THE CHRISTMAS EVE THAT I REMEMBER


December in Argentina is quite hot, especially because only three days before Christmas, the summer begins.

I remember that in this time of the year, the routine was repeated, year after year, no doubt. The 24th, my sisters and I used to arrive early at my grandmother’s house to help her preparing everything for the big night. Few hours later my cousins arrived and we all waited quiet and anxious for the clock to give the 12 to go and get our presents under the Christmas tree, the one that I helped decorating, very exciting, some days before Christmas.

Of course, there were no big chimneys, no elk, or deer… not even big decorations; but what was always there, no doubt, was the whole family: adults, elderly and children. Everyone, together, gathered around a large table (that as the years passed it seemed to me that it was getting smaller, although it was always the same). I remember that everyone was happy, expectantly, as if that time of the year was special, something magic. As the time passed by, I realized that, maybe, that feeling with which adults expected Christmas, with which they prepared everything and with which they waited the family reunion, that excitement, was produced because every Christmas Eve reminded them the ones that they lived in their childhood, when Christmas is more a magic story than a Christian holiday. It is the shearing, the enjoying, the excitement, the laughs, the mourn, the meetings with old friends who live far away… it is that feeling of being together and discovering the good and valuable things we have in this life.

As a child, I used to get increasingly anxious with each passing minute and I was constantly watching the clock… the eleven o’clock, half past eleven, quarter to twelve, ten to twelve… it was almost the moment…. From there my eyes focused on the sky and, with my sisters and cousins, we looked for an old man in the dark, with a red costume and a big white beard, carrying a big red bag with cars, dolls, bicycles, balls and toys, coming from unimaginable places… But it always happened the same, in some distraction, Santa Clause landed who knows where his sleds, and left the presents under the Christmas tree, with name and surname so nobody confuse the packages. Everyone received gifts, adults and children… Even grandparents!

As an adult, I choose Buenos Aires to celebrate this holiday with my family, although now is smaller than 25 years ago. Visiting Buenos Aires before Christmas is having thousands of unimaginable ways of expressing the same feelings.

From late November and early December begins the preparations to make the city look like a huge Christmas tree, where the shops invite you to a fantasy and illusion trip, with their storefronts decorated, waiting for Christmas.

The streets are not far behind. It worth getting lost along the most important Avenues as Santa Fe, Callao, Corrientes or the 9th July Avenue itself, or around the small streets of traditional neighborhoods as San Telmo, Palermo, Belgrano, Recoleta, la Boca or the city center, where the colours of Santa Clause paint everything they touch.

Besides the Obelisk that decorated or not is the main Christmas tree of the city, hundreds of other trees are lighted every night, either by its owners themselves or by some institution which celebrates Christmas that way.

That’s why, even it isn’t exist the snow of New York, the elk of Montreal or the camels and kings of Middle East, this city gets unforgettable during this part of the year. Impossible to be ignored.

Buenos Aires allows us to dream again, as when we were kids. Where the possibility of crossing just around the corner the elusive Santa Claus was something that could certainly happened to us.

María Noelia Bonvin

Administration Executive

Metropolitan Touring Argentina

Nueva Revista Compromiso de Metropolitan Touring


El Mundo en el que vivimos y el que queremos heredar a futuras generaciones está en nuestras manos, un hecho que se ve reflejado en cada uno de nuestras actividades que tiene impacto en los recursos naturales. Es un hecho que lo que tomamos de la naturaleza, no lo podemos devolver, por mejores que sean nuestras intenciones. Sin embargo, hay muchas cosas que podemos hacer para aminorar el impacto que causamos.

Metropolitan Touring trabaja constantemente en la búsqueda de nuevos métodos para cumplir con este objetivo, ya que está consciente de que los ecosistemas saludables proporcionan, a largo plazo, bienes y servicios a los seres humanos, que nos ayudan a vivir en un mundo más saludable. Con esto en mente, hemos diseñado una Política Ambiental que busca proveer un mapa a nuestra compañía, que nos ayudará a navegar sobre las aguas de la mejorar manera para implementar prácticas que impacten lo menos posible en la ambiente.

Nuestra Política Ambiental apunta justamente a nuestro giro de negocio y va directo a nuestro trabajo en Galápagos. Es parte de la manera como pensamos, parte de como creamos nuevos productos o nos relacionamos con nuevos asociados, parte del momento en que paramos antes de imprimir cualquier documento.  Todos nosotros hemos presenciado el éxito  de como las ideas simples pueden tener un impacto masivo. Reemplazar las botellas de agua por las botellas rellenables, que se encuentran en todos nuestros barcos: estimamos que en el primer año de esta práctica se ha reducido en un 77% de botellas (con todos los recursos que se usan, asociados a su fabricación y transporte) que mandamos a rellenar en Galápagos. Simple, pero efectivo.

Este año, hemos visto el trabajo de la Fundación Galápagos Ecuador expandirse a nuevos proyectos en las Islas. Trabajando en conjunto con organizaciones gubernamentales locales y otras agencias, en la actualidad contribuimos a proyectos en las 4 islas habitadas. En el área continental de Ecuador, el nuevo hotel de nuestro holding y el nuevo lodge en el bosque montañoso lluvioso de los Andes, han adoptado un diseño inteligente y alojamiento responsable en el país. Y en los 6 países donde operamos, tenemos un impacto positivo y estamos dando grandes pasos para ser más responsables cuando se trata del uso de un recurso natural.

El camino es largo y todavía tenemos un extenso tramo por recorrer. Pero tenemos la esperanza que usted se unirá a esta causa, que nos dirá qué más podemos hacer o nos deje saber que estamos haciendo bien. Esperamos escuchar pronto de usted.

Cada año, producimos la revista Compromiso, un pequeño folleto que testifica nuestros esfuerzos. Vemos  a este documento más que nada, como una herramienta de motivación para nuestro equipo y también para usted, mientras se embarca en un viaje de descubrimiento con Metropolitan Touring.

