From Latin America

Paucartambo Festival Videos on our YouTube page!

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on July 18, 2011

Videos from the Paucartambo festival this weekend, Gary, Malka, Seppe and Robert went to visit, and Saby from operations was actually dancing;​=Adb5YwG3Jq4​=h5Ow9KwEFhw


Anne and Hugh´s Travel Diary – Nazca

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on July 18, 2011


We arrived late in the afternoon at the village of San Pablo to visit the Museo Maria Reiche. This is the former home, research base and now resting place of the German born Dr. Maria Reiche, Phd, who devoted her whole life to studying the Nasca Lines and fighting to get them protected and preserved for all time.

It is a fascinating place with copies of her original notes and diagrams on display, along with photos and graphs explaining how the Nasca constructed an underground irrigation system that fed a series of deep well water channels in the area.

The Museum was added onto her original one room house, which still contains the original furniture she used. If you look inside, it has been set up to show her (a sculptured manikin of her), sitting at her typewriter desk working, with all her sketchs and survey drawings (copies of the originals now stored in the Peruvian National Archives) hanging from the wall.

On the east side is a new gallery with Nasca Pottery and aerial photographs of the Nasca Lines.  In the garden at east end is the tomb where she was laid to rest after she passed away.

Her work was instrumental in getting the Nasca Lines recognised as a World Heritage Site.

From here it was a short drive up out of the valley this small museum and town was in, out onto the broad flat Nasca Plains.  Here we stopped at a viewing tower set up to allow people to look down on the Nasca Hands and the Nasca Bush.

This is one of the driest places on the Earth.  It has not rained on these plains for centuries, which is why the Nasca Lines have lasted such a long time.  Recently there was an unseasonal heavy rain storm in the hills to the east.  The flash flood that resulted from this deluge did do some damage, which the aerial photos I took next morning will show.

We then proceeded south east to the City of Nasca, arriving just after sunset.  Our hotel here was a Casa Andrea, quite lovely and comfortable.

After checking in we went out to a local restaurant for supper before turning in for the night.

Good night to all from Nasca, Peru

Read more about the mysterious Nazca Lines here

Escaped to Peru sponsors Peru´s most successful cricket team

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on April 14, 2011


The Cusco-based Tour Operator Escaped to Peru, part of Escaped to Latin America, is proud to be a sponsor of the Peruvian national cricket team as they enjoy their best ever result in international competition in Costa Rica.
The Peruvian national cricket team has enjoyed its best ever tournament in Costa Rica and the Tour Operator Escaped to Peru is proud to have been a sponsor and is a constant supporter of the development of this sport within Peru.

The recent ICC Americas Division III tournament was held in San Jose, Costa Rica between the 14th and 18th of March and featured 6 Latin American teams seeking promotion to the second division. Peru competed against teams from Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Falkland Islands and on pitches that were slow with huge boundaries all the teams battled with the local conditions and struggled to score runs. The Peruvian team played extremely well to beat every team except the eventual group winners, Belize.

Gary Sargent, the Managing Director of Escaped to Peru, is normally a member of the squad but missed this tournament due to work commitments. He explains "The current team is made up of mainly ex-pats like myself who have been nationalized". Gary goes on to say "We are actively promoting the development of cricket amongst Peruvian born young men and women and we are sure that within a few short years we will be able to field a complete team of native Peruvians". Until that happens the nationalized members in the side will continue to represent Peru in a sport that is not yet fully recognized by the Peruvian authorities despite being supported by the ICC, the world governing body.

Some of the private bi-lingual schools in Lima such as Markham and Hiram Bingham are running cricket coaching for their kids, both male and female, and recent junior tournaments bode well for the future. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about cricket in Peru can contact Gary via his office.

Great response to new Lima tour program from Escaped to Peru

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on August 27, 2010

Lima, the capital of Peru, is a city that many tourists have traditionally avoided spending much time in. A new city tour designed and run by the tour company Escaped to Peru is changing the perception of visitors to this huge South American metropolis.

