American researcher, David Knight has just commenced his six month Community Based Tourism research project in Peru, with support from Intrepid.
In his first blog post, David spoke of the nickname he has gained – cala cunka (or hairy neck), a local term of endearment (or not?) in reference to his balding head David shares his latest observations…
“My roommate, Elvis, works at the Intrepid Travel office here in Cuzco and his kindness and generosity are part and parcel of both the Intrepid spirit and the local milieu. Fernando is the Operations Manager and is my primary point of contact, helping me with everything from initial meetings and housing in the communities to hiring a Quechua translator/research assistant from the university in Cuzco.
Last Friday evening, Fernando invited me to join the Intrepid staff for some Peruvian beats and eats as an excuse 1) to celebrate a week of work well-done with some excellent food, and 2) to give both Fernando and Elvis a chance to tear it up on the office-space-turned-dance-floor. Even though May-August is the high season for tourism and many folks are working overtime, Intrepid staff in both Lima and Cuzco have gone out of their way to help me understand the financial and operational underpinnings of the way things run. Even the group leaders, who come into the Cuzco office every now and again, have been happy to talk about their experiences in the field.
In addition to the Intrepid staff, the people I have met in Lima, Cuzco, and the Sacred Valley have been extremely inviting, warm and helpful. Sitting down among the locals for a bowl of chicken soup at the San Pedro marketplace in Cuzco, for example, has been particularly enjoyable. The food is outstanding at just five soles (under US$2) a pop and I enjoy the Spanish banter I have with the women at each serving station.
My first time eating there, I laced my soup with a healthy portion of a spicy Incan sauce known as aji. The portion may have been a bit too substantial though, because the women began placing bets on how far from the table the gringo would make it before getting hit with a serious case of Atahualpa’s revenge. Several days later, I returned to the same spot and found some satisfaction in telling the women that there had been no revenge to report, and that I would like another bowl of sopa with extra aji on the side, if you please.
I’ve just had my first excursion into the Sacred Valley, over two days, which concluded with an early-morning hike among the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo. The purpose of the trip was to meet members of the tourism association in the community of Chichubamba, where I will begin the first phase of my research in mid July.
Chichubamba is about an hour van ride from Cuzco on the way to Machu Picchu, and is one of the communities Intrepid travelers may get to visit as they pass through the Sacred Valley. After drawing some hearty laughs with my customary cala cunka (hairy neck) reference over a short glass of freshly brewed chicha (corn beer), I expressed to several members of the tourism association how honored I was that they would let me stay with them for a month. It was somewhat surprising to hear them say how proud they were that I was interested in learning about tourism in their community.
In the coming weeks, I am looking forward to exploring what these individuals think of tourism and how tourism may or may not be meeting their needs and interests. What a privilege it is – what an amazing opportunity! – to spend time in such a beautiful place, with such kind people. Be on the lookout for my next entry. Until then – cala cunkas, unite!”
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