The Evolution of the Working Conditions of the
Inca Trail Porters Since The Creation of
Evolution Treks Peru
.’Before Evolution Treks Peru, 2017
- No worker participation in the ownership of tour operators’ shares.
- Porters used to carry excess weight, up to 35Kg / 80 lbs. The Peruvian law establishes that the maximum weight that the Inca trail porters are allowed to carry is 20 kg/45 lbs
- No gender inclusion, No women porters. Tour operators did not consider women fit to work on these mountains. The discourse of women empowerment and equal pay salary was absent from their understanding of sustainable travel.
- No camping gear for the inca trail porters, There was no tents, sleeping bags or sleeping pads for porters. They used to sleep in caves, bathrooms or inside the dining tents that lacked were not waterproof and lacked floors.
- No proper food for the inca trail porters. Porters used to eat leftovers, rice and beans or no food at all.
- Use of portable toilets. These portable toilets are not biodegradable and porters must clean them by hand.
After Evolution Treks Peru
- Evolution Treks Peru becomes the first tour operator of Peru in which the inca trail porters become shareholders of the company. This concept has not been replicated by any other tour operator in Peru.
- Evolution Treks Peru establishes that porters must abide to the maximum of 20kgs set by the Peruvian law.
- In 2017 Evolution Treks Peru introduces the first women porters of the Inca Trail, the concept of equal salary pay and the empowering of native Andean women through the creation of jobs with the goal of allowing them to become financially independent.
- In 2018, Evolution Treks Peru creates a program to help women victims of domestic violence through group psychological sessions.
- In 2019, some of our competitors began hiring women as porters. This was a real advance towards our goal of allowing more women to be hired in this male dominated industry.
- In 2020, there were almost 300 women registered to work as porters on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Almost 8 other companies were following Evolution Treks Peru leadership on gender inclusion.
- in 2017, Evolution Treks Peru becomes the first company that breaks with the discriminatory practices toward the inca trail porters by providing them with the same type of food, tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads that travelers enjoyed. Despite some claims, this practice was not replicated until the end of of the 2019 season.
- Evolution Treks Peru rejects the use of portable toilets in the Inca trail because we consider that they recreate old colonial practices. Besides, they are a risk to the health and well being of our porters.
- In April, 2020, right after the outbreak of Covid-19, Evolution Treks Peru becomes one of the first couple of tour companies providing porters an stimulus monetary relief. In the following months, many other tour companies follow Evolution’s initiative to support porters financially.
- In April 2020, Evolution Treks Peru works side to side with the porters federation in order to help them get financial support from the Peruvian government for all Inca Trail porters.
- In April 2021 Evolution Treks Peru becomes the first ever company to organize a women only tour group hiking to Machu Picchu. in which all porters, guides, cooks and tourists were women. Since then, every first of the month, Evolution Treks Peru offers a women only inca trail tours. The women only tour groups was supposed to initially hike the Inca trail but it ended doing it in the Huchuy Qosqo area due to the closure of the Inca Trail.
- In April 2022, Evolution Treks Peru becomes the first ever company to provide professional ergonomic backpacks to their porters, departing from the improvised ‘home made’ bags that porters carry and improving substantially their working conditions and the harmful effects that those bags took on their health.
The question is not why We were able to implement these basic common sense things, but why our competitors did not do it before us?
Some of them were operating tours for decades before Evolution Treks Peru.
The answer is simple; their idea of sustainable travel did not have room for porters to be considered fully human beings.
Inca Trail Porters. The end of a horrible tale is here, and Evolution Treks Peru is leading it.
The porters on the Inca trail are the most underrated people of the whole hiking industry of Machu Picchu. The truth is that without these women and men, tourists will not be able to successfully finish hiking the Inca Trail.
Their work is to haul up and down the rugged Andean mountains all the necessary camping gear that tourists need during the four or five days that takes to hike the Inca Trail.
Almost all tour operators on the Inca Trail devote a page on their websites to how good they treat their porters, but is this actually true?
Porters work almost 14 hours a day while on the trail, they are the first ones to get up in the mornings to prepare our meals for the day, and the last ones to go to sleep after they hare done finishing a day’s work.
They are the first ones to get to the campsites in order to pitch our tents so they can be ready before tourists arrive in them. Porters are supposed to carry up to 20Kgs/44 lbs of the weight of the equipment of the tour operator that they work plus a maximum of 3kg/7 lbs of their own belongings such as their sleeping bags, pads, and clothes. Yet, most of them are forced to carry more almost 35 kg/ 77 lbs despite the regulations imposed by the management of the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
Almost 99.99 % of porters are men, and only a tiny 0.001 % are women, all of those women porters work for Evolution Treks Peru.
Also, 99.9% of all porters lack proper camping tents to guard themselves against the rain during the critical months of the rainy season.
It is the end of the year 2018, and the rainy season is upon us; hiking on the Inca Trail under such weather conditions becomes more challenging for everyone but it is much more so for the porters of the Inca trail.
99.9% of all porters lack proper camping tents to guard themselves against the rain during these critical months of the rainy season. No matter who they work for, be that an international travel operator or the most renown local one, they do not have a decent place where to rest after a hard day of work.
Some of them sleep under the dining tents that tourists use to take their meals; these dining tents, in turn, lack a waterproof floor and they flood due to the licking roofs that they have which make it very difficult for porters to enjoy a good night of rest. Some others choose to sleep on the bathrooms’ floors of the park, spreading their rain plastic ponchos to insulate them from the wet floors while having to bear with the filthy conditions of these bathrooms.
Similarly, They lack a proper diet, in some cases either they rely on eating leftovers left by the tourists or they just eat a diet based on pasta, potatoes, and rice; no protein of any kind; no beans or quinoa, or a piece of meat like the food tourists get.
Some others claim to have a house for their porters, a place to crash and sleep before porters go to work in the mountains; it seems and sounds quite good but we wonder how come those conditions are not recreated again in the place that matters the most which is the mountains themselves.
Since our inception, we decided to tackle these injustices and two years later we have accomplished what others have not done in more than two decades of operating tours here. Once again; no matter where they are from, international tour operators and local ones have kept their porters working as slaves.
We are the only company on the Inca Trail and in every single trekking route in Cusco area; that provides porters with a decent place to sleep and proper food as well.
At Evolution Treks Peru, We supply our workers; bot women and men, with the same type of tents that we supply our clients. In the process, we break with a classist assumption in which some people are viewed as more valuable than others, a colonialist view that has affected for so long the native peoples of the Andes.
The effect of treating our porters with dignity and respect creates the most beautiful conditions for them to work and give themselves a100% to the satisfaction of our clients, knowing that they are being considered as human beings, and not objects or beasts of burden.
Similarly, The positive environment in which our porters work generates a synergetic mechanism that benefits our clients as well and turns their experience traveling with us into something richer, and more fulfilling, knowing that what they paid for is ethically distributed which makes them enjoy their adventure fully.
We think that the future of the travel industry in Peru and around the world is the path of sustainability, and we work hard to inspire thousands of like-minded travelers who search for ethical alternative companies like us when they travel.
Our role as leaders and innovators of these fair trade practices is what keeps us inspired and always learning.
Be one of us, be one of Evolution Treks Peru’s friends and help us change this industry into something, more fair, ethical, inclusive and non-colonialist.