Para ver nuestra revista Compromiso, por favor haga click aquí.

Metropolitan Touring’s new Commitment magazine


The world in which we live and the one we want to pass on to future generations is in our hands, a truism that is reflected in each and every one of our activities that have an impact on natural resources. To a great extent, we cannot return what we take from Nature, despite our best intentions. However, there are many things we can do to lessen the impact we cause.

Metropolitan Touring is constantly working to find new ways to accomplish this goal, since we are fully aware that healthy ecosystems provide goods and services to humans over the long-term, which in turn help us to live in a healthier world. With this in mind, we designed an Environmental Policy that seeks to provide a road map for our company, to help us navigate the waters of how best to implement practices that impact as little as possible on the environment.

Our Environmental Policy goes right to the heart of our business, and goes far beyond our work in the Galápagos. It’s part of the way we think, part of how we develop new travel products or approach a new partner, part of the moment we pause before clicking on ‘print’ at our desks. All of us have witnessed the success of how what are seemingly simple ideas can have massive impacts. Take replacing disposable water bottles with sturdier, refillable ones on board all our vessels: simple, yet we estimate that, in the first year of the practice alone, 77% less bottles (with all the resource-use associated with their manufacture and transportation to the islands) were sent to the land refill in Galápagos. Simple, yet effective.

Over the last year, we’ve seen the Fundación Galápagos-Ecuador’s work expand to new shores in the islands. Working hand-in-hand with local governments and other agencies, we are today contributing to projects on all four inhabited islands. On mainland Ecuador, our holding group’s new hotel and new Andean rainforest lodge have both raised the bar in intelligent, responsible lodging design in the country. And across the six countries in which we operate, we are having a positive impact and taking steps to be ever-more responsible when it comes to natural resource use.

The road is long and we’ve still a long way to go. But we hope you’re willing to join us on it, to tell us what more we can do or let us know what we’re doing right. We look forward to hearing from you!

Every year, we produce the Commitment, a small booklet, which testifies to our efforts. We look upon this document more than anything as a motivational tool for our team and also for you as you embark on a journey of discovery with Metropolitan Touring.

To see our Commitment magazine please click here.

Camino Inca


CAMINO INCA por Faride Altamirano

Los incas hicieron caminos que integraban su imperio a lo largo y ancho.

El camino más importante era el Cápac Ñan o camino real, con una longitud de 5,200 kilómetros. Iniciando en Quito (Ecuador), pasaba por Cusco y terminaba en lo que hoy es Tucumán, Argentina; atravesaba montañas y sierras, con alturas de más de 5,000 metros.

El famoso Camino del Inca que une el valle sagrado de Cuzco con Machu Picchu, es sólo una parte mínima (42kms) de la gigantesca red de caminos incas.

Durante todo el año (menos en febrero pues se cierra por mantenimiento), miles de viajeros de todas partes del planeta emprenden el recorrido del Camino Inca desde el Cusco para acceder a la verde sierra peruana, y a los milenarios misterios que aún encierran las piedras de Machu Picchu. A lo largo del camino se encuentran los restos de distintas fortificaciones en relativo buen estado, que dominan visualmente todo el panorama.

El recorrido se inicia en la localidad de Ccorihuayrachina a la altura del kilómetro 82 de la vía férrea Cusco-Machupicchu. Durante el recorrido del camino Inca se atraviesa una impresionante rango altitudinal, con climas y ecosistemas tan variados como la altiplanicie alto andina y los bosques de neblina, se deben superar dos pasos a gran altura (el mayor de ellos, warmihuañusca, de 4.200 metros de altitud, también conocido como “Paso de la Mujer Muerta”) y termina con el ingreso a Machu Picchu a través del Inti Punku o “puerta del sol”.

Durante la caminata, el clima tiende a ser seco en los dos primeros días y húmedo en el tercero y cuarto. Las noches por el contrario son diferentes, los dos primeros campamentos suelen ser fríos, mientras el tercero presenta un clima más bien templado.

Descripciones de Camino Inca hay millones, lo que les voy a contar a continuación es “la experiencia”.


Día 01

Salimos muy temprano en movilidad privada, cruzando el valle sagrado hasta llegar a Ollantaytambo. El movimiento comercial a esa hora es tremendo, camiones llenos de productos llegando desde Quillabamba hacen difícil el acceso.

Nos detuvimos aquí para adquirir las últimas provisiones.

Si olvidaste los bastones de caminata (walking poles)  es aquí donde los puedes encontrar, a 35 soles cada uno, si perdiste los protectores de goma para las puntas de metal de tus bastones, aquí también puedes adquirirlos (a 16 soles el par).

Debes tener en cuenta que esta prohibido ingresar al camino inca sin estos protectores ya que al usar los bastones sin ellos, se daña el camino. Cabe resaltar que está prohibido ingresar a Machupicchu con bastones de caminata, así tengan la goma de seguridad.

Si crees que los bastones serán un estorbo en vez de una ayuda te equivocas, ahorras el 30% de energía usándolos y te dan mucha seguridad, sobre todo en las pendientes pronunciadas.

Continuamos nuestro camino pasando por tierras de cultivo por una carretera paralela a las vías del tren. Llegamos a Piscacucho en el kilometro 82. Aquí hay un puesto de control para pasajeros y otro para porteadores.

Realmente son muy cuidadosos en que la información que figura en sus listas sea la misma de tus documentos, de lo contrario, no ingresas.

Tan sólo un puente colgante separa el mundo real del maravilloso y subreal territorio que estamos a punto de explorar.

Y así comenzamos el difícil ascenso por éste camino lleno de obstáculos.

Las primeras horas se hacen pesadas, parecemos una hilera de hormigas caminando hacia un mismo punto, gente de todas las nacionalidades y con equipo sofisticadísimo se abren paso como si quisieran llegar primero a algún lugar.

Aun hay pequeñas casitas, todas tienen algo que ofrecer, golosinas, agua, snacks o por último, alquilar el baño.

