Detour’s New Truck Is A Bike

Detour's New Truck is a Yuba Cargo Bike

Here at Detour we are always looking for ways to get outside, get some exercise, and cut our carbon footprint, so you can only imagine how stoked we were to discover Yuba Bikes line of cargo bikes. Yuba bikes are fantastic people and stuff movers, and easily take the place of a car or small truck for running errands around town.

We immediately grabbed a Mundo to be our office truck, for hauling recycling or picking up supplies; we also have it set up to haul kids to school (with monkey bars that allow kids to sit safely on the back with no chance of falling off) so I can ride two kids to school on my way to work.

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Wow! Wow! Wow! Detour Does It Again!


(We just received the nicest email from a happy client – Stephanie Mayer who traveled with  her son Cooper in Costa Rica. Stephanie previously traveled with her other son in Peru. We love hearing about your great travel experiences – that is why we do this!)

Wow! Wow! Wow!

Once again there really are no words to adequately express my appreciation for ALL your efforts in putting together the most perfect Costa Rican adventure.

It was a true HOME RUN, like Peru!!  A perfect trio of experiences blended into one trip;  Cooper and I felt like we had three mini vacations and one big adventure – all equally great, all incredibly different and all representative of the diversity and splendor of Costa Rica.

You delivered high adventure, great guides, wonderful hotels, great food, spectacular beauty and a taste of the culture and people of Costa Rica.
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What sort of food should I expect on my trek?

Unless you are overnighting in towns or villages along the way, your operator will arrange for a cook to trek with you. They will typically provide food grown or produced locally. Many travelers are surprised at the quality, freshness and variety of cuisine they experience when trekking in South America.

Trekking Tours


What Kind of Accommodations Should I Expect on a Patagonia Trek?

The accommodations for a typical trekking trip in Patagonia will be camping or hotels.

If you are camping, typically, you will have to provide the sleeping bag and pad yourself while the trek operator will provide the tents, cooking equipment, food, and water purifiers.

Additionally, many Patagonian treks have the option of staying in either a refugio or Ecocamp.

“[An Ecocamp is] a luxury camp, of a kind never seen before in Chile and similar in concept to the famous African lodges. It is a more comfortable alternative, but above all environmentally friendly, especially in a national Park with the characteristics of Torres del Paine.” – Courtesy of Cascada Expediciones

Ecocamps are offer luxurious camping, complete with a kitchen, dining room, and separate sleeping tents.  Hot showers and bathrooms are also available at an Ecocamp.

Refugios are typical mountain huts which vary in available amenities, size and comfort.  They are permanent structures built to accommodate trekkers along busy and even remote areas.  To learn more about the refugios offered on various treks, please refer to the specific trip’s details.

Patagonia Treks

What Can I Do About Altitude Sickness

Sunset on a Peru Trek

Peru is famous for its impressive altitude; many of its most popular destinations sit at 8,000 feet above sea level. Cusco, the hub for many treks including the Classic Inca Trail, is 11,600 ft above sea level.

Altitude sickness can begin to affect people at 6,500 feet above sea level. Symptoms will usually manifest after 6-10 hours of arrival and can take a day or two to subside.

The symptoms include a headache first, then you may experience a lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting; fatigue; dizziness; light-headedness; and/or insomnia. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, rapid pulse, drowsiness, and swelling of the face, hands, or feet. Extreme altitude sickness can result in swelling of the brain and fluid accumulation in the lungs, which can be fatal. Keep in mind that these are extreme cases and not commonplace. The vast majority of folks feel lousy or suffer a headache for the first day or two at high altitude.

The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to ascend slowly. However, since most travelers are flying directly into Cusco, this isn’t an option. To avoid altitude sickness if you are flying into your destination, give yourself plenty of time to acclimatize to the formidable change in altitude. For instance, if you are trekking the Inca Trail, you should rest for at least the first day in Cusco. On your rest day (or days), you should avoid exerting yourself too heavily, eat lightly, avoid alcohol, and drink plenty of water. If you are trekking, make sure to stay hydrated, take it slowly, take frequent rest breaks, and let your guide know if you are feeling any of the symptoms listed above.

In Peru and Bolivia, the folk remedy for altitude sickness is chewing coca leaves or drinking a tea made from the leaves. The strength of the effect is equivalent to a cup of coffee, but it works wonders for most travelers. It is widely available and your hotel in Cusco will probably offer it as well. Additionally, some hotels, such as the Monasterio hotel in Cusco, have oxygen cannisters on hand to help guests cope with altitude sickness.

You should contact your primary care physician for recommendations if:
-You have a pre-existing respiratory condition
-You have had serious problems with altitude sickness in the past
-You have other health concerns that may be affected by altitude

Peru Tours

What is Adventure Travel?

