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Prepping for 2016 – Lares trek

26 Feb

The government closes the Inca Trail for all of February. Mostly because this is typically the rainiest month here in Cusco, but also for the government to do some maintenance on the trail and to the campsites. So while New Years is celebrated worldwide on January 1st, we celebrate March 1st.

12675249_10207954826244284_871770348_oWe have spent this month making sure our team is ready and equipped. All our guides spent time with a professor from the local university in Cusco refreshing their history. We spent two evenings at the Planetarium in Cusco reviewing the galaxy so we can help those on our alternative treks find the constellations with our new telescopes. We had a medical doctor retrain our first aid skills and park rangers review trail rules and maintenance.

We even built a new campsite for our 5 Day/4 Night Salkantay Trek. Guides, porters and local villagers all worked together to build beautiful Inca terraces and plant local flowers around. We hope you will all enjoy.

12788503_10208082203428634_2013881786_oBut it wasn’t all work. We had an amazing party celebrating what a wonderful and successful year we had in 2015. We brought more porters and their families to Machu Picchu to introduce them to the place they have worked so hard for others to visit. We visited some of our porters homes with food, boots and supplies for their kids to use in school.

Yesterday we had our final meeting with park rangers and about 70 of our porters (we have close to 300 total now). We reviewed the maintenance of the equipment, how to properly dispose garbage and waste, and how to communicate with our clients without speaking the same language. Then we enjoyed a feast. 12788588_10208082204468660_541316078_o

Our team also spent time resting and enjoying time with their families. They are now rested and ready to make 2016 Alpaca Expeditions best year ever. We know that we could not do an amazing job without our team, and we think we have the best and happiest in Cusco. We are so excited for you to meet them.

 

Alpaca Expeditions offers Peru And Machu Picchu Tours, 4 Day Inca trail to Machu picchu, Hiking Salkantay, Sacred Valley and Pisaq Tours. We have 5 star Reviews with a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and is a fully licensed Inca Trail tour operator. 100% Local Peruvian Tour Operator. Inca Trail Trek, Salkantay Trek, Machu Picchu Tours, Treks To Machu Picchu, Lares Trek

https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com

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Alpaca Expeditions Toy Drive

11 Dec

By Julian Kircher

So Christmas is almost upon us; the shops are lit in bright lights and sparkling tinsel, everywhere the food is becoming more and more fatty and delicious. We start ignoring our last new year’s resolutions and do buy that sumptuous chocolate cake that glistened a dark and luxurious brown from the window of our favorite bakery. And that is ok! Christmas is the time to think about the pleasure and joy in others and to let ourselves feel that same pleasure and joy. The shops are filled with rows and rows of toys which we all look forward to place into the hands of beaming kids. We are even humble enough to tell our children that this toy is not from us but from the magical Father Christmas, who is flying around and making children everywhere giggle. Imagine that feeling!

Your job is solely to make children happy. Can there be anything more purely good than that? Luckily a vacancy has just opened up and we want you to fill it! Imagine being Father Christmas for a day, being someone magical and exotic who will delight and enchant the children. Well, we would like to give you this opportunity.

Alpaca Expeditions has been working together with the small and secluded Andean village of Wakatinku, located deep in the Andean mountains. A village that supplies many of the porters whose tireless efforts ensure that your trek is the best it can be and a truly unforgettable experience. Many of the porters still have families who live in this village and who often lack even the most basic amenities that we take for granted. Because Alpaca Expeditions was founded on an altruistic principle we have been trying to give back to this village, and to say thank you to the backbone of this company – the porters, by supplying their families with some basic necessities.

Over the past we have given hygiene products, school supplies, sports equipment and many other small but necessary things. We have even paid for an extra teacher to be sent to the village since the local school was sorely understaffed.

This Christmas we want to bring the children of Wakatinku something special for Christmas and we would love your help.

If you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, or have any other tours booked with us we ask you to bring along a small toy, or anything else that tickles your fancy, to give to the children of Wakatinku. If you want to feel like Father Christmas to children that will appreciate just about anything you give them then here is your chance. It is actually quite easy. See picture below for instructions:

We are planning to surprise these children with our own Father Christmas and to give them a true Christmas shower of gifts. If you would like to be a part of this then we would welcome any small gifts or tokens that you would like these children to receive at Christmas. Remember that thing you never really use – that would probably be perfect, or that stuff collecting dust in the attic – perfect. We want to make Christmas as truly magical for these children as this time of year is for us. In that spirit we invite you to bring anything – whether it is simply something useful (soap, clothing, school books etc.) or something that is simply going to bring them joy (toys, footballs (they REALLY love football over here) etc.) You could of course bring the new Star Wars on blue ray but since they have no blue ray players over there this may be kept by meJ

We look forward to welcoming you to Peru,

Jumping with joy at Deadwoman Pass on Inca Trail

Jumping with joy at Deadwoman Pass on Inca Trail

Happy Holidays!