Las horas pasan, el sol es mas fuerte y los grupos ya tomaron distancia, caminar se hace mas tranquilo.

Este primer día la caminata no es muy fuerte, dura aproximadamente 4 a 5 horas dependiendo de dónde se acampe ese día o de cuán rápido o despacio uno camine. Durante este primer día, los primeros restos arqueológicos que se aprecian son los de Llactapata o Patallacta; el sendero por el que uno circula se interna por una pequeña quebrada, no hay mucha pendiente y la caminata es agradable.

Continuamos el camino. Ya en Huallabamba, nos preparamos para pasar la primera noche.

Día 02

Despertamos entre niebla, con un aire fresco pero no helado, muy puro.

Eran ya las 7:00 am. y estábamos con las mochilas listas para empezar el día. Hoy señores, tendríamos que cruzar 3 abras, la más alta de 4,200 msn.m.

Estábamos listos para el reto!

La primera parte del camino cruza un pequeño bosque de queñuales y se transita por un empedrado en muy buen estado de conservación. Pasamos por el campamento de Llulluchapampa, conforme avanzamos podemos ver a lo lejos el abra de Wuarmiwañusca (Mujer muerta) a 4200 msnm, el punto más alto de todo el recorrido. Llegar al abra nos tomó 4 agotadoras horas, no por lo largo del camino, sino porque casi todo el trayecto va en subida.

Llegar a la cima era toda una fiesta! Recibías palabras de aliento en todos los idiomas para que sigas adelante…. Una pequeña carrera faltando 5 minutos me coronó como ganadora! Llegué! Con los pulmones en la mano por haber corrido a 4,200 metros, pero feliz por sentir que tocaba el cielo.

El descanso en este abra se hizo largo, el paisaje era maravilloso, además, debíamos de alentar a los que estaban por llegar.

Después del merecido descanso de algunos minutos, iniciamos el descenso hacia el valle de Pacaymayo, el camino es angosto por partes y con algunos escalones de regular tamaño, por lo que hay que ir con cuidado.

Las rodillas son las que más sufren pero para eso tenemos a nuestros súper “walking poles” para amortiguar cada paso.

Llegamos a Pacaymayo, el campamento ya estaba armado y la comida caliente. Estamos listos para pasar una estrellada noche.

Día 03

Con mucha energía empezamos el que para mí es el día más bonito de todo el Camino Inca, entramos al bosque nuboso, el clima, la humedad, el olor a tierra mojada hacen inolvidable cada paso.

Desde Pacaymayo, luego de una subida en zigzag llegamos a las ruinas circulares de Runkurakay, un lugar estratégico donde los mensajeros (chaskis) paraban por comida, para descansar y reabastecerse de agua para poder continuar con su viaje.

El camino sigue hacia arriba hasta el segundo abra también llamada Runkurakay.

Aquí viene lo bueno, una bajada bastante empinada por un camino inca muy bien conservado, un clima fresco-mentolado y una niebla medio tétrica que no te deja ver que más sigue. La vegetación se hace desde este punto mucho más variada.

Yo empecinada en encontrar alguna Wakanki (un tipo de orquídea cuyo nombre traducido al español significa “Lloraras”). Por cierto, la Wakanki es la orquídea emblemática de Machupicchu.

Poco a poco llegamos a las ruinas de Sayacmarca (3,620 msnm), desde aquí todo cambia, entramos a selva y continuamos por un camino muy fácil hacia Phuyupatamarca (traducido al español, pueblo en las alturas rodeado de nubes)…. El camino, con algunas bajadas y con no tanta subida se hace lindo, fresco y mítico. Pasamos por “El Tunel” cavidad natural producida por la erosión del viento y la lluvia y adaptada como tal por los Incas.

Pasamos por estrechos caminos sobre abismos hasta llegar a Phuyupatamarca, un centro ceremonial (3650m), aquí almorzamos entre nubes.

En éste lugar hay señal de celular, así que todos sacamos estos benditos aparatos necesarios para, por 3 minutos, regresar al mundo real. Bajando por el camino podemos ver el Valle y el rio Urubamba, que en este punto cambia de nombre a Vilcanota.

Bajamos rápidamente por un camino lleno de orquídeas, todos los tipos, colores y formas hasta llegar a Winaywayna, ultimo campamento.

Aquí existe un albergue, muy básico pero es el primer contacto con la civilización. Aquí puedes alquilar duchas de agua caliente, al razonable precio de 5 minutos por 5 soles.

Esta noche se hace muy larga pues todos están celebrando en el albergue, música, cerveza y el sentimiento de haberlo logrado.

Día 04

Este día no hay apuro, nos quedamos más de lo normal disfrutando de las ruinas de Winaywayna debajo de una tímida llovizna. Después que todos los grupos dejan el campamento, nosotros estamos listos para salir, hoy caminaremos solo 1 hora.

Por un camino angosto lleno de orquídeas llegamos a unas escaleras de piedra muy empinadas que nos llevan al Intipunku o Puerta del Sol.

LLEGAMOS!!!

Nunca había visto Machupicchu desde este ángulo, imponente, grandioso y gratificante.

La Experiencia Amazónica-Viajando como un Rolling Stone!


Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

Viajera: Cristina Bustamante

Marketing manager en Metropolitan Touring Peru

La Selva Amazónica es para mí es uno de los lugares más asombrosos y mágicos que he podido visitar en el Perú; y es que una vez que la visitas, te atrapa el calor de su gente, los sabores exóticos de su comida, y sobre todo los brillantes colores de sus paisajes; lo que hace que solo quieras volver una y otra vez.

En esta oportunidad decidí ir a Puerto Maldonado; hogar de una de las reservas naturales más importantes del mundo gracias a su gran biodiversidad, la Reserva de Tampobata, donde está ubicada Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica. Recientemente este eco-lodge a recibido al famoso músico Mick Jagger, por lo que podríamos decir que visitar la selva del Perú es viajar como un Rolling Stone!

