Since Alpaca Expeditions was formed in 2012, every February when the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance, we take advantage of the quiet and organize several activities to strengthen our skills and even more importantly, to celebrate.
The celebration comes first. We begin with an awesome soccer tournament between our porters, guides, cook and office staff. Each group creates teams and the competition is full of laughs, heckling and some fine skills.
That evening we have a huge celebration with food, drinks and music. We have a ceremony where we reward the best Guide, the best Chef, the hardest working porter and most dedicated office staff. They each receive an award and a gift which is typically a fun gadget like an IPAD, camera, Beats headphones, Bose Speaker. Something truly special that they will love and cherish. We also give a monetary gift to the runner up.
These awards are based on the teams loyalty to the company and to our clients shown by being prompt, responsible, caring and diligent. And it comes from you – your TripAdvisor reviews, emails and comments made to us. This year we are going to send out a quick survey for all those who want to respond and participate in the selection. Its always tough to decide as we really have the best team in Cusco.
After our celebration, we will be dedicated in how we can keep improving our services. All month we meet to discuss on how we can improve our services and how as a group we can work to resolve any issue that may have come up in the past year.
Of course, we have several mandatory classes and guidelines for our guides, cooks and porters.
First Aid training is repeated and reinforced every single year to fine tune our team. The director of the main medical network of 02 comes every year to provide continued education on first aid and how to rescue anyone who may become sick from the mountains. We review how to use our first aid kit, how to quickly solve the most common issues and what to do in case of an emergency. The most common problems that may happen and you should be aware of are:
- Altitude or Mountain sickness
- Stomach problems
- Headache & Nausea
- Needing CPR
As the Incas history was never written, and it is constantly being studied still today by many archaeologists and they are still trying to piece together all the scientific information that is constantly being discovered, its important to keep updating our knowledge. Alpaca Expeditions partnered up with archaeologists, anthropologists , biologists and park rangers for continued learning to enrich our knowledge about the history, flora and fauna from Machu Picchu National park as well as in other routes that are found in the Andes.
While everyone is always excited to get to Machu Picchu National Park, its really what you see along the way that makes the journey so special. Learning geology, about the different eco systems, how weather influenced the history of this area and what the effects of global warming will be. All of this is important for us to clearly understand to help guide our clients.
Our guides will be ready to share all topics and problematics about the life in the mountains and the National Park. They will always be ready to share the history at each Inca site and share the culture of these amazing people, a culture we all here still participate in.
Our cooks are truly professional chefs, constantly improving their skills to provide the best and most delicious food on top of the mountains. Its impressive how our cooks make some of the best food that you can taste while you are traveling in Peru. Each year we sign a contract with some of the most famous cooking schools on Cusco, Instituto Latino Americano and Cenfotur, and our chefs take specialized courses to help teach them learn new recipes and new ways of cooking that can be adapted on the mountain. We make sure to include different kind of food restrictions, as we are always learning of new diets ourselves and how to make amazing meals for everyone. Most of our food is organic and farmed in the skirts of Cusco city. Remember that for our ancestors or the Incas, the main economic activity was agriculture. Today our second main economic activity is agriculture and most families in the Andes mountains still farm organic vegetables that are purchased by Alpaca Expeditions to be provided to our hikers to ensure the freshest ingredients (and to support our community). All our meals are provided as buffet style (or family style) with appetizer, entrees, every evening dessert and some digestive hot drinks.
Things they improve each year are:
- Food handling on the mountains
- Dish Handling in the mountains
- How many calories each trekker needs per day
- Why it is important to eat organic and vegetables more than greasy, heavy foods
- Learn more about providing local cuisine concentrating on proteins
- How to include traditional quechua meals for everyone to eat
- New recipes
- Updating our desserts (mmmmm)
Alpaca Employs at least 250 porters from different villages around the outside of Cusco. Many of our porters struggle to support their families and come from poverty stricken areas. We work hard to change their lives and make things easier for them, for their family and for their whole village. We spend time this month visiting their homes and bringing them some useful items like health needs, books, boots, warm hats and coats, blankets. This is the most important work we do as a company – help our team and their families have a better life.
We know that our porters are the hardest working people on the mountain. They carry 25kg/40 pounds on their back almost every day. And when they are not working with Alpaca they are typically working on their farm back home. Unfortunately farming here in Peru is a way of life, but not a way to support life as they do not make much money, so being a porter is a way for them to make almost triple what they would as a farmer. And we take our job supporting them very seriously with good wages (higher than most local companies in Cusco), insurance for everyone, and their equipment for free. And of course our porters reward us with the most amazing service on the mountains, as any past Alpaca Expeditions client can attest to.
And of course, our porters skills are fine tuned as well. We review all park rules with them such as proper trash removal, separating recycling, trail maintenance. We review important company protocols as well reviewing all of the following:
- How-to set and pick up the tents
- How to keep dry the tourist bags
- How to pack the camping logistics: air pads, pillows and tents
- Handling dishes as they will help the chef
- Manipulate appropriately the portable toilet by the porter who is in charge of it
- Learn about cleaning all aspects of the equipment
- Share their experiences with all the trekkers in general
We also teach them some basic english. Clients love communicating with our porters and we want to make sure they know enough to always be helpful, courteous and kind. And when they are interested in learning more, we encourage and support continued english classes for them.
February is our time to reboot. And we would love to include any suggestions you may have as we are here, most importantly, to ensure that you have the great vacation when you visit Peru.