Porters on the Inca trail
Without a doubt, inca trail porters are the hardest workers on the mountain. They carry all the necessary equipment and logistics to hike and camp along the inca trail to Machu Picchu (tents, food, gear, etc). Without porters, climbing the Inca Trail would be close to impossible for most people. Your job is to hike, they do everything else. They will set up all your tents, help cook and serve you amazing food, prepare hot water to wash with, welcome you happily to each site…all with a smile on their face.
Why is it mandatory to have porters on the Inca Trail?
Before 1990, the Inca Trail was not regulated by the Peruvian government and tourists would carry their own equipment, meals and cook by themselves. Unfortunately many of these early hikers didn’t pay enough respect to Pachamama and left a lot of trash along the way. Without rangers watching over, there was nobody there to walk behind them collecting the garbage they left. The government took note of this problem and initiated a project to protect the trail. It was at this time they began the permit process limiting the amount of people entering the trail to 500 per day for crew and tourists.
The government started making these changes in 1990 and continually get more and more strict with how to enter the trail. You may only enter with a licensed tour company – it is not possible to do on your own. Each company can organize groups with a maximum of 16 trekkers, 2 guides and 22 porters. Each porter can carry a max of 25 kg.
The government has started the process of taking care of the porter – we hope to expand on that…
Alpaca Expeditions Inca Trail Porters:
Raul Ccolque Ccolque, the owner & general manager of Alpaca Expeditions, worked as porter from 2000 to 2003. While he saw some companies treating their porters better than others, he felt there was not enough being done for them and their families. We could not have a company without our porters and because of that we want them to be part of our family. We want to know them, listen to them and follow through on our promise to make their lives better.
Our porters range from 18 years old until 55 and come from several different villages in Cusco region. We employ approximately 250 porters from the following villages:
- Comunidad wakatinku 25 porters, located at 3800 meters
- Comunidad Llullucha 20 porters, located at 3700 meters
- Comunidad Choquekancha 25 porters , located at 3400 meters.
- Comunidad Pumapunko $ 25 porters located at 3700 meters
- Comunidad Kachin 25 porters located at 3700 meters
- Comunidad Anparaes 25 porters located at 3500 meters
Quechua is their main language and farming is their main economic activity. Being a porter is a second income for them.
Our Promise to Our Porters:
We understand clearly that we could not be successful without our team of porters. They have promised us that they will work endlessly to make each trekker have a magical journey, so we have made an equally important promise to them to do what we can to make this difficult job a little less daunting.
As we explained earlier, most of our porters live in a village outside of Cusco – typically 2 to 4 hours away. We cover all entrance fees (45 soles – $15 US per porter) and transportation to and from the trek for our porters, separate from their salary. They are paid directly after the trek preventing them from traveling back to Cusco before heading home. This is unfortunately not common. They receive better wages, health insurance and all their equipment for free. This includes hiking boots, pants, jerseys, fleeces, jackets, hats, flashlights, sleeping bags, sleeping bags, and amazing food to eat. We make sure they have a comfortable bed in a lovely room to sleep before (and after if needed) the trek instead of crashing on a floor like others. We visit the communities they live in and supply toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and other needed supplies to their families. Books for their students.
This is just the beginning for us and we are always looking for ways to do more.
How much does the Alpaca Expeditions Porter Carry?
While the government allows each porter to carry up to 25kg, we keep our limit at 20kg. Each porter will carry up to 15kg from the company and 5kg of their own personal stuff. This is why its so important to keep your personal duffel down in weight and not exceed our allowed 7kg. You will see other companies carrying clearly more than the allotted weight – we will not allow our porters to carry this burden.
Keeping them Comfortable…
Every year Alpaca Expeditions provides a new sleeping bag and sleeping pad for each porter. Our jackets are all lined and warm and our boots that are provided are all waterproof.
What do the Porters Eat?
Our porters will eat the very same amazing meals you have. Our chef buys enough food to cook for all our trekkers and porters and makes enough for everyone to be too full at the end of the day. While you will notice that we always serve huge portions, none of this is wasted. Whatever is leftover after you and our team eats will go directly back home to the families of the team for them to enjoy themselves.
Helping Their Families…
All our porters are quechua language speakers who come from farming villages where they take only advantage of the seasons to grow their crops but Alpaca Expeditions will help them in many ways to keep growing their comunity especially in education, health and culture. We have different ongoing projects and hope to add many more. Some of the projects we have completed or continue doing are:
Every 3 months, we take a kit of toiletries to Wakantinku elementary school for 204 quechua speaking children. They range from 3 – 12 years old from kindergarden to 6th grade. When we arrived to this village for the first time a few years ago, kids had trouble keeping up with daily hygiene. We make sure they always have toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and hand sanitizer.
We planted more than 3,000 native trees, Queuña (andean polylepis), in the community of Wakatinku to reforest their village. This tree will be more sustainable than others they have used and will eventually be a fertilizer for their village to help grow more grass for their Alpacas which are the most common and typical annimals located at this village.
We covered the 2015 salary of a full time teacher in the High School of Wakatinku to teach math, art and english. This teacher has done amazing work and helped to graduate the first class from the village. We plan to continue this sponsorship and supply another years salary.
Every February we invite our porters and their families to come with us to visit Machu Picchu. Sadly, this was their first time to the ruins and a really special experience for us. Last year we went with families from Wakawasi village, a community we visit on the Lares Trek. We plan on doing this trip every February with new families to help them enjoy their own history.
In October 2015, we helped celebrate the end of the school year with 17 students and their parents and some of our porters for a trip through the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. This 2 day trip followed the same itinerary that our clients enjoy.
Often our clients have asked how they can help. Some Alpaca Expeditions trekkers raised money back at home to buy some computers to donate to a local village. We matched their donation and went together to donate 4 computers to the school in Wakatinku village for the kids to enjoy. This was their first experience on computers and something that has been really successful. Of course its hard for 204 students to share 4 computers, so we hope to bring some more in 2016.
To help celebrate the anniversary of Llulucha village this last July, we booked and provided transpiration for an amazing local band, Alicia de Acomayo, to play. It was a great party for everyone to enjoy.
We are working with a local clinic in Cusco to provide dental care and provide skin examinations for the children of each of our porters villages.
We have recently bought land in Cusco that is currently being constructed to create a dormitories, classrooms and teaching kitchens for our team. This is for those who do not live in Cusco to have a nice, warm place to sleep before their treks. We will have english classes, computer classes and cooking classes here for any member of our team and their family to use, free of charge. This is a huge project for us that we are really excited about.
This is a touch of the projects we have done and continue to do. We are a small local company here in Cusco who promises to be as dedicated to our team as they are to us. We are lucky enough to have the best porters in the region and we feel responsible to make sure they are healthy, strong and capable of providing their families with the best life possible.
THE GREEN MACHINE