Tag Archives: Incas

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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Navigate the skies with us – Inca trail

5 Feb

For those of you booked with us on one of our Alternative Treks, we have now added Telescopes to our campsites (one campsite on each trek). See how the Peruvian skies differ from your sky at home. Learn about our constellations and why the Incas relied on them so much for weather and farming conditions.

For those of you coming from the northern hemisphere, this will be especially interesting. With the South Pole facing the galactic center of the Milky Way, the southern skies provide a much brighter white stripe of the Milky Way – and the majestic Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (our Milky Way’s satellite galaxies).A northern observer will see things topsy-turvy when looking at the southern skies – familiar constellations seem upside down – but getting a glimpse of Crux, the Southern Cross, which is the smallest and the most famous constellation in the southern hemisphere (it is displayed on the New Zealand, Australian, and Brazilian flags) is a thrill that reminds you how dependent we used to be on the stars to navigate our way across the world. Equally impressive is the glowing band of our own galaxy – the Milky Way – with its patches of light and dark stretching across the sky. The non-luminous part of the Milky Way is called the Great Rift (or more poetically “the Dark River”); it is made of overlapping dust clouds containing about 1 million solar masses of plasma and dust situated in the Sagittarius Arm of our galaxy Differences For Northern and at a distance of about 300 light years from Earth.
Image of the Milky Way (source)

The Incas’ Constellations:

For the Incas, “Mayu,” (the Milky Way) was a life-giving river in the heavens with its earthly counterpart – the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, high up in the Andes Mountains. The Incas grouped constellations into two different types – luminous and dark. The first was made up of sparkling stars that depicted geometric forms in the sky. These luminous constellations were seen as inanimate. The other kind – the dark cloud constellations – were contained within the dark blotches of the Milky Way, and were considered living forms, representing animals the Incas knew. These dark patches represented the silhouettes of animals that came to drink from the waters of celestial river, obscuring the heavenly glow of Mayu.

One of the most important dark cloud constellations was Yacana –the llama, which rises above Cuzco, the ancient capital city of the Incas, in November. It consists of two llamas – the Mother Llama, seen between the Southern Cross and Scorpio, and the Baby Llama, suckling at her mother’s breast. Although The Llama is a dark cloud constellation, the eyes of the Mother Llama are the two bright stars from the constellation Centaurus. One is Alpha Centauri, which is the third brightest star in the night sky (to the naked eye it appears as one star, but is in fact a binary star system), and the other – Beta Centauri, is a trinary star system.

Another dark constellation is the Serpent – Mach’acuay –a wavy black ribbon between the star Adhara, in Canis Major, and the Southern Cross. It appears above Cuzco in August and sets in February, when its earthly counterparts become visible and more active in the area. Mach’acuay was in charge of all snakes and vipers on Earth, and offerings were made by the Incas to protect themselves from snake bites.

This painting shows some of the animal shapes that the Incas saw in the dark spots of the Milky Way Photo by Koricancha Sun Temple/CuscoThis painting shows some of the animal shapes that the Incas saw in the dark spots of the Milky Way. Two black spots near the Southern Cross are Hanp’atu, the Toad, and Yutu, the Andean ground Partridge. These two keep a safe distance from the Serpent in the east, and from Atoq, the Fox, in the west. The dark constellation of Yutu (the Partridge) occupies the same area as the dark Coalsack Nebula in the constellation Crux, which in Australian Aboriginal astronomy is the head of their dark constellation “Emu in the Sky.”

The reason why the Incas revered the skies and celestial events was two-fold. First, their observations of stars, of constellations (dark and stellar), and of the movements of the sun and moon, provided them with units of time, and a calendar system which helped them plan agricultural and herding activities.

Second, although the Incas worshipped dark constellations, they thought of themselves as descendents of the sun god – Inti. The Festival of the Sun “Inti Raymi “ is still celebrated in indigenous cultures throughout the Andes. “Inti Raymi” was celebrated by the Incas on the shortest day of the year during the winter solstice, and was the most important event in their lives. Little did they know that the object of their worship was a gigantic ball of hot plasma with an internal temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius, and racing inside their celestial river “Mayu” at the speed of 225km per second.

