Thursday, November 27, 2008

Voluntourism and "aliens" in Peru

Courtesy of, an Aussie travel insurance and travel services company, comes this great 25-minute documentary about a volunteer project to build a bridge and a water faucet in the village of Qelqanqa in the Peruvian Andes, southeast of Lima.

A page on the WorldNomads site provides more details on the project. The trip was organized by World Expeditions, which runs Community Project Travel trips in a number of countries. (It's running a trip to a different Peruvian village in 2009.)

While Qelqanqa is far from the regions of Peru I visited earlier this month, many things seemed familiar. There's footage of villagers preparing a pachamanca feast, and shots of mountaintops wreathed in mist. And a comment from one of the volunteers rang true: she thought the travellers must look "like aliens" to the Quechua people. 

That reminded me of a scene I witnessed just outside Lima, the day before I left. An itinerant farm family had set up camp for the season at the base of a mountain. Their rough tent was covered with a couple of tarps. Our guide told us that they had likely hiked here for days from higher ground, to find grazing land for their animals. 

Overhead, paragliders dotted the skies. Their nylon chutes were almost as incongruous with the campsite as were the goggles and space-age clothes of the mountain bikers who zoomed regularly along a dirt track just beyond the tent. 

Aliens, indeed.

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