Sunday, August 28, 2011

The best way to visit Arequipa

By the Colca Specialist

Arequipa,”the white city” is the second city in Perú.
In the past it was famous because of its countryside but since agriculture is not anymore a good business, huge extensions of land were sold for housing projects and Arequipa´s countryside is becoming each time smaller.

Travel agencies offer different tours to visit Arequipa. The most popular ones are the mixed tours (city and countryside tours) which are offered by some bus companies whose double-deckers visit part of Arequipa´s countryside. Most of these tours are around the downtown area of Arequipa whose pollution is each time more notorious.

Since these tours are mass oriented, they are not recommended for the tourists who are looking for quality services.

If you are looking for visiting the real arequipenian countryside, the best way is to take a private tour to Sogay which is well.known as little Colca because of its ancient terraces. Other option is to visit Yura district which is 30 kms away from Arequipa.

There you can find a nice valley in the area called “Yura Viejo” (old yura) and other attractions such as Capua Waterfall, Quiscos ,among others.It is possible to hike in the desertic area of Yura which is very interesting and at the end of your hike you can swim in the hot springs of Yura.Great!

If you are a little more adventurous you can take a river rafting tour with Cusipata or you can take a downhill mountain biking tour and go downhill one of main volcanoes of Arequipa.
All these options are full day private tours. You may pay a little bit more but you will get more too.

Think it carefully before buying a tour. Be different. Tours with big groups are nothing special.
Don´t forget my friends that your holidays are special and as the old saying says: Quality is better than Quantity! Good luck in Arequipa.

The Colca Specialist.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Responsible traveling

How to be a smart tourist

by the Colca Specialist

Continuously many tourists are getting lost in Colca Canyon. Stories like that of the Peruvian couple who got lost in Bomboya are common.

Eventhough the visitors are adviced to travel in a safe way,there are many who seem not to be interested in preserving their physical integrity exposing themselves to real dangers.
It is sad to find lost couples on the way asking everybody in a poor spanish which is the right way to a village they don´t know much about. It is ridiculous!

The worst thing is that all of them carry “touristic maps” provided by travel agencies from Arequipa whose drawings seem to were done by a 5 year-old kid. Be sure that with those maps it can be your last trip!

One night I was in Sangalle,now known as Oasis inside Colca Canyon and while we were enjoying our dinner outdoors we could see a light on one of the walls of the canyon. It was the flashlight of a tourist who was descending the Colca Canyon ,who unfortunately took a wrong way and got lost.

Help! Help! –Everybody saw the light signals and heard his voice, but nobody helped.

One of the locals there said: “It happens all the time! We are fed up of this kind of situation!”
“They are told all the time about safe traveling and they don´t understand. When they are in danger they want the people to help them and when they are helped they don´t even thank you.

We all have families and we are not going to risk our lives for an irresponsible tourist!”
The reaction of the locals made me taught that sometimes we take decisions and that we are t responsible for our decisions.

Everybody continue with their activities. A phone call was done to the police. Later we were told that the lost tourist had taken a wrong path and fell in a big hole.
The result was a broken arm and a broken head and the feeling of having been abandoned in one of the deepest canyons of the world.

Sometimes the tourists believe that if they get lost they will be rescued. It is better to remember that you are in Southamerica, a place where everything is different. Nobody will look for you except if you have family ties with an authority or a congressman. Like the situation of the Peruvian couple which got lost in Bomboya. Even the army were brought to the place to look for them!

With one of the highest unemployment rates around the world, the people has almost the necessary to survive. There is no budget for rescue teams or helicopters for tourists.If something happens to you inside the canyon, you will be the only affected. Nobody else.

If you are planning to trek from Colca Canyon to Cusco area better buy a life insurance.
The mountains are frequented by bandits which are called “abigeos” whose hobby is to steal animals,cows,bulls, horses and if you are found on the way by these guys be sure that you will end with a bullet on the head.

They don´t believe in human rights neither in any kind of religious speech. They are abigeos. Human lifes means nothing for them.The mountains located in the highlands of Cusco ,Arequipa ,Apurimac and Ayacucho are their favorite places.


1.-Buy an organized tour with a professional trekking or mountainclimbing guide.
2.-If you plan to do it by yourself,get at least a local guide from the area.
3.-Find out about the area you are planning to visit. Find out about the local customs too.
4.-Go to the mountain police headquarters (USAM) in Chivay and try to have info about the place you are willing to visit.In Arequipa, you can pay a visit to the touristic police headquarters and find out more about the destinies you are willing to visit in the highlands.
5.-Don´t go alone to the mountains, if you get in trouble nobody will look for you.
6.-Buy a geographical chart of the area. The maps are available in the different bookstores in San Francisco street in Arequipa. Don´t use touristic maps.
7.-Learn some useful basic phrases in spanish and if possible in quechua language. Don´t forget that the people still speak quechua in the Peruvian highlands.
8.-Communicate regularly with your relatives and tell them where you are going.
9.-Take the measures you consider necessary in order to have a successful trip.
10.-Be realistic. If you are not in good condition. Better don´t go. Trekking requires a good physical and mental condition.The altitude sickness doesn´t discriminate.

I hope this article was useful for you. We wouldn´t like to hear that the next lost tourist in Colca Canyon it´s YOU!

The Colca Specialist.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Condor Revenge

Local tour guides from Colca Canyon protest against abusive tour guides commissions

by the Colca Specialist

The tour guides association ASGUIP TUCAY is protesting against the abusive commissions of the tour guides from Arequipa. The commissions are each time higher and this situation is affecting not only the local businesses but also the local vendors who sell handicrafts among other products.