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

 

Celebrating Inti Raymi tomorrow, June 24th

23 Jun

Inti-raymi-copiaTomorrow, the Green Machine of Alpaca along with all our fellow Peruvians and foreigners visiting our beautiful country will celebrate Inti Raymi.  During the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi was the most important of four ceremonies celebrated in Cusco, as related by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The celebration took place in the Haukaypata or the main plaza in the city.

The Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun”) was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti, one of the most venerated deities in Inca religion. It was the celebration of the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year in terms of the time between sunrise and sunset and the Inca New Year. In territories south of the equator the gregorian months of June and July are winter months.

According to chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, Sapa Inca Pachacuti created the Inti Raymi to celebrate the new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. The ceremony was also said to indicate the mythical origin of the Incas. It lasted for nine days and was filled with colorful dances and processions, as well as animal sacrifices to thank Pachamama and to ensure a good cropping season. The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence was carried out in 1535, after which the Spanish and the Catholic priests banned it.

Today, it’s the second largest festival in South America. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on Cuzco from other parts of the nation, South America and the world for a week long celebration marking the beginning of a new year, the Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun.

Every day has its events, from daytime expositions, street fairs, and people milling and dancing in the streets. In the evenings, live music from the best of Peruvian musical groups draws the crowds to the Plaza de Armas for free concerts. During the preceding year, in preparation for Inti Raymi, hundreds of actors are chosen to represent historical figures. Being selected to portray the Sapa Inca or his wife, Mama Occla, is a great honor.

The centerpiece of the festival is the all-day celebrations tomorrow, June 24, the actual day of Inti Raymi. On this day, the ceremonial events begin with an invocation by the Sapa Inca in the Qorikancha, built over the ancient Temple of the Sun. Here, the Sapa Inca calls on the blessings from the sun. Following the oration, Sapa Inca is carried on a golden throne, a replica of the original which weighed about 60 kilos, in a procession to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán, in the hills above Cuzco. With the Sapa Inca come the high priests, garbed in ceremonial robes, then officials of the court, nobles and others, all elaborately costumed according to their rank, with silver and gold ornaments.

They walk along flower-bedecked streets, to music and prayers and dancing. Women sweep the streets to clear them of evil spirits. At Sacsayhuamán , where huge crowds await the arrival of the procession, Sapa Inca climbs to the sacred altar where all can see him.

Once all the celebrants are in place in the grand square of the fortress, there are speeches by Sapa Inca, the priests and representatives of the Suyos: the Snake for the world below, the Puma for life on earth, and the Condor for the upper world of the gods.

A white llama is sacrificed (now in a very realistic stage act) and the high priest holds aloft the bloody heart in honor of Pachamama. This is done to ensure the fertility of the earth which in combination with light and warmth from the sun provides a bountiful crop. The priests read the blood stains to see the future for the Inca.

As the sun begins to set, stacks of straw are set on fire and the celebrants dance around them to honor Tawantinsuty or the Empire of the Four Wind Directions. In ancient times, no fire was allowed that day until the evening fires.

The ceremony of Inti Raymi ends with a procession back to Cuzco. Sapa Inca and Mama Occla are carried on their thrones, the high priests and representatives of the Supas pronounce blessings on the people. Once again, a new year has begun.

While Alpaca encourages our staff to celebrate this important holiday, we will still be around to answer any of your questions.  Just be patient as the office will be closed from 12 – 4PM tomorrow for us all to have a little celebration.

 

 

We Never Stop Learning

26 Feb

At Alpaca Expeditions, we understand that there is always room to grow and learn – we really strive to be the best.  Of course our entire team believes in this ideology including our guides.  While they are all experts in the Inca history, there is always room to learn more.  So for the next three day our guides are in class.

Alpaca Expeditions has hired a local professor of Inca history to teach our guides.

Teacher and student

Going ruin by ruin, he is reviewing the history, the culture the importance of each site.  Small hidden stories that are fun to share.  Fun for them to eventually teach to you.

