With people’s thoughts beginning to turn to holidays for next year, the Inka Porter Project (IPP), is urging tourists to act responsibly when it comes to trekking in the Andes.
A not-for-profit organisation based in Cusco, IPP campaigns to raise awareness of the plight of Peruvian porters employed on the legendary Inka trail to Machu Picchu. It also represents porters and muleteers that work on alternative routes in the Sacred Valley.
Tens of thousands of holidaymakers take part in the four-day trek to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Machu Picchu every year but few are aware of the reality of the conditions in which up to six thousand porters subsist.
Carrying heavy loads including tents, fuel and provisions for trekkers, sometimes at very high altitude, the porters are often not given adequate shelter, equipment, medical assistance or food by their agencies. Many are paid as little as five US dollars a day for their literally backbreaking efforts.
Traditionally considered to be of low social status and marginalized, the porters come from Quechua-speaking farming communities based in the Sacred Valley.
The Inka Porter Project has issued a set of responsible trekking guidelines for anyone intending to hike the Inka trail.
When booking with a tour operator in a home country, it recommends that people ascertain whether the company follows the International Porter Protection Group’s five key recommendations on porter safety.
These are that:
Where a tour operator uses a local agency to run its Inka trail trips, IPP advises asking about the agency’s own policy on monitoring porter care. As a general rule of thumb when buying the tour direct from a local agency in Cusco, if it costs less than 265 US dollars, it’s highly likely that the porters are not well cared for.
Agencies are now required to register trekkers and porters one month in advance for the Inka trail and many independent travellers who aren’t aware of the new regulations have been disappointed on arrival in Cusco.
To act as a responsible trekker while on the trail itself, IPP suggests the
Three different sets of guidelines are available on the Inka Porter Project s website at www.peruweb.org/porters - questions to ask an agency when booking the Inka trail from home; things to do while on an Inka trail trek; and guidelines for independent trekking in the rest of Peru.
Many of the Inka Porter Project’s guidelines are applicable to other key trekking destinations such as Nepal and Kilimanjaro as well as other Andean regions.
The Inka Porter Project is a not-for-profit organisation that was founded by British volunteer Alison Crowther two years ago and has a mission to work with porters, tour operators, tourists and government organisations to improve Andean porters’ working conditions and the environment in which they live. www.peruweb.org/porters
For more information about the International Porter Protection Group, visit - www.ippg.net