Backpackers throng to Cuzco. The luggage bands at the airport fill with their often oversized packs and they stumble off buses and move through gates to enter our Imperial city. They bring color to Cuzco.
Named for carrying their belongings on their back, the word mochilero in Spanish, or backpacker in English has connotations of youth and travel on the cheap, even though older people and package tourists sometimes show up with back packs. Although the luggage is not limited to a single class of people or a group of low end tourists, still the term describes a scene in Cuzco, a world, as much as a form of transporting your belongings
Planners tend to prefer a more affluent class who stays in elite hotels, rather than seeking the cheapest deal, who eats in the fine restaurants instead of competing with the people of Cuzco for inexpensive meals in the markets, and who buy package tours instead of visiting the ruins on their own or hiring often informal guides.
In Cuzco when they speak of backpackers they mean travelers who visit lots of places, not just Cuzco, and who pass through in search of adventure and new things. They speak of denizens of the Gringo trail, one of those old and yet important paths trod by foreigners for decades now, like other great ones around the world, in search of experience and the thrill of rubbing shoulders with natives and people from many parts of the world.
They speak of a route from La Paz to Lima, with Cuzco as one of its main stops. They speak of low end hotels, sometimes dives, and knots of tourists telling each other how to get from here to there and where to find what they need.
Because Cuzco is one of the world’s seven wonders, as well as a place with a lot of energy, it receives many visitors every day, who come to experience it, perhaps more than know it. They come, often stumbling under the weight of their goods and worried about the lack of bills in their pockets or credits on their cards. As a result, many bring with them handicrafts they have made or tools to make them and sell them as they go. They may make bracelets, necklaces, earrings, or other handicrafts and they may make food such as pastries or candies to sell in the streets.
The people of Cuzco call this “parchar“. In Spanish that means “to patch” like to put a patch on a tire that is leaking air. As a result it gives color to the difficulties faced by travelers who come with limited resources when they improvise to make ends meet.
In Cuzco’s streets you can see people with their large backpacks in different colors who come to town on their own. They have not already purchased a package from one of the established agencies. They buy their own tickets and decide where to go and what to do often on the spur of the moment. As a result, there is a horde of Cusqueños who follow them and try to offer them services and assistance during their stay.
Backpackers are famous for looking for parties and diversion during their time in Cuzco. These are offered in the Backpacker hotels and in Cuzco’s many bars and clubs.
Many backpackers also come to try new sensations, such as our ancestral plants of wachuma, ayahuasca, and brugmansia. In our city there are various agencies who offer ceremonies for mochileros who can come together in groups.
For these people who come to visit our city more and more agencies are opening, as well as places to rent bicycles, cars, motorcycles as well as the whole range of goods needed for travel and adventure. These businesses especially have deals for tourists who travel in groups and come independently.
In Cuzco it is easy to make friends with people from many different parts of the world. This is an important part of the tourist experience. You meet and talk with people from countries you may never have visited. Although English is the common language of tourists, despite their United Nations of languages, groups arrange themselves according to language and then interact with others across boundaries.
Though I am from Cuzco, I remember one friend I made, Alger, who was 57 years old. I asked him where he was from and he told me Germany. He spoke some Spanish. In the course of the conversation he told me that he had come to Cuzco 43 years before. In between then and now he had visited various countries, held several jobs, formed a family and established himself int eh city of Hanover. But he missed Cuzco. He said “here I feel peaceful and I can breathe fresh air. Furthermore people are very social and friendly.
Many backpackers travel in order to break the daily routine. Others are merely curious. Some seek work, or come as part of a school trip, for love, to appreciatethe beauty of nature, etc. They have many motives that make them leave home and come to Cuzco, including that they just feel good and happy getting to know different cultures and places.
Many of the people I have met from different places here in Cuzco come to take energy from the beautiful geography of our city. Many of them go to Sacsayhuaman or the Temple of the Moon, as well as other archeological sites to meditate and practice relaxation therapies. They seek to draw in good energy.
I like to see the mixture of people who come to visit our city on their paths. They bring a harmonious and fascinating touch to our streets.
In the month of June, especially, backpackers arrive with greater frequency, although they come year round. Besides the beginning of the dry season, this is a time when the city organizes feasts and festivals that fill the city’s streets with sound and movement. These draw hordes of tourists to appreciate them. Many of these activities are organized by our city in order to provide a welcome greeting to the tourists who make our economy work.
Cuzco is special because of its Plaza, its archeological sites, and its people. But the vast variety of tourists, including the many backpackers, make it special. Letting yourself go with the flow of people and energy here is easy. It seems there are always motives to come and get to know the beauty that our mother earth offers here.