Q & A with Mark Smith, Manager of Sales and Marketing, Amazonas Explorer – Cusco, Peru. For 30 years, offering exceptional Peru adventures to the discerning traveler. “The Spirit of a Great Adventure.”
HOW DID YOU CROSS PATHS WITH AMAZONAS EXPLORER?
I first came to Peru in order to lead treks for UK based companies. I connected and worked with several different inbound agencies but when I experienced the quality provided by Amazonas I was blown away. So I joined the company, and that was 12 years ago.
THEY BEGAN AS A WHITE-WATER RAFTING ADVENTURE COMPANY?
Actually it first began as a water- ski company, running water skiing trips to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon. From there it became a rafting company - exploring many of the Amazon tributaries – and eventually branching out to include trekking, biking and custom made itineraries. These days we even offer inflatable canoeing, stand up paddle-boarding and catamaran sailing.
Hard to say because it can vary from person to person. We design all our itineraries to take it slowly for a few days. This helps you to acclimatize gradually. So you will stay in Cusco for two or three nights before going anywhere else. If you want to enjoy your trek and get the most out of it, this is key to the process.
SHOULD ONE BRING ALONG A DAY PACK AND A REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE? DO YOU NEED TO USE A FILTER BEFORE DRINKING WATER THERE?
Good question. As members of Travelers Against Plastic we highly encourage people to bring filter bottles or handheld UV filters, as well as a refillable bottle. That way you can use the tap water in your hotel and in airports and filter it before you drink it. Once you are on treks with us, we will provide free refills of treated water. We do not approve of disposable water bottles anymore because there is simply too much plastic waste being created.
WHEN HIKING TO MACHU PICCHU, YOUR COMPANY OFFERS EASY TREKS AND MORE DIFFICULT TREKS. HOW DO YOU PICK THE RIGHT ONE?
That’s true - we offer everything from the 104 km Inca trail, which is just one day of hiking, to the seven-day Choquequirao-to-Machu Picchu trek. I suggest contacting us first by email with your query so that we can discuss the various options individually.
We guarantee fixed departures with a minimum of two people. Groups can be larger but no more than 16 people. Private trips we run from one person to as many as you like.
HOW MANY GUIDES AND PORTERS ACCOMPANY THESE GROUPS?
Our guide ratio is one-to-eight on treks. All overnight treks will also include a cook and various porters and assistant cooks, depending on group size.
WHY DOES AMAZONAS STATE THAT ITS TOURS ARE “DIFFERENT?”
We have spent years out exploring ways to do things better. We move timings around, we go to places in the morning that everyone else visits in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and vice versa. We do the Inca Trail in five days when 90% of people do it in four days. We get on a bike or canoe to approach an area from a different angle. And we also go places that most other companies are just not capable of going. Some of our destinations take much experience and expertise to operate in a safe manner.
Actually there are thousands. Some require a long hike to reach, such as Huchuy Qosqo or Choquequirao. Others we can pass by on our bikes within 15 minutes above Cusco. Then there are some so remote and untouched that you have to raft for days along the Cotahuasi river to get there. So while there are literally Inca sites found everywhere, most companies will only show you the same ten.
YOU DO HAVE “FAMILY-FRIENDLY” ITINERARIES. DO YOU GET MANY REQUESTS, AND HOW ARE THESE TOURS DIFFERENT?
Yes we do get a lot of requests from families. It is one of the things we are best known for. We all have kids ourselves, so these itineraries simply developed from our own family outings. From the perspective of children, ruins can be pretty boring. But - if you cycle to them or ride a horse - it is more appealing. We will mix historical site viewing with fun activities such as chocolate making or petting some cute animals. Our guides are very good at combining both educational and fun aspects of these tours so that both kids and parents are happy and satisfied. Customers will often tell us this was the best family holiday they have ever had.
Dressing in layers is important. Wear a cotton or blend base layer shirt, a light sweater, and a light fleece or rain jacket over that. Wear shoes that are appropriate for the activity you have signed up for, whether its mountain biking, water sports, or hiking. Bring a refillable filter water bottle, camera, insect repellent, and sun block. Bring a day pack or smaller overnight type suitcase because there are very strict limits to size and weight of luggage on treks, so you won't be able to use your main suitcase on those. You can leave extra gear in your Cusco hotel room. For example, on the Lares trek, you cannot bring more than 24.5 lbs (12 kg) into the support vehicle. In Ollantaytambo, your baggage will be reduced further to a 11 lbs (5 kg) overnight bag for the Machu Picchu Hotel.
Number one, we treat our employees with respect. We have a 'porter protection policy' that ensures that all porters are paid fairly, eat well, get rest, and are well-treated. We give clear instructions to guests so they know to bring extra cash [changed into pesos] for tips and also to purchase textiles weaved by native women in the villages. This is an important source of income for them and their children. We also support a local native-tree reforestation program run by International Ecoan Peru. We have planted over 415,000 trees in Peru since 2007. We're a member of the 1% For the Planet charity organization. And finally we try to reduce our own "footprint" by sourcing local produce, recycling and reducing waste however we can.
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