In these days of women’s empowerment around the world, Peru has fallen very short. Especially in our villages and poorer areas, women are expected to be quiet and obedient. They are less educated, expected to marry young and raise their children. Very sadly women are mistreated every day and do not feel confident enough to speak up or get help.
Alpaca Expeditions is trying to give a voice to these women. Give them a safe place to say "I want more." We have opened our doors for women to enter tourism in every and any capacity they feel fit to handle. In 2017 we hired our first female guides. We followed that in 2018 with female porters. Now we have women working in every role: chefs, managers, porters, guides, sales, accounting. We support them at home with services for their children while they are working, good salaries to help support their family, and healthcare for them all.
There are many reasons that the Peruvian women want to work for Alpaca Expeditions. Some are single parents, others have always wanted a career sharing their love of the Andes Mountains with visitors from around the world. Some of them come from families where their fathers or brothers work as guides and want to continue the family tradition. Whatever the reason, the women of Alpaca Expeditions are leading the way into a new era in Peru.
Alpaca Expeditions believes strongly in being an equal employer for all people. Women have not had the opportunity to have key roles in tourism companies and Alpaca Expeditions is working hard to change this. They are creating an environment that allows women to work successfully in the tourism industry. Alpaca Expeditions has focused on making sure they have help at home when they are working, receive fair salaries and are treated with respect at all times. By listening to them they hope to expand their group of women who are working on the mountain. These women amaze Alpaca every day with their strength, courage and disposition as they are making mountains move with a smile on their face every day. #hikelikeagirl
IS SO IMPORTANT TO ALPACA EXPEDITIONS
How to create a comfortable working place for women?
We understand the importance of extra safety measures to make sure our female guides and porters are comfortable at all times. Sexual harassment is real in all industries, but with women and men sleeping so close together, we needed to be clear on proper behavior. We decided to hire an outside coach to review with everyone on our team the Do's and Don'ts. He helped to reinforce the rules we have at Alpaca Expeditions, like no drinking on the job (this leads to poor choices), no touching, careful language, be respectful to everyone. And a reminder that we are a team and we need to stick up for each other and ourselves. Speak up if someone makes you uncomfortable...let management know. Take care of your fellow employee as they are your little brother or sister. Make sure that nobody else is bothering them - from other companies or even clients.
Our Female porters visited Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu
When one starts talking about visiting Machu Picchu, they quickly learn it’s full of history and culture. Machu Picchu is an amazing place to visit, but not always an easy place to get to for all. For most locals, the expense to just get to Machu Picchu is too much for them.
At Alpaca Expeditions, we try to open these amazing ruins up for all our team – inviting them on a weekend vacation as a tourist. For an entire weekend, our employees become clients…and their eyes and hearts open to their own history, seeing their traditions come alive.
Alpaca Expeditions employs at least 350 male porters and about 20 female porters. 150 of our male porters have visited Machu Picchu with us so far. We include everything – logistics, entrance tickets, guides, food and lodging - all paid by the company.
On February 16-17, 2019, Alpaca Expeditions took our first group of female porters on this trip. These women are ground breaking in this male dominated industry and they have led the way for other women to find employment in all jobs of tourism. These women have conquered all of our treks working the Inca Trail, Lares, and Salkantay. This is not an easy job, but they do it with so much pride and happiness – you notice their smiles right away. This is just a small step for us to acknowledge how amazing they are: our super ladies and thank them for being such an inspiration and important part of our team.
Watching these women walk inside Machu Picchu for the first time was incredible. They have a different energy and emotion and it’s very clear how impressed they were immediately. They were not only so overwhelmed by being inside Machu Picchu citadel, they also were so proud for people to see them and ask them about being a female porter.
We first invited women onto our team of porters in January 2018. We assumed it was too hard of a job, only men can do the job. We were so wrong. Of course having female porters introduces new challenges for us as a company. While they are learning this new trade from us, we are learning so much from them and trying to make Alpaca Expeditions a home for them. We hope to grow the number of women in the company and look forward to a day where we are truly 50/50. A few have started training to be a chef and later this year we hope to have a few female trekking chefs in our groups.
We started Alpaca Expeditions not only to do a better job for clients, but even more so for the local people here in Cusco. Our team is as important as our clients. We provide every single one of them with all of their uniform, including jackets and boots, for free. Each gets a down sleeping bag and sleeping pad for treks. All equipment they need is given for free as well as food.
All of our porters – men and women - come from Andean villages where life is more difficult. We go directly to their villages with goods for their families including medical equipment, food, even sports equipment for their children. They are such an important part of our company and we try to show them our gratitude every single day.
