Qhapaq Ñan

Published on November 4th, 2016 | by Nicholas Stanziano

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Qhapaq Ñan–Second Expedition,Part 1

Qhapaq Ñan – Day 1. Second Expedition

After 14 hours of traversing treacherous Andean roads, in route from Cusco towards Ayacucho, we arrived to Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán was a great center of the Inca Empire during the 15th century and laid at the very geographic center of the Inca world that went from northern Argentina to Southern Colombia along the western coast of South America. It has been said that Vilcashuamán was the retirement home for Pachacutec, the great Inca king who many also believe built Machu Picchu. Vilcashuamán takes about 4 weeks by foot and llama on the great Inca road, the Qhapaq Ñan, which we’ll be doing next year. But this visit starts us off on another expedition along the Qhapaq Ñan for a 200-mile march on route towards the Pacific to a desert oasis near modern day Ica, where we will arrive by the end of October.

Being in the Andes, we will also be supported by our team of 12 llamas which arrived by truck after two days on the highway from Northern Peru. While llamas are an iconic Andean symbol, their use and familiarity has been declining since the Spanish introduced hooved animals as the principal beast of burden. Although the llama, in its elegance and native familiarity in the high Andes, give it certain advantages on long distance travel here. We want to understand and rely again, as the Inca’s did before us, on how to use of the llama as a pack animal.

Today though, in our efforts just to get them loaded, we were reminded we were no Incas…The circus that ensued brought more than a 100 townsfolk and gawking tourists to watch us chase llamas around the archeological park in town that is the tallest ushnu (raised ceremonial platform) in the whole Inca empire. We had gangs of young children, in an amazing display of ability skipping across the terraced Andes, pursuing llamas that were on the loose escaping their load.

Half the town must have been in some way part of the llamas’ presence and our ragtag team of 3 Cusqueños and two gringos, as we chased them down. In the end, we found one of the llamas so ornery and with a zeal to run, that we decided to sell it for 300 soles (90 dollars) to the man who also played dressed as the Inca king to take pictures with tourists. We declined his first offer, but soon found it a convenient way to find it a home that wasn’t part of our expedition. In the end, we decided to camp another night and think about things and find some more clarity on how this is all going to work out.

I’ll close this first post with optimism and braced for the 200 miles of adventure ahead on the great Qhapaq Ñan.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 1. Comenzando la segunda expedición..

Luego de catorce horas de atravesar dificultosos caminos andinos, desde Cusco hacia Ayacucho, llegamos a Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán fue el centro del Imperio Inca durante el siglo XV, siendo el punto medio geográfico del mundo Inca que iba desde el norte de Argentina hasta el sur de Colombia a lo largo de la costa occidental de América del Sur. Se dice que Vilcashuamán fue la casa de retiro de Pachacutec, el gran inca rey que muchos creen construyó Machu Picchu. Vilcashuamán toma aproximadamente cuatro semanas a pie o en llama en el gran camino del Inca, el Qhapaq Ñan, trayecto que estaremos haciendo el año que viene. Pero esta visita comienza con otra expedición a lo largo del Qhapaq Ñan por una distancia de 320 kilómetros en ruta hacia el Pacífico a un oasis en el desierto cerca de la moderna ciudad de Ica, a donde llegaremos a finales de octubre.

Estando en los Andes, también recibimos el apoyo de nuestro equipo de doce llamas que llegaron en camión después de dos días de viaje por la carretera desde el norte de Perú. Mientras que las llamas son un símbolo icono de los Andes, su uso y la familiaridad ha ido disminuyendo desde que los españoles introdujeron otros animales principales de carga. Sin embargo, la llama, con elegancia y familiaridad nativa de los Andes, tiene ciertas ventajas en viajes de larga distancia en este terreno. Queremos entender y confiar de nuevo, como lo hicieron los incas antes que nosotros, los contextos de uso de la llama como animal de carga.

Sin embargo, hoy en nuestro esfuerzo de alistar a las llamas, recordamos que no somos Incas… lo que a continuación pasó fue un circo que logró que más de cien ciudadanos y turistas nos observen en una persecución de llamas por el parque arqueológico de la ciudad que es el más alto ushnu (elevada plataforma ceremonial) en todo el imperio Inca. Tuvimos bandas de niños pequeños, dándonos una impresionante muestra de la capacidad de saltar al otro lado de las terrazas andinas, persiguiendo llamas que estaban a punto de escapar de su carga.

La mitad de la ciudad fue partícipe de la organización de las llamas, junto a nuestro equipo de tres Cusqueños y dos gringos. Al final, encontramos una de las llamas tan intratables y con un afán de correr, que decidimos venderla por 300 soles (90 dólares) al hombre que estando ahí vestido como un Inca aprovechó en tomarse unas fotos con los turistas. Inicialmente rechazamos una primera oferta, pero pronto pareció una manera conveniente de encontrarle una casa a esta llama. Al final, decidimos acampar otra noche y pensar en las cosas y encontrar algo más de claridad sobre cómo todo esto va a funcionar.

Voy a cerrar este primer post con optimismo y preparándome para los 320 kilómetros de aventura por delante en el gran Qhapaq Ñan.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 2. Second Expedition

Promptly at 6am this morning, many of the municipality officials from the day before arrived to camp to watch our second attempt to load the llamas. Before this though, Valentine thought it prudent to have a coca leaf ceremony (called Haywaykuy in Quechua), which asks the mountains for safe passing and to bless the expedition. He wrapped llama fat into three coca leaves with a purple flower and then offered it beneath the Inca stones. I’m convinced it made all the difference as we were much more successful loading the llamas before swiftly departing for Vilcashuamán on the Qhapaq Ñan towards Pomacocha. It wasn’t long however till one llama, as a last act of rebellion, managed to jump the walls of the road and take off across the Andes. Our llameros and some town folk eventually tracked it down, after a 20-minute delay.