Presentation

Part of the guides job is to be a teacher, and we want to make sure that all of our teachers offer the most valuable information to you.  It is our job to make this part of history come to life, and we hope we can do that for every single one of you in 2014.

Class Photo

Alpaca Guides in Class

Guides never stop learning

Attentively Learning

  Trek with Alpaca Expeditions.  Learn. Hike.  Love.

Thank you!

27 Sep

So many of you have taken time out of your day to write amazing reviews about your experience with Alpaca on websites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.  This is something that is so appreciated by us.  It’s an honor to us just to be chosen as your tour operator.  We hope that each and every one of you falls in love with Cusco, Machu Picchu and everything Peru has to offer.  And we hope that your trip is truly enhanced by being part of the Alpaca team for just a little while.  We honestly strive to make amazing memories for everyone and always want to hear your honest feedback after the tour/trek.  Some times reviewers are able to articulate our ideology as a company better than we can, so we are highlighting the review we received today that just seemed to understand the motivation we have for every single trip.  Thank you so much everyone and thank you Sivia for this review…

As seen on TripAdvisor.com…

“Excellence in every extent of the word”
Reviewed September 26, 2013

The cWacawasiompany and tour team- Our close friends and us just completed the Lares Trek with Alpaca Expeditions and I am at a loss of words to describe the breath taking experience this was for us (no pun intended). If you’re planning to visit Machu Pichu, look no more. You have found the best company to guide you. There are many things to be said about them, but after having spent 4 days in their company, one stands out from the rest. They are a socially responsible organization. They CARE. Raul, its owner, has managed to build such ownership in each and everyone of his employees in a way that is quite tangible in the way they perform their jobs. You see passion in their eyes. They will make you fall in love with their country. The Green Machine as they call themselves will go the extra mile to make this a once in a lifetime experience for you. By the way, they truly live up to the green machine standards. Although the Lares Trek may quite possibly be the less traveled road, there are other companies who offer it and we were appalled by the litter they’d leave behind. Our guide carried a plastic bag with him and picked up any trash we’d run into on our trek. Respect and love for the environment is a value we hold dear to us and were glad to have shared it with the team.

The food- our expectations were exceeded! We were beyond spoiled. I’m quite certain I have never eaten so well before in my life! Our Chef Roger is a rockstar! He didn’t just feed us, he nourished us. The menu is well thought of to sustain the physical challenge it requires for this trek. I’m talking varied, fresh, delicious and well ballanced meals. The best food we had while in Perú, was cooked by him. He did so much in such limited space and very little tools. He’s an inspiration indeed. I mean, for our last day, he baked a cake! A freakin’ CAKE! Without an oven. That’s a rockstar if you ever saw one!

Equipment- They’ve invested on a port-a-potty which made it comfortable for us to use the restroom. I’m telling you, they think of everything! Their tents, poles and all around equipment, are state of the art, so worry not. They will see to your comfort 100%. They pay so much attention to detail.

The trek- everytime we thought we had seen the most beautiful landscape yet, another one came right around. This happened throughout the whole trek. We got to interact with local Andean habitants, got up close and personal with alpacas and llamas, got amazed by the beautiful rivers and glaciars. Don’t under estimate the beauty of the treks other then the incan trail. Although dissapointed at first, we are now glad the incan trail was booked and experienced the Lares Trek instead.

Our guide- last but not least, Sabino, our guide was hands down the highlight of our trip. He’s so passionate about his heritage, that you have no choice but to partake of his passion and submerge yourself in the incan history. He’s incredibly knowledgeable on the flora and fauna as well. At one point, I started to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, and he was quick to let me inhale an herbal oil that quickly made me feel better. He encouraged us every step of the way and I will NEVER forget his words when we reached the highest and toughest part of our trek (Condor Pass) after thinking I wouldn’t make it. Even now, I tear up to think of that very emotional and happiest moment of our trip. Throughout the trip, he took the time to talk to the locals, give out coca leaves and tell us about the people and their culture. He’d say “I was like them. That’s where I come from” making it all the more maningful of an experience for us. We don’t think of him as our guide. He’s a friend now. He’s our Peruvian Compadre 🙂

Once we got to Machu Pichu we felt like it was the icing on the cake, it was beautiful and everything we had hoped for it to be, but nothing could have prepared us for the amazing experience of our trek, thanks to Alpaca Expeditions. The journey truly was our destination. THANK YOU!

