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Meet your Travel Guide for the Sacred Valley of the Incas: Octavio Puma

His name denotes the reality of this country. Octavio is a Spanish name having its roots in Roman times. The origin of the name is as noble as he himself. The word “Puma” originally derives from the Quechua language and designates the mountain lion, or cougar.

Our friend Octavio is a local travel guide in Peru we have in high stem, but he is also a living factory of ideas and a fountain of goodwill.

Octavio (Urubamba)
Octavio wearing a Puma brand t-shirt, we don’t know if it is a coincidence or not, but certainly funny

A short biography of a Local Travel Guide 

Born (1985) in a small village just outside downtown Urubamba, Octavio is one of five brothers, all of them involved, in one way or another, in the tourism industry. His father used to work in the industry as well.

However, it was his mom who taught him how to weave with a waist-loom, an activity that is usually traditional for women, but rather uncommon for men. She also made sure he never forgets the importance of doing good to others. These values are now ever-present in Octavio’s mind.

Young Octavio started as a porter on the worldwide famous trekking route: The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, back in those days (and sometimes even still today) porters used to be very mistreated, obliged to carry excessive loads for very small wages and who knows what else. 

For five years Octavio observed the difference between being a guide and being a porter and, realizing how much better a guide’s working conditions are, she decided to do what’s necessary to transition from one job to the other. To achieve his dream, he went to the institute in Cusco and after a few years and a great effort, he held the desired title in his hand. He also studied English at a local NGO near his hometown.

At this point, he already knew the most popular tourist attraction in Peru and one of the most famous ones in the world, Machu Picchu. He also had the great advantage of having grown up in the Sacred Valley, a hotspot of Andean culture, which is great to have authentic experiences with local people.

Today, Octavio is a man of action, knowing exactly what he wants to dedicate his time to. But all his current achievements do not stop him from constantly thinking about the future. Nowadays, he is learning his fifth language besides Quechua, Spanish, English, and Dutch. Can you guess which one we are talking about? It is German.

By the way, Octavio’s reach involves not only the Cusco region, but the whole of Peru. He is very competent no matter where in Peru he is guiding. All the lucky travelers that end up in his hands  automatically get the plus of an excellent local travel guide.

An experienced young Local Travel Guide

Octavio started guiding for us in 2011, at the very beginning of his professional career. 

Since then, he never stopped sharing his culture with our Dutch-speaking travelers (mostly), but also any other traveler that happened to be around when Octavio was available. 

He became good friends with all the families of our beloved Coffee Route to Machu Picchu and together, they achieved a perfect flow, where the coffee farmers are the protagonist hosts and Octavio is the facilitator of their interactions with the guests.

The Coffee Route can be as adventurous as you wish. Octavio’s youth, combined with a whole lifetime spent in the Sacred Valley, make him a great and capable companion for any trek or hike included in your itinerary.

Now, 11 years later, Octavio has taken his skills to the next level…

Visit a local coffee plantation behind Machu Picchu with RESPONSible Travel Peru
Coffee farmer Julia and guide Octavio enjoying a tour through Julia’s plantations

His own hike with llamas

In 2020, right before the lockdown started due to the pandemic, Octavio invited some of us at RESPONSible Travel Peru to visit him at his lovely house in Urubamba and experience a short hike in company of his own llamas (also spelled lamas).

The excursion led to the nearby archaeological site of Chullpas de Kerocancha, a small set of ruins in the form of rooms aligned side by side in the mountain, facing the city. At that moment, only a handful of llamas accompanied the group of hikers.

Octavio (in white) escorts the group when arriving at the chullpas.

Of course, the worldwide halt in travel affected the idea of further developing this excursion. But in 2022, when our Travel Designer Annika requested a spontaneous activity for a traveler with a free day in the valley, Octavio did not hesitate. He designed a new beautiful excursion along a small river leading to the hut of his aunt Juana. Unlike the hike we did to Chullpas, a bigger group of about 20 llamas is present during this experience. 

It was named Authentic Valley Experience with Llamas and Pachamanca.

This experience is now an excursion ready to be booked on our Tour Platform!

And we are pleased to introduce it to you now, with the certainty that it is one of the best activities you can experience in Peru (yes, we are somewhat proud of it).

Aunt Juana and Octavio preparing Pachamanca ingredients for the picture and for the earthen oven of course!

Once arrived at the hut of Octavio’s aunt, you will eat (and maybe even harvest) a variety of potatoes. Octavio managed to convince the community of the economical benefits of growing potatoes, as the native varieties are well appreciated on the markets. Thanks to that, you can now savour them on this excursion.

The money you pay is fairly distributed among aunt Juana (as she is the llama herder), Octavio as the local guide, the driver that takes you to and from the starting point, and lastly to the rest of the community, in form of an admittance fee for entering their land.

In the near future, new routes around Urubamba will be developed and put online for those travelers looking for cultural exchange, nature contemplation, and adventure. 

More about Octavio

Marrying Lisette Verkerk, a Dutch visual artist and life-loving woman who truly is his perfect fit, gave both of them another boost of inspiration so that they can’t help but constantly create new projects, always with the wellbeing of other people in mind.

Together, they lead the Puma Ayni foundation, a home-based NGO dedicated to empowering young kids of Urubamba and surrounding villages through education (school reinforcement, languages and career orientation), as well as health aid, food supplying and housing. Most kids live a while away, and walk for more than an hour to get to Lisette and Octavio’s home because they enjoy the time spent there and know how much they learn and get cared for.

Puma Ayni (meaning reciprocal assistance between people) is also where native women (and men) can come to create beautiful textiles with the help and resources of the foundation. Of course, you can buy their creations with the total certainty that they are 100% organic and fair-trade.

Finally, Octavio and Lisette are also responsible for a project called “Punto Verde”, a shop that offers second-hand household items as well as original up-cycled creations. They also work as a collection station for recyclable materials, something very complicated to do in Peru in general, but especially in the Sacred Valley.

One more thing: Octavio is so involved with his community, that he actively participates in the long-term reforestation project that tries to bring back the old glory of the native forest that nowadays is only a relic. The saplings he was planting were delivered by our climate specialist partner Regenera, and paid by RESPONS as part of our CO2 compensation efforts.

We would love to keep talking about Octavio, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and all the beauty of the area. However, this blog has to come to an end. But definitely not before mentioning again how proud we are of Octavio’s Authentic Valley Experience with Llamas and Pachamanca tour. If you want to do this tour on your next visit, you will indirectly support all the other projects led by Octavio with your payment.

Octavio is one of our top guides. He was born in the small mountain community of Suttoc Pacchac, next to Huacahuasi where he is depicted here, wearing a traditional poncho made by his family. | RESPONSible Travel Peru
Octavio is one of our top guides. He was born in the small mountain community of Suttoc Pacchac, next to Huacahuasi where he is depicted here, wearing a traditional poncho.

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RESPONS’ mission is to improve living conditions in Peru through developing and promoting sustainable tourism. We’ve implemented a business model in which all areas of human relations are respected, and - equally important - respect for the planet is incorporated.

Following this business model, we practice fair trade, foster cultural identity, promote equal opportunities, and we preserve the environment that surrounds us and other species.

Together with you we improve, day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.

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