Arriving to Pomacocha, our inquiries locally took the team on a left turn up a steep Inca road that led to an impressive Inca complex called Intihuatana. The quality and beauty of carved stone at this Inca site are as good as anything in the empire, its capital of Cusco included. Due to its proximity to Vilcashuamán, an important home for Pachacútec, it was most likely an important temple for this powerful Inca leader giving reason to the level of its stonework.

We’re camped among the site on a high terrace next to an Inca bath and sun temple. The bath is a beautifully carved fountain that serves today as a massive stone shower. Today’s experience washing in it would have been exactly as it was 600 years ago for the Incas and we were excited to have a water source with such pomp after a hot day of herding llamas and hiking.

The overall site only attracts a handful of tourist from nearby Ayacucho and Lima. Although I can’t help but think that if it had half the restoration work of a site like Machu Picchu, it would attract millions of curious visitors from around the world.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 2.

A las seis de la mañana, muchos de los funcionarios de la municipalidad llegaron nuevamente al campamento para ver el segundo intento de alistar a las llamas. Pero antes de esto, Valentino consideró prudente tener una ceremonia de hoja de coca (llamada Haywaykuy – en quechua), que pide pasar con seguridad por las montañas y bendecir la expedición. Envolvió con grasa de llama tres hojas de coca y una flor morada y luego realizó la ofrenda por debajo de las piedras incas. Estoy convencido de que este momento hizo una gran diferencia, ya que tuvimos mucho más éxito al momento de alistar y colocar la carga a las llamas antes de caminar rápidamente de Vilcashuamán por el gran camino Inca, Qhapaq Ñan hacia Pomacocha. Sin embargo, no pasó mucho tiempo hasta que una de ellas, como último acto de rebeldía, logró saltar las paredes de la carretera y empezó a correr a través de los Andes. Nuestros llameros y algunas personas del pueblo pudieron rastrearle después de un retraso de veinte minutos.

Al llegar a Pomacocha, nuestras investigaciones nos llevaron camino a la izquierda hacia una carretera Inca empinada que conducía a un impresionante complejo Inca llamado Intihuatana. La calidad y la belleza de la piedra tallada en este sitio Inca es tan buena como cualquier otra en el Imperio, incluyendo a la capital Cusco. Debido a la cercanía a Vilcashuamán, un hogar importante para Pachacútec, fue importante la presencia de un templo de esta magnitud para este poderoso líder Inca.

Hemos acampado entre una terraza alta, un baño Inca y el templo del Sol. El baño es una fuente bellamente tallada que sirve hoy en día como una ducha de piedra maciza. Hoy pudimos experimentar exactamente como lo hicieron hace 600 años los Incas y tomamos una ducha. Estábamos emocionados de tener una fuente de agua con tanta fuerza después de un día de calor dirigiendo llamas y caminando.

El sitio atrae a un pequeño puñado de turistas que vienen de lugares cercanos como Ayacucho y Lima. Sin embargo, no puedo evitar pensar que, si tuviera la mitad de los trabajos de restauración de un sitio como Machu Picchu, sería una atracción a donde llegarían millones de visitantes curiosos de todo el mundo.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 3. Second Expedition

Camp breakdown and loading of the llamas was quicker this morning with every person and animal a bit more practiced as we left Intihuatana on a well-defined Qhapaq Ñan. The route immediately climbs 500 feet to a high pampa, continuing on a flat easy trail leading to Patahuasi. Although at the top of the climb, another llama decided that it was not going to be in the business of cargo. After only 45 minutes of walking, it sat down and decided it was not going to move. We waited, considered our options, and then finally decided to sell now our second llama to a passing campesino leaving us to 10 llamas.

Out the 12 llamas that we originally brought down from Northern Peru, there is unfortunately some that do not have the specifications for carrying loads. Our old llamero friend you may remember from our first Qhapaq Ñan expedition from Huanuco Pampa to Casma, seemed to have sent down second class llamas, compared to what we had used on his home turf in August. Were now in the business of selling and hopefully buying more llamas in route to improve our flock and improve our pace.

Today, after a long day of trekking we made it to the small town of Incaraccay. The reaction of the town towards the outsiders and llamas was one of confusion and then amazement as we rested in the town square. Eventually we tracked down a local official to find an adequate place to camp with water and a corral for the llamas with grass to eat. Eventually, the vice-president of the town who also doubled as the town doctor let us camp behind the enclosed health clinic.

Timing and amenities couldn’t have been better as a major thunderstorm soon hit and we were able to set up our kitchen and store our gear in the covered room behind the clinic. Pea sized hail came down and covered the ground and llamas in white as dinner was cooked and the next day’s route discussed.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 3.

Esta mañana, levantar el campamento y alistar la carga de las llamas se pudo realizar de manera más rápida gracias a la práctica de los días previos, mientras dejábamos Intihuatana por una parte del Qhapaq Ñan bien definida. La ruta sube inmediatamente 200 metros por una pampa alta, continuando por un sendero plano que va en dirección a Patahuasi. Fue ahí que, en la cima de la colina, otra llama decidió que no iba a formar parte en el negocio de carga. Después de sólo 45 minutos de caminar, se sentó y decidió que no se iba a mover más. Esperamos mientras consideramos diferentes opciones hasta que finalmente decidimos venderla a un campesino que encontramos en el camino, siendo esta la segunda de la que nos despedimos.

Dentro de las doce llamas que trajimos desde el norte de Perú, hay por desgracia algunas que no tienen las especificaciones para el transporte de carga. Nuestro viejo amigo llamero, que deben recordar de nuestra primera expedición Qhapaq Ñan desde Huánuco Pampa hasta Casma, parecía haber elegido esta vez llamas de segunda clase, esto en comparación con las que habíamos utilizado en su propio terreno en agosto. Algunas de estas están en venta y es de esperar la compra de más llamas en ruta para mejorar nuestro rebaño y nuestro ritmo.

Después de un largo día de caminata llegamos a la pequeña ciudad de Incaraccay. Las reacciones que tuvimos de los pobladores de esta ciudad fue de confusión y asombro mientras descansábamos en la plaza del pueblo. Con el tiempo pudimos ubicar a un funcionario local con el que conversamos para encontrar un lugar adecuado en donde acampar que tenga agua y un corral para las llamas con pasto para que puedan comer. Finalmente, el vicepresidente de la ciudad, que también es médico del pueblo, nos dejó acampar detrás del hospital de salud.