Adventure travel is another of those terms that can mean many things, as there is no official definition for it. We use the term to mean traveling with an adventurous spirit. Basically, if you want to take a trip that is just like being at home, that isn’t an adventure. Having an adventurous spirit means seeking out different places, ecosystems, and cultures, and the desire to explore and learn on your trip. While it has been said that an adventure doesn’t begin “until you lose your luggage,” we feel you don’t need things to go wrong to have and adventure. What you do need is to be willing to move outside the comfort of the world you live in to experience something new.

Traditionally, the phrase soft adventure has been used to define hiking or walking tirps, jungle lodges, etc, while “hard adventure” has referred to more active or dangerous activities such as whitewater rafting or skiing.

Check out our adventure travel activities at Detour, The Adventure Travel Marketplace

SUP Love – Stand Up Paddleboard Adventures in Latin America

Stand up paddling in the Galapagos

Spring is here in Montana, and as the weather has warmed up I’ve been stoked to get out and Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)! Of course it’s warm somewhere all year long, so we at Detour are developing SUP trips in Latin America you can do any month of the year so you don’t have to wait for spring to get your paddle on. We have been spreading the SUP love with outfitter friends in South America for a few years, and now we are getting set up with some sweet new trips that include SUP in numerous destinations – especially near Cusco, Peru, and in the Galapagos Islands.  Check back with us for more details on these, and other, great new SUP adventures soon. The trips are perfect for beginners or experienced paddlers alike.

Stand Up Paddleboarding the Pacific, Nuqui, Colombia

Stand Up Paddleboarding the Pacific, Nuqui, Colombia

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President Clinton Says Tourism Good for the Earth, Children, and the Future

President Bill Clinton, speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council summit in Abu Dhabi yesterday, said many positive things about the ability of travel and tourism to make the world a better place. According to the Telegraph ( Clinton “said the travel industry was ‘good for the earth, the children and the future.’ The former politician, who was the US head of state from 1993 to 2001, said that tourism could be used to foster stability and peace.”

Tourism to biodiverse regions like the Amazon basin can help protect and preserve biodiversity

Tourism to biodiverse regions like the Amazon basin can help protect and preserve biodiversity

I agree completely with the former President. Tourism done right can have a number of positive impacts on the world. When the money tourist’s spend goes into the local economy (as opposed to going into multinational corporation’s pockets), and when the tourism is designed to protect local environments and cultures, it can be hugely beneficial. Additionally, the more people from different cultures learn about each other, the more harmony there is in the world. Continue reading

When Is the Best Time to Do the Inca Trail?

Peru’s world famous Inca Trail is open 11 months of the year, allowing trekkers to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot from March 1 – January 31. The Inca Trail is closed during the month of February due to weather and to allow for maintenance. But when is the best time to do the Inca Trail trek? Like most things in life, it depends. It depends on what you want most out of your trip — clear skies, warmer days and nights, smaller crowds, etc.

Inca Trail Porters and Trekkers During the Dry Season

Inca Trail Porters and Trekkers During the Dry Season

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Quito Ecuador’s New Airport Finally Opening February 20, 2013

After months of delays Quito, Ecuador’s, new Mariscal Sucre airport in the northeast suburb of Tababela, 37 km from the northern part of Quito, will finally open on Wednesday, February 20th at 9 am. February 19th the “old airport,” which is within the city of Quito, will close down at 7 pm.  The new airport is a modern terminal, equipped with a runway length of 4,100 meters (1,000 feet longer than the current airport, making it one of the longest in Latin America) and it will be able to handle 6 million passengers a year with 44 take-offs and landings per hour. The airport will be 1-1/2 hours from the main hotel areas in Quito.

Quito's New Mariscal Sucre International Airport

Quito’s New Mariscal Sucre International Airport Ready For Action

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Galapagos Multisport Adventures Are Perfect For The Active Traveler

Snorkeling at Kicker Rock, San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Multisport Adventures can provide amazing active Galapagos experiences.

Do you want to travel to the Galapagos Islands but you’re worried that the trip will be too passive? If so, you sound just like my wife. Unfortunately for her, when she visited the Galapagos Islands in 2004 there weren’t really any good options for a Galapagos trip other than to take a cruise. If only there had been quality Galapagos Multisport Adventures in 2004!

Wildlife viewing on a nature walk during a Galapagos cruise.

Wildlife viewing on a nature walk during a Galapagos cruise.

My wife gets sea-sick very easily, and she hates to be cooped up in small spaces for long periods of time. Continue reading

New Trip: Galapagos and Cotopaxi Multisport Adventure

Riding horses with the chagras near Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Riding horses with the chagras near Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador

We’ve got a cool new trip, the Galapagos and Cotopaxi Multisport, from one of our great Ecuador providers Tropic, Journeys in Nature. This new trip combines a Galapagos Multisport Adventure with a great exploration of Quito and mainland Ecuador in a very active multisport trip that includes hiking, biking, horseback riding, zip-lining, kayaking, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing!
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Inca Trail Permits Selling Fast for 2013

Want to trek the Inca Trail in 2013? You’d better get busy and plan your trip!Porters and trekkers along the Inca Trail

Porters and trekkers along the Inca Trail

Inca Trail trekking permits are selling faster and faster each year, and 2013 is no exception. Ever since the permit system was put in place to limit the number of people (tourists, guides, support staff, porters) beginning the Inca Trail each day, the permits have sold out farther and farther in advance. This year permits are selling faster than ever: More than half the dates in May are already sold out (after the 12th, only the 31st is still available), while even traditionally less popular months such as March and April have several sold out dates and limited availability on other dates. As of now, there are still plenty of permits for June, July, and August, but expect those to start selling out soon as well.
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Family Galapagos Cruises on the Eric, Letty, Flamingo I

Kids on an Ecoventura Family trip up close with a sea lion.