Día 1

Salimos de Lima a las 5.20 en un vuelo de 2h 45 min a Puerto Maldonado, con escala en Cusco. A mi llegada nos esperaban los representantes de Inkaterra, quienes  nos trasladaron hacia la Casa de las Mariposas donde nos recibieron con un fresco jugo de maracuyá antes de hacer el check in. Luego, tuvimos tiempo de visitar el mariposario y ver toda clase de mariposas revoloteando a nuestro alrededor.

Después de un viaje de 10 minutos llegamos al Puerto Jetty para realizar un viaje en bote de 45 minutos hacia el albergue, donde el personal nos recibe nuevamente con una bebida helada; y nos dirigen hacia nuestra cabaña.

La habitación era realmente hermosa, contaba con todas las comodidades y amenities de primera sin perder el toque local, y siempre cuidando los estándares ambientales.  Luego de refrescarnos, descansar y disfrutar del almuerzo, empezamos con las actividades….

Al ser primer día, decidimos hacer una caminata de reconocimiento por los alrededores del lodge. Aquí pudimos  conocer muchas de las plantas y árboles de la región, mientras el guía nos contaba el uso que les da la comunidad. Luego de la caminata; decidimos descansar un rato  en la zona de hamacas del albergue, con una vista impresionante, frente al río Madre de Dios.

Por la noche; nos embarcamos en una paseo más emocionante, una excursión por el río de noche. Preparados con nuestras linternas en mano; y cámaras de foto atentas, recorrimos los márgenes del río buscando búhos, ronsocos y caimanes. Nosotros no tuvimos tanta suerte ésta vez; y solo avistamos unos pequeños caimanes. Lo que si vimos con claridad fue el cielo totalmente iluminado con las estrellas del hemisferio Sur.

Al final del día, disfrutamos de la cena y nos dirigimos a descansar y disfrutar de la paz y tranquilidad de nuestra habitación.

Día 2

Nos levantamos muy temprano a disfrutar de un delicioso y energizarte desayuno; para luego  dirigirnos nuevamente al bote que nos llevaría hacia la Reserva Nacional Tambopata. El viaje de 30 minutos nos permite tomar muy buenas fotos del paisaje. Al llegar, realizamos una caminata de hora y media por la selva, donde logramos ver loros, guacamayos, mariposas entre otros hasta llegar al Lago Sandoval.

Desde aquí tomamos una canoa y rodeamos el hermoso lago, observando aves como el shanshos y garzas, monos aulladores, y hasta un caimán en el centro del lago! El paseo dura alrededor de hora y media bajo el sol; por lo que es recomendable llevar bastante agua y utilizar mucho protector solar.

Regresamos al albergue para refrescarnos y disfrutar del almuerzo.

Por la tarde, elegimos visitar el canopy; un sistema de puentes colgantes a más de 28 metros de altura! Caminamos sobre las copas de los árboles, disfrutando del aire fresco y las maravillosas vistas. Esta actividad no es recomendable para quienes temen a las alturas, ya que los puentes se balancean de una lado a otro mientras uno camina. Desde aquí logramos ver a la tucaneta y algunos monos que saltan tímidos de árbol en árbol ante nuestra presencia. Luego de sacar unas buenas fotos, volvemos al lodge.

En nuestra última noche en el albergue, decidimos relajar y solo disfrutar de una exquisita cena y de las bebidas amazónicas preparadas por el barman, donde conversamos con una familia que también se hospedaba en el lodge. Los niños estaban admirados con la cantidad de insectos y animales que vieron en sus excursiones.

Día 3

Llegó el día de despedirnos de Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica. Antes de partir, nos embarcamos en una última excursión a la quebrada Gamitana. En ésta oportunidad, compartimos la excursión con un grupo de simpáticos españoles, con quién compartimos bromas y experiencias del viaje. Luego de caminar por aproximadamente 1 hora por una chacra modelo, donde vemos monos; plantas, frutos, etc, llegamos al punto donde debíamos elegir si íbamos en una sola canoa, acompañados por el guía, o si nos aventurábamos a remar solos…y decidimos claro ir por un poco de aventura! A pesar de que el agua estaba tranquila y el nivel no estaba muy alto, mantener la canoa derecha fue más difícil de lo pensado, quedándonos encallados en más de una oportunidad. Sin embargo, valió totalmente la pena, fue una experiencia única.

Para terminar, regresamos en bote al albergue; a refrescarnos, recoger nuestros últimos bolsos y trasladarnos de regreso a la civilización.

Con mucha pena, pero con la felicidad de haber estado en una de las zonas naturales más preciadas e importantes del mundo, regresamos a la selva de cemento, a la ciudad de Lima; pero con muchos lindos recuerdos y maravillosas fotografías de éste mágico viaje!

The Amazon Experience-Travelling like a Rolling Stone!


Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

Traveler: Cristina Bustamante

Marketing manager at Metropolitan Touring Peru

The Amazon Rainforest is for me one of the most amazing and magic places I have visited in Peru; since once you visit it, the warmth of its people, the exotic flavors of its food and the brightly colors of its landscapes catches you, making you want to go there over and over again.

On this opportunity I decided to travel to Puerto Maldonado, home to one of the most important natural areas in the whole world because of its huge bio diversity, the Tambopata Reserve, where Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica is located. This ecolodge has recently hosted the famous musician Mick Jagger! So now I might say that visiting the Peruvian Rainforest is travelling like a Rolling Stone!

Day 1

We departed from Lima at 5.30 in the morning on a 2.45 min flight towards Puerto Maldonado, with a stop in Cusco. Upon arrival, staff from Inkaterra was waiting to transfer us to the Butterfly’s House, just a few minutes away from the airport, where we received a fresh passion fruit juice before we checked in.

Then, we had some time to visit the butterfly’s house and see all types of butterflies spinning around us.

After a 10 minutes-drive we got to Jetty’s Port to start our journey going dip into the rainforest. We went on a 45 min. boat trip towards the lodge, where once again we were received with a fresh made drink, and directed to our room.