The tour company Escaped to Peru has received a great response to its new format Lima city tour. Two months ago the company, based in Cusco,  decided to introduce a new format for its full day city tours in Lima giving visitors a better and more rounded experience of this South American metropolis. Passengers who have taken the new tour have been very enthusiastic about their experience and the format has been deemed a success.

Gary Sargent, Managing Director of Escaped to Peru, explains “Lima has an unwarranted bad reputation in our opinion, it is in fact a nicer, safer city than many of its Latin American counterparts. Many people elect to avoid the city and just transit to Cusco or Arequipa, which in our opinion is a shame given its rich and varied history and the interesting legacy this has left”.

The new full day city tour called “Culture and Contrasts” allows visitors to see some of the many facets of this huge city. As well as visiting the pre-Inca mud brick pyramids now surrounded by modern suburbs, plus the colonial center with its lovely ornate buildings with their wooden balconies, visitors also see some of the modern districts, both rich and poor. The extreme contrasts of Peru are made obvious as visitors are shown some of the poorest neighborhoods such as La Victoria followed by affluent areas such a San Isidro. Passengers have walking tours several times during the day allowing then to see local people doing everyday things. Lunch is taken in the Bohemian district of Barranco in a local restaurant rather than in the more touristy places in Miraflores.

Gary ends by saying “After taking this tour our passengers are left in no doubt that Lima is a very interesting city with a rich heritage and plenty of things to see and do, and they are glad they didn’t just fly in and out!”.   

A full description of the program for this guided tour can be found on the company websites.

Inti Raymi – Inca Festival of the Sun, Cusco, Peru

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on June 9, 2010

The Inti Raymi festival is the second largest festival in South America and occurs each winter solstice in Cuzco, Peru. Tens of thousands of people come to Cuzco from other parts of Peru and South America for a celebration that lasts an entire week and marks the beginning of a new year; the Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun.

There are many events and activities in the Inti Raymi festival, including street fairs, and parades featuring traditional costumes and dancing in the streets. During the evenings, there are free concerts in the Plaza de Armas with music from the best of Peruvian musical groups.

June 24, the actual day of Inti Raymi, is when the celebrations begin. An actor is chosen to represent the Sapa Inca, or Inca Emperor, and his wife Mama Occla. He performs a ceremony first at Qorikancha behind which stands the Santo Domingo church which is located on top of the ruins of the ancient Temple of the Sun. Qoricancha or the Temple of the Sun was the most important temple in the Inca Empire dedicated to Inti, the sun god.

Blessings from the sun are invoked by the Sapa Inca. After the invocation, a golden throne carries the Sapa Inca in a magnificent parade to Sacsayhuamán, an ancient fortification which lies in the hills above the city of Cuzco. The high priests join the Sapa Inca, followed by officials of the court, nobles and others, all in elaborate costumes designed according to their rank, with gold and silver ornaments. The streets are decorated with flowers and the parade moves along to music and dancing. Large crowds wait at the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán for the arrival of the procession and the Sapa Inca.

After everyone has gathered at the main square of the fortress, the Sapa Inca, along with the priests and representatives of the Suyos perform a number of ceremonies. The Suyos comprise the Snake to represent the underworld, the Puma for life on earth and the Condor for the upper world of the gods.

Next follows a mock sacrifice of a white llama whose bloody heart is held aloft in honor of Pachamama, the earth mother. Originally the sacrifice was real. This sacrifice is done is to ensure that the earth will be fertile and in combination with the sun’s light and warmth will provide a bountiful crop. The blood stains are then read by the priests to determine the future for the Incas.

At sunset, stacks of straw are set on fire and danced around to honor Tawantinsuty or the Empire of the Four Wind Directions. A parade back to the town of Cuzco ends the ceremony of Inti Raymi. Sitting on their thrones, the Sapa Inca and Mama Occla return to town whilst the representatives and priests of the Supas give various blessings to the accompanying crowds. The beginning of a new year has been declared.

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Coca – Root of Cocaine Evil or Lifeblood of The Andes?