Kids on an Ecoventura Family trip up close with a sea lion.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s top family travel destinations, and a family cruise is a great way to experience the amazing archipelago.  The weather is pleasant, the activities are not so strenuous or difficult that they can’t be enjoyed by multiple age groups at once, and the wildlife viewing is out of this world!
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My Mom Loves the Huoarani Ecolodge, and So Will You!


More on my Mom’s (Helen Findley) Visit to the Huaorani, straight from her. My 79 year old mother visited the Huaorani Ecolodge in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin with her friend Phyllis in November, 2012. Here is Helen’s story about it:

Helen With Mancaye, her Huao Guide, at the Huoarani Ecolodge

Helen With Mancaye, her Huao Guide, at the Huoarani Ecolodge

I have just had one of the most exciting and wonderful experiences of my life—a visit to the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador, where I spent five days with the Huaorani people. It started with the scenic ride from Quito to the town of Shell that took us past several volcanoes, one of which erupted just several days after we returned to the US. In just a few hours as we drove, the climate changed from the chill of Quito’s altitude of 9,00 plus feet to the warmth and lush vegetation of the jungle. At the little airport at Shell, an oil company town, a five-seater plane was readied and Phyllis and I, plus Xavier and Francisco, our guides for the trip, joined the pilot for the 45 minute flight to the Huaorani territory. My view was great as I sat right beside the pilot with my knees touching the dash. The buildings and open land soon turned to miles of dense green jungle. Suddenly the winding snake of a river appeared, the plane circled over a long bare slash in the jungle, and we were there!
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My Mom Visited the Huaorani Ecolodge in Ecuador

Huaorani Ecolodge, Ecuador

My mom, Helen Findley, on her Huaorani Ecolodge Trip in Ecuador.

My 79 year old mother, Helen Findley, visited Ecuador and the Huaorani Ecolodge in November, 2012. She has traveled all over the world, and besides the USA, she has lived in China and the Philippines. She has visited the Amazon previously, having rafted the Tambopata River and stayed at the Tambopata Research Center. She has spent time with indigenous groups in the Philippines and elsewhere. But even after all of these trips, she found the Huaorani Ecolodge trip to be one of the best travel experiences of her life!
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Do I need a wetsuit for my Galapagos trip?

GPS24  Playing with Sea Lions
Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands with Sea Lions

Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands with Sea Lions


Snorkeling is one of the top activities in the Galapagos Islands, as the wildlife under water is as unafraid of humans as the wildlife on land. On one trip there I found myself swimming in a living room sized cove with 5 large sea turtles, who, oblivious to my presence, were munching (happily I presume) on plants growing on and around the rocks in the small cove. It was incredible, and I will never forget it. But was it cold?
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Caño Island, Costa Rica, Temporarily Closed

Caño Island, Costa Rica

Caño Island, Costa Rica














News from partner Costa Rican Trails:

As of last week the Costa Rican government closed land access to Caño Island, off of the Osa Peninsula, for three months (until the end of May, 2012). This island is visited by all guests staying at Casa Corcovado, La Paloma Lodge, Marenco Lodge, and Aguila de Osa Lodge, among others.

While it will still be possible to snorkel and dive in the waters surrounding Caño Island, it will no longer be possible to go onto the island itself.  The nice beach on Caño Island is where the lodges usually offer a picnic lunch.

With land access not available, the picnic lunch will be provided at Playa San Josecito, a scenic beach roughly half way between the various lodges and Corcovado National Park.  This location  offers another snorkeling opportunity and beautiful trails where capuchin monkeys and scarlet macaws are often seen.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin!

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin!

From the Galapagos Conservancy:

Sunday, February 12th marks the 203rd birthday of Charles Darwin, famous for developing his theory of evolution following a visit to the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle. His study of endemic plants and animals — and the variation in their physical traits from island to island — was the foundation for his theory on natural selection.

“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

– Charles Darwin

New Discovery: Galapagos Tortoise Breed Sequestered not Extinct

Recently Discovered Giant Tortoise

Recently Discovered - Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species Not Extinct

Chelonoidis elephantopus, a type of giant Galapagos tortoise that was thought to have become extinct over 150 years ago has been “found” in the genome of a similar species that currently lives in the Galapagos Islands.