La organización no podría haber sido mejor, justo antes de que llegue una tormenta eléctrica fuimos capaces de establecer la cocina y guardar los equipo en la sala cubierta detrás del hospital. Granizo de gran tamaño descendió y cubrió el suelo y las llamas se cubrieron de blanco mientras se preparaba la cena y discutíamos la ruta del día siguiente.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expediciones

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 4. Second Expedition

We left Incaraccay out the only street in town, which was most likely the Qhapaq Ñan, just covered up by a modern road of dirt lined by a few houses. It’s like a puzzle as we walk from town to town asking just about every local for directions to the Inca Road that goes by a myriad of names depending upon the region. Some popular names are the Camino Incaico, Camino Real, Camino Herradura and Camino Inka Ñan. The last few days, “Camino Herradura” has won out as the name locals use most for the Qhapaq Ñan.

Today especially, we’ve had some fun impromptu campesino congresses discussing directions, although we still found ourselves throughout the morning not quite sure of the exact route. The challenge comes when the Inca road is destroyed and covered by modern roadways and agriculture. Even so, we still reached a section by lunch with walls 2 meters high and a stone paved trail 7 meters wide. As it always does, the sight of the great roads raises everyone’s spirit and reminds us why the hell we do this to ourselves.

Tonight we landed in the small village of Huayllabamba and many in the town came out to see what the commotion was in the main square when the expedition of 10 llamas and 5 outsiders showed up. Eventually, some opportunistic matriarchs of the town brought out their textiles, which after all our requests for a place to sleep, we knew there was no way we were getting out of this purchase. Although in such a contrast to intensively visited destinations like Machu Picchu, Huayllabamba at best sees only a handful of outsiders in an entire year and so watching the entrepreneurial spirit of the local women was like witnessing the very earliest sprout from the seed that is tourism.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 4.

Dejamos Incaraccay por la única calle de la ciudad, la misma que muy probablemente sea parte del Qhapaq Ñan, la cual está cubierta por una moderna carretera de tierra y bordeada por casas. Parece un rompecabezas a medida que caminamos de pueblo en pueblo pidiendo ayuda a los locales, a quienes nos cruzamos en el trayecto, sobre la dirección que debemos tomar. El Qhapaq Ñan es conocido bajo diferentes nombres dependiendo de las regiones, algunos nombres populares son el Camino Incaico, Camino Real, Camino de Herradura y Camino Inka Ñan. En los últimos días, “Camino de Herradura” ha triunfado dentro de los nombres que utilizan más los locales.

Especialmente hoy, hemos tenido algunas reuniones improvisadas con campesinos sobre la dirección de debíamos seguir, sin embargo, durante la mañana no nos encontrábamos muy seguros de la ruta exacta. El desafío se presentó cuando siguiendo por el camino Inca encontramos una parte destruida y cubierta por la moderna carretera y por sembríos. Aun así, para la hora de almuerzo localizamos una sección con paredes de dos metros de altura y un camino de piedra pavimentado de siete metros de ancho. Como en cada momento, tener a la vista parte de estas grandes vías eleva el espíritu de todos y nos recuerda porque estamos aquí haciendo esto.

Esta noche llegamos al pequeño pueblo de Huayllabamba, y una vez más muchos de los pobladores salieron a ver qué pasaba luego de que llegaran a la plaza principal diez llamas y cinco personas ajenas al lugar. Con el tiempo, algunas oportunistas matriarcas de la ciudad nos mostraron sus textiles y después de intentar mostrar todo el interés de encontrar un lugar para dormir, sabíamos que no había manera de evadir la compra de estos textiles. Aunque en un contraste con Machu Picchu, Huayllabamba tiene muy pocas oportunidades de ver a personas ajenas al lugar en todo el año, así que ver el espíritu empresarial de las mujeres de la localidad fue como presenciar el primer brote de la semilla que es el turismo.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 5. Second Expedition

Departing Huayllabamba we encountered a nice stretch of Qhapaq Ñan that took us all the way to Chuschi, which was only briefly interrupted by modern roads. Arriving by lunch, we decided to stay to get to know this important place. Chuschi is where Abimael Guzmán and his communist movement the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) began their reign of terror in the name of political ideology in 1980. What began here, lasted nearly 15 years, took 70,000 lives, and decimated the economy, infrastructure and psyche of Peru.

In a perfect concoction of geographic remoteness, rural poverty and a feeling then of being forgotten by the state, the Shining Path spread from Chuschi amongst the Qhapaq Ñan to other rural towns in the region of Ayacucho and neighboring Apurimac. By the early 1900’s the violence and extreme ideology arrived to the capital of Lima where many feared the collapse of the government. It wasn’t until the autocratic president Alberto Fujimori, along with his military and intelligence apparatus, captured Abimael Guzmán and waged an internal war against anyone and anything associated with the Shining Path. Alberto Fujimori finds himself in a jail cell today for acts during that time that later were determined to be crimes against human rights.

The populations in Chuschi and other towns in the region of Ayacucho have returned to their pre-1980 levels only in the last decade. Many had fled to safer regions along the Peruvian coast, turning what were the small towns of Chincha and Ica, west of Ayacucho on the Qhapaq Ñan, into bustling cities.

Today though, Chuschi and its surroundings are an idyllic Andean paradise where men and women wear hats with flowers in them and children play at all hours in the streets. In the main square, the national police have their station doors open at all hours, a state presence that conveniently allowed us to charge our telecommunication and computer equipment among the local dogs sleeping on the front steps. What our expedition sees in Chuschi is a testament to the resilience of Peruvians and a government that has made great strides in improving the well-being of the rural countryside.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 5

Al dejar Huayllabamba nos encontramos con un buen tramo del Qhapaq Ñan – interrumpido solo en pequeños trechos por carreteras modernas – que nos llevó directamente a Chuschi. Llegamos a la hora del almuerzo y decidimos quedarnos para conocer este importante lugar.

