Starting Our 35th Year!!!
As the 1970's drew to a close, several expatriate friends living in Cuzco began to discuss pooling our skills to transform our collective Andean experience into productive work. A few pioneers were starting to explore commercial adventure travel on the Nepal model, and Peru appeared ideal for its own version. With little more than a few tents, some field cooking experience, and our friendship with Quechua villagers along the routes we trekked, Peruvian Andean Treks took its first baby steps as a partnership between Peter Robertson, a Canadian, and Tom Hendrickson, from Wisconsin. Learning by trial and error the difference between what worked and what didn't work very well at all, we gradually grew a company based in Cuzco, Peru.
The 1980's were a fertile time for adventure travel in Peru. People actually took three-week vacations back then. If a lot of the time we didn't know precisely what we were doing, we worked in a very experimental and forgiving learning environment. Our pool of guides, and cooks, porters and wranglers grew, as did our network of satisfied customers. Between seasons there was plenty of time for more exploration and field testing.
We added Galapagos cruising to our repertoire, and learned the nuances of mixing Peru with Ecuador itineraries. Bolivia was an integral part of most of our land programs. As guides, we particularly enjoyed introducing our travelers to the dramatic cultural shift as we moved from Quechua southern Peru into the Aymara-dominated Titicaca basin and the Altiplano.
Just when we were starting to believe there was a future in the business, Sendero Luminoso's terrorist cadres started to make inroads all over Peru, and headlines outside Peru. On top of the news of bloody confrontations in distant valleys, a cholera epidemic gripped the country. It was just the motivation we needed to branch out and explore Chile, and Venezuela, and head deeper into the Ecuadorian Oriente. The 1990s are a blur -- Fujimori was elected in Peru, and following the capture of key leadership, Sendero Luminoso withered. Political stability and economic recovery led to a renewal of tourism in Peru. We continued plugging away, one group at a time, focussing on the details, building our networks. By this time Andean Treks, Inc. had established its U.S. office to manage the group planning. Peruvian Andean Treks and our associate specialist partners throughout the Andes concentrated on operational quality. People got married, and grew families. We trained a new generation of guides. Roads were pushed up many high Andean valleys, making formerly remote mountain routes accessible to a much broader audience.
Meanwhile, the world was changing. Many formerly popular international adventure travel destinations became high-risk travel zones. In Nepal, Maoist insurgents were charging foreigners tolls on many popular trek routes. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu became a beacon attracting more and more trekkers. Most people returned home with tales of wonder and beauty. We collected case studies of how many different ways the newly introduced park permitting system could create havoc. More and more five-star hotels were built. More Inca cities were excavated out from under heavily forested mountainsides. The first 400-passenger cruise ship visited the Galapagos Islands. Argentina's economy collapsed, and then revived. Tiny stretches of Route 40 actually were paved.
The unrelenting pace of contemporary change provides new opportunities for the Andean people, at the same time that it threatens to transform the quirky yet functional social fabric of the land into modular tourism commodities. Since we've lived through this change for so long, we know that the distance between the increasingly congested beaten path and the coherent, traditional country is seldom more than a few steps away, around the corner, just up the next valley.
From the beginning we have understood that our ties of reciprocity with the Andean people are the root and foundation of our success. We continue to design and operate our tours with the goal of opening doors for our passengers to experience a new world, to discover the authentic Andes.