Tips From A Responsible Tourist, Including Who To Hike The Inca Trail With
When we were in Peru, we stayed at a place called Nino’s.
It was a quiet oasis behind two heavy wooden doors, down one of Cusco’s cobbled stone streets.
The reception opened into a courtyard lined with white deck chairs. Three bins were tucked into the corner of the courtyard. Plastic. Paper. Glass. Reusing linen and towels was encouraged. So was eating the local food at the restaurant.
After my Nana, the restaurant served the best home-made pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. Food waste was used as compost for the organic garden, which was looked after by the kids and teenagers as part of the learning programme.
The restaurant catered for vegetarians and meat eaters. A bonus, in my opinion. I’ve learnt from past travels that the food a travel buddy likes to eat is key. I once travelled through Central America with my vegetarian sister and my meat loving cousin. We had to leave our accommodation way before meal times, just so we could walk back and forth between restaurants sizing up the menus.
Now there’s apps that will do that for you. By the time we got to South America, we were using Happy Cow to find vegetarian friendly restaurants. It was great in the big cities like Lima or Buenos Aires, when we didn’t have the time (or the will) to trawl the streets looking for a place to eat.
I’ve since learnt about two apps I want to try on my next trip.
One of them’s called Seasons. It lets you know what food is in season, but my main reason for wanting it is for the list of nearby farmers markets. I love farmers markets, especially ones where the local flavour isn’t limited to the food. You could kit yourself out in knitwear for a year at some stalls, all in support of the local community
The other app's called NoshPlanet. Whenever we were out of wifi (which was a lot) we resorted to offline google maps. I took to starring the location of suitable eats, so I ended up with a constellation of vegetarian go-to’s that were handy when hanger struck us down.
Nosh Planet takes this one step further by listing cafes and restaurants that serve sustainable and ethical food. By using local food they cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and benefit the local community.
I left the comfy confines of Nino’s when I trekked The Inca Trail with Peru Treks. This company taught me a lot about responsible tourism. They pay their porters fair wages, out of respect for carrying everything from pots and pans to biodegradable soap. These guys could set up a tent in a matter of minutes, ready for the chefs latest meal, cooked from scratch using butane gas. They baked cakes without ovens. They took all the litter with them and encouraged us to do the same.
After the Inca Trail, I returned to Nino’s for another weeks worth of pumpkin soup. Then we left to go stay in a Eco Lodge in the Amazon. It was home to a tapir, a baby howler monkey, and a very beady eyed parrot who liked to steal the butter from the breakfast table.
We found both places with a little online sleuthing. Nino’s is part of TripAdvisor’s Greenleader program, a great go-to for eco friendly accommodation options.
I’ll admit to finding Peru Treks through a friend, who had piggy backed off another friends research. If you know where to look, there’s a lot of organised, eco friendly tours to choose from. For those who prefer a more DIY approach, satisfy yourself by creating a personalised itinerary from a list of eco-lodges, tours, and conservation projects.
Responsible tourism is a lot like sustainable travel. You end up meeting like minded folk dedicated to providing a first rate service. The food is second best only to your Nana, and everybody from porters to parrots are enjoying the benefits.
Go get on board.