Visited September 2013

Great Books About Machu Picchu

19 Sep
Amazing Alpaca guide Efrain receiving a copy of Turn Right at Machu Picchu as a gift from a happy client.

Amazing Alpaca guide Efrain receiving a copy of Turn Right at Machu Picchu as a gift from a happy client.

National Georgraphic came out with another great list of suggested books to read before visiting or while visiting Machu Picchu.  Of course Turn Right at Machu Picchu has been on best sellers list and is really popular with many travelling.  Some have even thanked their Alpaca guide with a copy of the book (Thank you Kathy).

National Geographic created the below list of books, separated into categories for easy reference.  If you have any books you see missing, please let us know.  We are beginning our own list.

By Jason Golomb

Discovery

Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham

Phoenix Press (2003)

Bingham wrote his classic synthesis of adventure, discovery, and history in 1948, 37 years after his discovery of Machu Picchu and just a few years before his death. Bingham reconfirmed what he thought he’d found at Machu Picchu—the fabled last stronghold of the Inca. With Machu Picchu, he’d absolutely found a lost city, just not the lost city. Another of his discoveries at Espiritu Pampa was confirmed as the lost city in the 1970s. Though his conclusions about what he’d found are inaccurate, one can’t help but be drawn into his very real-life jungle adventure.

History

Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie

Simon and Schuster (2008)

MacQuarrie writes a detailed and narrative history of the Spanish conquest of the Inca. Dramatic and historic, this reads more like fiction than the modern standard-bearer of the epic tale of exploration and invasion, John Hemmings’s Conquest of the Incas. It’s interesting to compare MacQuarrie’s more serious history with Bingham’s Lost City to see where Bingham made his leaps of faith, as well as understand how well researched his expeditions were. MacQuarrie also spends a few chapters on the history of Inca research and discovery since the conquest, including Bingham’s adventures as well as explorer Gene Savoy’s work at Espiritu Pampa.

Guidebooks

Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour by Ruth M. Wright and Alfredo Valencia Zegarra

3D Press (2004)

The Inca Trail, Cusco & Machu Picchu by Richard Danbury and Alexander Stewart

Trailblazer Publications (2005)

Both of these guidebooks are the most detailed and accurate offerings in this category. Machu Picchu Guidebook is a rich guide written by two Machu Picchu experts. It features photos or drawings for each building and object at the site. The guide comes with a full-color architectural rendering of the site as well as a poster that once accompanied an issue of National Geographic magazine.

There are many miles of Inca trails across the former empire, and The Inca Trail focuses on those in and around Cusco and Vilcabamba, including the famous Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu. The book is filled with detailed trail maps, as well as archaeological site maps of the ruins strewn throughout the region. An updated fourth edition is in development. A strong companion piece to these two guides is Johan Reinhard’s Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center, which helps synthesize what Machu Picchu and the surrounding sites may mean.

Adventure/Travel

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams

Dutton Adult (2011)

Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu by Christopher Heaney

Palgrave Macmillan (2010)

While a little hard to classify, Adams’s Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a serious (and seriously funny) travelogue, a smart and tightly written history, and an investigative report into perhaps the greatest archaeological discovery in the last century. Adams sets off on a rediscovery of Machu Picchu, the way Bingham did 100 years ago this July, by hiking, climbing, slogging, tenting, and exploring his way through the jungles of Peru. His adventure culminates with a visit to the site that was recently named one of the world’s new seven wonders.

