Why Alpaca Expeditions?
Our ratings on Trip Advisor are well earned. We are rated #1 out of 235 outdoor activities in Cusco, with 97.5% of our ratings being 5-star. Third party testimonials carry a lot of weight when making decisions on who to trust with your health and safety, especially in a foreign country.
Alpaca Expeditions was founded by Raul Ccolque, who grew up in a small town in the Sacred Valley. While he was studying tourism, he worked as a porter, and later as a tour guide. Ccolque witnessed firsthand the ways in which companies can take advantage of their porters; not only were they not paid properly, but they would also be badly bruised or injured due to carrying heavier loads than necessary. As a result, Raul committed himself to changing this inhumane situation with his own company. All of Alpaca Expedition's porters are well-treated and supplied with proper equipment.
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 make arrangements 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 your tents, help cook and serve you amazing food, prepare hot water to wash with, and welcome you happily to each site, always 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 walking 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 got stricter with how to enter the trail. You may only enter with a licensed tour company – it is not possible to enter 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 porters, and we hope to expand on that.
Alpaca Expeditions Inca Trail Porters
Raul Ccolque, the owner & general manager of Alpaca Expeditions, worked as a 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 to 55 and come from several different villages in the 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, which prevents them from traveling back to Cusco before heading home. Unfortunately, this is an uncommon practice. They receive better wages, health insurance and all of their equipment for free. This includes hiking boots, pants, jerseys, fleeces, jackets, hats, flashlights, 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, as well as 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 within weight restrictions and not exceed our allowed 7kg. You will see other companies carrying more than the allotted weight, but 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 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 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 advantage of the seasons to grow their crops. Alpaca Expeditions will help them in many ways to keep growing their community especially in education, health and culture. We have different ongoing projects and hope to add many more. Some of the projects we do for our porters 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 kindergarten 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 animals 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 was instrumental in helping the first class from the village reach graduation day. 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. In the past, we've gone 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.
Our clients often ask how they can help. Some Alpaca Expeditions trekkers raised money back at home to buy computers to donate to a local village. We matched their donation and went together to donate 4 computers to the school in Wakatinku village. 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 in July 2015, we booked and provided transportation 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 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 dormitories, classrooms and teaching kitchens for our team. This is provided to those who do not live in Cusco so they can have access to 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 just a few of the projects we are working on. We are a small local company 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.
Our clients tell us that one of the biggest challenges they face while booking in Peru is getting an internet response to initial inquiries. Many companies are not internet savvy and cannot answer requests promptly and clearly. Our reservation and sales staff are all well-trained to understand the requirements and concerns of our clients and how to communicate with you in a clear manner. We are conveniently open Monday through Saturday. You can expect a prompt response from us through email, online chat or by telephone during our hours of operation. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service!
All of our treks and tours require a minimum of two travelers. If you already have at least two in your group, you can choose virtually any date to start your tour or trek (depending on the availability of Inca trail permits). We are happy to place solo travelers in one of our existing groups, subject to availability.
Our tour guides are absolutely amazing! They are all from local villages and the surrounding areas. Quechua (the ancient language of the Inca which is still very much alive in Peru) is their first language, with Spanish being their second language. However, they all speak English as their third language. Every single day, they express their passion and enthusiasm for sharing their world with our clients. Our tour guides are constantly being re-trained in first aid and flora and fauna to ensure their knowledge is up-to-date. They even know how to recognize when our clients may need assistance or when slowing down is necessary (even when the clients won’t admit it!).
We have put together an incredible choice of tours based on the high demand from our clients. Every adventure is detailed on this website. We add new tours when there is an interest or a need in exploring new areas. If you don't see the expedition you are in search of, we encourage you to email us your request. We will happily put together a customized itinerary for you with a minimum of two travelers!
Our trekking chefs are geniuses! It is hard to believe that they can prepare such enjoyable meals with the conditions and equipment provided on the trek. There is no shortage of sumptuous and abundant meals while trekking. Learn more here.
Do you have dietary restrictions? We can accommodate vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, kosher or allergy diets. Your special needs will be taken care of by our chefs. Meals are prepared fresh on site and we are experts in making sure you are well-taken care of!
Alpaca is dedicated to making sure we have the best equipment available. Casual Adventure Camping Store is a family owned business in the United States, that is dedicated to the outdoor travelers' needs. They help us provide all of our equipment. Learn more here.
