Festival de la Virgen de La Candelaria

In Peru, Puno is known as the Folkloric Capital of Peru and lives up to this reputation in grand manor during this fiesta which lasts for days. The rites are centered on the observance of February second, and then a week later with the famed dances. Peruvian celebrants are not hesitant to take their statue of the Virgen around the streets of Puno in a staged procession.

The mixing of Christian and pagan is very evident here. Mamacha Candelaria, Mamita Canticha, and MamáCandi, are all names for the Virgen of Candelaria, the patron saint of Puno. She is also associated with Lake Titicaca as the birth of the Inca Empire, with the cult of the earth, Pachamama. Men, women and children dance in her honor, to show their devotion and their thanks for her blessings. The celebration continues as a prelude to Carnival.

The festival has two main phases. The first is described in El Día Principal Y Sus Ritos in which a procession carries the statue of the Virgen around the city, and dancers in lavish costumes from all walks of life join the parade. The dancers, by group, pause in front of the cathedral to be blessed with holy water, after which they are cooled with water thrown from nearby houses.

The second phase occurs on the Sunday after February second, called the Octava. On this day, El Segundo Gran Día: La Octava, costumed groups from the neighborhoods of Puno dance day and night in religious fervor and competitive spirit.

If you would like to visit the festivities this year, we at Dos Manos have special trips to combine a visit to Puno and Lake Titicaca with a more days visit to the festivities in Puno.

Article Argentina

Argentina, when you think of Argentina you think of Tango, Argentinean beef, the Pampa, Evita, Che Guevara, Patagonia, and, last but not least, Buenos Aires… The Paris of South America…

Therefore we are proud to announce that Dos Manos, the “Peruvian travel Specialist” is expanding to Argentina… We will settle initially in Buenos Aires, one of the cultural capitals of the South American continent. From there we will start guiding visitors around this wonderful country. Together with our famous sister enterprise, the Cusquenian language school Amauta we will expand our operations to a more Southern location on this magnificent continent.

We will be offering a splendid combination of learning the Spanish language and immediately being able to reap the benefits of what you have learned in class by putting it into practice while travelling through this huge country. Ranging from the humid Pampa in the north all the way down to the world’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, this country has something to offer every type of traveler.

The different types of holidays one can have in this massive country are almost endless. One can either opt for a cultural trip, visiting the numerous museums in Buenos Aires, then going out for a great Argentinean steak at one of the “Tenedores Libres” and finishing off with a show of true passion called Tango in one of the authentic Tango bars in Buenos Aires (after which you can head for the great nightlife). Having spent some time in wonderful Buenos Aires, one can then discover the endless wineries of central Argentina and in this manner hop from one thriving city, such as Salta, to another, such as Cordoba or Mendoza.

If you prefer a more adventurous trip, then you might choose to start in Buenos Aires, visit the majestic falls of Iguacu and work your way down through the highlands of central Argentina until you reach the snowcapped mountains around Bariloche for some of the best skiing in South America. Then, if your sense for adventure still is thriving, you can continue on to the “Parque Nacional de Los Glacieres” where you can visit one of the world’s few advancing glaciers, the Perito Moreno. If these forces of nature do not make the hairs on your arms stand up, then you can travel still further south, to where the great Andes finish… Tierra del Fuego… with its famous capital Ushuaia.

For the real fauna and flora lovers among you, Argentina has plenty to offer. From the wildlife of the Pampa, where one can see large herds of cattle being tended by the famous Argentinean Gauchos, to the coastline of Puerto Madryn where you can observe the mighty whale and orca while standing on the beach, all the way down to Patagonia and the mythic Tierra del Fuego where penguins are never far away and the condor still flies free.

So whatever might be your passion, we are sure Argentina has something to offer you, and more. The Argentineans are not called the Italians of South America for nothing; they love good food, dressing up, and good nightlife and are very open and friendly.

So keep an eye on our website for the opening dates and more information concerning the new Dos Manos in Buenos Aires, able to provide you with all the information you need about this amazing country and all the treks and excursions you might be willing to undertake.

So, hopefully we will see you soon at our Dos Manos office in the bustling capital of all this… Buenos Aires…

The Inca Trail and its Porters…

The Inca Trail would not be the Inca Trail were it not for the porters helping all guests on the Inca Trail getting all their equipment there and back. Whereas in earlier days, porters were an important part of all excursions made by mankind to discover new and unknown places on the planet, today the role of the porter has become even wider. Today a porter is a crucial part of all people wanting to visit the Inca Trail. This is because of the basic necessities needed by a visitor to the Inca Trail. One cannot imagine them carrying all the equipment they need themselves, such as tents, sleeping bags, food and other camping materials.

Nevertheless, this important part of the Inca Trail has been neglected for a long time. They were often underpaid or not even paid at all for the difficult task of defeating all the circumstances the trail and its visitors often have to cope with. This made them a different breed, strong, experienced and very capable (mostly) men having to carry sometimes up to 50 kilos over a long and difficult trail.

