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Inca Trail Porters - Hiking Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail - Peru

You've waited so long to trek these rugged 43 kilometers to that Incan Holy Grail, Machu Picchu. But after two days, your feel muscles you never knew existed and another blister is welling up. As you momentarily rest on a rock, gasping for breath in this rarefied air, you see one of the porters striding by you, on his way to set up this night's camp for you and the others.

The lot of the porter has changed with new regulations instituted in 2002. Before, it was not uncommon for porters to carry 45 kilos each, sleep under mere plastic and a blanket, receive the trekkers' leftovers or cook for themselves, and be paid only four dollars per day. Frequently porters would have to cut firewood to keep warm and eat, thus aumenting deforestation.

Now the load limit is 25 kilograms (20 of trekkers' equipment, five for the porter's personal effects). The minimum wage is 35 soles ($13) per day. Unfortunately, some tour companies get around these regulations and pay their porters only 15 soles ($5.50) a day by doing the following: they make trekkers carry their own packs across the weigh-in spot, then shift the weight to the porters or deny porters their personal allowance.

Porters are the work horses of the trek—but they should not be treated that way. As consumers, we have responsibilities to ensure porters' fair treatment. How can you help to make sure the regulations are followed?

• Familiarize yourself with the regulations of the Inka Trail; see www.inka-trail.com/en/inka-trail-info/inka-trail-regulations.htm
• Ask the tour company how much porters are paid, and if they are provided with food and proper camping equipment. Make clear your concern for the porters' welfare.
• If you don't like the answers, look for a different company or hire your own porter. You'll be supporting the local economy by providing employment.
• Ask the company precisely what equipment you are expected to take (sleeping bag, warm clothing, canteen, etc.). Leave all unnecessary items stowed at your hostel. Don't unnecessarily weigh down the porter.
• During the trip, remember common courtesies. Learn a little Quechua. Thank them. Share your coca leaves.
• Talk with them about their lives and culture. Ask them to sing. Share photos of your family or homeland with them.
• Pool tips for the porters with other travellers; $15 total per porter is fair. If you feel like giving a higher tip, donate money to projects supporting porters rights or their communities.

Mistreatment of porters should not be shrugged off with "Well, that is the way things are in these countries."

• File complaints with one or both of the following:

MINCETUR (Ministerio de Comercio Exterior y Turismo), Calle 1 oeste 050 Urbanizacion Corpac, San Isidro, Lima. Telephone: 1-513‐6100 Email: webmaster@mincetur.gob.pe Website: www.mincetur.gob.pe Office is open 7:30 a.m.- 1:30p.m., 2:30-5:00 p.m.

Dircetur (the regional tourism office). Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Portal Mantas 117-A, Cusco (next to the La Merced Church). Tel: 235-123/222-032, E-mail: cusco@dirceturcusco.gob.pe.

• If you are a member, inform the South American Explorers Club.

• Drop line to us here at Viva Travel Guides, or make a posting on our site to share your experience with others.

To learn more about the porters' life, read the BBC’s Inca Trail Porter Photo Journal (news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/04/americas_inca_trail_porter/html/1.stm). The Inka Porter Project (www.ippg.net/newsletters/2004-05/IPP.html) has information about porters' rights.

Location:
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Peru

Hiking, Trekking



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