Hi there. My name is Alane Brown and I’m a Peace Corps volunteer posted in the Andes of Peru. This blog will follow our adventures as my community develops its first ecotourism project. It will be a GeoTour, meaning that it will use the GPS game of geocaching to guide visitors around the valley to discover our natural, archeological and cultural attractions.

First things first: we are raising money for our project through a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant. We’d be ever so grateful if you could share a few dollars with us. The donation page is here. Please help! Update, October 2013: Due to generous donors, the project was FULLY funded. Thank you!

The Yanamarca Valley ranges from 11,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level. It’s typical of the rural Andes, with little villages surrounded by farmland. For the most part, the way of life here is the same as it has been for hundreds of years.

campo view

The people raise crops that thrive at this altitude such as potatoes, corn, beans, quinoa, and wheat. The agricultural cycle is the driving force of daily life here. We plant in the rainy season of November through April and harvest during the dry season from May through October.

woman with choclo  

Animals are an important part of agriculture, too, especially chickens, sheep and cows. Not only are they vital to survival, they also are part of cultural traditions. Here’s a cow decorated for the Fiesta of Santiago.

decorated cow 

Earlier this year, we created an environment task force for the watershed. We decided to work on environmental education, water quality, and ecotourism. Tourism can diversify the economy so that if there’s a poor year agriculturally, tourism will can even things out. Our committee also reasons that if we develop tourism, it will help motivate better care of the environment here. We want to feature our natural resources, to help people value them more and care for them. The project might bring in more government resources, too, for environmental projects in trash management, potable water and sewage treatment, all of which are desperately needed here, both for the health of the populace and for the protection of nature.

environment committee

For example, we hope that the ecological tourism circuit will help bring attention to our wetland; Humedal Chocon. It’s in the center of a ring lake.

ring lake

And is the home to 17 species of birds, some of them rare. Part of our GeoTour will take visitors on a bird-watching adventure at the wetland.

birds at wetland

But the wetland is surrounded by farmland, and pollution from agricultural chemicals goes directly into the lake. Our ecotourism project will bring attention to this issue.

wetland and wheat

I’m really looking forward to setting up the caches all around the valley. There are so many points of interest, but only the people around here know about them. It’s perfect for geocaching. There are pre-Incan ruins, the remains of a Spanish colonial era hacienda and church, lots of pretty towns full of adobe houses, brightly-painted barrio chapels and even the site of a miracle. There’s a mysterious sinkhole that drains the watershed—no one knows where the water goes. There’s a road built by the Inca Empire as well as an ancient astronomical site and several sacred springs. In future posts, I’ll introduce you to these local wonders.

In the meantime, dear reader, I have a request.

If you are an experienced geocacher and would like to serve as an adviser to the project, please write to me. We need readers to go over the cache descriptions (English and/or Spanish) and beta testers to come to Peru to run the whole GeoTour. With 40 geocaches, there are sure to be waypoints to tighten up and errors to fix. If you want to be on the team, contact us by email at ValleDeYanamarca@yahoo.com.pe  The email is replied to by volunteers, so please allow time for a response.

Back to Alane’s blog.