The road to Chichubamba
Some adrenaline junkies will go far and wide to find the next big thing. For David Knight, Intrepid’s Community Based Tourism researcher in Peru, an adrenaline rush came quite unexpectedly the other day during a mini-van ride from Cuzco to Urubamba in Peru’s Sacred Valley…
“Keep hands and feet inside the car at all times, ’cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness. The final words of warning from the old cowboy on Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain kept running through my head as our driver took one harrowing turn after another. A woman walking beside the highway with her baby strapped to her back appeared entirely at ease as we sped by, the baby barely turning its head beneath a brilliantly-colored cloth.
As we left behind herds of sheep grazing among expansive highland pastures and made our final 1,000 feet (305 meter) descent into the Sacred Valley, I chuckled to myself. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, and I don’t tend to flock towards uncertainty and discomfort with any degree of regularity. Yet, here I was, as gringo as gringo can be, moving speedily toward the agricultural valley-town of Chichubamba, preparing to explore tourism impacts among local people over the next month.
In some ways I felt like a sheep being herded along ancient Incan trails, or like one of those babies wrapped in a cloth and strapped to the back of destiny. Could any amount of planning and foresight prepare me for what lay ahead? At least one thing was certain: this would be an adrenaline rush money couldn’t buy.
Chichubamba is located just outside the larger Sacred Valley town of Urubamba and yet it remains curiously remote and unknown. At the bus terminal in Urubamba – not more than a 15-minute mototaxi ride from where I’d be living – I spoke with at least 4 drivers who weren’t exactly sure where the town of Chichubamba was. “Is it in the canyon between the hills? Is it up the valley along the river? Oh, that is very far away!” Thankfully, I finally found a driver who had heard of the Agrotourism Association of Chichubamba and who was happy to haul me up the dirt roads outside of town for a fair local price of 3 nuevo soles (about US$1.10).
It hasn’t taken me long to grow delightfully acquainted with this town and its people. How fortuitous that I should be staying with the President of the Agrotourism Association and her family! Over the last eight years, with the help of Intrepid and several NGOs, the remaining thirteen member households of the Association have developed their services and skills to host visitors more effectively for short or extended stays. Each member (or socio) of the Association has his or her own business that is used to make money outside of tourism but that is also presented to and shared with visitors as they come through.
The seven specializations of the socios include the raising of cuy (guinea pig), the brewing of chicha (corn beer), ceramics, apiculture, floriculture, textiles, chocolates and coffee. I have had conversations with four socios already, and will be facilitating a meeting tomorrow morning with all members to introduce myself more formally and to map out tourism processes in the community. Six a.m. on a Sunday morning isn’t the time I would have chosen to meet, but research of this nature requires flexibility when there are bull fights and barbeques (barbecuys?) to attend.”
To read more of David Knight’s installments click on the responsible travel theme and stay tuned for upcoming news of his community based tourism research and observations of life in Peru.
Follow in David’s footprints and explore this remarkable region on Intrepid tours of Peru.
Photo © David Knight. David helping several boys harvest wheat grass to feed the cuy (guinea pig), a local delicacy. Sickle in hand, it took David an hour to clear what the boy on the far left harvested in 5 minutes!