Alpaca Expeditions makes a special effort to choose, and even create our own campsites. This strategy maximizes our groups' privacy, facilities and views. On some of our alternative treks, we coordinate with local villagers who kindly let us camp on their land. That not only helps support the locals, but also ensures that we know exactly what conditions to expect and how to keep our trekkers safe.
Your Safety Is Our Number 1 Concern
Trekking the Andes is not your typical vacation. And most people who come to visit us have little to no experience of life this high up in the mountains. We understand the large responsibility we have in ensuring that you are well taken care of every step of the way.
Every year our guides are re-trained and certified in First Aid. They work with a professional medical doctor to learn how to help a client with different ailments and injuries including altitude sickness, stomach issues, sprained ankles, etc. Every guide travels with a full tank of oxygen and a first aid kit.
It is important to be very honest with your guide as soon as you are experiencing any discomfort. If you suffer from any medical conditions, please let your guide know during the briefing so he is prepared to give you extra attention, if needed.
In case you can not complete the trek for any reason, you will be escorted by a member of the team until you reach a clinic or are safely returned back to your hotel. Your guides travel with radios and will be in touch with the office to make sure a car is waiting on the closest road. You will likely need to hike a portion and ride a horse to get you there as quickly as we can.
The Challenges of Hiking
Hiking the Andes is something that everyone can do no matter what age, but it is never easy. You will need some level of fitness to be able to complete it comfortably. Each trail involves inclines that can take your breath away if you are not in shape and downhill hiking that can be tough on one’s knees. Walking sticks are encouraged for everyone.
Please remember the group treks are open to everyone, all abilities, so be patient and help those struggling with some kind words.
A popular way for the people in Peru to communicate unhappiness with the government is to strike. This area sees quite a few strikes a year that can sometimes effect the logistics involved in our tours. Most strikes are well organized and planned in advance so the office will have at least a few hours to arrange the needed changes for logistics. Often this involves leaving for your trek the night before. Please understand we will do everything we can to get you to and from the trail and will give you the information you need as soon as we have it. We will always get you to and from the trail very safely.
Alpaca Expeditions has a special arrangement with Casual Adventure Camping Store, a family-owned business in the USA, dedicated to outdoor travel needs. They supply us with all of our equipment. We use A frame, Eureka Timberline, 4-man tents. Yet, we place only two people per tent to ensure there is plenty of room to sleep and store gear. A foam mat is included to insulate you from the ground. We also provide dining tents, tables and chairs. If you prefer to rent your equipment instead of bringing your own, we offer down, mummy-style sleeping bags, Therm-a-Rest inflatable air mattresses for added comfort and Black Diamond adjustable walking-sticks. We make frequent trips to the U.S. to buy new equipment, as needed.
What a luxury! Our hygienic, environmentally-friendly, private toilet tents are set up right at your camping and lunch sites. This way, park toilets, which are often far away and not always well-maintained, are not needed. This also lessens our footprint on the environment, while also giving you the luxury and convenience of a private bathroom during your trekking adventure.
Our tour prices clearly outline what is included and what is not included. If you choose to compare prices, be sure to take into account what the company is providing you with. For example, some tour companies do not provide basic things, such as food and water. There are no unexpected expenses or vague language from Alpaca Expeditions.
Alpaca Expeditions is an eco-friendly organization with sustainable values. Not only do we clean up after ourselves, but we even have campaigns where our staff cleans up the messes others have left behind. There is a key concept in the Andean cosmovision known as “ayni”. It means “reciprocity” – that as you take, you must give back. We are dedicated to treating our beautiful Mother Earth, known as “Pachamama” in Peru, with respect and honor in exchange for all the abundance she gives to us.
Alpaca Expeditions greatly appreciates the hard work that our support staff provides. We repay their efforts with better treatment than any other travel company. Our employees earn competitive wages and are also provided with health insurance, which is not a "given" in Peru.
In keeping with the Andean concept of “ayni”, or giving back to the community, Alpaca Expeditions has numerous social projects. Our pride and joy has been “adopting” the highland villages, where our porters’ families have lived for centuries as subsistence farmers. Several times a year we go to these villages to help supply their schools with books, computers and basic hygiene supplies. We have even provided the funds necessary to employ a teacher. We have even taken our porters and their families to Machu Picchu; surprisingly, some porters have worked the Inca Trail hundreds of times and never seen Machu Picchu. We have also started a tree planting project that reintroduced 3,000 of the indigenous, but rapidly disappearing Queuña tree. Alpaca Expeditions is dedicated to improving our community and sharing these social projects.
Our personalized service guarantees that you will have the experience of a lifetime!
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