Today the situation has been improved even though the modern porter has several issues to deal with whenever setting out on another journey. According to the recently initiated Peruvian Porters Union, the most common problems porters have to deal with are;

Lack of appropriate equipment: the porters often have to sleep without tents or sleeping bags or even having to walk down a dangerous slope with a candle in a plastic bottle.

Inadequate food provision: Despite their strenuous work, some porters are only given basic food such as a kilo of rice to last one person for 4 days. Others eat what the tourists leave – which may be sufficient but, given a large hungry group, may not be enough.

Excessive loads: Despite weighing stations and clear guidelines in the legislation (20kg for adult male porters, plus an additional 5kg for their own possessions and 15kg for adolescent and female porters), porters often carry loads that are too heavy – more effective checks are needed.

Lack of training: Porters want to be recognized as providing a professional service – they feel that currently anybody could stand at the trailhead and get a job, which is a risk to tourists and degrades their work. Few agencies currently offer their porters any form of training.

A fair deal: As a tourist, it is very difficult to judge between the different agencies and their attitude to the environment and their employees. The cheaper the trek, the less likely it is that the agency really looks after its porters.

In order to start regulating the conditions the porters have to work in, the Peruvian Government has adopted a general law in 2001. This law should empower porters around the country (not only the ones for the Inca Trail) to obtain certain rights and duties provided for by this law. Law No. 27607 is very basic but nevertheless necessary for all are involved in the profession of being a porter.

In general the law deals with the definition of a porter, payments and most important regulations towards the maximum weight and minimum provisions they should obtain throughout their rendering of services. In short the most important are;
  1. Provision of food, and appropriate clothing and equipment for spending the night
  2. Payment of transport up to the point of departure of the expedition, to the end of the trip, unless this is covered under a separate agreement
  3. Life insurance
  4. Limit of load up of 20 kilograms. With regards to women, the maximum load will be reduced to the limits fixed by the regulations
  5. Appropriate rest and sleep during the trip
Furthermore this law sets out a minimum age for porters of 18 years; adolescents over 16 years old will be permitted to carry out the work, where their physical and mental condition permits it.

Even though this law is not foolproof and a general system of checks for companies selling the Inca Trail is lacking, it is at least a step in the right direction. With this law the porters at least have a jurisdictional basis to fall back on to.

For this reason more and more agencies are using the services of experienced and well known porters, and hence paying and taking care of them in a decent manner. This also means that in general the prices for these treks are going up, but be aware that the difference between one and another agency very often lies in the way they deal with their porters.

We at Dos Manos have always looked at the working environment of the porters we use and that they are well paid and taken care of. This means that some of our treks are more expensive then those of other agencies. By this we could be losing potential clients looking for a cheaper trek. But this is something we consider worthwhile as we are dealing with human beings, providing a hard and difficult service for us, for which we feel they should be adequately rewarded. Therefore, we at Dos Manos engage ourselves not only in providing our clients with the trek of a lifetime, but also making sure that the porters we work with are professionals who are given the proper respect. Therefore we always make sure that our porters are well paid for their services, are given the right equipment for the journey and comply with all rules set up on their behalf.

So next time you go on a trek, take care of your porter and treat them with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

More info www.dosmanosperu.com and
The Inka Porters Project: www.peruweb.org/porters/

Highlights

Ausangate Trek

Talk about trekking in Peru and people immediately think of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This is certainly a well-known and worthwhile hike taking you to the most famous ruins in south America and maybe even in the world. But there are others, and some more challenging than the Inca Trail.

Situated at the heart of the Vilcanota mountain range, Ausangate is a splendid, snow-capped massif. It is surrounded by rich Andean wildlife and a range of stunning bright blue and green lagoons which reflect and enhance the brilliant white snow of this sacred mountain.

The awesome Cordillera Vilcanota includes a number of peaks of which Ausangate is the highest at 20,945 feet (6,384 meters). On a clear day, the peak is visible from Cuzco. On one side of the cordillera is the Andes and altiplano, on the eastern side, the slopes give way to Peruvian amazonia. The first ascent of Ausangate was done by a German expedition in the summer of 1953, on the south face. This is still the usual route, but climbers today may ascend from any side of Ausangate.

Ausangate is considered an apu, a holy mountain, traditionally a place of worship and offerings since pre-Inca times. The Apu Ausangate is also famous for the celebration of El Señor de Qoyllur Ritti. Held annually in June this festival is celebrated in Cuzco and Ausgangate, merging Christian and ancient rituals in homage to Corpus Christi and the ancient cult of the sun. Shamanic pilgrimages are made throughout the year to the mountain. This makes the Ausangate trek an unforgettable experience for all who have a strong affection for the Peruvian Andes.

More info www.dosmanosperu.com

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is located at 3,812 m (12,507 feet) above sea level making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. By volume of water it is also the largest lake in South America.

The lake is located at the northern end of the Altiplano basin high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department.