First recorded in 1853 by Charles Darwin in his famous voyage of The Beagle, Chelonoidis elephantopus was never again seen by visitors or scientists in the Galapagos Islands.  This species was believed to have been wiped out by the mid 1800’s by pirates and whalers who used these animals as a valuable source of food on their ships due to their tolerance of extreme conditions.  A Galapagos tortoise can survive without food or water for up to a year, thus they were a highly prized food source by pirates and whalers who kept them alive on their ships without giving them any care.  Giant Galapagos tortoises can reach almost 6 ft (1.8m) in length and weigh almost 900 lbs (408 kg).

Chelonoidis elephantopus was originally from Floreana Island, the second southernmost island in the Galapagos archipelago and the most frequented by pirates and whalers in the 1800’s.  However, a study of the genome of over 1600 tortoises on Isabela Island (the largest island of the Galapagos Islands land formations and found 200 miles northwest of Floreana Island) revealed the presence of the DNA of Chelonoidis elephantopus on its very close relative, Chelonoidis becki.

The two species of Galapagos giant tortoises have shells of a different shape.  The shells of C. becki are domed-shaped, whereas the shells of C. elephantopus on Floreana Island were saddle-shaped.  Because in 2008 several members of C. becki were observed to have more saddle-shaped shells than dome-shaped, an investigation began to determine the cause of the difference in shell shapes.  A DNA examination of these saddle-shaped variations revealed that they had to have had at least one parent which was a member of C. elephantopus.

Watch the Giant Saddled Backed Tortoise video:

The final study showed that their genes were significantly different from those of other Galapagos tortoises on the Island and although the issue is complicated (and scientists estimate that at least 38 tortoises in their study could be purebred members of C. elephantopus), the conclusion is that the species is not extinct.  Thirty of the tortoises whose DNA contained DNA from C. elephantopus were found to be less than 15 years old. Given that the average lifespan of a Galapagos tortoise is 100 years, researchers say that there is a strong chance that their C. elephantopus parent is still alive on Isabela Island.

Additionally, since scientific findings suggest there may indeed be a few dozen descendants of this Galapagos Island breed still roaming the island, researchers are anxious to locate this group. The task now is to establish a realistic plan to discover their territory and catch these “hybrid tortoises” and incorporate them into the current breeding program or design a new one. This will involve an enormous effort as researchers look in plain sight among other tortoise herds and search for a population that has established its own secluded territory. This is an exciting opportunity for conservationist to learn more about C. elephantopus and possibly discover additional hybrid offspring.

To make matters more interesting, researchers are not sure how C. elephantopus tortoises ended up on Isabela Island, almost 200 miles away from Floreana. As opposed to sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands area, Galapagos tortoises are not good swimmers. Some scientists have posited that these tortoises originally arrived via the Humboldt Current from mainland South America. Based on this premise, there is the possibility that the population or even a single pregnant female “migrated” to Isabela Island as a passive passenger via prevailing currents. The generally accepted best guess is that pirates and whalers hauled them from one island to the other, or that they threw some overboard when passing close to Isabela Island.

A detailed recount of these findings is published in the journal Current Biology.

Additional resources:

Stand Up Paddling (SUP) on the Blackfoot River, MT


I first tried Stand Up Paddleboarding, or SUP, in February of this year when I paddled down the Shiripuno River to the Huaorani Ecolodge in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, and then on a Galapagos Stand Up Paddle Multisport Adventure.  SUP’ing was a great way to experience the Galapagos, and it added one more activity to an already full multisport itinerary, making the Galapagos Stand Up Paddle Multisport Adventure the most active and adventurous trip in the Galapagos Islands.

Since that trip I’ve been exploring SUP’ing here in Montana, and I’m pleased to say that even though we are far from the ocean this sport is awesome here as well. We are surrounded by beautiful lakes and rivers here in central Montana, and SUP’ing is the perfect way to explore our local waterways.

Before I tried SUP, I have to admit, I was a skeptic. It seemed like a manufactured sport, something created just to sell more gear, or just for surfers. It seemed silly, and it also looked like it was too hard to be practical for the average person. Then I tried it. Turns out I was wrong, and SUP is a great activity that almost anyone can do. It is getting lots of press because it is fun, and it is a very practical way to get out on the water.

Stand Up Paddleboarding is an activity that can be enjoyed anywhere there is water, whether on the ocean, in lakes, calm rivers, or even in whitewater rivers.  It can be great exercise, and I’ve really come to prefer it to canoeing or kayaking on lakes and mellow rivers. On the SUP you stand up and can see your surroundings, and down into the water, better than from a canoe or kayak.  The SUP is more comfortable to paddle, and the paddle doesn’t drip water on you with every stroke like in a kayak. There is a sense of freedom on a SUP that is hard to get in other watercraft.

