The Inca Trail in Peru that leads to Machu Picchu comprises the labyrinth of trekking trails in the Latin American region. The trail served as a great conduit in the integration of the Inca empire, popularly known as Tahuantinsuyo. It dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Inca or the emperor travelled on the path to pay his tribute to deities at the Machu Picchu. The trek was treated as a pilgrimage, and the emperor used to honour mountains and peaks that came along the way.
The trial remained hidden until Hiram Bingham, the famous American archaeologist, discovered Machu Picchu in the 1900s. Otherwise, people from the west were oblivious to the existence of the path. Machu Picchu is the fabled City of Gold that many people pursued in their lifetimes. It also inspired Sir Author Conan Doyle to write The Lost World.
It became a hot spot for tourism in 1970 when tour organisers started to hire guides and people from the Sacred Valley to guide the way to Machu Picchu. Visiting the Inca trail in those times was risky given the unstable political unrest that made Peru dangerous for visitors.
The area was then dominated by the Shining Path, a guerrilla group that believed in Marxism. Therefore, there was not much to offer to a porter. But, after their defeat in 2001, it opened new opportunities for locals—the latest Inca Trail regulations layout rules for visitors and porters. As of now, almost 300 guides give their services to almost 200 visitors daily.
However, until 2016, only men could take up the porter job owing to Peruvian society’s conservative and patriarchal nature. But this has been changed recently. National Geographic reported that Evolution trek Peru’s founder Miguel Angel was the one who helped women to break the glass ceiling. However, Peru is ranked third by the WHO in a list of countries where violence against gender exists. Porting is an arduous but highly lucrative job. They felt patriarchy was blocking women’s way to take their share from it.
Evolution Trek’s Miguel found other things too that were going wrong on the trail. The average height of the terrain is about 13000 feet above sea level, and these porters carry tents, food, other gear for tourists for a sum, i.e., $ 72 per four days, which is less than the national living wage in the USA. Some of them were even paid less than this. Even the male porters were not treated well. So, the agency wanted to help them. Eventually, they became the first travel agency to hire women porters for the Inca Trail.
In a report published by National Geographic, the agency had a team of 28 women porters working across three locations on the Inca trail. The company allows women to carry only 15 kilos of weight against men who can carry 20 kg. Hiring women seems to be non-profiteering, but the company believes in the cause that sustainability can only be there if the women are included.