path experience (and a few challenges) we highly recommend this trek and Apus Peru.”

Many thanks to Paul and Chris for choosing Apus Perú and especially to Paul for taking the time to write this blog and for sharing your fabulous photos! Paul and Chris added the extra day to climb Yayamari http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/ausangate_sibinacocha.htm . Contact us for more information: http://www.apus-peru.com/make-a-booking/contact_us.htm

Happy trekking ! :)

A photograph is worth a thousand words!

We would like to share a photo story of our 12 day Choquequirao, Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu route, from this year at the end of March. Thanks to the fabulous Jenkins’ couple, our excellent guide Urbano (gracias por las fotos!!) and absolutely not forgetting the trek team and our chef Mauro, “the magician”. Enjoy..

IMG_0632

Readying the 4 legged team members

IMG_0640

Mauro the magician with the Jenkins’ at trek start

IMG_0650

take off!

IMG_0687

First glimpse

IMG_0743

the Apurimac Valley in all it’s glory

IMG_0824

Rio Blanco

IMG_0874

Heading out towards Salkantay

Urbano!!

Urbano!!

IMG_0921

At the top of the world

IMG_0950

Abra Salkantay

IMG_1027

Apu Salkantay

IMG_1050

The Glacier

IMG_1074

bambi!

IMG_1136

Inca Trail

IMG_1138

Team tent :)

IMG_1170

Camp dining, happy faces

IMG_1193

IMG_1212

12 days, isolated ruins, 4600m glacial pass, the infamous Inca Trail.. Made it!!!

For more information about this amazing route http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/choquequirao_salkantay_inca_trail_machu_picchu_2.html please contact reservas@apus-peru.com

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