Episode 1 - Guide to the valleys
SACRED VALLEY & MACCU PICCU, PERU
In this episode we join Richard as he travels to Peru, a country of ancient traditions and cultures now at risk of being trampled into ruins by the hordes of tourists that visit each year. Richard heads to The Sacred Valley of the Incas, to Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba. The Inkaterra organization are pioneers of the eco-tourism movement in Peru since the 70s, and they have led the way in the global development of ecologically sensitive tourist projects.
About The Inkaterra Organization
Inkaterra are not only pioneers of ecotourism in Peru, but are also renowned as a world leader in sustainable development. With a holistic approach, it generates added value in rural areas by encouraging scientific research, whilst contributing to biodiversity conservation, education, and the economic growth of local communities. It is Peru’s first tourism enterprise to be declared Carbon Neutral. Through the NGO Inkaterra Asociación (ITA), Inkaterra performs ecological research within its properties in Tambopata, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Urubamba, and Cabo Blanco. The results, highlighted by the description of 24 flora and fauna species new to science, have been published in the books Cusco Amazónico. In 2012, Inkaterra became the world’s first hotel enterprise to be recognized with the International Certificate in Sustainable Tourism by the CU Green Choice Sustainable Tourism Standard.
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba
Richard shows us around the hotel which is set into a hillside in Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas . The hotel is rooted in national history and framed by regal mountain views. Inspired by the region’s history, both colonial and pre-Columbian, the hotel draws on the grand haciendas of old with its terra-cotta floors, beamed ceilings, hand-carved antiques and patterned wall hangings. Lit by wrought-iron chandeliers and the flames of a wood-burning fire, the restaurant builds on the local connection, giving guests a chance to taste the fruits of the fertile valley. In fact, many of the ingredients come straight from the hotel’s organic farm, where they grow everything in the most eco-friendly way possible, keeping up the Incan tradition of maintaining a heartfelt respect for the land.
Sustaining Traditions - Earth to Table
An Earth to Table concept is operated with a 10-acre organic plantation where guests are welcome to pick their own produce. Carbon-free crops such as quinoa, Urubamba giant corn, medicinal herbs and as Richard discovers, a variety of potatoes are farmed with traditional hand tools and oxen, as done centuries ago.
Chicha de Jora
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is home to many ancient traditions and Inkaterra strives to promote these as a way of sustaining both traditional methods and reducing their carbon footprint. One such tradition is the ancestral production of the Chicha de Jora beverage and Richard is shown the how the Chicha is prepared by harvesting, grinding and fermenting.
Salina de Maras Salt Pan
Next Richard travels to the Salina de Maras Salt Pans, where 4.5 million kilograms of salt is sustainably produced each year. The salt is harvested communally using ingenious ancient methods that have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.
Some time before the rise of the Incan empire, people in the Sacred Valley discovered a very salty natural spring bubbling up from beneath the earth. They crafted nearly 3000 terraced ponds and a web of tiny channels which gradually guide. Generations of salt harvesters have used this sustainable ancient system of water channels to fill the pans with salty water and then close them off, leaving the water to warm and dry in the sun. The pooled water completely evaporates in a few days, leaving crystals of dry salt clinging to the sides and bottom of the pond where it can be scraped off easily.
Harvesting salt from the pans is safe for the families maintaining them and totally sustainable for the local ecosystem. Since the pans can be filled and left to dry on their own for several days, they create access to a source of mostly passive income for many families. Any member of the community can own a salt pan and sell the harvest - all they need to do is locate an empty, unmaintained pond, check in with the community salt collective, and receive education in proper usage and maintenance.
Skylodge Adventure Suites
From the Salt terraces Richard travels to the Skylodge Adventure Suites a unique eco- friendly hotel experience that has been created by Natura Vive. The Skylodge Adventure Suites are luxury capsules that hang from the top of a mountain in the Sacred Valley, approximately 15 kilometres north of Cuzco. To sleep at Skylodge, Richard has to climb 400 metres of protected trail using ziplines.
Composed of three pods with a total capacity for eight people, the capsules hang from a 1200-foot mountain keeping their footprint to a minimum, and offer guests a 300-degree view of the Sacred Valley. Handcrafted from aerospace aluminium and weather resistant polycarbonate, each suite comes complete with beds, a dining area and a private bathroom equipped with dry ecological toilets.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
After a night hanging off the edge of a mountain Richard travels by train into the green folds of the Peruvian Andes and arrives at a charming Andean village hidden in the mists of the cloud forest. He has arrived at his next eco-lodge, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Miles of trails loop through the jungle from the hotel’s doorstep, and natural hot springs and ancient Inca petroglyphs are within a short walk. To top it all off, the greatest archaeological site in South America is perched among the peaks just above. The lodge works with the Inkaterra Association, a National Geographic-sponsored foundation, to support scientific research and conservation efforts—from discovering new species to protecting vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest. And it brings its eco-initiatives to guests through enriching, naturalist-led experiences on the property and beyond.
Sustainable Farming Initiatives
The hotel has a considerable number of sustainable farming initiatives in place. Growing fruits and vegetables indigenous to the Andes at their Native Farm, the produce is used both at the hotel restaurant as well as for research purposes.
The harvest at Inkaterra isn’t only dedicated to fruits and vegetables, it extends to honey, tea, coffee and medicine. Sustainable hive harvesting is practiced in the grounds of Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, giving guests the chance to learn about beekeeping methods and try the honey being produced.
The Andean Bear Conservation Center
Richard is shown another pioneering Inkaterra conservation programme that was designed to recover bears that have been negatively impacted by human activity, and whenever possible, reintroduce them to their natural habitat in the Andean mountains. The Andean Bear Conservation Center at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel was established in 2001 to study and rehabilitate Andean bear specimens found in inadequate captivity conditions, with the purpose of performing scientific studies on the species behavior in the cloud forest.
The project currently hosts four specimens, it was five but a female bear was successfully reinserted into its habitat. The project’s facilities include a captivity area with trees, ramps and a fresh-water pool, as well as a large semi-freedom area, where two bears –male and female– were transferred for reproduction and reinsertion-into-wildlife programs. Skin care and medical controls are constantly monitored in coordination with the Protected Natural Areas National Services (SERNANP).
Not far from the hotel is the ancient archeological site of Machu Picchu, a place high on Richard’s Bucket List, but a visit that comes with eco - issues. The millions of visitors to the site each year threaten its very existence. Richard learns that conservation and preservation efforts at this site are critical to the future of Machu Picchu and Peru’s tourism industry.
Consistently recognised as a leading ecotourism destination, Machu Picchu is a destination focused on sustainability and cultural and environmental preservation. The site continues to be closely monitored for degradation and the effects of human influence, and access to the site is through highly controlled means. There are strict regulations on behaviour on the Inca Trail as well as in Machu Picchu, commanding respect and awareness of the fragility of the site due to human visitation.