The Porters of Alpaca Expeditions
These men and women are at the heart of our company. It is not possible to create the experience we provide without the unbelievably hard work of our team of porters. They are made up of men and women of varying ages who are willing to leave their homes several hours away for days at a time. They typically are farmers.
Being a porter is a hard job. Sadly, you will see many other companies with porters that have sandals that are falling apart. Many are sleeping on the floor without blankets and eating food without utensils. For us, this is unacceptable, and we try to be a leader in the treatment of all our porters.
We go out of our way to treat them with respect providing fair wages and proper equipment. We care for their health and the health of their families, and we are committed to social projects to help enrich their lives. Most of our team started as porters, including our owner Raul, and we hope we can improve their lives since they improve our company.
We have opened our doors to the women of Cusco, and have been lucky enough to have Female Porters. They work for us with even bigger smiles and brighter spirits. We are so excited for you to meet our amazing Green Machine Team.
BETTER WAGES • PROPER EQUIPMENT • TENTS AND SLEEPING BAGS AT NIGHT • HEALTH INSURANCE • NUTRITIOUS MEALS • PORTERS HOUSE • DEDICATED TO FAMILIES
Who are our Porters
Our porters are made up of men and WOMEN, ranging from 18 to 55 years old and come from several different villages in the Cusco region. We employ approximately 250 male porters and 25 female porters (hopefully that number doubles every year. Often we have father and son, mother and daughter, or siblings work for us. They come 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 trade. Being a porter is a second income for them.
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 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, there was nobody to clean up 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 number of tourists and crew entering the trail to 500 per day.
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, and it is not possible to do it 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…
OUR PORTER’S BUS
We treat our porters with the same dignity and respect as we do our clients. Just as our clients enjoy our private, comfortable transportation to and from our trekking trails, now so do our porters. Alpaca Expeditions EIRL is the only company in Cusco to have private buses dedicated solely to our “Green Machine” Porters use.
OUR PORTERS’ DOCTOR
In 2019, we hired our first Alpaca Expeditions Medical Doctor to help tend to our guides, drivers, chefs and most importantly porters. Our MD is a general medicine specialist, dedicated to our porter's needs, care and health education. He is stationed at our Porters House in Ollantaytambo (also the breakfast place for our Inca Trail hikers) and works Monday through Friday.
Alpaca Expeditions employs approximately 350 porters, all from different villages of the Cusco region. They are mostly farmers as a main trade and porters as a second job to help make some extra money. These villages are quite far from the city and lack access to good medical care. Having a doctor available to them is a huge resource. Especially since being a porter job is so unbelievably difficult on their body creating all kinds of issues. Back issues, knee problems, kidney problems, and stomach ailments are very common. Our doctor's main goal is to take care of our warriors – our men and women porters – but are available to anyone on our team – guides, clients, or any staff.
OUR PORTERS’ HOUSE
As we mentioned above, our Porters come from distant villages to work our treks. Since all our tours begin from Cusco, they all need to spend the night before their trek close by the trailhead. And often they hope for a hot shower before making the trip back home after the trek. Alpaca Expeditions has rented a complete house for our Porters use…compete with comfortable beds, rooms to relax in, a dining room to enjoy and now our medical post.
Because our owner, Raul Ccolque Ccolque, began his career as a Porter, we spend careful attention to make sure that our Porters are treated as brothers and sisters with respect, admiration and care.
Proper Equipment for our Porters
Every porter of ours receives proper equipment. That includes moisture-wicking long/short sleeve shirts, comfortable pants, a warm waterproof jacket, hiking boots, warm hat, sun hat, weight belts, and a headlamp. Our female porters are given skirts and dresses to make sure they are comfortable hiking without breaking their cultural traditions. Alpaca Expeditions provides this for free to all of our porters.
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 stuff. That is why it's so important to keep your duffel light and not exceed our allowed 7kg limit. You will see other companies carrying more than the allotted weight – we will not allow our porters to carry this burden.
Tents and Sleeping Bags for our Porters
Again, this is something unique that Alpaca Expeditions provides, and sad others are not doing. We supply tents for our porters so they can sleep as comfortably as our guests. Along with proper shelter, we also give warm, down sleeping bags to all our porters as the mountains can reach freezing at night. Our porter's welfare is important to us, and we hope to treat them all equally.
Nutritious Meals for our Porters
A general comment from trekkers on an Alpaca Expeditions tour is that we serve too much food. Well, our porters get to eat the same food that our clients receive. They get to enjoy it as they wish, in the dining tent or separately enjoying some quiet and some time to rest. They each are given water bottles to make sure they stay hydrated and plenty of coca tea, their favorite.
Helping Their Families…
All our porters are Quechua language speakers who come from farming villages. They take advantage of the seasons to grow their crops, and Alpaca Expeditions helps them in many ways to keep growing their community. 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 three months, we take a kit of toiletries to Wakantinku elementary school for 204 Quechua speaking children. They range from 3 – 12 years old from kindergarten to 6th grade. When we arrived at 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 animals 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 great work and helped to graduate the first class from the village. We plan to continue this sponsorship and supply another year's salary.
Every February, we invite our porters and their families to come with us to visit Machu Picchu. Last year we went with families from Wakawasi village, a community we visit on the Lares Trek. It was their first time in the ruins. We plan on doing this trip every February with new families to help them enjoy their 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 four computers to the school in Wakatinku village for the kids to enjoy. Being their first time donating computers, this was something new. We know it is hard for 204 students to use four computers. That is why we have provided computers in 2019.
To help celebrate the anniversary of Llulucha village this last July, we booked and provided transpiration for a 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 porter's villages.
We have recently bought land in Cusco that is currently being constructed to create dormitory classrooms and teaching kitchens for our team. We created this for our porters outside of Cusco to have a place to sleep before their treks. We will have free English, computer, and cooking classes for any member of our team and their family to use. We are excited about this big project.
Those are just some 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 it´s necessary to make sure they are healthy, stable, and capable of providing for their families the best life possible.
THE GREEN MACHINE
Our Promise to Our Porters
We clearly understand that we would not be successful without our team of porters. They have promised us that they will continually work hard to make sure each trekker has a magical journey. In return, we made a promise to them that we will 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 promptly after the trek eliminating the need to travel back to Cusco before heading home. Unfortunately, this is not common. They receive better wages, health insurance, and all their equipment for free, including great food to eat. We make sure they have a comfortable bed and a nice room to sleep in before (and after if needed) the trek instead of sleeping on the floor. We visit the communities they live in and provide needed supplies to their families, like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and books for students. This is just the beginning for us, and we are always looking for ways to do more.
Why Empowering Women IS SO IMPORTANT
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.