My only complaint about SUP is that every time I take my board out so many people want to try it I don’t get much time on it! Everyone who has tried it loves it, and I can see why it is the fastest growing watersport in the world. It can be whatever you want it to be — surfing in the ocean, flat water racing, running rapids, working out, doing yoga, distance crusing, or just paddling around on a lake or river enjoying the view.  Bottom line is that it is fun! So far my 4 year old son and my 78 year old mother have both tried it, and both like it!

This past weekend we took the family on the Blackfoot River near Missoula, MT, in our raft. We also took our NRS Big Earl inflatable SUP, and my wife and I traded off between the SUP and the raft.  Our 4 year old rode on the SUP between the larger rapids.  What a great way to get on a beautiful river, making for an awesome day! The water was low and we didn’t want to fall off the SUP onto rocks, so we knelt on the board in the bigger rapids, but in the smaller or deeper rapids, and in the flats between the rapids, we stood up and enjoyed the amazing scenery from the SUP.

I’m  a convert. SUP is going to stay. Detour is looking at all sorts of new SUP trips and destinations in South America for 2012. Stay tuned for these cool new adventures!

SUP Stand Up Paddling the Blackfoot River, MT

Espiritu Pampa Trek and Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trek Featured in NY Times!


Ruins at Choquequirao

Two of our favorite treks in Peru, Choquequirao to Machu Picchu and Espiritu Pampa – Trek to the Last City of the Incas, operated by Detour partner Amazonas Explorer, were featured in The New York Times Travel section yesterday: “The Hidden Route to Machu Picchu.”

These are challenging, off the beaten path treks to visit some of the most amazing Inca ruins and scenery in Peru. The Choquequirao to Machu Piccchu Trek is a 10-day trek (13-day package available including time in Cusco) to some of the most incredible Inca ruins one can see. The 60 mile trek ascends and descends nearly 16,000 feet, so it is only for fit hikers. But it is worth it to experience a sense of discovery similar to that of famous explorer Hiram Bingham, famous for bringing Machu Picchu to the western world.

“Once . . . cleared, Choquequirao will be one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the world,” according to Amazonas Explorer guide John Leivers in the article.

Times writer Mark Adams says that “walking through the partially excavated ruins, it occurred to me that a visit to Choquequirao was what a Machu Picchu excursion must have been like 50 years ago. Our chief muleteer, Juvenal Cobos, who had been to Machu Picchu on a school field trip in the 1950s, confirmed this.”

Amazonas Explorer’s trek goes from Choquequirao to other little-visited Inca ruins, and ends with a magnificent view and exploration of Machu Picchu itself.

Choquequirao to Machu Picchu: Trek the Hidden Route to Machu Picchu. The trip is offered as a 10-day trek / Machu Picchu visit only, or a 13-day complete package from Cusco to Cusco including hotels and services in Cusco. Fixed Departure Dates: 10-day Trek Only: September 12, 2011 – September 21, 2011: $1643.00 per person; 13 -day trips: July 10-22, 2011; October 23 – November 4, 2011: $1995.00 per person.

Private trips can operate on any date and the pricing is tiered so the price per person goes down as the number of travelers goes up.

This amazing trek connects the sister ruins of Choquequirao and Machu Picchu in an off-the-beten path route across some of the most amazing terrain, scenery, and ruins in South America. Experience Peru and “discover” Inca ruins much as Hiram Bingham did 100 years ago.

Way off the beaten track, Choquequirao, the “Cradle of Gold”, is an amazingly preserved Inca outpost, comparable in size to Machu Picchu and dramatically located on a promontory nearly 1,700 m above the roaring Apurimac River.

It is only accessible by a tough trek. Our nine-day mule supported hike to Choquequirao and beyond takes in high passes, perfectly preserved Inca Trails and awesome Andean peaks, ending with a spectacular and rarely seen view of Machu Picchu and a full guided tour of these incredible ruins.

This is a long, spectacular and strenuous hike crossing the entire Vilcabamba mountain range from the Apurimac to the Urubamba watershed. It is approximately 100 km (60 miles) long with almost 5,000 m of both ascent and descent with passes up to 4,600 m and river crossings as low as 1,450 m.

This is your chance to be amongst one of the few adventurers to visit this incredible site and complete this rewarding trek to Machu Picchu. We end in Cusco with an extra day to relax and explore this amazing city.

Abbreviated Itinerary
DAY 1: Cusco (briefing only on 10-day trip as trip starts on Day 2)
DAY 2: Cusco – Limatambo – Sahuite – Cachora
DAY 3: Cachora – Apurimac – Santa Rosa
DAY 4: Arrive Choquequirao
DAY 5: Explore Choquequirao
DAY 6: Choquequirao – Maizal
DAY 7: Maizal – Yanama
DAY 8: Yanama – Totora
DAY 9: Totora – Lucmabamba
DAY 10: Lucmabamba- Llactapata – Train to Machu Picchu
DAY 11: Machu Picchu – Return to Cusco (end of 10-day trek)
DAY 12: Cusco
DAY 13: Cusco & Home

Espiritu Pampa is generally regarded as Vilcabamba, the Lost City of the Incas. Espiritu Pampa is hidden in the jungle and is now known as the last holdout of the Incas in their battle with the Spanish. This remote site is visited by fewer than 250 tourists a year. It is a challenging jungle exploration trek for the person who wants to re-discover Inca history for themselves.