Chuschi es donde Abimael Guzmán y su movimiento comunista, Sendero Luminoso, comenzaron el reinado de terror bajo una ideología política en 1980. Lo que comenzó aquí duró casi 15 años y se llevó 70.000 vidas, diezmó la economía, la infraestructura y psiquis de los peruanos.

En una mezcla perfecta de la lejanía geográfica, la pobreza rural y una sensación de haber sido olvidados por el Estado, Sendero Luminoso se expande desde Chuschi por el Qhapaq Ñan a otros pueblos rurales en la región de Ayacucho y Apurímac. A principios de 1900 la violencia y la ideología extrema habían llegado a la capital de Lima, donde muchos temían el colapso del gobierno. No fue hasta que el presidente autocrático Alberto Fujimori, junto con su equipo de inteligencia militar capturó a Abimael Guzmán y liberó una guerra interna contra cualquiera y todo lo relacionado con Sendero Luminoso. Alberto Fujimori se encuentra en una celda de la cárcel hoy por actos realizados durante ese tiempo en todo el Perú, los mismos que más tarde se determinaron como crímenes contra los derechos humanos.

Las poblaciones en Chuschi y otros pueblos de la región de Ayacucho han retornado en la última década al nivel de población que tenía antes del año 1980. Muchos habían huido a regiones más seguras a lo largo de la costa peruana al oeste de Ayacucho por el Qhapaq Ñan, convirtiendo a pequeñas ciudades como Chincha e Ica en ciudades llenas de vida.

En la actualidad, Chuschi y sus alrededores son un paraíso andino idílico en donde los hombres y las mujeres usan sombreros con flores y los niños juegan a todas horas en las calles. En la plaza principal, la policía nacional tiene total disponibilidad y las puertas de la estación abiertas a toda hora. Gracias a esto fue posible cargar nuestros equipos de telecomunicaciones e informática entre los perros del lugar que duermen en los escalones de la entrada. Lo que nos llevamos de esta expedición en Chuschi es un testimonio de la capacidad de recuperación de los peruanos y un gobierno que ha hecho grandes progresos en la mejora del bienestar de la zona rural.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 6. Second Expedition

The Qhapaq Ñan from Chuschi runs along the Pampa river for most of its length until Ayuta, but with only one spring suitable for the llamas and humans in route. Even more serious was crossing a narrow log and mud bridge that the llamas, only after 30 minutes, decided they would cross. If they hadn’t, we would have been forced to return to Chuschi for another route, taking up the rest of the day. The canyon was so steep, there was no other alternative path we could have taken.

Our camp at the town of Ayuta is among the soccer field next to the three-room school. Upon arrival, the children all ran up to see the llamas as I spoke about our expedition with their teacher, who also happened to be mayor in the past and privy to some Inca sites in the area. The children eventually turned their excitement to our maps of the Qhapaq Ñan when considering their town was where the Inca walked. From the maps, their excitement turned to our camp equipment…The tents, thermarest beds, walkie talkies, fold-up tables, etc. etc. Before we knew it, we had twenty primary school children enthusiastically helping set up our entire camp.

After two hours of being substitute teachers for a comprehensive class on trekking the Qhapaq Ñan, the kids finally went home and we were able to relax after a long day’s walk. Most notable was finally being able to touch the water of the Pampas River which had been impossible in the steep canyon below the trail. I took the opportunity to wash myself and my clothes after five days…It was satisfying beyond words and then I was promptly ready for bed at sundown.

Tomorrow will be our last day trekking around 9,000 feet in Pampa River ecosystem, before climbing to the high Andes around 14,000 feet after Paras. We will stay high for five days before dropping down to the coast from Huaytara, eventually making it to Humay by the end of the month.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 6

La mayor parte de la ruta del Qhapaq Ñan desde Chuschi va a lo largo del río Pampa hasta Ayuta, en donde solo hay un muelle adecuado por donde pueden cruzar las llamas y las personas. También tuvimos que cruzar un estrecho puente de madera y barro por donde las llamas, después de treinta minutos de espera, decidieron avanzar. Si no lo hubieran hecho, nos hubiéramos visto obligados a volver a Chuschi por otra ruta, lo que nos hubiera tomado el resto del día. La subida por el cañón era tan empinada que no había otro camino alternativo.

Situamos el campamento en la localidad de Ayuta, entre el campo de fútbol y la escuela de tres salones. Cuando llegamos a esta localidad los niños corrieron hacia arriba para ver a las llamas mientras yo hablaba con el maestro acerca de nuestra expedición. Él fue alcalde en el pasado y conoce algunos sitios Incas en esta zona. Luego, los niños volcaron su atención a los mapas del Qhapaq Ñan, en donde mostramos que su ciudad está dentro de este gran camino Inca. Luego de esto, su entusiasmo pasó a nuestro equipo de campamento… las tiendas de campaña, las camas, las radios trasmisoras, mesas plegables, etc. Antes de darnos cuenta, teníamos veinte niños de primaria ayudando a establecer todo nuestro campamento.

Después de dos horas de cumplir el rol de maestros sustitutos dando una clase completa de la expedición por el Qhapaq Ñan, los niños se retiraron a casa y nosotros por fin pudimos relajarnos después de un largo día. Lo mejor fue que finalmente pudimos ser capaces de tocar el agua del río Pampas, ya que no pudimos hacerlo anteriormente por la altura del cañón durante la caminata. Tuve la oportunidad de asearme y de lavar mi ropa después de cinco días. Fue una sensación placentera la que aún tengo conmigo mientras me alisto para descansar cuando el sol desaparece.