TEACHER FOR WAKATINKU HIGH SCHOOL

15 May

By Lisa Sims

GREAT NEWS!! Alpaca Expeditions has had another opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the families of some of the porters (chaskis) that help us and our trekkers carry supplies on our Inca Trail treks.

In the tiny town of Wakatinu is a school which serves the families who live in the agricultural communities in the area of Ocongate, at the base of one of Peru’s highest perpetually snow-capped mountains, Ausangate.  In the past year Alpaca has taken some of the needs of this town on as a social project and has been supporting them with school supplies, hygiene products and a native tree planting project.

Because a number of students attending this school are growing up and moving into the high school classes, there is a demand for another teacher. Unfortunately, the budget for education with the Peruvian government has gone down, leaving the classes overcrowded – and more than they can handle and still receive a proper education.

Attracting teachers to this fairly isolated location has proven to be a challenge. Most people that would consider this type of work do not want to be so far from their own families and the comforts and conveniences of the larger towns and cities. The parents of the children who live in this area are subsistence farmers and the standard of living is about as basic and rustic and one can imagine. There are basically no amenities or entertainment of any kind outside of their small homes.

So the residents of Wakatinku together with the Director of the School, Señor Martin CCoscco Huarancca and the head of the Parent-Teachers Association approached Alpaca Expeditions and asked us if we could help them with this dilemma. We agreed, and they now have a teacher! Señora Humpire Colquehuanca, a native Quechua-speaker from the Puno area in the south of Peru is now teaching the 12 to 17 year olds Mathematics, Art and some English.

We want to take this opportunity to thank YOU, our trekkers for helping us support this project. Just the fact that you have booked a tour through Alpaca Expeditions means you are making a difference in the lives and futures of these children who have been born into unfortunate poverty. With the supplies and teachers that we are able to help provide these children, they are receiving a much better opportunity to improve their future lives through their better education.  THANK YOU!!!

Alpaca Expeditions Joins HERO Organization to Help Wakatinku Village

11 May

11227260_10206008647471031_846540295_oOn Thursday, May 7, 2015 Alpaca Expeditions partnered up with Organization HERO (Humanitarians for Education and Recreation Outreach) to bring 4 computers to the children at the school at Wakatinku, the village which is home to many of our Inka Trail porters. This was our 4th visit to this village, at the base of Ausangate, the 2nd tallest mountain in Peru (21,000 feet elevation). 204 children from around this agricultural region walk as much as 2 hours each way to get to the school.

We left early on Thursday morning along with Brian Hindman, the Founding Director of HERO, and 9 of his associates. We made the 3.5 hour drive from Cusco to Wakatunku, then set up the computers for the school. Unfortunately, due to amount of rain we have received during this “dry” season, the internet in the village is completely down. They are working on getting this back up for the kids to take full advantage of these computers. But for now, they are all set up and ready to be used and the kids have already started using them for homework.

We also brought along additional school supplies, similar to our previous trip to Wakatinku in August 2014. Each child received notebooks, pencils, erasers, and other assorted hygiene items to encourage them to study and practice good hygiene. And of course everyone needs to have some fun, so we also brought a bunch of sports equipment for them to play with.

Alpaca Expeditions is so proud to be able to support these families in their humble villages, and to offer them the tools to help improve their lives.

HERO (Humanitarians for Education and Recreation Outreach) was started as a way to give back to local communities and especially children around the world. Each year they select organizations in need and donate school supplies and sports equipment , when possible, purchasing from local vendors in an effort to support the local economies of the recipient organizations. For more information on HERO, go to  http://www.heroworldsupport.org.

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Our Inca Trail Porters First Visit to Machu Picchu

13 Mar

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By Raul Ccolque Ccolque

In February the Inka Trail is closed due to heavy rains, government maintenance and the cleaning of the Trail. Alpaca Expeditions took the opportunity during this off month to create lots of activities such as, cleaning the trail for the Lares trek, the Huchuy Qosqo Trail, Inka Trail, and the training for our chefs and guides. We decided to reward our best Inka Trail group of porters and their families with a journey to Machu Picchu. They are from the community of Wakawasi located in the Lares Valley – all of them native Quechua-language-speakers who had never been to Machu Picchu even though they had trekked the Inka Trail hundreds of times. Wakawasi porters were the most organized and responsible porters in 2014. In total there were 65 people who went to Machu Picchu – 35 adult porters and their wives and the rest were children around the age of 8.