Espiritu Pampa: 12 -day trips begin and end in Cusco. The trip is available any date for a private group with a minimum of 3 travelers, or there are fixed departure August 14, 2011 and October 30, 2011.  Price is $2403 per person, based on double occupancy for the fixed departure trips, and private trips have tiered pricing, with the price per person dropping as the group size goes up.

Trek to the Lost City of the Incas, Espiritu Pampa!

This truly amazing trek takes us below and beyond the Machu Picchu so well known to a rarely visited place – Espiritu Pampa – the definitive final outpost of the Inca Empire. Following an in depth exploration of Cusco and the Sacred Valley, we visit the fabled Machu Picchu before heading further into the jungle by train and vehicle to the start of our trek into the Vilcabamba region.

Following the footsteps of the Incas, we retrace their final journey into the jungle to their recently cleared final hiding place – Espiritu Pampa. This rewarding low altitude trek offers the seasoned traveler a chance to truly experience a spectacular journey, one that is rarely undertaken. In 2008, less than 250 people visited this site – This is jungle exploration at its very best!

Abbreviated Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Cusco and acclimatization / orientation tour of Cusco
Day 2: Hiking and guided tour to the local Inca ruins around Cusco
Day 3: Sacred Valley tour and late Pm train to Machu Picchu
Day 4: Private guided tour of Machu Picchu, transfer to Huancacalle
Day 5: Explore the Inca ruins of Vitcos and the famous “White rock”
Day 6: Start hike toward Espiritu Pampa
Day 7: Hiking the Concebidayoc valley
Day 8: Arrive at Espiritu Pampa – the last city of the Incas
Day 9: Full day exploration of Espiritu Pampa
Day 10: Hike out to road head and drive to Quillabamba
Day 11: Drive to Cusco
Day 12: Transfer to airport and fly home or join an Excellent Extension

Tsunami Does Minimal Damage in Galapagos Islands

The Tsunami Warning and State of Emergency for the Galapagos Islands was lifted early Saturday morning, and flights and tours all resumed as normal on Saturday. We received a number of reports from our Galapagos partners, all assuring us that there were no serious injuries to people, and that damage was minimal. The tsunami, caused by the large earthquake in Japan, passed the Galapagos Islands on Friday, March 11, about an hour later than expected.

While the tsunami in the Galapagos was nowhere near as large as the one that hit Japan,  it did cause some minor damage to both towns and natural areas in the islands. The timing of the tsunami meant that it hit at high tide, compounding the tsunami effects. The highest water level was close to 6 feet (1.8 meters) above normal, and the greatest damage appears to have been in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, and on San Cristobal island. Reports are not in from all natural areas just yet, but damage does not appear to be major. There are reports of damage to sea turtle and marine iguana nests in various locations.  At Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz Island it appears that sea turtle nests, as well as a flamingo lagoon, were destroyed by the surging water.

Several hotels in Puerto Ayora were flooded, but repairs and cleanup have been swift and most everything is open and back to where it was before the tsunami.

Here is some video of the cleanup at the Hotel Sol Y Mar in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos:

Here is a report from the Charles Darwin Foundation

Puerto Ayora, Galapagos
“March 14, 2011

“In the aftermath of the tidal surges induced by the March 11th Japan earthquake and tsunami, a team of more than 20 staff and volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder to clear debris, retrieve equipment and clean laboratories, offices and storage buildings at the Marine Sciences complex of the Galapagos-based Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.

“The powerful surf hit Santa Cruz with waves up to 1.77m /5.8 feet above normal according to data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), one of the highest readings in the Eastern Pacific.  The waves also coincided with the local high tide, sending the first wall of water into the CDF installation at approximately 18:00.  Two subsequent waves at intervals of 26 minutes raised the water level 1.50m/4.9 feet above the upper CDF Marine Lab dock.  “The waves,” stated Dr. Volker Koch, CDF Director of Marine Sciences, “completely destroyed a concrete pump house, broke through heavy wooden doors, flooded laboratories, workshops and storage facilities, and carried off furniture and equipment,” despite advance emergency preparation.  CDF Senior Scientist Stuart Banks observed that: “Equipment ranging from dive tanks, small boats, wooden furniture, freezers and field supplies was widely scattered.  We found items in the ground floor laboratory, buried in sand and vegetation, driven 50 meters [165 feet] up the entrance trail and dispersed across a 200 meter [650 foot] radius around the mangrove-lined shore.”

“The first wave arrived 20 minutes after the ETA of 17:40 predicted for Baltra Island to the north of Santa Cruz.  The receding wave lowered the water level in Academy Bay from full tide by more than one meter/3 feet within 12 minutes.  The sea then rose rapidly to cover the CDF dock. The second ebb was stronger than the first and subsequent waves continued into the night, gradually reducing their amplitude into mid-morning of the following day.