Mañana será el último día de caminata alrededor de casi tres kilómetros en el ecosistema del río Pampa, antes de subir por cuatro kilómetros en dirección a las montañas, después de Paras. Vamos a permanecer en altura por cinco días antes de descender a la costa de Huaytará, y estaremos llegando a Humay a finales del mes.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 7. Second Expedition

With an early morning start from Ayuta, we caught the Qhapaq Ñan climbing to the town of Totos, where we arrived by lunch to hundreds of Totosinos (people from Totos) greeting us. The teacher from Ayuta had called ahead to his friends and explained our expedition and what has now become a notorious book locally…Our Ministry of Culture guide of the Qhapaq Ñan that notes many of these towns in route. The mayor and numerous other town officials wanted us to present to the school children about the Qhapaq Ñan, as well as take copies of the pages where their town appears in this “grand” book they heard so much about. On top of this, the national police in town wanted identification and a letter that stated our purpose of being with 10 llamas…

We were in a tough position of having a long hike ahead of us to the town of Paras, after already losing one hour chasing our llamas above the hills Ayuta, but we had to find a way to support Totos interest in the Qhapaq Ñan. In the end I broke off with the mayor and town officials to copy the “book” and do some important diplomacy, John had an impromptu gathering with 20 or so children in the plaza explaining the Qhapaq Ñan, Flavio dealt with the National Police providing identification and letters of introduction, and Valentín and Nicolas looked after the llamas doing their share of diplomacy with everyone curious of their Cusqueño (someone from Cusco in the south of Peru) accent and look. It was also notable as the first time anyone asked me for my autograph…It was the town drunk, with one eye open wanting a souvenir on the back of a piece of cardboard. It was all quite an experience.

We eventually arrived to Paras just before sundown, where in contrast to Totos enthusiasm, we could barely get someone to offer us a field to camp and pasture the llamas. After an hour of blank stares and rambling conversations that avoided our requests, we finally were allowed to camp in the small stadium. Maybe it was because Paras on this evening was having a big party in the town square, which when it happened, blasted loud music throughout the canyon until the early morning hours. It was a long day to be serenaded all night by local Huayno music.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 7

Temprano por la mañana salimos desde Ayuta y tomamos el Qhapaq Ñan escalando en dirección a la localidad de Totos a la hora de almuerzo en donde cientos de Totosinos – personas de Totos – nos esperaban saludándonos. El maestro de Ayuta había llamado a sus amigos para contarles de nuestra expedición, corriéndose la voz entre los locales. El Libro “El Qhapaq Ñan” del Ministerio de Cultura, que juega un importante papel en nuestra expedición y nos sirve de guía, toma nota de muchos de estos pueblos en ruta. El alcalde y otros numerosos funcionarios de la ciudad querían que nosotros realicemos una pequeña presentación a los niños sobre el Qhapaq Ñan, así como darles las facilidades para que saquen copias de las páginas en este gran libro del que oyeron hablar tanto en las que aparece su localidad. Mientras tanto, la policía nacional nos pedía identificaciones y alguna carta donde se indique nuestro propósito de tener con nosotros diez llamas.

Nos encontrábamos en una posición difícil al tener una larga caminata por delante hacia la ciudad de Paras, después de haber perdido casi una hora persiguiendo a nuestras llamas por encima de las colinas de Ayuta. Sin embargo, tuvimos que encontrar la manera de cumplir con los locales y apoyar el interés sobre el Qhapaq Ñan. Al final tuve que ayudar a realizar las copias del libro junto a los funcionarios y el alcalde de la ciudad, John tuvo una reunión improvisada con veinte o más niños en la plaza para explicar más sobre el Qhapaq Ñan, Flavio estuvo ocupado con la Policía Nacional facilitándoles las identificaciones y cartas de presentación, y Valentín y Nicolas estuvieron cuidando las llamas mostrando una postura diplomática con todos aquellos que se mostraban curiosos con su acento cusqueño (personas de Cusco, sur del Perú). Tuve una grata experiencia ya que fue la primera vez que alguien me pidió un autógrafo… Era el “borrachín” del pueblo solo un ojo abierto que quería una firma en la parte posterior de un pedazo de cartón. Fue toda una experiencia.

Finalmente llegamos a Paras justo antes de la puesta del sol en donde, en contraste con el entusiasmo de los locales de Totos, pudimos apenas conseguir a alguien que nos ofrezca un campo y lugar donde puedan pastar nuestras llamas. Después de una hora de miradas en blanco y conversaciones incoherentes que evitaron nuestras peticiones, finalmente nos permitieron acampar en el pequeño estadio. Creemos que estuvimos envueltos en esta situación porque se estaba llevando a cabo una gran fiesta en la plaza del pueblo con música a todo volumen hasta tempranas horas de la mañana. Fue un largo día con música local, huayno, toda la noche.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

in-route-from-totos-to-paras

john-explaining-the-qhapaq-nan-to-children-in-totos

 

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About the Author

Nicholas Stanziano

Co-founder and Chief Explorer at SA Expeditions. A San Francisco, California registered tour operator that specializes in cultural and nature based private expeditions to South America’s most renowned destinations.



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    15 hours ago

    Old and New: 16 Photos of Santiago, Chile

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    The Great Inca Trail

    The journey continues! Day 63 – Value Creation Along Long-Distance Hiking Trails

    Day 63 – Value Creation Along Long-Distance Hiking Trails

    *Versión en español abajo*

    When I first envisioned trekking 2,000 miles in the Andes along #TheGreatIncaTrail, I had just walked a

    Sierra City is a small town of a few hundred people that was once dependent on mining during the California gold rush, although now relies on an economy of tourism, a big part of which is the hundreds of trekkers passing through on the Pacific Crest Trail. If this little town could extract value from such a trail, surely the monumental size and history of the Great Inca Trail could do the same for the towns of the Andes in Peru…It was a simple idea two years ago that began this journey.

    All the while the municipality of Huamachuco (where mining also plays a big role), that beholds one of the most impressive sections of the Great Inca trail known as “Escalerillas” understood this potential. They were just waiting for those intrepid explorers to arrive, give them a warm welcome and create value for their community through tourism. They succeeded in this goal and we are extremely grateful and blessed to collaborate with them on a vision of what The Great Inca Trail can become throughout the #Andes.

