Archive for the ‘Inbox’ Category

Inbox: Service and Comfort Zones in Peru


Llama with Cordillera Blanca in Background

Below is an excerpt from someone asking a question,  who will most likely be joining us on a Peru: Machu Picchu/Cordillera Blanca combo trekking program in 2011.

Dear Randall,
Here are a few of my thoughts and ideas and questions as I have started to read about Peru and hiking and Machu Picchu.

I think we would like to have a day where we could do some type of community service so we could give back to the people and the country.

Nancy C.

Shamans, Peru. Circa 1997

Dear Nancy,
Excellent, glad your thinking along these lines.

Additionally, as you know, we are a unique educational organization – a hybrid, or cross between a guide service, an experiential educational org and a holistic learning center on the fly.

So if you and the other participants are willing to step out of their comfort zone, try new things and be willing to let the place, the mountains, the people and the experience change you, then it will be a good fit.

I get the feeling you and your friends fit this description. See you soon for an orientation.


The InBox: Amantani Island, Peru


Sustainable Travel, Off the Beaten Track, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Dear Randall,
I hope you don’t mind my contacting you. I saw your blog post about staying on Amantani Island and I wanted to ask your advice. I had been planning to go to the island and stay with Richard Cari at Kantuta Lodge. However, having read your post I am wondering if I should be staying elsewhere in order to be a bit fairer and in the interest of sustainable tourism – such as going to stay with the islanders who don’t usually see a lot of tourists.

I felt a bit nervous not booking something in advance and am also not sure how easy it would be to organise something like this (I will only have one night and we arrive in Puno the evening before we hope to go to the island). Do you know any responsible tour agencies who give back to the islanders and could help me find somewhere to stay? Or would you recommend just turning up and hoping to find a boat / somewhere to stay on the island?

Many thanks for any help you can give.
Kind regards,
Lucy H.

Hi Lucy,

Family Mamani, Occopampa, Amantani

Thanks for your email, and for your concern about sustainable tourism on Amantani on Lake Titicaca. Here are a few suggestions.
Richard Cari and family are good friends of mine, and we do hire his launch/boat to get our clients to the island, and although we might stay one night at his lodge, the lodge has evolved into something bigger than I want my participants to experience, (semester students excluded, plus Richard will help facilitate these longer programs). So we may bypass the lodge in favor of the other families who are wanting to have guests visit them. However, depending upon your comfort zone, and interest, you would enjoy Richard’s family and small lodge in any event. But more about staying with other families:

There’s no real problem with taking one of the boats run by the community of Amantani which you can pick up (more…)

Inbox: Water Bottle/T-Shirts


Pristine Water Bottle & Filter/T-Shirts in Peru’s Winter?
How effective do you think the water bottle with filter is?   Will it get
warm enough for us to wear T-shirts?  I am trying to
sort out what to bring .
S. Reid

Hi S,
Yes a couple of T-shirts will come in handy, as it will be warm enough, in the sun,…especially when walking or hiking. You can find fun T-shirts  in Peru too, but the cotton is usually of a bit thinner quality. Just don’t forget a good poly-pro or fine-spun wool under layer regardless of the T-shirt decision.

Pristine Water Bottle/Filter

Pristine Water Bottle/Filter

Water Bottle: According to the doctor*, (*see previous post on Travel Essentials) the water bottle is his front line of defense. He has used it daily in India, Peru etc. as has his wife, who I also met at the office. Both he and the water bottle have a good reputation.

The beauty of this device is it frees one up from purchasing tons of bottled water, and thus, reduces the plastic purchased. When we do purchase bottled water, we can also pour that into the bottle/filter, which is really doubling up on protection, however I’ve drunk bottled water for years and never had a problem as long as I check the seal to make sure it’s a new factory sealed bottle.

The Inbox: Fair Trade Instruments


Fair Trade – Buying Instruments in Peru

Chromatic, Curved Zampona

Chromatic, Curved Zampona

I’m in cusco, and I found your website while searching for how to shop ethically while in Peru.  I am particularly interested in musical instruments.  Do you have any reccomendations or contacts you could share with me?
Ben E.

Dear Ben,

I will put you in touch with Guillermo Seminario, the musical director of Chimu Inka in Cusco.

There are a two things to consider when purchasing instruments in Peru, 1. Buying locally, and 2. quality:
First, regarding Fair Trade, the only thing to watch out for are guitars that may be manufactured in China, otherwise all other guitars, and all zampoñas and flutes will be either be made locally in the town or village, or on the coast such as Lima or Trujillo and shipped up to the mountain Gringo Trail towns in Peru.

Quena by Guillermo Seminario

Quena by Guillermo Seminario

Regarding quality, there are tourist grade instruments and professional grade which are calibrated at 440 hz (concert pitch) by the maker.  And even with pro grade, it can be difficult to know you’re really getting concert pitch instruments unless you happen to carry an electronic tuner with you.

Guillermo Seminario, USA/Peru Music Exchange and Cusco Music Exchange Program Director for Mountain Spirit Institute, makes all his own flutes and zampoñas, and a cousin of his is in the charango manufacturing business on the coast.

I showed him a cheap version of a chromatic double row zampoña which I purchased in Bolivia, and he made a professional grade one, improving on the one I showed him. It’s top-notch and a real work horse, sound great, has a good tone and is made with spirit. It’s featured on our website’s fair trade page. (more…)