Inca Trail porters visit historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu

Inca Trail porters visit historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu

Hiking the Inca Trail is, to many travelers, a must-do in their travel checklist. This hike enchants travelers from all over the world with its landscapes, mysterious history, outstanding archaeological sites, mystic essence, and challenging (but achievable) hiking trail. Yet, despite its splendor, the Inca Trail is not experienced the same way by those working behind its scenes. In fact, the enchanting charms of this world-renowned hike are not charming at all for the men and women porters who make hiking this trail possible.

The Inca Trail & Its Porters

The Inca Trail is regulated by the Ministry of Culture in an attempt to protect the trail and its archaeological sites and paths. This trail not only requires permits for anyone wishing to hike it, but it also requires assistance crews of porters, most commonly known as the Inca Trail porters. Any agency operating the Inca Trail must assign a specific number of Inca Trail porters to each hiking team in order to be allowed to enter the trail.

The Inca Trail porters are responsible for carrying all the required equipment, from tents and travelers´ personal belongings to food and portable toilets. These men and women porters are in charge of setting up campsites, cooking for hikers and guides, dismantling campsites, and carrying hiker´s allowed weight of personal items while on the trail. All of this arduous work is done using their backs to carry, on foot, and at great speeds. Needless to say, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu would be impossible without the aid of porters. Even more so when considering the Inca Trail hike difficulty resulting from steep stone steps, narrow stone paths, and changes in elevation.

Not too long ago, the work of porters on the Inca Trail was greatly undervalued. Most travel agencies and tour operators did not consider the porters´ health and welfare, which in turn resulted in inhumane working conditions and unsafe practices. This was all changed when the Ministry of Culture and Peruvian law intervened and stipulated set (and mandatory) weight limits for carrying, minimum wages, and occupational health and safety standards for the porters.

Another grim reality of the Inca Trail porters is their unfulfilled dream of visiting Machu Picchu. Despite working on the Inca Trail, many porters never get the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu. This results from the logistics of the trail itself, in which porters leave their groups in the morning of day 4 of their Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 days hike to return to the town of Aguas Calientes or back home. Most porters do not return to the town of Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu in their time off, as transportation and entry fees to the site are often out of budget.

Alpaca Expeditions Porters

Alpaca Expeditions Porters

Most endearingly known as the Alpaca Expeditions´ Green Machine, the Alpaca Expeditions porters are the backbone of our operations. In fact, Alpaca Expeditions currently employs anywhere between 300 to 400 porters per year alone!

The Green Machine consists of men and women porters from the local, high Andes communities of Wakatinku, Llullucha, Choquekancha, Pumapunko, Kachin, Warqui and Anparaes. All porters are of Quechua descent, and with an admirable sense of work ethic; characteristic of Peruvian people. These men and women are dedicated to their farms on a daily basis and become Inca Trail porters with the dream of improving their quality of life and providing their children with better opportunities in education. In essence, becoming Inca Trail porters becomes their additional economic opportunity in their pursuit of a better life, not just for them but also for their families.

In our attempt to break the existing Inca Trail porter paradigm, Alpaca Expeditions has dedicated itself to providing better working conditions and living opportunities for its porters. In doing so, we go above and beyond in providing more than the stipulated minimum requirements for the men and women porters. When a porter joins our Green Machine for the first time, she or he is provided with all the required hiking equipment including high-quality trekking boots, sweaters, waterproof jackets, t-shirts, wool hats, sun hats, hiking pants, backpacks with rain covers, sleeping bags and mats, water bottles, eating utensils and safety back braces all free of charge. This is in contrast to many other competitors who require porters to pay for their own equipment as a requirement to work.

In addition to providing all the required hiking equipment, Alpaca Expeditions has created a number of social projects for the benefit of the porters. We have built a Porter House in the Sacred Valley and have implemented Porter Buses for the use of porters prior to and after any service. In doing so, porters coming from remote villages are guaranteed a safe, clean, warm, and comfortable stay before heading to the Inca Trail and after every hike, and proper, and safe transportation to the trailhead. Both the Porter House and the Porter Buses are available to anyone of our porters free of charge.

Alpaca Expeditions has also hired a GP doctor exclusively for our porters at the Porter House and arranges dentist visits and campaigns to the communities from where the porters come from. The healthcare system in Peru is precarious in nature and not very accessible to habitants of high Andes communities. Now, our porters and their families are guaranteed basic doctor and dentist visits respectively. Once again, all free of charge.

Lastly, Alpaca Expeditions arranges Machu Picchu visits for all of its Green Machine porters and their families every year. To guarantee the best experience possible, we take care of all logistics including pick-ups and drop-offs from all communities, train tickets from the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, buses from Aguas Calientes town to Machu Picchu archaeological site, entrances to Machu Picchu, and the guided tour once inside the archaeological site.

Porter visit to Machu Picchu

In acknowledging their arduous work and equal importance of our men and women porters, we arrange for their Machu Picchu visits the same way we do those for all travelers. This year, our team of porters visited Machu Picchu on November 21st.

This year, a total of 37 people including our new porters, their families, and children had the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu. All coming from the Andean community of Queyupay, the porters and their families visited the archaeological site for the first time. Each person was picked up directly from their homes and shuttled to the train station in Ollantaytambo. This was an early morning ride to ensure the visit of Machu Picchu in the morning hours. Once in Aguas Calientes town, all porters and their families were guided around town to sightsee, grab some breakfast, and take pictures. Then, they were all shuttled to Machu Picchu for their visit and guided tour. Since most porters are of Quechua descent, we arranged for the guided tour to be in their mother tongue, Quechua, and encouraged their tradition of wearing their ethnic clothes to important places. Porters and their families were guided through the entire archaeological complex while being immersed in its history, importance, and mysticism. Just like any other tourists, the porters and their families are shown the best locations within Machu Picchu for the well-deserved postcard photo of their visit to the site. As always, no expenses were incurred by the porters and their families during their visit to Machu Picchu.

Melchora Melo, one of our new woman porters was happy to be in Machu Picchu. ¨It is a blessing to visit Machu Picchu with my family¨ she said during her day trip with Alpaca Expeditions. Another of our male porters, Nicolas Mamani, also added ¨to many of us including our children, this was the first time riding a train!.¨

At Alpaca Expeditions we strongly believe in the importance of treating everyone equally. It is our commitment to provide all of our Green Machine with the best possible working conditions and environment while on the trail. We go above and beyond in providing more than the stipulated minimum requirements for the men and women porters that make all of the hikes possible. We hope to continue being agents of change when it comes to the well-being of all the Inca Trail porters, and plead for other tour operators to do the same.

Porter visit to Machu Picchu

Porters Families Visiting Machupicchu

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