Commercialising Rural Peru
Trip Start Mar 28, 2010
140Trip End May 31, 2011
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Where I stayed
La casa de Felix Turpo
When the rickety minibus finally dropped us next to Llachon’s main village square a full forty minutes later than we’d anticipated (turns out this was another misinformation provided courtesy of Lonely Planet – the person in charge of researching the latest edition must have been drunk for most of it) we quickly discovered the extended travel time wasn’t the only issue we were to have getting to our destination
One would hope once we’d arrived all would be well and our glimpse into traditional rural Peruvian life would begin. Unfortunately, as we approached the ‘house’, Felix informed us that four of our ‘amigos’ had already arrived and we were just waiting for the remaining six. Um, excuse me? Ten other people are sharing the home with us? Turns out, everything we’d read and researched had been misleading and in fact there are few homes on the Peninsula that actually remain non-commercialized. Our quaint home stay turned out to be a fully functioning rural hostel accommodating up to 16 people, including tour groups as we discovered the following day. It was an unfortunate turn of events that has left us wondering if any part of South America remains to be discovered and unaffected by a) the mass of western tourism, and b) the desperation of so many people wanting to earn a buck
We don’t want you to think the entire experience at Felix’s was bad – there certainly were some great moments. Like staring in awe for what seemed like hours at the incredible blue expanse of Lake Titicaca (reminded us very much of our time on Don Det in Loas when we spent many hours ‘River Watching’ over the Mekong). Soaking up the daytime silence sitting in the sunshine with a couple of great books also occupied our time. As did eating healthy, homemade, authentic Peruvian meals (albeit, not in the presence of the family). And exploring the beautiful rural countryside surrounding the village. And playing with the homestead’s infectiously happy children – there’s something magical about the innocence of children, in every culture. But sadly underlying all those great and wonderful moments was the fact we weren’t spending a quiet weekend away from the masses in the direct company of a family. Our second night in fact, the night of the tour group, was far from quiet as not only were we relegated to the ‘other table’ to accommodate the boisterous group of 20 from Uruguay (not everyone stayed at Felix’s) but these guests attracted the ultimate in tourist entertainment – a group of villagers equipped with enough ‘traditional Peruvian wear’ for all guests to dress up in and then dance around a fire to traditional music played by the same villagers
Unfortunately, the people hosting the home stays in Llachon don’t see the wrong in how they’ve adapted their peninsular tourism. To them, it’s not wrong, it’s how they can make a living and give themselves a better life - and for that we cannot fault them. They work hard at what they’re doing and they do a decent job if that’s the kind of job one is looking for. We simply would have liked to have known ahead of time so our hopes of experiencing life with a Peruvian family wouldn’t be dashed. We realize that our presence in this area is contributing to the ‘tourist-isation’ of the area – but to us, there’s a difference between two people coming to experience a quiet rural village and twenty obnoxious Uruguayans coming to let loose in a rural village farmhouse.