    On a day when the humans and llamas of our expedition team are resting, we leave you with an unforgettable day last week, made possible by the Inca’s 600 years ago and the municipality of Huamachuco in 2017.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    ___________________

    Dia 63 – Creación de valor a lo largo de importantes caminos para trekking

    La primera vez que vino a mi mente la idea de caminar 3,200 kilómetros por el #ElGranCaminoInca fue cuando terminé un tercer día de trayecto por el #SenderodelMacizodelPacífico – camino que se extiende por 4,300 kilómetros desde México hasta Canadá- llegando finalmente, en ese momento, a un pequeño pueblo llamado Sierra City en Sierra Nevada, en las montañas altas de California.

    Sierra City es una pequeña ciudad de pocos cientos de habitantes quienes dependieron únicamente de la minería, sobretodo en la época de la fiebredeloro en California. Sin embargo, en la actualidad el crecimiento económico se desarrolla gracias al turismo, en donde una gran parte de turistas atraviesan y siguen el rastro del Sendero del Macizo del Pacífico. Si esta pequeña ciudad pudo extraer gran valor de este sendero, seguramente y gracias al monumental tamaño e historia del Gran Camino Inca se podrían desarrollar los mismos beneficios en los pueblos de los Andes en Perú … Hace dos años esta fue la idea que inicio el proceso para esta gran expedición.

    Mientras tanto, la municipalidad de Huamachuco (en donde la minería también juega un papel importante) entiende el potencial que posee al contar con una de las secciones más impresionantes de El Gran Camino Inca, conocido como “Escalerillas”. El pueblo y las autoridades estaban esperando a aquellos intrépidos exploradores para darles una cordial bienvenida y poder generar valor en la comunidad a través del turismo. Ellos han tenido éxito en esta labor y nos encontramos extremadamente agradecidos y bendecidos de poder colaborar con ellos en la visión de lo que se puede conseguir en este gran camino ubicado a lo largo de los Andes.

    En un día en que nosotros junto a los animales de nuestro equipo de expedición nos encontramos descansando, les queremos dejar con lo que fue día inolvidable durante la semana pasada gracias al trabajo de los Incas -hace 600 años- y a la Municipalidad De Huamachuco -en la actualidad-.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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    *Versión en español abajo*

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    In 2017, forty-five days since beginning our long march from #Cuenca to #Cusco, we find ourselves in the town of #Huambos resupplying and reflecting on our adventure so far. In this spirit, we leave you with snapshots of this great road along our journey so far. Stay tuned to “The Great Inca Trail” on Facebook and Instagram as we explore one of mankind’s great public works for another hundred days in route to Cusco.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    ________________

    Día 45 – Grandiosas imágenes del Gran Camino Inca

    #ElGranCaminoInca conecta las dos capitales del imperio #Inca sobre 3,200 kilómetros entre #Tomebamba (actualmente Cuenca, #Ecuador) y Cusco, #Perú. El #QhapaqÑan, es la columna vertebral de una red de carreteras #andinas que se extienden por más de 40,200 kilómetros en seis países, conectando un #imperio, el más avanzado y poderoso, antes de la llegada de los españoles a América.

    Este 2017, cuarenta y cinco días desde el inicio de esta larga expedición, partiendo de #Cuenca en dirección a #Cusco, nos encontramos en la ciudad de #Huambos reponiendo suministros y reflexionando sobre nuestra aventura.
    Con este espíritu, les dejamos imágenes de este gran camino por donde hemos avanzando hasta el momento.
    Manténganse atentos las redes sociales, Facebook e Instagram en “El Gran Camino Inca” mientras exploramos por otros cien días más una de las más grandes obras públicas de la humanidad.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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    1 month ago

    Timeline Photos

    CLIENT REVIEW:
    Dear Kim, We returned home early this morning from an absolutely fabulous trip to Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu that you prepared for my wife and me and our grandson Liam. From the

    Every hotel that you selected for us in Lima, Cusco, and Aguas Calientes was superb. Every tour that you arranged for us in each of those areas was interesting to Liam, as well as Grandma and Popa. You made certain that interspersed with Inka history there were adequate activities that you knew would fascinate a 13-year old boy. A really big hit was the chocolate tour were we learned about the process of making chocolate, from the harvesting of the cocoa bean to making our own chocolate candy, which we were able to bring home with us.

    Percy, our tour guide in Lima, was quite knowledgeable, and gave us a very good overview of the history of Lima in the short time we were there. The tour of the Museo Larco, where Percy was able to distill the 45,000 Inka artifacts into a visit that all 3 of us enjoyed, was the highlight of our Lima visit. Lima is definitely a city we wished we would have had more time to explore further.

    Of course, the highlight of our trip was the visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu, and we could not have asked for a better guide than Johan Sueros and our very skillful driver, Abel. Shortly prior to leaving on our journey when you sent us our final itinerary, you told me that we were going to have the absolute best guide, Johan. You could not have been more accurate. He is bright, articulate, totally fluent in English, kind and just an altogether sweet person. On the drive from Cusco to Aguas Calientes we stopped by a small town, Maras, where we visited an acquaintance of Johan’s, a 92-year old man who has been hand-making hats for more than 40 years. What an absolutely delightful man and very fun visit, where we tried on some of the typical hats of Maras.

    Johan is passionate about his Incan heritage, and he brought Machu Picchu and the Incan culture alive for us. He was totally flexible, and gave us options when he realized that perhaps the long climb up the nearly 1000 steps of the very steep mountain for the best view of Machu Picchu might be difficult for us. He wanted us to be happy and to enjoy our visit. I realize that he has been doing this for a number of years, but Johan has an uncanny ability to time things so perfectly, that there is very little down time, where you are waiting for a bus or a train. When he says you’ll be at a restaurant at a specific time or back in Cusco at a specific time, you can count on it. He tried and succeeded in satisfying all of our needs.

