Stay with locals in Colca Canyon
Llamas run through the fields, a herd of alpacas crosses the road. The snowy mountain peaks of the Andes loom in the distance, interspersed with a single volcano that blows smoke furiously. This is the spectacular route from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon, visible from the Patapampa Pass at a height of almost 5000 meters. A family is waiting for us in the village of Coporaque in Colca; a village almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 2016. Thanks in part to Better Places’ travellers, these families have been able to reopen their doors. They’re ready to share their local customs with travellers in this beautiful part of Peru.
Homestay Peru – Colca Canyon
It’s a Sunday in August when Fredy and Amanda, one of the four families offering home-stays in Coporaque, go to bed after a productive day. Around 10 pm that evening their lives are suddenly changed forever, as a 5.2 strength earthquake destroys their village, home and livelihood. Our local travel experts in Peru immediately get in touch with all Better Places travellers that stayed in Coporaque earlier that year. It’s immediately clear the Coporaque community made a huge impact on a number of travellers, and donations start flowing in that allow the families to start restoring their homes and hosting travellers again as soon as possible.
A year after that devastating Sunday evening, I paid a visit to the four families in Coporaque. I admired the brand new rooms that they proudly showed me and listened to their stories. Although the rooms hardly show a trace of destruction that took place, the earthquake has had an permanent impact on the lives of these families. The community was hit heavily by the earthquake, and at one point it looked like they would suddenly lose all income from tourism. The houses had to be rebuilt quickly, but luckily everyone joined hands and the donated money proved more than sufficient for the rebuild. The families were able to make the rooms even more beautiful, modern, and earthquake resistant than before.
The result is impressive: the rooms are fully equipped, most with private bathrooms and even hot water. It is the piles of stones and the presence of many workers in the village that show that last year was a tough one for all the residents of Coporaque. They are even happier now to meet travellers and let you be a part of their daily lives. And during your stay, you truly are a part of their lives: the families put delicious meals on the table three times a day, take you to the most beautiful places in the area and tell you about their life in the Colca Valley.
An impression of the area
After an impressive horseback ride through the mountains, I head for a lunch at the family of Chocolate and Rocío. While Rocio lays the finishing touch to the alpaca meat in the kitchen, and the oldest children set the table, I listen to their stories about how their homestay was the first to open in Coporaque. Rocío was born here, but left as a teenager to Lima to work and study. “It was always my dream to return to my hometown, this is where I wanted to set up a family. In Lima, I saw houses with luxury that I had never known in Coporaque. I began to dream of my own home in the countryside, but with comforts of the city such as electricity, a shower, hot water and a nice kitchen counter to cook on.” And so she exchanged the capital for rural life in Coporaque and bought a plot of land to build her dream house. After the house was built, Rocío came in contact with someone who told her about community-based tourism, and she was immediately interested. She slowly expanded her house with rooms for tourists and in the following years she learned about responsible tourism, foreign languages and other cultures. With the earthquake her dream house literally collapsed, but now she is once again cooking at her favorite kitchen counter for a table of travellers from all over the world.
At home in Coporaque
For Rocío and the other families in Coporaque, their homestays not only mean a better livelihood; they have become part of their everyday life. They enjoy sharing their culture and learning about others. At the same time, they offer tourists a unique and authentic travel experience. On one of my afternoons in the village, I walk along with Fredy towards the hot springs in the valley. A walk across the fields, with breathtaking views of the mountains and the smoking volcano. Along the way we cross herds of horses and alpacas and greet sheep and children. Here, in the middle of everyday life in the Colca Valley, tour buses, hotel chains and western restaurants seem a scene from a different world.
Before leaving Coporaque, I pay one last visit to the families. They are still working hard on rebuilding their houses. The difference with a few months ago is that the end is now in sight. At Fredy and Amanda’s place, the last stones are laid for the fence around the house. At another house, arms full of plants are brought into the garden with great care. Rocío proudly points to a pile of stones that will soon be a brand new extension of the house: “It was a hard and sad year for all of us. Now it’s time for new triumphs and a beautiful life in our new home.”