Porters on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The porters of Peru are the most underrated people of the whole trekking industry of Peru and around the world. The truth is that without these men, tourists will not be able to successfully finish the Inca Trail hike.

Their work is to haul up and down the rugged Andean mountains all the necessary camping gear that trekkers need during the four days that takes to hike the Inca Trail.

All the tour operators on the Inca Trail devote a page on their websites to how good they treat their porters, but is this actually true?

Porters work more than 12 hours every day while on the trail, they are the first ones to get up in the morning to prepare your meals for the day, and the last ones to go to sleep after they have finished a day’s work.

They are the first ones to get to the campsites in order to set up our tents, so they can be ready before tourists arrive in the campsite. According the government regulation porters are supposed to carry up to 20Kgs/44 lbs of the weight of the equipment of the tour companies plus a maximum of 5kg/10 lbs of their own belongings such as their sleeping bags, pads, and clothes.  Yet, most of them are forced to carry more almost 35 kg/ 77 lbs. despite the regulations imposed by the management of the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

It is the end of the year 2019, and the rainy season is upon us; hiking on the Inca Trail under such weather conditions becomes more challenging for everyone but it is much more so for the porters of the Inca trail.

Most of the porters on the Inca trail lack proper camping tents to guard themselves against the rain during these critical months of the rainy season. No matter who they work for, be that an international travel operator or the most renown local one, they do not have a decent place where to rest after a hard day of work.

Some of them sleep under the dining tents that tourists use to take their meals; these dining tents, in turn, lack a waterproof floor and they flood due to the licking roofs that they have which make it very difficult for porters to enjoy a good night of rest. Some others choose to sleep on the bathrooms’ floors of the park, spreading their rain plastic ponchos to insulate them from the wet floors while having to bear with the filthy conditions of these bathrooms.

Similarly, they lack a proper diet, in some cases either they rely on eating leftovers left by the tourists or they just eat a diet based on pasta, potatoes, and rice; no protein of any kind; no beans or quinoa, or a piece of meat like the food tourists get.

Some others claim to have a house for their porters, a place to crash and sleep before porters go to work in the mountains; it seems and sounds quite good but we wonder how come those conditions are not recreated again in the place that matters the most which is the mountains themselves.

Some travel companies claim to have the best sustainable travel policies and they brag about their social projects elsewhere but in the place that matters the most, which is the Inca trail; that place where their clients are witnesses of their sustainable policies, porters are treated as slaves. It is quite easy to see the obvious contradiction; how can we believe that what they do in faraway areas is true when what they do on the Inca trail is exploitative.

Since our inception, we decided to tackle these injustices and two years later we have accomplished what others have not done in more than two decades of operating tours here. Once again; no matter where they are from, international tour operators and local ones have kept their porters working as slaves.

We provide our workers, a great quality of tents. In the process, we break with a classist assumption in which some people are viewed as more valuable than others, a colonialist view that has affected for so long the local people from the Andes.

We are the only company on the Inca Trail and in other trekking route to Machu Picchu in Cusco area; that provides porters with a decent place to sleep and proper food as well.

The effect of treating our porters with dignity and respect creates the most beautiful conditions for them to work and give themselves a100% to the satisfaction of our clients, knowing that they are being considered as human beings, and not objects or beasts of burden.

Similarly, The positive environment in which our porters work generates a synergetic mechanism that benefits our clients as well and turns their experience traveling with us into something richer, and more fulfilling, knowing that what they paid for is ethically distributed which makes them enjoy their adventure fully.

We think that the future of the travel industry in Peru and around the world is the is way of sustainability, and we work hard to inspire thousands of like-minded travelers who search for ethical alternative companies like us when they travel.

Our role as leaders and innovators of these fair trade practices is what keeps us inspired and always learning.

Be one of us, be one of Innova Peru trek friends and help us change this industry into something, more fair, ethical, inclusive and non-colonialist.

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