The secretary of ASGUIP TUCAY ,Guillermo Rendón Cuadros which is until the moment the most awarded tour guide in all Arequipa asked the people of Colca Canyon to denounce the abuses committed by the tour guides from Arequipa and to rebel against the indifferent corrupted authorities and representatives of tourism of Arequipa.

“We cannot be indifferent with the problems of our people” –says Guillermo Rendón Cuadros.

The rebellion of the local tour guides against the abuses started five years ago and Rendón became the voice of the locals.Member of different nationalist and indigenous movements, Rendón continues denouncing the abuses. Slandered and attacked, the leader of ASGUIP TUCAY rejects to surrender.

If the restaurants don´t pay the commissions the tour guides simply won´t go to that place to eat. They will invent several stories to persuade their clients in order to convince them to eat in the places where they obtain commissions.

The same thing happens with the handicrafts stores in Chivay. If you go to a store with the guide ,the owner of the store will have to increase the prices because of the commissions given to the tour guides.The most affected are the tourists who are the ones who pay these commissions.

In the trekking circuits in Cabanaconde and Tapay district the same problem is happening. Trekking guides persuade their clients to rent mules. If the clients refuse to rent mules, they will persuade the group to rent at least a mule for carrying all the backpacks. Why?

The travel agencies that are provoking this terrible situation are the cheap travel agencies whose prices are very low. Their trekking guides don´t speak English fluently and they are not professional. Because they are not professional, these poorly paid trekking guides have to do their best in order to obtain commissions from restaurants, handicrafts stores, etc.

These trekking tour guides are also cooks. They cook the food for their clients which is taken from Arequipa. So, what kind of tourism is this that leaves NO BENEFITS for the locals?

The tour operators are from Arequipa, the tour guides come from Arequipa. The guides bring the food from Arequipa. The guides cook the food and they wait their groups. So what kind of tourism is this that leaves NO BENEFITS for the locals?

The only travel agency that works with local tour guides and leaves benefits to the locals is NATURALEZA ACTIVA. This company hires local guides, buy the food from the locals and they cook for the clients. That is sustainable tourism.

NATURALEZA ACTIVA is the only travel agency that works with the local tour guides association from Colca Canyon called ASGUIP TUCAY. The tours offered are cultural and adventure based. If you are looking for a tour based on culture you should travel with Naturaleza Activa and ask for traveling with a specialist in inca cosmovision and southamerican aboriginal cults. You will realize of the difference.

There are travel agencies and tour guides that are recommended by Trip Advisor ,Lonely Planet, Facebook and others but ¿Is there a travel agency awarded and recommended by the majors or local authorities of the area visited? To be recommended by Trip Advisor doesn´t mean that that travel agency practices a responsible tourism.

Travel with travel agencies that include you everything if possible. If they include everything your smart tour guide won´t have an opportunity to get commissions.
If you are having a buffet in restaurants like Urinsaya, Qhapaq Ñan, Los Portales, or in any other which offers buffet just pay 15 soles. The waiter will tell you that the price is 20. Tell him that you will pay without the 5 soles commission for the tour guide.That is all.

The restaurants above mentioned are the best. The trekking tour guides take their clients to restaurants located out of Chivay. Be careful. If you don´t want to eat there tell the guide to be left in the square of Chivay. They take you to restaurants far from the square in order to avoid the clients to find a place to eat. With nothing in the surroundings, the client is forced to get inside the restaurant to eat which is not fair.

If you are take the classical two day trip to the Colca Canyon with Colonial tours or other travel agency pay just 15 soles for the buffet. If the guide insists in that the price is 20 just leave the place. Don´t be used. Talk to the owner of the travel agency. If you want to avoid this problem ask the travel agency to include your meals in the program. The travel agency will charge you the real price without commission.

If your tour guide is good. Give him a tip and tell him why you are tipping him. That will motivate him or her to be better.
And don´t forget that we receive for what we have paid for…

Friday, August 12, 2011

Campaign against tour guides commissions starts in September

by the Colca Specialist

The secretary of the tour guides association ASGUIP TUCAY from Caylloma province,area where the Colca Canyon is located, announced today in the local radio stations from Arequipa that a campaign against the abusive commissions of tour guides from Arequipa will start the first day of September,after the festival of Arequipa.

Guillermo Rendón Cuadros announced at the same time that this campaign has a noble goal which is to reduce the commissions of tour guides from Arequipa, the same that are causing much damage to the imagen of tourism in Arequipa.

Corruption is one of the main problems of Peru and tourism is victim of this social problem too.

Susteinable tourism should be the main goal of tour operators from Arequipa but as it seems they don´t care about this situation.

The representative of ASGUIP TUCAY ,Guillermo Rendón Cuadros said that the members of this local tour guides association will not rest until the authorities of Arequipa put order to this situation that is affecting not only local businessmen but also tourists who are the ones that are paying extra not only in restaurants,but also in other services provided in Colca Canyon.

Tour guides commissions force the owners of restaurants and handicrafts stores to increase the prices of all services provided,affecting not only the local economy but the tourists budget too.

The tour guides are paid by travel agencies from Arequipa and by the restaurants through abusive commissions.

Tour guides associations from Arequipa were declared not welcome by ASGUIP TUCAY association because eventhough that they compromised themselves to put an end to this problem,their members continue with this bad attitude which is rejected by all the people of Colca Valley-Colca Canyon.

The Colca Specialist will join this campaign organized by ASGUIP TUCAY association and we congratulate this local guides association for having taken this decision that will benefit the local economy of the people of Colca canyon.