    As you know, on our last day in Cusco, Liam was ill, and we needed to cancel horseback riding that we had scheduled for that morning. Even though we had already said our good-byes to Johan the night before, I contacted him around 8:30AM to cancel the tour. He immediately got in touch with you, at 5:45AM PST. Within in minutes you had everything under control, inquiring if we needed a physician to see Liam. Fortunately, I think he was just exhausted, and by the afternoon he was back to himself. However, mid-morning I received a phone call from your local representative in Peru inquiring about Liam’s health, again offering a physician if needed, and offering to contact the hotel in Cusco to extend our check-out time.

    Kim, as you remember, we had some very specific issues that you had to address before we even left for our trip. You had to be certain that any provided meal, be it box lunch (which was excellent), or lunch on the road, or dinner in Aguas Calientes, had to be vegetarian. You had to make certain that we returned from zip lining by a specific time on Friday afternoon. Several days before we were scheduled to arrive, I changed our itinerary to add an additional day in Lima. You handled each and every request expertly.

    I found SA Expeditions in July, 2016, just by searching the internet for companies that provided tours in Peru. I read the reviews on the company, and was impressed, but also a bit skeptical. After all, I was trusting a company in California that I didn’t personally know to plan and execute a trip to Peru that wasn’t going to take place until February, 2017. Well, now I am a believer! You, SA Expeditions, the guides, the drivers, the hotels, the tours, etc. have all exceeded our expectations. Thank you!

    With sincere appreciation,

    – Eddie & Shelley S (Connecticut)
    Photographed at Machu Picchu See more

    1 month ago

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    #Sugarloaf

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    1 month ago

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    1 month ago

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    1 month ago

    The Great Inca Trail

    The Journey Continues! Follow the adventure day-by-day on the treks facebook page, ‘The Great Inca Trail.’

    *Versión en español abajo*

    April 30 – Day 19

    Our local guide, Shanta, also happens to have one of the best restaurants in Vilcabamba, named after him. It was a natural place to go and meet one

    They also have a mountain of information, at their home in Vilcabamba, which they graciously invited us over to review. Eventually, sending us on our way, with the most detailed maps I’ve ever seen of Peru. The ESCALE maps, published by Peru’s Ministry of Education, will be of great help and supplement the maps that Ricardo Espinosa published in “La Gran Ruta Inca”, a bible of sorts, for our expedition. Espinosa’s maps focus on the location and remanence of the The Great Inca Trail from Quito, Ecuador to La Paz, Bolivia, which he walked for 7 months in the early 2000’s.

    After all the analysis and conversation at Shanta and the Kunstaetter’s home, we found ourselves reconnecting with The Great Inca Trail today after 15 miles and over 6,000 feet of ascent, over two mountains. It was a tough, steep day, with our new local guide, Tuco, who has a ranch, at the only suitable camp within the entire day’s walk. Tomorrow, we continue on The Great Inca Trail through a non-native, out of control pine forest, hopefully making it through, to the road towards Amaluza.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Supervisor
    SA Expeditions

    __________________

    30 de Abril – Día 19

    Shanta, el guía de la localidad, no sólo conoce muy bien esta parte del territorio sino que también tiene uno de los mejores restaurantes en Vilcabamba bajo su nombre. Este lugar fue ideal para conocer a una pareja experta en expediciones conformada por Robert y Daisy Kunstaetter quienes juntos, han caminado miles de kilómetros en Ecuador, Perú y Bolivia, y desarrollaron una de las guías más completas que convirtieron luego en un libro llamado “Trekking in Ecuador”. En Junio de este año un segundo libro llamado “Trekking in Peru” saldrá a la venta y considero tendrá el mismo impacto que la primera mencionada.

    Esta pareja de esposos cuenta con una cantidad enorme de información. Ellos nos invitaron a su casa en Vilcabamba para poder conversar y observar lo que tienen. Luego de una productiva reunión retomamos nuestra caminata llevando a la mano los mapas más detallados que he visto del Perú. Los mapas ESCALE, publicados por el Ministerio de Educación del Perú, serán de gran ayuda y complementarán los mapas que Ricardo Espinosa publicó en “La Gran Ruta Inca” – una especie de Biblia en nuestra expedición -. Los mapas de Espinosa se centran en la localización y remanencia del Gran Camino Inca desde Quito, Ecuador a La Paz, Bolivia, por donde él caminó durante siete meses a principios del año 2000.

    Después de la reunión y todo el análisis en Shanta y en la casa de los Kunstaetter, volvimos a encontrar la ruta del Gran Camino Inca después de 24 kilómetros y ascender 1,800 metros cruzando dos montañas. Fue un día muy difícil con muchas zonas empinadas.
    Esta vez nos acompaña un nuevo guía de la localidad, Tuco, quien es propietario de una finca. Este fue el único lugar adecuado que encontramos para acampar en todo el trayecto de la caminata de hoy. Mañana continuaremos por el Gran Camino Inca a través de un bosque con gran presencia de pinos que esperamos poder atravesar y continuar la marcha en dirección a Amaluza.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions. See more

    2 months ago

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    The Great Inca Trail

    The journey has begun!

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    Nick Dall is next in our #sauniverse series that introduces all the people around the world that allow us to build life changing experiences.

    Nick is a man of letters and words, someone who

    As editor of the SA Expeditions travel blog, he has curated hundreds of pieces that give insight into the culture and history of South America. And he’s no armchair blog manager either: he will be joining us on our great Qhapaq Ñan expedition in 2017 to paint a vivid textual picture of the trek for your eyes only. Nick’s work as a journalist has seen him fishing for trout in Patagonia, attending baroque recitals in Chiquitania and interviewing the pioneer of eco-tourism in Peru.

    SA Expeditions has a voice…It’s the voice of our clients talking about their experiences, it’s the voice of its explorers on the Qhapaq Ñan, it’s the voice of Nick presenting the wonders of South America in words and pictures. Come and be inspired by our blog, curated and cared for by Nick. We promise it’ll make you want to pack your bags!

    Cheers to Nick! The #sauniverse looks forward to continuing our journey of enlightenment through travel with you. See more

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    Nick Stanziano is next in our #saexpeditionsuniverse series that introduces all the people around the world that allow us to build life changing experiences.

