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    Carnival in Peru and Argentina

    So with Carnival around the corner, and Brazil charging through the roof for their extravagant celebrations, where are the best places in Peru and Argentina to celebrate?

    In Peru, this is a much more traditional affair, with dances and songs performed, along with street processions and ceremonies all over the country. The place best known for Carnival is Cajamarca, where there is all the above and more. Here all the city’s inhabitants and tourists alike will dance around a ‘yunsa’ (also known as ‘humisha’ in the Peruvian jungle), appropriately decorated and adorned with prizes, such as alcohol and toys.

    Carnival in Peru and Argentina

    The Master of Ceremonies kicks things off by attempting to chop down the tree in 3 blows, before handing the machete over to someone else. The fall of the tree marks the start of the fiesta as all surrounding people rush forward to claim the prizes attached to its branches!

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    Sin duda, el Camino Inca es una de las caminatas más famosas y desafiantes en el Perú, conocido por todo el mundo por los sitios arqueológicos y la belleza natural. Cada año miles de turistas vienen a Cusco para hacer esta caminata de cuatro días hasta Machu Picchu, tras una ruta sobresaliente en las montañas, construida por la civilización Inca hace cientos de años. Además de disfrutar de la flora y fauna única en el camino, los senderistas apreciaran restos arqueológicos Incas magníficos, cada una con características únicas:

    1. Qorihuayrachina:
      Uno de los inicios del Camino Inca es el Km88 donde está el sitio arqueológico llamado Qorihuayrachina, descubierto muy recientemente (en el 2001). El nombre está en lengua Quechua y significa “donde se usa el viento para refinar el oro”, en el sitio se puede apreciar muchos monumentos y altares fascinantes hechos de piedra.

    2. Llactapata:
      Ubicado a 2,840 metros sobre el nivel de mar, es la siguiente parada, el nombre es una combinación de dos palabras Quechuas que significan “ciudad alta”. Se piensa el sitio que fue usado para plantaciones agrícolas.

      Camino Inca

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    1. 6.    For those seeking adventures a bit more extreme. Don’t worry. Very close to Cusco you can live it up by going rock-climbing or off-road quad racing through some truly spectacular scenery. Perhaps you feel like soaring around like a condor while paragliding or take on some of the meanest rapids in the world of white water rafting. Whatever your challenge of choice, it will sure get your adrenalin pumping!
    2. 7.    The food of Peru is worldwide known for its diversity and richness in flavor. Indulge yourself with some true Peruvian dishes (comida criolla) such as Aji de Gallina (spicy chicken stew), Anticuchos (marinated beef heart), Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef) and local Andean delicacies such as roasted Cuy (guinea pig). Other favorites are Escabeche de pescado (boiled fish seasoned with onions, aji and lemon juice), Rocoto Relleno (beef and veggie filled pepper) and for a good digestion a ‘Chicha de Jora’. Highly recommended!
    3. Top 10 what to do in and around Cusco

    4. 8.    Join a salsa class and get acquainted with this sensual and very entertaining dance. Every Friday afternoon after lessons, AMAUTA Spanish School offers its students to participate in this free activity. And just in case you need some encouragement to get your hips moving, first taste a Pisco Sour; the traditional cocktail that has become the Cultural Patrimony of the nation of Peru.
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    We often get the question, what else is there to do around Cusco besides trekking and hiking to Machu Picchu? Well, you will be amazed about all the options. Here goes our pick for students of Amauta:

    1. 1.    Visit the typical market of San Pedro, hosting a myriad of stalls packed with local produce, including unfamiliar types of vegetables, fruits, cheese, flowers and even odd bits and pieces used in prosperity rituals and giving praise to the ‘Pachamama’ (Mother Earth). Not into cooking yourself? Just bench up with the locals at one of the many eateries and try out the deliciously prepared ceviche or chicharones and get a freshly squeezed juice to go with it.
    2. 2.    Wander around the narrow cobblestoned streets of picturesque neighborhood San Blas, known as the art district of Cusco. It’s also the place to enjoy great organic coffee and some of the best fusion cuisine in town. At night, live music haunts like ‘7 Angelitos’ and ‘Km.0’ only add to its laid-back bohemian vibe.
    3. Top 10 what to do in and around Cusco

    4. 3.    Climb the stairs on the edge of town to the ‘Cristo Blanco’. From this plateau with an enormous statue of Jesus, you are able to overlook all of Cusco excellent for great photos. If you happen to have planned your visit around the 24th of June, you will lucky enough to experience a great festivity at the nearby ‘Sacsayhuamán’ (its pronunciation easier remembered as Sexy Woman) Inca fortress, where the cult of the Inca’s to the Sun God, their highest divinity, is celebrated in great traditional and folkloric glory.  
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    Step 1: Choose YOUR trek. Choosing the right trek for you depends on your how much time you have before, during or after your Spanish studies, and on your personal preferences. The Classic Inca Trail Trek lasts 4 days and 3 nights and the Short Inca Trail Trek lasts 2 days and 1 night. It is important to note that this trek involves a lot less trekking and camping.