The room was certainly beautiful; it was comfortable and has first class amenities without losing the local touch, and always caring about the ecological standards.

After we freshened up, rested a little, and enjoyed a delicious lunch, we began with the activities.

Since this was our first day here, we decided to make a recognition walk around the lodge, where we got to know lots of plants and trees from the region, while our guide told us about how the local communities use this plants.  After the short walk, we decided to enjoy of the impressive view from the hammocks area, facing the Madre de Dios River.

At night, we embarked on a more exciting activity, an excursion along the river by night. Prepared with our flashlights and the cameras ready to take pictures, we went through the river searching for owls, capybaras and alligators. We didn’t have much luck this time, we only got to see a few small alligators. What we got to see clearly was the sky fully illuminated with twinkling stars from the southern hemisphere.

At the end of the day we had dinner and went to rest and enjoy the peace and tranquility of our room.

Day 2

We woke up very early to enjoy a delicious and energetic breakfast beforegoing back to the boat that will transfer us to the Tambopata National Reserve. Once in the reserve, we had to make an hour and a half walk through the forest where we spotted some parrots, macaws, and butterflies amongst others, until we got to Sandoval Lake.

From here we go into a canoe and surround the beautiful lake, watching birds like the “shanshos” and herons; howling monkeys, and even a big caiman in the middle of the lake. This excursion lasts about 1 and half hours under the hot sun; so it is very important to bring lots of drinking water and sunscreen.

In the afternoon we did the Canopy Walk, a hanging bridges system of more than 28 meters high! We walked over the tops of the trees, enjoying the fresh air and the amazing views. This is not recommendable if you are afraid to heights, since the bridges swings  a lot while you walk. From here we saw a tucanet and some monkeys jumping shyly from tree to tree upon our presence. After taking some good pictures, we went back to the lodge.

On our last night at the lodge we decided to just enjoy an exquisite dinner, followed by some drinks served at the bar; where we got to talk to a family also staying at the lodge. The kids were thrilled with all the insects and animals they saw on their excursions. 

Day 3 

The last day on Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica has come. Before saying good bye to the jungle, we went on our last excursion to the Gamitana creek.

This time a friendly group of people from Spain joined us, with whom we share jokes and trip experiences. After walking about one hour through a model farm, where we saw monkeys, fruits, plants, etc, we got to a point where we had to decide between going all in one canoe driven by our guide, or to go on a separate canoe, paddling by ourselves. Of course, we decided to go for some adventure and go alone on one separate canoe. Even though the water level was not so high, keeping the canoe straight was more difficult than what we thought, leaving us stranded on more than one occasion. However, it was totally worth it, it was a unique experience.

At the end, we returned by boat to the lodge to get our bags and get back to the civilization.

Very sad for leaving, but with  great happiness of having visited one of the most precious natural areas in the world, we went back to the concrete jungle, the city of Lima, but with many good memories and wonderful pictures of this magical journey!

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu


Inka Trail by Faride Altamirano

The Incas made trails that made up their empire far and wide.

The most important was the Capac Ñam or royal trail, with a length of 5.200 kilometers. Starting in Quito (Ecuador), it passed through Cusco, and ended in what is now Tucumán, Argentina, crossing mountains and hills, with altitudes over 5,000 meters.

The famous Inca Trail that links the Sacred Valley of Cusco to Machu Picchu is only a fraction (42kms) from the vast network of Inca roads.

Throughout the year (except in February when it is closed for maintenance), thousands of travelers from all over the world undertake the journey along the Inca Trail from Cusco to access the green mountains of Peru, as well as the ancient mysteries that the stones of Machu Picchu still contain. Along the road, the remains of several forts in relatively good condition visually dominate the whole picture.

The tour begins in the town of Ccorihuayrachina at the 82nd kilometer of the Cusco-Machu Picchu railroad. The Inca trail passes through an impressive range of altitudes, climates and ecosystems as diverse as high Andean highlands and cloud forests. Two passes must be crossed at high altitude (the largest, Warmihuañusca approximately at 4,200 meters of altitude, also known as the “Dead Woman’s Pass”), finally the trail takes you to the entrance of Machu Picchu through the Inti Punku or “Sun Gate”.

During the walk, the weather tends to be dry during the first two days and humid on the third and fourth. The nights on the other hand are different; the first two camps are usually cold, while the third has a milder climate.

There are millions of Inca Trail descriptions; I’d like to share the “experience.”

Day 01

We left very early in a private transfer across the Sacred Valley down to Ollantaytambo. The commercial activity there at that time of the day is tremendous; trucks full of products coming from Quillabamba make it difficult to access the town.

We stopped here to get the last supplies for the trip.

If you forgot to bring walking poles here you can find them at 35 soles each one, if you lost the rubber protective tips for your walking poles, you can purchase them here at 16 soles per pair.

Bear in mind that it is forbidden to enter the Inca Trail without these protectors because without them the stones covering the trail get damaged. It should be noted that it is totally forbidden to enter Machu Picchu with walking poles (even with the rubber tips on).

If you think that the walking poles will be a hindrance rather than help, you are mistaken, you save about 30% of energy using them and they give you a lot of security, especially on steep slopes.

We continue our way walking through farmlands along a road next to the railroad. We arrive in Piscacucho at kilometer 82. Here we find a checkpoint for passengers and another one for the porters. They are very careful checking the accuracy of the information contained in their list, and if it differs from the one in your documents, you will not enter.

Just a hanging bridge separates the real world from the wonderful and surreal territory that we are about to explore, and so we begin the difficult ascent through this bumpy road…

The first hours pass by slowly, we look like a line of ants walking towards the same point. People of all nationalities carrying sophisticated equipment quickly make their way as if they were trying to get somewhere before the rest.

Although there are only small houses along the way, they all have something to offer, candy, water, snacks or even bathrooms for rent.

The hours pass by, the sunshine gets stronger and groups have already left, walking becomes more peaceful.