11035629_750335275062319_7191463342050698082_oThis journey started on Saturday, February 28th, 2015. Wakawasi is at 3800 meters above sea level. We collected them from their village in two buses to transfer them to Ollantaytambo (a very colorful Inka town) to catch the 7:00PM train to Aguas Calientes. It was so nice to see how excited they were (especially the children!) considering that this was happening for the first time in their lives! After the two hour train journey we arrived in Aguas Calientes. We took them to the restaurant El Tupana Wasi to enjoy dinner as one big family and to enjoy our vacation together.  After dinner we headed to our hotels, all provided by Alpaca Expeditions. We decided to meet the next morning at 5:00AM to be first in line to catch the first buses up to see the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu.10987449_750334635062383_4899141120942871699_o

On Day 2 we met at the hotel lobby for an early breakfast and then walked to the bus station. All the tourists and other Machu Picchu visitors were so captivated to see such a big group -all wearing their traditional clothing! We were on one of the first buses to leave and everyone was so happy to have such a nice morning. We arrived at Machu Picchu and the most exciting part for them was when we got to the Watchtower House of the Inkas. Our porters, their wives and children were overjoyed that they were at the New Seventh Wonder of the World, a dream-come-true for these farming families who frequently never leave their villages. And here they were in the magnificent ruins that were built by their ancestors, the Inka! After checking identification at the Entry Checkpoint, we all headed to the popular lookout point for Machu Picchu where they all got their family pictures.  We then began with their tour of Machu Picchu (in Quechua!!)- thanks to our marvelous guides, Amoroso, Elio, Yoel, and Sabino. We explored all of Machu Picchu and took loads of pictures of them which we are going to make into a DVD/ video for them. Finally we returned by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes for lunch, then took the afternoon train at 2:55PM to Ollantaytambo where Alpaca’s buses waited for then and drove to their village arriving, around 8:00PM.

10922310_750335071729006_8999043211195843062_o Who are the Wakawasi People?

Wakawasi village is located at 3800 meters above sea level; they are part of the Lares Valley and located in Urubamba province. Their main economic activity is agriculture and they farm potatoes mostly, though of course, they do have llamas and alpacas as well. Our company employs most of the people of this village as porters and horsemen.

We want to make this a tradition.

Machu Picchu, as a New Seventh Wonder of the World should not only be visited by tourists. It should also be known and visited by the local people, to put them in touch with their history and heritage. Unfortunately, even the cost of travel makes the likelihood of this happening prohibitive for them. Alpaca Expeditions has now begun this tradition and we hope in the future, to be able to share Machu Picchu with all our porters and their families, especially their children. Not just for them, but also for other villagers who have never been to this magical Inka citadel.

11044556_750334895062357_8865716279022568440_oOur next group will be in August, which is during winter vacation for the schools in Peru (Southern Hemisphere). We decided that we will be taking the residents of two small villages from the area of Ocongate. Ocongate is located at 4100 meters above sea level and belongs to the Ocongate district and Qusipicanchis region. The villages are called Wakatinku and Ullucha and we are expecting at least 100 people including our porters, wives and their children. Then next year in February, during our summer break we will be inviting other villages such as Choquekancha –Lares and Pisaq Communities.

You may be wondering why it is that our porters have hiked the Inca Trail so many times, yet never seen the ruins. The Peruvian government rules do not allow our porters to enter Machu Picchu from our last campsite, so their only options are to go on their own, or not go at all.

In their lives in their villages, our porters are subsistence farmers, living very close to the land. Many of them use the barter system to get the things they need, trading potatoes and other things they farm for what they cannot grow. Money is very hard to come by; therefore many of the things that cost money remain out of reach for them.

Going to Machu Picchu costs money. First they have to get from their remote villages to Cusco. They need transportation, hotels, meals, and bus tickets to and from the ruins. Plus they usually have several children in tow to take into account.

11041876_750334728395707_8281490073575946790_oHow can you help to be part of this project?

Just by choosing us as your trekking company you are already helping these families make it a reality to have the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu. Alpaca Expeditions is working to make the lives of our porters and their families better, from the viewpoint of learning about our culture and environment.

You can help us to create trips to Machu Picchu for more people who have never been and help them have the opportunity to see what their ancestors created. You can help with making contributions toward purchasing train tickets, hotels or simply economically supporting this project. We can purchase any tickets on your behalf for them – just contact Alpaca Expeditions.

11053296_750334845062362_1530075635549176087_oWhy did we start this project?

Just as many of us (and as many of you) love to travel and explore the various attractions all over the world, our local people would also love to travel. Unfortunately, due to their economic situation they are not able to make it happen. But we at Alpaca Expeditions consider that is very important for them to know their heritage, especially living so close to one of the Seven Wonders such as Machu Picchu. We decided that by helping them to make this happen it would help them to better appreciate their magnificent culture in Peru.

