26. Tour Leader

Tour guide (leader) is a way of live.
Tuesday Juli 12, A phone call with the Tour company of Koning Aap, made my heart bounds faster. Was it the right choice after all to put all my effort and money on a job as a tour guide, not sure when or if I would get a change to prove myself?
All right that Spanish course I was looking for has to wait, this is my change! Now i can prove myself and now I can find out if this is really what I want.
That I already have to leave on Thursday morning and that “my group” already on Saturday nights arrives on Lima Airport, would only make the challenge bigger.
Also my broken Spanish and the fact that I haven´t visit the first 2 places of the 23 day tour through Peru and Bolivia would not make it easier. But I was committed to prove myself to others and to myself.
Only to bad that the average age is above the 40 years.
Saturday night July 16, I´m a bit nervous as I´m standing on the airport and happy that I´m not the only tour guide who is waiting there for his first group. How would the group react on my lack of experience and my broken way of speaking Spanish?
On the information-meeting direct after we arrive in the hotel, I explain directly to the group that this is my first journey as a tour guide and that I didn´t had much time to prepare. I also explain how well I know the countries and what I´m good at. I tell a bit who I am and why I like to do this work and I ask my guest to introduce them self as well. After that my nervousness are gone. I´m the tour-guide and I will make this a great journey. The description of this journey in the book tells that it is a journey along the highlights of Peru and Bolivia and I tell my group that there will be only one lowest point in this journey and this will be the bottom of the Cañon del Colca.
Unfortunately the second day I already have to break that promise when suddenly a big bag disappears, when we are offloading our bus!? I will not go to much into details, but I´m still surprised how impertinent and quick this thief could steel this bag out of our group, without anybody noticing anything.
While the whole group went with a guide on excursion to Paracas, I went with the couple that was involved to the police office in Pisco. I´m very happy that these people had already a lot of experiences with traveling and that the took this loss very well. I´m impressed by that, especially because it is already on the second day.
The journey went further along the the special islands of Islas Ballestas, Her the presence of a huge amount of (different) birds and especially their shit, or guana, was once the motive for Chile to start a war with Peru! This because of the guano’s fertility for the agriculture, but also for the value of saltpeter from Peru.
We visit the highlight of Nasca, that is mostly known for its big geometric figures that are drawn in the dessert. But also the who where found sitting in the dessert are special to see. What touched me the most was a visit to a very poor neighborhood, where we visited 2 small schools and gave food to the children.
Before we took the night bus to Arequipa i had to break my head on a riddle with dices; “How many bears are there around the blow-hole?”
After a sunny day in the pretty centre of Arequipa and a special dinner with cuy (guinny pig), we went the next day to Cañon del Colca. Today we would reach the highest point of our journey, when we would drive over a mountain pass at an altitude of 4890m.
Unfortunately crossing this pass gave also some troubles.
It started already when we were just over the pass and one of my guests lost her consciousness! I let the bus immediately stop and the quick reaction of the guide and the smell of pure alcohol, brought her soon back to this world. When she was stable and had again some color in her face we drove quick further down.
When we arrived at our hotel in Chivay i had 2 more guests with more than only a headache. One of them even had to go to the clinic in Chivay, because she was dihydratated and needed a infuse!
Damn, that altitude can do so fast, so much to a human body!? I thought that it was normally not more than only a slight headache and a little short on breath.
Now however the altitude sickness was the cause that the next morning, very early, 4 guests of my group were to sick to join the tour to the beautiful cañon and to see the magnificent Condors flying above your head.
Luckily in the afternoon everyone felt well enough to get in the bus for our long journey to Puno. We do were a bit afraight to cross that pass again, but now this went without new problems.
In the less touristy city of Puno, my group went on an excursion to the touristy, but also very special, floating reed islands of the Uros. In this time I would try to arrange a trekking near Cusco, for two of my guests. I had some special conditions under which this trekking had to be done, so it was a nice challenge.
In the afternoon I went with with one of my guests to a hospital in Puno to check if she was totally ok again, after what happened in Chivay. Yes, she is ok, she only needs to take it a bit easier, until she´s used to the altitude.
In the evening I have arranged a trekking. Two of my guests very happy and the others healthy and contend. Time to go to Bolivia!
I could still remember the busy street when I passed the last time the border at Desaguadero. For this reason we had made some good agreements. We would do all the border formalities in 2 groups and there would always be one group with the big bags. Luckily it was far not as crowded as the last time I was there and everything went very quick and easy.
At the border we also met Pablo, with his jeans, leather jacket, cap, bicycle-gloves and old Mercedez (school)bus. A special combination that would be our privet transport in Bolivia.
Soon we found out that they were a great combination. After a day of rest, with a city-tour through La Paz, the city of markets, we left for a bus journey of 11h driving to Uyuni.
First we had our doubts when Pablo, direct after we left the hotel stopped to check the wheels on the back of the bus. He came back and announced that there was probably something wrong with one of his shocks. It would take about an hour and 15 min. To fix this. Damn.