    How to Be a Responsible Traveler

    Step 2: Check available trek dates. Our travel partner Dos Manos Peru recommends booking your Inca Trail Trek approximately three months in advance, especially for the high season, which takes place from June through August. The Inca Trail is closed during February for maintenance every year. The Peruvian government limits the number of people, including trekkers, guides, porters, etc., that are allowed on the trail to 500 per day. To check the number of spaces available for any day, visit the official Peruvian Ministry of Culture website: www.machupicchu.gob.pe or send an e-mail to info@dosmanosperu.com for updated info.

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    It is believed by scientists that all potatoes have a single origin in Peru where thousands of varieties still exist in the Andes and where over 100 cultivars might be found in a single valley. It is also believed that the potato was first domesticated between 2000 and 3000 BC and flourishes today in a wide variety of colors, flavors, textures and sizes. There are approximately 5,000 varieties worldwide, 3,000 of them are found in the Andes, mainly in Peru.

    Immersed in Peruvian culture while learning Spanish: Potato Perfection!

    Here in Peru, potato connoisseurs can sample from nine different colors of native potatoes, varying in texture, flavor and nutritional value. Some have drawn the attention of the world of haute cuisine as exotic ingredients and have been used in exhibitions because of their flavors as well as nutritional value. Their traditional uses are as varied as the potatoes themselves each having its own special or ceremonial use. Some potatoes are for eating, some for weddings, baptisms, some for funerals and so on. Some are high in antioxidants, like the red “moro boli” some need to be soaked or steamed and some are made into potato alcohol.

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    A Canuck in Cusco: Weeks 5 & 6

    Vayamos a Museo de Chocolate!

    Only about 7 weeks left at AMAUTA! Time sure is flying while studying Spanish in Cusco! I think I finally became acclimatized, as walking up the hill from Plaza de Armas no longer makes me feel like I’m going to die from lack of oxygen. Of course, this may be helped by the fact that I found a gym in Cusco (wahoo!) and I have been working out three times a week. I’ve been told if I can work out here, I’ll be able to run for miles and miles when I return to Canada!

    A Canuck in Cusco: Weeks 5 & 6

    This past week I visited “el Museo de Chocolate” here in Cusco with my Spanish class. The museum is only about a ten minute walk from the AMAUTA school. (By the way, did you know AMAUTA means teacher in Quechua? Cool, huh?)  The museum is completely free to visit, and it’s full of really fun and interesting facts about Peruvian chocolate. Come on, who doesn’t like chocolate?! They offer you free chocolate tea upon entry as well as the option to try a piece of chocolate (you get to choose from over 15 different typesJ).

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    A Canuck in Cusco: Weeks 3 & 4

    Week 3: No money? No problem! Free drinks for all!

    Yesterday, my Spanish class went on a field trip with my Spanish class to the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco. We had the opportunity to learn how textiles are traditionally woven as well as the complexity of skill it takes to create these masterpieces. I loved that we got out of the classroom to learn about Peruvian textiles, which is a staple of Peruvian culture.

    Speaking of Peruvian culture, on our way to the textile museum, we also caught a glimpse of another interesting tidbit of Peruvian culture – the Caminos del Inca car race!
    We saw a crowd of people gathered in front of the Plaza de Armas, and after inquiring our teacher told us that they were waiting for the cars to come through the Plaza in 2 hours!

    A Canuck in Cusco: Weeks 3 & 4

    I am really enjoying my time here at AMAUTA. Not only do we visit museums during Spanish class, but I also have the opportunity to get to know the people that work at the school. For instance, I asked the chef here at the school, Oscar, if I could watch him cook (because I love cooking) and he said “Yes, of course you can help me!” Lunch is served at 1:30PM daily, so I spent an hour and a half helping Oscar in the kitchen, talking about life, work, and food- in Spanish! (What a great opportunity to utilize my conversation skills that I have been learning in class!) We made a vegetable soup, pasta and rice pudding for dessert. ¡Que bueno!
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    Dia del Estudiante with AMAUTA!

    On the 23rd of September each year, Perú celebrates Día del Estudiante (Student Day)! It is a day to recognize the hard work of students, to congratulate and support them on their endeavors to be better people and professionals, and to enjoy the art of learning. Since AMAUTA is a Spanish school, and AMAUTA is full of students, and AMAUTA loves its students, AMAUTA organized a day of celebration!

    Dia del Estudiante with AMAUTA

    The day started off as usual with a lovely breakfast of eggs, bread, and fresh juice followed by some Spanish language practice. Then, promptly at 10:00 AM, the bus left the school and made its way along the winding road from Cusco to Pisac, which is a picturesque Andean city located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The jaw dropping views of the fertile lands and historic Incan terraces made this 30-minute bus ride a treat in itself. However, the fun really began once we arrived in Pisac.
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