“No injuries were sustained and no other areas of the CDF Research Station were significantly damaged.  Staff are in the process of damage assessment and will calculate overall losses in the coming days.”

Galapagos Tsunami Warnings Due to Japan Earthquake

We are very sad to hear the news about the earthquake in Japan today.  Unfortunately, the news could get worse as the day goes on as Tsunami  warnings have been issued for over 20 countries in the Pacific region, among them the Galapagos Islands and coast of Ecuador.  We certainly hope the tsunami’s don’t materialize and no further tragedies occur.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa has declared a state of Exception/Emergency in Ecuador and the Galapagos, canceling all flights to the Galapagos, closing ports, and requiring everyone in the Galapagos to move to higher areas of the islands.

We’ve been receiving reports all morning from our Galapagos providers, and we are not surprised to see all of them taking such pro-active measures to protect travelers (and staff).

Here is a bit more from partner Ecoventura:

“The tsunami is expected to arrive in Galapagos later this afternoon, the exact time could be anywhere from 3 to 7PM local Galapagos time. Therefore, we do have sufficient time to take necessary precautions. Flights to Galapagos today have been cancelled and there is an evacuation order in effect.  All tour boats are required to leave port and be at least five miles offshore.  The local populations will need to seek higher ground to the highlands and mid sections of the Islands by noon today.  Obviously, all visits today have been cancelled.  The Flamingo and Letty, currently with passengers on board, will sail towards Santa Fe Island and stay 15 miles in between the islands.   The Galapagos Sky, anchored in Cristobal will sail offshore and the ERIC is dry docked in Guayaquil.”

Plans are for everything to return to normal tomorrow, although this will be modified if a large tsunami does hit and does damage in the islands.

Best wishes to all in Japan, as well as everyone who may possibly be affected in the Pacific.

Patagonia Strike Ends- Travel Normal Again

Strike in Patagonia ends after 6 days
From Travel Partner TravelArt Chile

After six days of strike the conflict about the gas price increase in southern Chile has been resolved. An agreement, that was acceptable for the government as well as for the citizens’ representatives, was announced yesterday at around 11:00 a.m. local time after long negotiations lead by the minister of energy and mining Laurence Golborne. In the afternoon a declaration setting the price increase to 3% beginning in February 2011 was signed. To lessen the effects of higher prices for the disadvantaged population of the region, 18.000 families will receive subsidies to their gas bill. Starting in March a law regulating the future gas price will be drafted under participation of the citizens.

As a reaction to the agreement, which had been expected for many days, blocked streets were cleared and the strike was ended. By now all street connections are passable again and daily life is unimpaired. All tourist services are operating as usual. Hotels and transport companies hope for a quick return of tourists to the region and plan to invigorate their business through special offers for the rest of the season. Secretary of state Jaqueline Plass, who is in charge of tourism, announced measures to promote the region on the international market and stressed that the guests’ safety in Patagonia can be guaranteed.

During the last week travelArt attended all affected passengers in the best possible way upon agreement with the respective operator. Now we are trying to realize all current trips as fast as possible in the originally booked way. Our sales executives are in direct contact with each of the affected travelers and operators.

Cusco Acclimatization Hike to Qusilluchayoc Ruins

Cusco, Peru,  is referred to as the “navel of civilization”; the layers of cultures stretching back to pre-Inca times within a relatively small geographic area is amazing.  Yesterday I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take advantage of my new job with Peru Sur Nativa to spend half my working day hiking to the Qusilluchayoc ruins that are literally ten minutes by taxi from the city center.
Raul (Peru Sur Nativa’s founder and long time South American guide) and I set out around 8 am with our backpacks and a GPS to determine the mileage and altitude of the hike.  The intention of the hike was twofold: to give me an idea of the incredible terrain and history in Cusco and to be able to give Peru Sur Nativa’s clients a detailed explanation of a perfect acclimatization hike they can do in a half day in order to prepare for their multi-day high altitude adventures.
The impact of the altitude here can’t be overstated for those coming from sea level: the simple fact that you’re immediately exposing yourself to far less oxygen than you’re used to is enough to make even the most fit traveler experience headaches, nausea and lethargy.  Taking a day to rest and another day to do a local acclimatization hike is a GOOD idea to say the least.  After having been here for a week, and coming from an altitude of 4,664ft in Montana, I could still feel the pull on my lungs and legs when we were walking up the moderate hills.  For the most part the trail was moderate – mostly flat with short uphill sections and the opportunity to rest while exploring the Temple of the Moon where the Incas made offerings and held sacred ceremonies.  To say the least, it’s more than impressive to be surrounded by jagged green peaks on all sides and to experience the evidence of a culture that created such amazing temples with limited tools and had such a strong spiritual connection to their land.
We finished the hike by crossing through rural villages where the locals were working their fields with small hand tools; often with their babies and small children in tow.
Overall the 7 mile hike to 3 hours and reached a maximum altitude of 12,200ft.  A good introduction to the altitude experiences that lie ahead for me.  Another big lesson:  TAKE THE SUN SERIOUSLY!  I have lobster red skin anywhere it was exposed due to my failure to understand how quickly you can get a serious sunburn at this altitude on a clear day.  Lesson learned: even if the sky is cloudy when you start out always, always have sunscreen and plenty of water in your pack.
All in all, not a bad day of work!
Hope all is well north of the Equator,

Another report from Shannon Hughes, who moved to Cusco, Peru, in November 2011. She is working for our partner outfitter Peru Sur Nativa.