As a company, we are so excited that we made their childhood dreams come true to visit the most important place in our history, Machu Picchu.
Itinerary for Machu Picchu Visit
FEB 16th: SACRED VALLEY
Our Female guides, Marizol, Luzmarina, and Lourdes started the expedition from Cusco in our van and drove to Calca. Calca is a small village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas at 2800m. Here they met our porters who had driven about 1.5 hours from their village.
At 8.00 am they drove to Pisaq Inca site. Pisaq is a very large site located in one of the ranges in the sacred valley on top of the mountain. This site has large number of terraces and several houses located in different locations which was used as guard houses, houses for farmers, religious people and astronomers. Pisaq name comes from Pisaca a bird that lives in this area.
Our guides sat down with our female porters and explained all the history: how they built it up, how they brought water in, what they farmed, how they buried their loved ones, etc. They took their time to review and answer all their questions including how women were treated at the Inca time compared to today
They visited the farming area, guard houses and spent about 1.5 hours walking around and enjoying.
Next stop was Pisaq market where they enjoyed some choclo con queso, corn with cheese, a traditional food in the Sacred Valley.
They continued on to Urubamba where our inca trail chef cooked a picnic lunch for them. And then finally headed to Ollantaytambo, located at 2700meters. Ollanta means a name of the inca king and tambo means a house or place where people stayed. Ollantaytambo inka site is impressive inka village built with massive square stones that may weight about 10 tons each. These were brought from at least 8 km away – amazing. It’s really hard to understand history and explain how these stones were taken so far. Our guides explained to our porters this history and the current hypothesis about how these stones were moved and what was the rule of women here.
Finally after a long day of touring and exploring, we headed to a Pollo a La Brasa restaurant for dinner. This kind of cooking is not traditional in villages even though it is famous in Peru, so it was quite the treat for everyone. We then headed to the train for our 7PM departure to Aguas Calientes for a nice night to sleep.
FEB 17TH: MACHU PICCHU THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS
The new regulations around Machu Picchu are for all, so we purchased 8AM entrance tickets allowing the team a nice later morning wake up time. They enjoyed their breakfast at Tupana Wasi restaurant: soup and a main course (in Peru, we prefer a nice salty breakfast rather than coffee and fruit). Everyone finished up and headed to the buses for the 25 min bus ride up to Machu Picchu. Just like we do with our clients, we headed directly for the most picturesque place so we could take photos of and for everyone.
Since our guides are experts in Machu Picchu, they created a memorable day here for our female porters remember that this was their first time exploring this citadel. One of our porters, Martha, said that this is something that she will show her family and kids in the future with so much pride. They explored the citadel visiting the most important places: farming areas, temples, observatories, tombs, houses for living. A few thought their kitchens back home looked similar with small mud stove.
Machu Picchu means old mountain or old peak, which is the mountain back ground. No one really knew the name of Machu Picchu, but Professor Hiram Bingham from YALE university in 1911 named it after a farmer told him the name. According to our guides Machu Picchu was the most important religious, astronomical, spiritual spot with the last inca university.
And women had a role in the inca civilization. There was aclla wasi, aclla wasi means house of virgins where they learned about weaving, cooking, medicine and how to be part of religious ceremony. The history said that an inca had one wife but several concubines (second wives). Thankfully we got rid of this custom.
Finally after all exploring and taking pictures they decided to get one last group shot. They each took time to thank us and let us know how much they appreciated the two days. It was really special for all of us involved.
WHY DOES ALPACA EXPEDITIONS FOCUS ON HELPING PORTERS?
We could not be the company we are today without our porters. It is not possible to offer the level of service we offer without the help of these men and women. They work SO hard, doing every set up, cooking every meal, carrying everything necessary, just to let a foreigner visit their homeland. We don’t think it’s only for visitors – it’s for us. Alpaca Expeditions owner and many of our guides started as porters in this business and know exactly what these individuals give to us to do the job…and what they leave behind at home.
WHY IS EMPOWERING WOMEN SO IMPORTANT TO AE?
Peru is still a country where machismo is very strong. We are behind the times it seems in women equality. But perhaps we can be a leader and change this. We already see a few other companies in Cusco adding women to their workforce and hopefully this will expand. Women should be allowed and encouraged to do any job they feel up to doing. Helping their family with more income is something that brings them joy and pride.
HOW MANY FEMALE PORTERS VISITED MACHUPICCHU?
At this time, 15 women with their children. We hope this number keeps growing in the future and that more and more women can do this job and we can make happen anything for them.