Cradle of Gold recounts the discovery of Machu Picchu, but also dives deeply into the expeditions leading up to this seminal archaeological discovery, as well as later expeditions and the political intrigues that still exist today. Heaney provides a thrilling account of Bingham’s journeys, through the multifaceted lenses of reports related to his Peruvian expeditions, as well as his own well-known accounts.

For Children

Lost City: Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin

Philomel Books (2003)

This picture book traces Hiram Bingham’s trek from Cusco to his discovery of Machu Picchu. A few of the key characters involved in this portion of Bingham’s 1911 trip are interspersed into the short book, but the boy who ultimately led Bingham to the ruins adds a dreamlike quality to the tale. Lewin’s watercolors fill entire pages and explode with color. This book makes the adventure into the Inca heartland accessible and exciting for a would-be traveler and his family.

 

For the original article posted by National Geographic, click here.

Interview with an AE Guide

19 Jun

Q: Raul, why did you start Alpaca Expeditions?

Raul:I started with the purpose of helping porters and their families.

Q: What makes Alpaca Expeditions different than other adventure companies?
Raul: I created Alpaca with two goals – a superior experience for my hikers and a better life for my porters.  I want to make sure that each trip is unique for the hikers who are going.  Each of us has different needs and expectations from a vacation and I want to plan each trip catered to the hikers needs.  But creating a better life for my porters is just as important to me.  I want to make sure my porters have a good life and an income that can support them and their families. I want to make sure they have the appropriate hiking equipment and clothing. Sometimes people do not realize how difficult it is to be a porter, how physically demanding it is.  I want to make their life a little bit easier.

Q: Is it true that you were a porter and a guide before you started Alpaca?

Raul:I was a porter for three years while I was studying tourism at the University.  I then moved to the office for one year learning a little bit about how the business and how to organize tours. After graduating, I got the opportunity to guide my own groups to Machu Picchu.  I have been guiding now for four years.  All these experiences have helped me to understand how to run a company dedicated to making a truly unforgettable vacation for my travelers.

Q: Do you remember the first time you saw Machu Picchu?

Raul
: Of course I do, it was magical.  Once I started working as a porter I really wanted to visit Machu Picchu.  But it was against the rules for porters to go through the Sun Gate. Eventually I was chosen to take one of the duffel bags of a hiker to Sanctuary Lodge, allowing me to finally see the wonder.  I had seen pictures of Machu Picchu of course, but arriving at the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu made me cry.  It was more than I imagined.  It was so beautiful and so much more than the photos show you.  In spite of being so tired from waking up at 3AM that morning, I found the energy to not only walk around Machu Picchu, but I ended up hiking to Huaynapicchu.  I now love watching my hikers get to the Sun Gate to watch their experience of seeing the real thing.

Q: How many times do you think you have done either the Inca trail or one of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu?

Raul:
Since 2003, I have trekked more than 650 times on all the different treks to Machu Picchu.  I have had the opportunity to take 1000s of visitors from all over the world to our beautiful Inca ruin.

Q: When do you think is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

Raul:  There are two seasons: from November to March is the rainy season.  This is not the ideal time to visit.  From April through October is the dry season and the most perfect time to hike and to visit Machu Picchu, as you can see the sun rise over the ruins.  Even though the rainy season is not the ideal time to travel, you can still have an amazing adventure and its usually raining in showers and not all day.

Q
: Can people hike the Inca trail without a guide?

Raul
: No.  The Inca trail has been regulated in 2000.  They now only allow 500 people on the trail each day.  This includes porters, cooks and your guides.  You need to book the inca trail in advance. Alpaca Expeditions has many alternative treks to Machu Picchu for those who can’t book the Inca trail on the dates they were hoping for.  These treks are just as beautiful and offer amazing views and many inca ruins.  They are also less crowded and some people find it more enjoyable because of this.

Q
: What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who is planning on doing one of the hikes to Machu Picchu?

Raul: Do not panic.  Everyone can do it.  It’s not a race and everyone needs to take their time and walk in a comfortable pace.  This is your holiday.  Do not forget to enjoy the hike, the views, the experience.

If you have any questions you would like Raul to answer, please comment below or email info@alpacaexpeditions.com.