About 6,000 years ago, in the Andes, a socialgroup began to adapt behavior codes, knowledge, skills and beliefs in a society that started to domesticate llamas and alpacas, as it adapted to an extreme geographical area at altitudes superior to 4,500 meters …over sea level and temperatures lower than -10ºC, thus creating a unique cultural space and a shepherding society which is currently integrating itself in the world´s economy.
In Incan times, the domestication of llamas and alpacas was of vital importance in the Empire´s development process, with the llama, to carry goods, and the alpaca, for the extraction of wool and meat. Thus, both activities were crucial factors for commerce and communication among nations, as well as for their integration in the Incan Empire.
In the 90’s, the shepherding communities of Chillca and Osefina, worried about the lack of work for their llamas, as a means of transportation of goods, were wondering what else could be done to improve their economy, that concern was heard by Roger Valencia; a high mountain guide who, at that time, frequented that area in his expeditions, to climb up Mount Ausangate. After several years of building friendship and mutual trust bounds with these two communities, finally, the Andean Lodges Project was born.
In 2003, that idea won a tourism and hotel industry contest, organized by Cataluña´s University and the Gaspar Espuña Foundation, with First Place in the International Project Category and this was the great challenge´s starting point on the Apu Ausangate.
Given the difficulty to access this area and extreme climatic conditions, the building process of four ecological lodges lasted five years, which we used to train the local staff in different areas, such as security, first aid, cooking, housekeeping and customer attention. Currently, Andean Lodges is a rural community tourism company that handles trekking experiences, with four high mountain lodges, thus creating an exclusive product, which allows travelers to get to know and have life-changing experiences. In the meantime, this project´s development strengthened our bonds with these communities, because of the mutual trust that unites us and of the constant work undertaken by both parties involved.
The project´s success is due to various factors and among them the incorporation of knowledge, proper to these communities in the treks operation, such as the use of llamas, to carry luggage, in presentations on the elaboration of hand-woven fabrics, offerings to Mother Earth and live experience tourism. In that way, we have generated over 100 seasonal jobs and 10 steady work positions. One hundred percent of the operation is performed by inhabitants of the communities of Chillca and Osefina, which hold 20% of shares in the company meanwhile the decisions are made during communal assemblies, given that their Directing Board belongs to the Board of Directors of Andean Lodges.
Today we share our story, motivating people to get to know our project so that it might serve as a model for other communities in the world, for being an example of constant adaptation of people who think on a global scale and act locally.
By Juan Carlos Flores
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Equipo de operación conformado por comuneros capacitados como guías, personal de cocina, housekeeping, guardianía y manteniemiento.