    Nick began life in a small town, on a

    Nick sees himself as part of a wave of human endeavor that accelerated 600 years ago, in renaissance Europe, as artists, scientists and merchants began to utilize reason to understand the physical and psychological frontiers of humanity. By the 17th century, traveling purely for curiosity arose when Englishman Richard Lassel gave advice that all “young lords” take “the Grand Tour” to better understand their world and prepare for their role in it. It was later in the 21st century that one could not only travel for curiosity, but also build a business around it and name it SA Expeditions.

    Nick is a dreamer, a thinker, someone that will always wonder at what lies beyond. It’s why he conceptualizes his position as Chief Explorer, a role that feeds the soul of our organization with adventure and curiosity. His most recent and most ambitious exploration yet will bring the world on a 2,000 walk across the Andes along the great Inca Road, known as the Qhapaq Nan. He will be taking his grand tour of that faraway place, to better understand our world and how our clients can play a role in it.

    Cheers to Nick! The #saexpeditionsuniverse looks forward to continuing our journey of enlightenment through travel with you. See more

    3 months ago

    6 women to thank every time you fly

    March 8th 2017 is International Women’s Day. Here are six women to thank every time you fly.
    #internationalwomensday #trendsetters #aviation #changemakers

    Thought aviation was a man’s world? Think again. These six women transformed the way you fly today

    3 months ago

    CLIENT REVIEW: Trip planned by destination expert Staci Steele.

    “My husband and I just returned from an absolutely spectacular trip to Chile and Argentina planned by SA Luxury Expeditions. Not only

    The thing that really blew me away, though, was the crescendo of the trip. While everything we did and everywhere we stayed was top-notch, each successive stop and activity just got a little more wonderful than the last. The result was a truly fantastic week and a half that we’ll always cherish. I highly recommend SA Luxury Expeditions to anyone looking to travel in South America, whether you’re looking for a low-key trip or an action-packed adventure. We got a wonderful mix of both and enjoyed every second of it!”
    #chile #argentina #patagonia See more

    3 months ago

    ‘We are rewriting the textbooks’: first dives to Amazon coral reef stun scientists

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/17/we-are-rewriting-the-textbooks-first-dives-to-amazon-coral-reef-stun-scientists

    Scientists have discovered the river reef is far bigger, and more important, than first thought – a biodiversity hotspot on a par with the Great Barrier Reef. Now they face a race to protect it See more

    3 months ago

    Timeline Photos

    The Copacabana neighborhood is located in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and is known for its 2.5 miles Balneario Beach, one of the most famous in the world. During the 2016 Olympics in See more

    3 months ago

    Timeline Photos

    Ecuador, traditionally a prominant South American producer of cacao is stepping into a new light as its chocolateers are gaining noteriety on the world stage.
    #chocolate #ecuador #pacari See more

    3 months ago

    Friday February 24th marked the start of Carnival 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The lively celebration which includes live music, street performances, dancing, floats and costumes, attracts

    The word Carnival originates from the Portuguese ‘Carne Vale’, interpreted as ‘Farewell to meat’. The phrase refers to the Carnival as being the ultimate celebration before a period of abstinence from alcohol, meat and pleasure during Lent. Brazil’s Carnival began in the 1830s as a continuation of the Portuguese tradition, though, Rio’s Carnival has a unique style, which is mainly attributed to the influence of African immigrant slaves, famous for their spectacular musical abilities which gave life to the first samba rhythms.

    #Rio #Carnival #Samba #Brazil See more

    4 months ago

    The science behind why you should spend money on family holidays instead of toys

    #familyvacation #happychild #giveexperiences

    Parents have been wasting hundreds of pounds on toys, according to one of Britain’s leading child psychologists and should be spending their money on holidays instead.

    4 months ago

    CLIENT REVIEW:
    One of our favorite travel testimonial comes from Danielle Vogel of Virginia. Her trip to Argentina and Chile was planned by our destination expert Staci Steele.

    “My husband and I

    The thing that really blew me away, though, was the crescendo of the trip. While everything we did and everywhere we stayed was top-notch, each successive stop and activity just got a little more wonderful than the last. The result was a truly fantastic week and a half that we’ll always cherish. I highly recommend SA Luxury Expeditions to anyone looking to travel in South America, whether you’re looking for a low-key trip or an action-packed adventure. We got a wonderful mix of both and enjoyed every second of it!”
    – Danielle V
    #chile #argentina See more

    4 months ago

    Jaguar vs. Giant Anteater

    ‘Insane’ camera-trap video captures rare battle in the Amazon.
    Jaguar vs. Giant Anteater. Anteater wins!
    #amazon #jaguar #anteater #moveoverhoneybadger

    4 months ago

    Chilean dreams of rescuing box camera photography

    No need to pack the selfie stick if you’re headed for Santiago, Chile
    #santiago #chile #boxcamera

    Luis Maldonado is the last remaining photographer in the main square of the Chilean capital still using a wooden box camera.

    4 months ago

    Timeline Photos

    CLIENT REVIEW:
    “Jeanie: Our trip was absolutely magical thanks to all the great organization, preparation, wonderful suggestions and impeccable professional services we received from SA…starting

    Our hotels were fantastic… the food was fantastic…. even though there were unforeseen circumstances such as a protest that shut down all tourist roads throughout the Sacred Valley, SA Expeditions reacted with quickly. I cannot say enough about the drivers (Louis especially) and all the guides who were with us. They were knowledgeable, gracious, always willing to go the extra distance and warm lovely friends. We loved them all. The horse back/hiking trip to Choquechaca was an experience we will never forget. It was Peter’s 65th birthday in Cusco and SA even arranged to have the meal paid for by our thoughtful children.

    In short, it was the best trip we have experienced and we look forward to many more!

    Thanks so much for creating a truly memorable experience…we only regret we did not get to meet you in Lima!

    Thanks again,
    Pam and Peter”

    #peru #peruvianfood #machupicchu #sacredvalley #choquechaca #cicciolina #birthdaytrip See more

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