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on April 7, 2010

For most of us the coca leaf has negative connotations.  We imagine sunglasses wearing drug barons mowing down police officers with gigantic machine guns in order to maintain their vice-like grip on the international cocaine market.  However, aside from the most commonly known application of the leaf for the preparation of cocaine, coca has a rich and treasured history in the Latin American countries from which it originates dating back 4500 years.

The most widely used type of coca (or Erythroxylum Coca) grows mostly in the mountainous regions of Peru and Bolivia at altitude.  Anthropologists have speculated that the word coca derives from the pre-Incan Tiwanaku word khoka – meaning “the plant”. The Aymara word q’oka means “food for travellers and workers”.  For all you chemical-heads out there, you’ll be disappointed to know that only about 0.5% of the leaf actually contains the stimulant cocaine.  This is normally activated by adding an alkaline agent, like burnt plants.  This reacts to saliva in the chewing process and releases the cocaine.  Putting the nutritionist hat on, research has shown that 100 gm of Bolivian coca leaves satisfied the dietary allowance for calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin E.

When the Spanish conquistadors discovered the Incan Empire in the 16th century, they found even the Emperor Atahualpa chewed the leaves. The Incan nobility had monopolized the supply and usage and as a result the Inca considered the right to chew leaves the highest prize of all, greater than material riches of silver or gold.  Aside from the spiritual significance, the practise of chewing coca brought practical benefits, including the ability to withstand the effects of altitude, suppression of hunger and the brutal hardships of a working agricultural life outdoors in all weathers the Andes.  It’s also a commonly known fact that coca leaves were used as an anaesthetic for operations such as trepanning, where big chunks of the patient’s skull were chiseled off for various reasons.

The Spanish conquistadors in fairly typical steamrollering fashion initially outlawed coca leaves, but this position was eventually reversed.  Many believe that this was done to allow the Spanish to work the natives harder, longer, and with less food in national silver mines.  The Empire also taxed the indigenous population frequently in coca leaves as this was a commodity with a very profitable turnover.

Coca made it over to Europe by the 16th Century, but things didn’t start getting interesting until 1859.  Albert Niemann, a German chemist, discovered how to process coca leaf into the alkaloid cocaine hydrochloride, a mind blowing 99% pure product.  Cocaine usage for medicinal purposes exploded in Europe and North America.  Sigmund Freud, one of the most famous figureheads of modern psychiatry, wrote about his personal experiences of use and the product’s virtues around the same time.

In one of the better known commercial successes of coca, 1886 John Pemberton launched a tonic in 1886 on the American market called Coca-Cola. The “Cola” in the name indicated the presence of an extract of kola nut, an African product that contains about 2 percent caffeine.  Although cocaine was removed from Coca Cola in 1904 following an American politician’s crusade to purify food and drink products available on the market, decocainised coca leaves are still used and caffeine prevails in the ingredients.

The modern standard on coca was established through the United Nations law in 1961, giving the leaves the same classification as opium, morphine, and heroin.  Based on a single report written in the 1950’s, the UN’s justification has been widely disputed.  The trafficking of leaves in the 1970 for the preparation of cocaine for recreational use further blackened the name of coca and today a tug of war in interests prevails.

Following an international war on drugs, support has been provided to the Colombian Government, the highest profile supplier of coca leaves in Latin America, to police the cultivation of coca.  Consequently supply increase has shifted to other countries such as Peru, in which the government is placing firm controls on growers and stamping down on production.  At the same time, movement is currently underway to allow expansion of legal markets for coca leaves, with the presidents of Bolivia and Peru openly championing the use of coca.  Even Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela stuck his oar in on the issue, proclaiming in a speech on January 2008 that he regularly chews coca. Chávez reportedly said “I chew coca every day in the morning… and look how I am” before showing his biceps to the Venezuelan assembly.  With endorsement like that, who needs advertising?

So next time you visit Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Bolivia and someone offers you some coca tea or some leaves to chew, don’t tense up; you’ll be participating in a ritual that has lasted for millennia, spoiled only in the last one hundred years.  Who knows, it might actually do you some good!