At the garage however they found out what Pablo didn´t noticed in the dark. The night before he had brought his bus to a garage to put on some new tires. Apparently they´d made the mistake to put 2 different tires on the back and one of them was at least 3 cm higher! A bit stupid, but it would be no problem to drive with that toi Uyuni.
A few hours later our doubt about the old bus and her driver was taken away. There was a blockade of angry truck-drivers on the road to Oruro and no cars were aloud to pass. But with our old schoolbus we could drive off-road, through the sand as well. So we drove off-road around Oruro, while all the new busses had to wait for the blockade J
Further on our journey was easy and we even made some stops in poor villages to give food to the children there. An idea of Pablo who also paid for the food.
Salar the Uyuni, an almost unnatural beautiful white flat and a calm day in a busy schedule. Whow, what went the time fast! We are already halfway our journey…
On our way to Potosi Pablo again proves his value. With his ideas for stops the journey is almost an excursion, instead of a long day in the bus.
Potosi, ones a rich mining city, now a city that lives from tourists and students. My guest apuciate the city, but they´re very impressed by the excursion through the mine, where the see the terrible conditions in which the miners are working under the ground.
In the afternoon I found out that i could have booked this excursion a lot cheaper than with the agency that my company is working with. I decide to find out why, sins other agencies offer the same tour and sometimes even more, for less money? It takes some effort and a discussion (in Spanish), to find out that our company pays more for the loyalty of this agency. In the past at least 4 agencies proved their unreliability and with this agency our company has good experiences. All right that is worth something as well. If now one of my guests will find out about this price difference, than I can explain this with a true consciousness.
Back in La Paz I immediately find out how important reliability is.
In the morning I find out that the tour to visit Chacaltaya (a mountain of 5450m) that I booked the evening before was different as what they treid to give us now.
I had booked a privet tour, without guide, from 8am until about 12pm, without visiting the moon-valley and for 4 maybe 5 persons (incl. me). The group had already seen the Moon-valley and wanted to be back early in the afternoon to have more time in La Paz.
However at 8:30h a small bus full of other people, with a guide and with only 4 places left, stopped in frond of the hotel. He would also visit the moon-valley and would not be back before 15:00h. So this was not the privet tour I had booked?!
A lot of talking, some changes and some goodwill from my guests. Made this in the end still a good excursion.
Time to visit the visit the (normally) calm village of Copacabana, where locals come to pray for luck and fortune and backpackers to relax. Luckily a planned strike and blockade on the road to Copacabana didn´t continue, so on our way we had time enough to celebrate the birthday of one of our group members. We took café and a piece of pie and it was the beginning of a great day.
Unfortunately this day ended very bad around 19:00h, when 2 women out of my group got roughly robbed by 5 a 6 men, on one of the streets in Copacabana. One of them even lost her consciousness! Terrible!
It was great that the whole group took very well care of these women and when they were calmed down a bit I went with the m to the police office. We explained what had happened and got a signed document. This is important for the insurance, but in this case also very importent to be able to cross the border with Peru, the next day. One of the woman had lost her passport with this robery as well…
The alternative was to go the nnext day back to La Paz to go to the Dutch consulate.
Luckily this wasn´t necessary. With a copy of the passport, the entree paper and the police document, we were able to pass both of the borders.
In the beautiful city of Cusco, with her many (historical) things to see and visit inand around the city, 5 members of my group started to walk the Inka Trail. Damn, I wish i could walk with them. The others could join one of the many excursion, under which off course the mystic city of Machu Picchu.
Because of the robbery the 2 women could unfortunately not join the trekking I had arranged fort hem L We were already luck to have a representive of the Dutch consulate in Cusco,  so I didn´t had to send the woman to Lima to do the necessary paperwork.
On the last evening of our journey, when the whole group was together again and some  misunderstandings about the transportation and communication from and with the Inka Trail walkers, were solved, one member of My group started a speech. He thanked me for my enthusiasm in which I guided this journey and after the group gave me a map in which the had put some privet notes for me J
Only one long day in Peru and this evening my group would fly back to Holland. The day started not very well, There were to much clouds above Cusco and because of that the airplanes were not able to land or fly.
In the end we had to wait for almost 4 hours, but my group accepted this very well.
In this 4 hour I finally found out “How much bears there are around the blow-hole in the ice J
In the afternoon we did a small tour through Lima and then we really had to say goodbye, to bad L
One day later.
When I look back on this journey, I´m happy that the average age of my group was higher than that of me. I had a group with a lot of teachers and experiences in traveling. The group was really interested in the journey and that makes my work more fun.
I learned a lot from them and this journey and I really think that I couldn´t wish a better group for my first journey.
I´m touched by the nice notes they´ve written for me and I hope that this journey was for them as special as it was to me.
Now I know for sure that being a tour-guide is a job that fits me. I think that it is even better to say that being a tour-guide isn´t a job but a way of living. You have to do it with your heart and all your energy, or otherwise you´re not true to yourself and your group.

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