The first day of walking hasn’t been so hard, it takes about 4 to 5 hours depending on where you’re going to camp or how fast you walk. During this first day, the first archeological remains you will see are the ones in Llactapata or Patallacta. The path by which we are going goes along a small stream, not very steep and the walk is pleasant.
We continue the journey. When we get to Huallabamba , we get ready to spend our first night camping.

Day 02

We wake up surrounded by fog, with fresh but not frozen air, very pure.

It was already 7:00 am. when we were ready to start the day. Today, we would have to cross three “Abras” (passes), the highest of 4200 m.a.s.l. We were ready for the challenge!

The first part of the road crosses a small forest of queñuales (native bushes) and passes through a trail in very good condition. We passed the Llulluchapampa camp, as we move forward we can see in the distance the Wuarmiwañusca (dead woman´s) “abra” at 4200 meters, the highest point of the tour. Getting to it took four grueling hours, not because of it being a long way, but because most of it goes uphill.

Reaching the top was quite a party! Receiving words of encouragement in all languages ​​to keep you going on… A small run of 5 minutes crowned me as the winner! I finally arrived! (Out of breath for running at 4,200 meters of elevation, but very happy to feel that I was touching the sky). The rest of the day from here was long, the scenery was wonderful, we began the descent into the valley of Pacaymayo. The road is narrow in some parts and with steps of irregular size, so you have to be careful. Your knees are the first to suffer but having our super “walking poles” to cushion every step is of great help. We arrived in Pacaymayo, the camp was already set-up and hot food was waiting for us. We were ready to spend a starry night.

Day 03

With a lot of energy, we started what´s for me the most beautiful day of the Inca Trail. The cloudy forest, the weather, the humidity and the smell of  wet soil makes every step unforgettable.

From Pacaymayo, following a zigzag ascent we arrive to the circular ruins of Runkurakay, an strategic place where the Inca messengers (chaskis) stopped for food, to rest and get more water to continue their trip.

The road continues up until the second pass also called Runkurakay.

Here’s the kicker, a pretty steep drop by a well-preserved Inca Trail, a cool minty weather, and a kind of gloomy fog will not let you see what´s coming up. The vegetation from this point is much more varied.

I was obsessed with finding some Wakanki (a type of orchid whose name translated into English means “you will cry”). The Wakanki is the emblematic flower of Machu Picchu.

Gradually we got to the ruins of Sayacmarca (3.620 m), from where everything changes, we enter the forest and continue on a very easy path to Phuyupatamarca (translated into English, “high village surrounded by clouds”) …. The road, with a few drops of rain became nice, fresh and mystical. We went through “The Tunnel” a natural cavity produced by the erosion of the wind and rain and used by the Incas as part of their trail.

We passed through narrow roads up to Phuyupatamarca, a ceremonial center (3650m); here we had lunch surrounded by clouds.

In this place there is mobile phone signal, so we took out all necessary equipment to return to the real world for 3 minutes. Down the road we could see the valley and the Urubamba River, which at this point is renamed Vilcanota.

We descended quickly down a road full of all types of orchids, up to Winay Wayna, the last campsite.

Here there is a hostel, very basic but it is the first contact with civilization. Here you can rent hot showers, at the reasonable price of 5 soles for 5 minutes.

This night is very long as everyone is celebrating at the hostel, music, beer and a sense of self-accomplishment surrounds us.

Day 04

There is no rush this day, we stayed longer than usual enjoying the  ruins in Winay Wayna under a shy drizzle. After all groups have left the camp site, we are ready to start again. Today, we will only walk for just one hour.

By a narrow road full of orchids we arrive to a very steep stone stairway that leads us to the Intipunku or Sun gate.

We arrive to Machu Picchu!

I’ve never seen Machupicchu from this angle; it is awesome, great and rewarding!

Rapa Nui – Outdoor Museum


Te Pito o te Henua….. MAGICAL! There is no other word for such a special Island, full of mysteries and unknown history. It is so tiny that everything turns so cozy and chill, people go-by saying “iorana” as if they`ve known you your whole life.

 Rapa Nui my friends… where giant statues of rock (moais) lie as silent judges in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Where the ocean is a paradise for divers: 70 meters of visibility; where unsolved mysteries are still being solved and where only 5% of the islands treasures have been discovered!

 

The trip to Easter Islands starts in Santiago with a long flight (5 hours aprox.) of just ocean! Thankfully the plane has entertainment on board and lots of movies to choose from; the one that caught my attention was “Què Tan Lejos” an Ecuadorian movie absolutely recommended.

 Finally, a piece of land at sight, it was b e a u t i f u l l, coned volcanoes, white sandy beaches and the whole island in the palm of your hands. It’s difficult to express the feeling; kind of when you are arriving to Machu Pichu after walking 4 days, where you just want to sit there and think of nothing, you know… Have your moment!

 Everything here is so artisanal; the airport has one waiting room with some shops, the Lan Airlines counter, some police infrastructure and a small bag belt. Houses are full of flowers and typical Polynesian music sound on the background.

 I stayed at explora Rapa Nui which is called Posada de Mike Rapu after the owner, mike (meeke) who is a local descendant of the Rapa Nui’s. My time there was dedicated to test land services, inspect hotels and evaluate restaurants. I have to say there are two ways to enjoy Easter Island: one is with explora and the other is with the rest. Definitively a once in a lifetime experience with team explora that deserves a brand new entry.

 

This tiny triangle (180 km2) has a wide variety of activities to choose from, below my top ten.

