We go to lots of meetings. We talk to lots of people. We put on charlas (“chats”) for the members of the artisan association we work with, coaching them on how to prepare for the upcoming artisan fairs, and on how tourists think. We go to classes at the Instituto Superior, where they have a 4-year program oriented towards “Turismo,” and offer our gringo point-of-view. Jean helps out with the English classes at the Instituto, offering the students a chance to talk with a native English speaker.
Tourism is such an overwhelming factor in the local economy that it seems the logical place to put our knowledge and experience to use. Last year roughly 200,000 people toured the Colca Canyon, nearly all of them passing through Chivay on their way from Arequipa to Cruz del Condor, from which they can appreciate the 10,000-foot depth of the canyon and, usually, see some condors. That’s what they paid for, anyway. Then, they go back to Arequipa, ideally after pausing for the lunch buffet at our host family’s restaurant.
How do we get at least some of them to spend another day and night here in the canyon, to benefit the local economy? Well, coming from Russ it’s no big surprise that some Peruvian version of a “shop local” campaign is just the ticket. We’re trying to help inventory the local tourist resources, attractions, events, etc., and find ways to promote them, along with everything “local”—local artisans, local foods, locally-owned resources. That’s a big job, though, so mostly we spend hours, days, weeks, talking to people, having meetings, making plans. Last week we helped write and record a radio spot to help promote the idea of “turismo vivencial,” essentially home-stays with typical Peruvian families. At least our Spanish is getting polished from the practice!
Russ also helped translate an offer for a 4-day-3-night tourist experience in the Colca canyon, involving turismo vivencial, visits to archeological sites (cave paintings, pre-Inca terraces), activities like flyfishing and horseback riding, herding alpaca, and the like. It’s now posted as an auction item to promote an Ecotourism website. If you want to bid on it, here’s the URL: http://www.cmarket.com/auction/item/Item.action?browse=&id=94253387 it looks like a great trip!
Meanwhile, we get to live in the big, fat middle of a traveler’s dream: attending the fiesta celebrating the end of the planting of the corn in Cabanaconde, for example. The field is being plowed by a team of oxen (yes, oxen), and a guy walks behind sowing the corn by hand. Behind him is a team of horses dragging a plank on which someone stands, smoothing out the furrows and burying the seeds.
Survived, that is, to travel up to Callalli where some of our artisans live, to present our charla.
We both have mountain bikes now, and though there’s nothing wrong with the running gear, we still seem to be left breathless from exertion whenever we venture out on them. What’s with that? Russ accomplished a nice circuit of about 20 km. last weekend, visiting two nearby towns and making an inventory of visual and historical resources (meaning: gawking at the scenery, Inca terraces & ruins). From a local high point, we often survey El Mismi on the horizon, the other side of which offers the most remote source of the mighty Amazon. We tell you, the Colca Canyon is the hub of South America!
So, write us and tell us about YOUR fascinating lives! Send photos—our internet connection is slow, but we’ve got little better to do some evenings than watch the files slowly download, and we’re always pleased to see the results: the faces and places that seem to grow more distant with every bite of alpaca . . .