Lake Titicaca is fed by rainfall and meltwater from glaciers on the sierras that abut the Altiplano. Five major river systems feed into Lake Titicaca and more than 20 other smaller rivers empty into it. The lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated.

On the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca lays Puno, one of Peru's foremost tourist destinations and one of the most interesting spots on the continent. Few cities lie by the shores of such an extraordinary body of water as Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake. Legend has it that from the waters of Lake Titicaca emerged Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, the mythical founders of the Inca Empire. The area also gave rise to one of the greatest pre-Inca civilizations, that of Tiahuanaco, the highest expression of the ancient Aymara people.

The lake is dotted with dozens of islands, each of them with their own characteristics and peculiarities. The floating islands of the Uros, whose inhabitants descend from one of the oldest known tribes in the Americas, feature typical native huts made from reeds. The inhabitants of Taquile Island, meanwhile, still use traditional weaving techniques that tourists can learn if they decide to stay the night there and accept the traditional hospitality of the locals. All of this makes a visit to Lake Titicaca a memorable experience providing visitors with a unique combination of splendid natural beauty and local culture and history.

More info www.dosmanosperu.com

Temple of Wiracocha

This unique complex was actually a heavily-populated area, a tambo of vast dimensions, spreading across 264 hectares. The complex is made up of housing, temples, palaces, astronomical observatories, food storehouses and walls. It is located on the right bank of the Vilcanota River between 3450 and 3550 meters above sea level.

What stands out most at the Rajchi complex is without a doubt the peculiar Temple of Wiracocha. It is one of the most mysterious constructions in Cusco, a unique complex of cylinder-shaped columns and four naves. There is no other construction like it. The structure consists of a central wall some 18-20m in height flanked on each side by a row of twelve columns. The 4m high foundations for both the wall and the columns are classic high Inca stonework with the remaining height built of adobe.

But, this is not the only ruin left standing. There are also the great wall, ceremonial fountains, sphere-shaped buildings and rectangular houses. The huge proportions of the temple and its prominence on the site explain why the whole complex is also sometimes referred to as the Temple of Wiracocha. Adjoining the temple to the north are the living quarters, which would have housed both priests and local administrators. The living area is divided into separate squared lots the largest of which is roughly 4x6m. All have niches in their walls which might have been used for storage, though some of the niches have cover posts, suggesting they may have held sacred objects. To the eastern side of the temple are some 200 round storehouses each some 12m across. These storehouses were used to hold grains, such as corn and quinoa that would have been used for ceremonial purposes. The storehouses are also unique as unlike other structures throughout the empire they are not square cornered. The reason for this is unknown. To the west of the temple is a large field, now used by locals for farming, that might have been a fairground or to hold overflow of worshipers from the temple itself. So if you are interested in discovering one of the lesser known but very impressive Inca monuments, this might be the day excursion for you. Also this tour is perfect when combined with a visit to Puno and/or Lake Titicaca.

More info www.dosmanosperu.com

Employee Presentation

NAME: Yuliana Ortiz
RESPONSIBLE FOR: Programs and sales
FROM: Cusco
LENGTH OF TIME WORKING FOR DOS MANOS: 7 months
  • Can you tell us something about your responsibilities with Dos Manos?
    My job in general has several different facets. First of all, I am in charge of the design of specific travel packages. Secondly I do the counter sales, helping our clients with any questions they might have concerning the beautiful country they are visiting. Thirdly I do the reports of all sales we do through our office.
  • Why do you like working at Dos Manos?
    I have worked at very large travel agencies before and there I was missing what I have found with Dos Manos, namely the freedom and the drive to be able to show some creativity and proactiveness in everything I do.
    I am also very fond of the social contact that comes with this job, helping people to discover the wonders of my country and the Cusco region in particular.
  • What was one of your best experiences while working for Dos Manos?
    Once I had a passenger who was taking Spanish classes at Amauta. The next week his wife and child were coming over to Cusco. The passenger was really nervous and wanted everything to work out perfectly. So, in order to get everything ready for the arrival of his family, we worked together for a while making sure that the whole plan would work out perfectly, and it did. The whole family was so grateful for what we had done for them.
    In general I can say that the best experiences I have had during my time at Dos Manos are closely related to the warmth and gratefulness of the clients we have provided our services to.
  • What excursions do you like best and why?
    I really like to do hikes and treks, both the short and long ones. I really like to get out of the city at times and enjoy the peace and quietness of the countryside. The Salkantay trek especially made a great impression on me, the combination of Machu Picchu with all the pristine nature you encounter on this trek really makes it an unforgettable experience.
    I also like to visit indigenous villages, places such as Chinchero, all with their own customs and traditions. Sometimes we can not appreciate these immediately but we can learn so much if we open our eyes to the beauty and the history behind them. Therefore I really appreciate excursions which confront me with differences in cultures, even within one country, and the things these can teach me. Furthermore, I also like to visit the lesser known Inca ruins here in the region such as Huchuy Qosqo, where one can witness the inventiveness of the Incas in peace and quiet.

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