  1. Rano Raraku: It is actually a volcano, but in one of the sides an impressive quarry is left behind. This is the birthplace of the Moai, where moais of 15-20 meters where carved right from the solid volcanic rock. You can actually walk trough almost 300 moias in different stages of elaboration.
  1. Anakena Beach: It is actually an Ahu (ceremonial place), one of the most amazing because of the settings. The surroundings are home to the last palm trees of the island and of course to the picturesque beach of Anakena. Nothing better that swim in turquoise water with palm trees and moais as lifeguards.
  1. Ahu Tongariki. This Ahu has 15 standing moais looking to the Rano Raraku volcano. The idea here is to visit this ahu at sun-rise with a magnificent colorful natural background.
  1. Diving in los 3 Motus: Start this amazing journey with a boat ride through the coasts of Hanga Roa until you reach the three Mouts area. Once there just dive into this underwater paradise and be prepared to discover the hidden treasures of Easter Island.
  1. Rano Kau: This volcano is home to a unique ceremonial site: Orongo. Here you can actually see how Rapa Nui`s lived and also understand the “Tangata Manu” or Bird Man challenge.
  1. Akivi: This ahu is inserted inside the island, in contrast to other ceremonial sites that are nearby the ocean. Another curious difference is that this ahu has the only seven moais looking to the sea. I’ll let you figure out the mystery.
  1. Hanga Roa: This friendly town is home to an only one of its kind culture; the Rapa Nui. Here you can interact with them, taste their exquisite gastronomy and enjoy a dinner show where folkloric groups take you through a journey into their culture. Don’t miss the handicrafts market and definitively try a cold “Mahindra” a local beer.
  1. Tahai Complex: The Tahai complex is the perfect trip after a good lunch at Hanga Roa. This complex is unique; it has different size moais, representations of the “casa bote” or the boat house where Rapa Nuis used to live. BE sure to enjoy the sunset. Just Amazing.
  1. Maunga Terevaka: This inactive volcano holds the highest point in Easter Island: 511 masl. From there you have a complete view of the whole island. In the surroundings you can enjoy the volcanic caves Ana Te Pahu. 
  1. Car Rental: There is so much more to see in the island that the best way is to rent your own car. Or maybe a motorbike or just a bicycle. Either way you will definitively enjoy, the best things in the island have not been discovered yet.

 The island is magical, be sure to enjoy it; you will definitively fall in love with this tiny triangle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

For our online gallery please visit: http://bit.ly/RapaNuipics

For programs to Easter Island visit: http://bit.ly/gphFkb

Or contact us at: chile@metropolitan-touring.com

The Hamadryade Lodge


Text and photos by: Juan Pablo Verdesoto, Metropolitan Touring Ecuador

Show me the way to the lushness with real plants and trees, good roads, great weather, great drives, delicious food, friendly people and a congregation of  a “few”  that come, all over the world…. just to relax…You know that old story that Ecuador is also famous for its short distances between regions that allows you to move around easily, the story that you can be in one day in the Galapagos Islands or in the high Andes the next day, or just the next hours you could jump into the deep jungles, it is quite true!!.

Imagining taking a 35 minute flight  from Quito and you will be already in the jungle, not mentioning the same amount of time for being in the warm, quite, and sunny Pacific shores…doing some whale watching.

It takes me about 30 minutes to get from my home in the valleys to my office in a regular day basis when traffic flows like the Amazon river. If you think about that, I can be in the jungle already for that amount of time! But when you tried to get further south or north  during the rush hours in our beloved city, it can take serious hours.

One day, I was trying to get somewhere in those days that you wished you stayed home,  I got caught up in a heavy traffic jam…, not much to do but being patient and wait.. wait..and wait.., while waiting I kind of felt sleep, and my mind took me back to a luxurious and modestly priced, 5-bungalow haven, planted in exuberant rainforest along the Napo River, one of the finest eco lodges to have nestled now days in this particular region. 

I began to dream of traveling from Quito towards east, wondering always what is behind those mountains…in front of me?, well not much!!, but an endless vast, rich and mega diverse jungle that seems to be at your hands, that you can almost embrace as you overlook down at this immense area, literally from a natural balcony at the skirts of the Eastern Andes range, when reaching the rim of these great mountains.

Making your way and pass through these Sierras is an incredible experience, not only because of the views, that are dramatic in a word,  but climbing up to near 4000 meters above sea level and then start descending through, narrow valleys, along white water rivers, patches of primary forest, volcanos, passing by two national parks! and other reserves, plenty waterfall on both sides of the road, you get to witness the transition of various ecosystem  that finally lead you to the serenity and calm of the low lands of the jungle… it will definitely make you feel like those romantic explorers of the early centuries in the quest for fortune and adventure.

The road to this region used to be famous for its bad condition,  a paradox since it was the only main road that link the Amazon region and its multibillionaire industry of oil and related products, this reality make you wonder why rebuilding this road took so long (over 35 years) if they already had the means to do so ?

Things are changing for good these days, and what before took you 6 hours to cover a distance less than 200 km between the Capital Quito and city of Tena,  now days is a marvelous ride of 3/30 min, that will make you want more….and hit the road Jack.

I heard a horn… so I kind of woke up again, just to see over my shoulder an angry guy yelling trying to push what is impossible, to move this long tale of stocked cars!!

I went  back to dream and I heard that in the region of Tena, just a few minutes out side Puerto Misahualli, there was a nice place to stay and get lost, someone told me its name was Hamadryade, curious name that called my attention right way.  I find out that this name means “Fairy or nymph ” the fairies that live in the forest and take care of the trees. This meaning will all make sense here.  

Arriving at the lodge is already an experience, you follow a small path full of plants and vegetation that welcome you. Once in the lodge you are greeted by Sebastian and Melaine the owners, a french couple settled here not a while ago and seemed to have found their little paradise. They are very happy, nice, simple people that are the X factor for your experience to be unforgettable.  They have created a spectacular contemporary ambiance reflecting Amazonian culture, colors and icons, they also coordinate along with the community their endeavors and help native guides ensure visitors are in harmony with the ecosystem,  so the environmental foot print is no less than positive.  This structure seems to be the only way to succeed in this business, that with the time becomes more of what we care for the place we live in, and live for and the people that we shared our vision.

Everything at the Hamadryade Lodge is just good: environment, nature, smell, sounds, cleanliness, design, local, pool, food, service, people, relaxation and adventure.