First Days in Cusco

Report # 2 from Shannon Hughes in Cusco, Peru.

The sun rises early in Cusco, maybe 5AM.  I only know this because that’s when the songbirds – and the many feral dogs – begin their symphony.  By the time I head down from my place above the Plaza San Blas it’s already fairly high in the sky, and by mid-day it’s intense.

The high altitude and clear skies combine to create that sort of muted feeling to a landscape: the blue is brighter, but the green of the hills is washed out and the glare off the tile rooftops and streets obscures any of the subtle nuance in color of the city landscape.  Combined with the mid-day traffic, Cusco can be overwhelming some afternoons.  But it changes quickly and beautifully around 5pm when I’m making my way back up the hill to my neighborhood (if the Plaza de Armas, the city square, is 11,200 ft I live at 12,000 ft), everything becomes softer.  The clouds swirling around the hills begin to reflect the spectrum of an Andean sunset, and a subtle shift takes place in the landscape.  The desert feeling disappears as the greens in the hills begin to appear and the sky darkens.  All shades of green; more than I can describe, in long sloping hillsides and ridges broken up by large rock outcroppings.

As the sun sinks deeper and the moon rises, the city lights pop up and light the trails through the neighborhoods on the other side of the valley.  It’s amazing to see how high the city climbs, and to wonder what it would/will be like to ride my bike down one of those hillsides with all that flashing by.
When the sky is finally truly dark the whole city is illuminated and the stars are out and the temperature cools immediately.  And, aside from those feral dogs, it’s peaceful.
So, that’s my best description of what I experienced this evening.  Maybe next time I’ll remember to bring my camera.

Traveling to Cusco – a firsthand report

Shannon Hughes of Helena, MT, just moved to Cusco Peru, where she will live for the next 6 months or so. She is currently working for one of our travel suppliers, Peru Sur Nativa. She has also offered to share her reports on our blog. Here is her first post about her travels to Cusco:

so here i am.  in cusco.  one leg of the epic solo travel completed, and now the real epic begins.  i am in love with my bike and can´t imagine screaming down the downhill singletrack in this area on a bike i dont trust.  that being said, lugging a giant bike box in addition to a large backpack and a mid size day pack, on and off a train, up and down the stairs of a hostel (several) times, in to a taxi at 4am and then through several stages of airport security may have been the biggest pain in the arse ever…ever.  something to keep in mind for fellow travelers considering bringing similar gear: delta charged me $200 for an oversized luggage fee.  i will definitely be riding that beast as often as i´m able.

i slept most of the flight from pdx to atlanta, and some of the leg from atlanta to lima, and spent from 12am to 5am awake in the lima airport afraid that i would sleep through the boarding call for my flight.

if you never spend any time exploring peru, i would have to say the flight from lima to cusco would make it all worth it alone.  the morning in lima was typical from what i understand.  the air has a similar claustrophobic feel to seattle in the winter plus an added layer of unregulated diesel exhaust grime.  yum yum.

the airplane began climbing out of the clouds around 515am, as the sun was beginning to rise over the inverted cloud_haze layer that covers the city.  at first it looks like a pearlish glow over a lower sea of clouds until small ripples of mountain ridges appear here and there.  soon the ripples extend into what look like islands with inlets for the cloud tides to rush in and out.  as the sunrise becomes more vidvid the ridge lines become sharper and snowcovered in the middle of what otherwise resembles a moonscape _ sharp serrated ridges pocked by craters on brown earth.  as you approach cusco things become more surreal altogether.  the mountain ridges are razor sharp and drop thousands of meters to the patchwork green and terra cotta valleys below.  the snow capped andes are so tall and steep that your stomach drops even looking at them from a plane. mountains of different shapes and sizes are all you can see as far as the horizon extends the descent into the cusco valley is quick and gives a last minute bird´s eye view of the lush hillsides that have been terraced for farming for centuries sloping down into an ancient city that is now host to 350,000 people living in terra cotta tiled buildings on cobble stoned streets.  i will most likely never attempt driving here.  it´s kind of like people just close their eyes, grit their teeth, and use the horn a lot to let other people know they will in fact be taking that lane…now.
so, again, here i am.  safe and sound.  waiting for the guide i´ll be working for to arrive and get this ball rolling.