Believe it or not, there are even some children that have never even been to the city of Cusco. We would love to help them have the opportunity to get to know some of our other heritage and history besides Machu Picchu.

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http://www.alpacaexpeditions.com

 

First Aid Training for ALL Alpaca Expeditions Guides

26 Feb

By Lisa McClendon Sims

11007491_10205473364009279_1592226164_nThe Inka Trail is closed for maintenance during the month of February which gives our busy guides the opportunity to do some additional training and community service projects.

In addition to Culinary Classes for our chefs and a Beautification Project on the Huchuy Qosqo Trail this month, our guides all met in our Cusco office for two days this week for additional training. This included continuing education classes of First Aid, High Altitude Illness Training and Injury Prevention and Treatment courses.

If you have trekked with Alpaca Expeditions, you know that our guides are not only great organizers and motivators, very knowledgeable and entertaining but also very competent at handling just about any situation that can be thrown at them while guiding our trekkers safely through our magnificent Andes Mountains.

Still, on rare occasions something unexpected happens and we want to be 100% certain that our guides are prepared to handle surprise situations. We work in conjunction with O2 Clinics who help us with our annual training. Basic First Aid and CPR Training are obviously valuable as well as training in other health issues that can affect people in the high mountainous regions of the Andes.

It is also very important that our guides understand the basic physics of high altitude and the effects it can have on people who have not acclimatized well to our higher altitudes.  They are trained in how to recognize the symptoms of High Altitude Illness and what to do to help the body with recovery and acclimatization. They carry with them and are trained in how to use a Pulse Oximeter which monitors oxygen saturation and heart rate and also how to administer oxygen if necessary, which they also carry.

We then spent the afternoon on studying various bird and orchid species that are native to the area.

We are now ready to start the 2015 Season! So come and enjoy the majesty and beauty of our Inka Trail and Alternative Treks in and around the Sacred Valley of the Inkas in Peru and know that you are in good hands with Alpaca Expeditions.

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Queuña Trees

19 Dec

 

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On Monday, December 15th, 2015 Alpaca Expeditions and their staff went to the town of Wakatinku, at the base of the Sacred Valley’s largest peak, Ausangate (elev. 21,000 ft/6400 mtrs,) to fulfill a promise that we made earlier in the year.

Many of the porters that work for us on the Inca Trail come from the village of Wakatinku. They are subsistence farmers who supplement their income by working for us to help support their families.

Earlier this year we started a social project by supporting the 204 children that live in this area (and come from as much as 2 hours away to attend school) with school supplies and some basic hygiene items such as soap and toothbrushes.

We promised to come back and help them with a tree planting project.

A year ago we helped the villagers plant seeds from the only surviving tree which is indigenous to this area, the Queuña tree (Polylepis, also known as the Andean Oak).

This week, we returned to help them plant these 3000 seedlings in the surrounding farmlands of the village and school. Forty-five villagers helped the Alpaca Expeditions team put them in the ground. Within 2-3 years, these trees will begin to contribute to this area with their natural benefits.

Much of Peru has been deforested over the past several hundred years. Eucalyptus trees were brought in from abroad in the last century as they are fast growing trees and provide quick firewood. But there has been much criticism as they can be invasive and have depleted water supplies. The eucalyptus is not indigenous to Peru.

The Queuña (or Qiwiña, as it is known in the native language of Quechua) is the only surviving tree indigenous to the high Andes, growing at altitudes of up to 14,750 feet (4,500 meters). It is known to be one of the most cold-hardy trees in the world.

The Queuña also serves strong ecological functions. It helps to regulate climates, prevent soil erosion and helps by providing a filtration system which helps to feed the natural springs. The forests of these native trees also provide a natural environment that supports the flora and fauna that are unique to these ecosystems – as many as 110 species of birds and 9 species of mammals, including the puma and tiny Andean deer.

And one of the key benefits of this indigenous tree over the imported eucalyptus is that it requires a mere 5% of the water to sustain it as does the eucalyptus, a major consideration in this area which is rain-starved for 10 months of the year.

Alpaca Expeditions also made donations of other plants to individual families to plant on the land around their homes. We are teaching the children to be patient and understand the sustainability of working with their native trees. And we treated them to a little holiday cheer with gifts of T-shirts and Arroz con Leche, a sweet dessert made with rice and milk. Alpaca Expeditions is proud to make this contribution to help support our porters and their families, and to make a difference in our world.

 

This is our second trip to Wakatinku and we plan on visiting again for the holiday season with some treats. Please let us know if you would like to join us.