Your stay at Hamadryade included all activities, as well as excellent meals made out fresh organic local production served in the top of a panoramic deck overlooking endless vegetation. Sebastian actually cook most of the meals. The Lodge also has outdoor eating area with french-ecuadorian cuisine prepared in a gourmet way. Fantastic food that incorporated some of the local production that includes all kinds of exotic fruits and fresh fruit juices at breakfast with the french touch…

Many activities can be set up for your from Whitewater rafting to rituals and dancing with Chiripuno natives,  as well as a 6-hour trek discovery jungle mysteries are just some of the options in the menu of activities. If you do not feel like walking 6 hours under the shadows of the forest, a tranquil visit to the amazing butterfly garden on the Hamadryade property can be your choice. You are able to relax in a serene and lovely setting when not exploring. Massage sessions are available on demand along the day also.

The hotel was perfectly designed by Sebastian with the help and keen eye of his lovely wife Melanie, very laid back people for whom anything is possible in the mighty jungle. They blended architecture and surrounding,  altogether got to the level of comfort you wish sometimes to have in the middle of lush of the jungle. The sensations go through total quiet to total sounds of the canopy. It is nice to relax anywhere here, take the sun by the pool even if it rains, not mentioning taking the most placid naps you can ever dream of.  

The lodge is well appointed on vaulted stilts overlooking the river, the views were fantastic, ceilings painted with mosaics and spacious bathrooms, this lodge optimizes the use and saving water. Great beds and bedding, amazing hot showers,  all the amenities you would expect in “civilization” are found in your bungalow. The products in the rooms are all eco-friendly as the focus of Hamadryade Lodge is on being respectful of the environment while living in great comfort. It is very clean, and well maintained.

Sebastian and Melaine, the former owners are available any time to help you. They are the best on what they do, to host  people and help them arranged any kind of local activity, but above all, to make your stay unforgettable… time to wake up!! the line of noisy cars beeping each other, just made me release that I have no time for another dream, move along mate!!

El sabor original de Colombia


By Verónica Poveda, Metropolitan Touring Ecuador

Nunca imaginé cómo cambiaría mi vida después de conocer la cultura culinaria de Colombia, ni cuánto llegaría a disfrutarla estando allí… e incluso en mi propio país, Ecuador!!

La historia de cómo me enamoré de ella empieza justamente al inicio de mi viaje: combinaciones dramáticas y presentaciones de platos, de los que todos nos dimos cuenta. Y debo decir que el atractivo culinario de Colombia no termina con su comida. La amabilidad y cortesía de su gente en todo momento demuestra la calidez y el amor que acompañan cada plato.

Entonces se preguntarán: ¿Qué platos me cautivaron?

 Ajiaco

El ajiaco es el plato de las tierras altas de Cundinamarca y Boyacá en Colombia. Es una sopa a base de patatas, cultivadas en su propia tierra. El ajiaco que probamos en Bogotá se prepara de diferentes maneras, por lo general con los mismos ingredientes, en distintas proporciones, aunque se puede cambiar el pollo por carne. Contiene pollo, papas, cebollas y mazorcas. Realmente nos entusiasmamos cuando nos sirvieron la sopa con sus acompañantes: pollo deshuesado y deshilachado, mezclado con crema, y aguacate. ¡Sin olvidar la muy importante arepa! Hablaré de ella más adelante.

 Bandeja Paisa

Bueno ¡Llamarla deliciosa es nada comparado a probarla personalmente! Este plato se puede encontrar en todo el país. Por lo general, consiste en una porción de frijoles (con una cuchara de hogao encima), arroz blanco seco, carne molida de res, cerdo, chorizo, morcilla, fritas de plátano verde, tajadas de plátano, un huevo frito, rodajas de aguacate y tortillas de maíz, que se sirve todo junto en una bandeja. Por desgracia, no alcancé a comerla toda, pero lo habría hecho “con mucho gusto”.

 Lechona

He oído hablar de la preparación del cerdo para este plato, pero he decidido no explicarla. El deseo de comer algo tan delicioso, podría afectarse. De todos modos, la preparación es también muy diferente en cada zona del país, pero la que nos sirvieron en la Hacienda San José en Pereira, incluye aderezos especiales, que nos demostraron por qué es un plato que no puede dejar de degustarse en Colombia.

 Patacón

Los patacones o tostones se hacen con plátanos verdes pelados y cortados en cruz. Se los fríe dos veces y se sirven en restaurantes de toda Colombia como guarnición para platos de pescado o como aperitivo con guacamole, hogao (salsa de tomate y cebolla) o ají. Probé este patacón gigante después de plantar una palma de cera en el Valle del Cocora !Una experiencia única, seguida de un sabor único! ¡Después de plantar un árbol, todavía tengo que escribir un libro y tener un hijo!

Podría mencionar muchos más platos y bebidas deliciosas que se pueden encontrar allí …

Pero aquí está mi reflexión: ¡No has estado en Colombia, si no has comido arepas!

 La arepa es un icono reconocido de la cocina colombiana. De acuerdo con investigaciones recientes, la arepa es parte del patrimonio cultural colombiano y puede ser considerado como un símbolo culinario nacional.

En la región paisa, la arepa acompaña todas las comidas del día e incluso se condecora a personas famosas con un collar de arepas ¡Cómo quisiera ser uno de ellos!

 En Colombia, las arepas se pueden encontrar en cualquier lugar! Tiendas de barrio, supermercados y plazas de mercado, listas para cocinar o freír. También hay restaurantes especializados. Las arepas son cada vez más populares como parte del menú en muchos restaurantes.

También es muy difícil decidir cuál es la mejor de todas. Hay diferentes tipos, como el de la “arepa de maíz calentao”, “arepa de huevo” y la mejor: “arepa paisa” ¡No he encontrado algo más delicioso que las arepas! ¡Podría comerlas todos los días para el resto de mi vida! De hecho, lo haré.