Mossy Kennedy review 5 Dec 2019
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Peru is an exceptionally diverse and beautiful country. We knew we would need 2.5 weeks to do it justice and we werenít wrong. There were many wonderful highlights too numerous to choose...including: watching dozens of macaws congregate to feast on a natural clay lick in the Amazon, playing with Peruvian children on the river banks, canoeing in a beautiful oxbow lake as the sun was setting with abundant wildlife everywhere, hiking the yawningly deep and magnificent Colca Canyon, watching huge condors fly over us so low you could almost touch them, cuddling a baby lama ?? spending 3 hours wandering around the extraordinary and beautiful convent in Arequipa, sundowners overlooking snow capped volcanoes and visiting the remarkable Inca sites throughout the Sacred Valley. If we had to choose one exceptional experience of the whole trip it has to be reaching Macchu Pichu....the realisation of a life long dream. After a four day hike, much of it in the rain, and camping in the clouds with orchids and hummingbirds, nothing quite prepares you for the unfathomable beauty of this sacred site. Itís not just the scale of it and the amazing condition of it but itís the gravity defying location - set on a thin saddle of land strung between 3 vertiginous mountains. It completely took our breath away and we spent a wonderful 3 hours wandering its ruins and temples and terraces. More than anything it illustrates how sophisticated and advanced the Inca civilisation was.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Do your research and planning well. Have a basic itinerary in mind before speaking to travel agents. Give Responsible Travel a call. They put us in touch with the most amazing company called Andean Trails. Tom was a magician. He was completely on it from the first day we called him, he was unfailing in his patience and willingness to answer our numerous questions, and with so much local knowledge, he was able to sort out last minute changes to our itinerary on account of us sadly not being able to get into Bolivia because of civil unrest. I cannot recommend him more highly. He is the reason our trip was so wonderful.
Also, build in a good acclimatisation element to your programme. It makes the whole difference to oneís overall enjoyment. And include time for yourselves. Guides in Peru are generally incredibly good, well informed and thorough. However, sometimes, all one wants is to wander quietly around some incredible site or simply sit and take it all in. One of the reasons we loved the convent at Arequipa so much is because we gently wandered about reading all the signs ourselves without being corralled from one room to the next. Having a day or two for this kind of travel is so important. The rainy season came a couple
of weeks early for us which wasnít ideal but we had proper waterproof kit including covers for our packs which are essential. Make sure you have a cup of coca leaf tea each morning while at altitude. Itís readily available everywhere and really does help to open oxygen pathways to the brain. And definitely take a battery pack each to recharge your phone/camera.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Absolutely yes. Everywhere we went, this was noticeable. And it was the main reason we approached Responsible Travel in the first place. We were also intending to visit various community and wildlife projects which we either support already or were planning to support. The wildlife and conservation projects we visited in the Amazon were impressive and supported in part by the Peruvian Government and by teams of international scientists. We are now involved with their Wired Amazon project which is great. Likewise a private project in the Sacred Valley to offer education and therapies to disabled children. We were
incredibly impressed by the standard of guiding generally and the pride with which Peruvians working in the tourist industry carry out their roles. They were so much fun too and we had some great laughs. The only area which we werenít 100% happy with was the porter system on the Inca Trail. While the company we used was fantastic and ensured the porters they use are paid a proper wage and a good tipping policy is encouraged, the overall standard for porters is
not so good and the Peruvian Government does not regulate the practice which allows for exploitation to take place. We couldnít really understand why the existing campsites arenít developed a little bit more to offer basic tea house type overnight accommodation to hikers which works so successfully in Nepal (and doesnít impact on the environment) and this would immediately reduce the excessive amounts that porters have to carry (tents, poles, pots and pans, endless bags of food, etc etc). Finally, the big dilemma we are wrestling with now is whether we should be flying long haul at all. As people who love travel and exploring the world, we are also acutely conscious of our carbon footprint. For now, we have decided to fly less frequently and make sure we try and go for longer when we do fly, to pack as much in as possible and to support small, local businesses and community projects in the countries we visit. But itís all a balancing act and governments and the airlines really need to do their bit as well.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Without doubt, one of the very best trips weíve ever been on. One adventure after the next and more life-affirming and memorable experiences than it seemed possible to have in a single journey. It was really more of a huge adventure than a vacation...a term which is way too tame for what we experienced! A massive thank you to Tom for making it all possible and for the wonderful people on the ground who were so kind to us. We have nothing but good memories and a love for a new country.
Read the operator's response here:
Our Inca Trails are organised by a local guide who started his working life as a porter in the 1990s. He is ideally placed to understand the conditions and challenges the Inca Trail porters face.
He says " We make sure we meet and exceed the regulations set down by Mincetur. Porters carry 25kg max. and this is all measured before the start of the trail.
The porters have their own tents, sleeping bags and mats and sleep in warm and dry conditions every night. Their salaries are above regulation and we provide all their trekking clothing, food, backpacks and insurance.
We have been lobbying Mincetur to provide permanent buildings along the trail, so that ALL porters have a bed, showers and somewhere to sleep every night. We continue to lobby."
Our guide told me: ďI can tell that it has been a big improvement, since I started working as a porter, to these days.
The porters are having better treatments but there are still so many things to keep improving because many companies do not respect the porters law in that way some companies are sending over weight to the porters, also don't give uniforms or tents that they can sleep.
I hope we can sit together between all the companies and our authorities in order to have a serious change for our porters. Now, still, each company is still pulling their own way, so itís very difficult to make any plans or any changes with the authorities. There is big bureaucracy with our authorities, we hope this can happen soon.
It has been an honour to work as a porter and share time with them and learn my lessons in my way to here, I respect a lot them and try to do the best for them.Ē