Letter to the editor by Nathan Haley about the Huayhuash

H ere at The Huaraz Telegraph we like to hear what our readers have to say, whether it be a comment about the paper, or something about Huaraz. We recently received a letter from Nathan Haley who wanted to raise the issues of the Huayhuash.

Sir,

I fear for the Cordillera Huayhuash, I fear it is going to drown in human waste. A couple of weeks ago I hiked an eight day circuit of that range, an incredible experience in one of the world’s truly special mountain environments. The route has everything any mountain hiker could ever wish for. So why when I talk and write about the experience does it come out negatively? The answer is simple: irresponsible, uneducated and uncaring guides, tour agencies and clients.

Hoards of inexperienced hikers seem to be roaming the Cordillera Huayhuash armed with neither common sense nor basic ideas of outdoor environmental respect. With too few and frighteningly unprofessional guides around to control and educate these tourists the result is disgusting and often times unbelievable behaviour. Would you go to the toilet in your water tank at home? No. Would you crap on your neighbour’s lawn? No. When you make a mess in your home does piling a mound of toilet paper on top of it make the problem disappear? No. So why do people behave like this in the Huayhuash?

Having worked as a hiking guide in Guatemala and faced many of the same problems guides face with clients in the Huayhuash I am surprised and appalled at what’s happening there. As a lead guide, an obvious responsibility is to protect the environment in which you work. Without that environment there is no business and you have no job. It’s not hard to do and is astoundingly obvious. Just maintain some authority, lay down the law on things like toilet practices and share your passion for the environment with your clients. In many respects this is easier than usual for guides in the Huayhuash as campsites are blessed with generally excellent toilet facilities. Here there is no need to be squatting over holes, let alone dribbling your stink down the side of local people’s homes or into the same water your fellow campers hope to brew their coffee from. Inexperienced hikers often need to be toilet trained, but in the Huayhuash they’re being left feral. Unmotivated guides are turning a blind eye to highly inappropriate behaviour that is ultimately upsetting the local communities, natural environment and visiting tourists. When I trekked the circuit in April 2014, the behaviour of some clients being guided by Enjoy Huayhuash had to be seen to be believed.

Worse still for the Huayhuash is that word is getting out. I have spoken to tourists who have decided against hiking there because of the hygiene horror stories they’ve heard. I will not be surprised if clients start drying up for many of the tour agencies operating on the route. My great fear is that we’re entering a vicious cycle in which the more expensive and responsible agencies will die out leaving the cowboys to rule the roost. If this happens then the communities on the route could easily get disillusioned and things could get sticky. The reputation is really getting that bad. Something needs to be done to reign in the terrible and lax practices of some agencies operating the route. They and their clients are ruining it for the rest of us.

Yours,

Nathan Haley (UK)

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