Things we forget as tourists…

A Peruvian protest

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to visit one of the wonders of the world, Machu Picchu in Peru. Our three-day Inca Jungle Trek was fully-packed with activities including biking through the Andes Mountains, mountain hiking and the infamous Inca city of Machu Picchu. However, our trip was full of unexpected surprises too due to the recent protests in Peru which brings me on to my next little rant about things that happen whilst travelling!

 

Our first occurrence with the protesters was on our first journey to the mountains. We had no idea what was going on when the minivan stopped in a road rammed with traffic and was held there for nearly two hours! Turns out the protesters were actually Peruvian teachers fighting for higher wages. They’d been protesting for over 20 days all over Peru, and their main destination were the tourist roads to Machu Picchu which disrupted travel for days and lasted for weeks. Fair enough!

  

Would you work for that?

The teachers were on strike, placing rocks, stones and wood in the roads and on the train tracks leading up to Machu Picchu. They were angry about the fact that the government who receives millions of US dollars thanks to the tourism industry, but Peruvians don’t see a single bit. We ventured out of the minivan to see the lines of hundreds of teachers and protesters and ended up speaking to one teacher who explained how they care, clean and teach doing jobs that they shouldn’t be doing and all for the monthly wage of 210 Peruvian Soles. That’s equivalent to £50.

 

By the last day of our trip the protests had got so bad that the teachers had apparently derailed the train tracks which meant that after a day of mountain hiking and walking around Machu Picchu, Becca and I trekked for another three hours along the train tracks in the dark to the next village to then catch a 7-hour minibus back to Cusco.

 

I won’t lie, the whole thing was pretty tiring, but I was disgusted by the cheek of the tourists around us who had every right to be annoyed by the slight inconvenience, but to display it so openly to the locals and people who tried so hard to help? Who do you think you are? Not forgetting the idiot guy who thought it would be funny to shout to the protesters and joke about whilst juggling in amongst the police and crowds.

 

Think about the teaching staff in our own westernised countries and how we think they get paid pennies (which they do in my opinion compared to some not as deserving occupations!), and then think about receiving 50 bloody pounds a month for all that love, care and demanding work. Nah, sit back down in your air-con minibus, on your £3,000 two-week trip and think hard before you speak.

 

Waiting for karma…

It’s funny, and there’s literally always one person who just never fails to shock you with how they even made it this far out in the world without karma knocking them out first, but the ignorance of some people when they’re in someone else’s lands and lives is unreal. Who do we think we are? Aren’t we forgetting something? That this is their country. And their fight is extremely worthwhile and incredibly important. And at the end of the day, who cares if we had to walk through the jungle and see fireflies with a couple of Peruvian people (turned out to be a highlight of the trip!), the thing that matters is that their voices were heard and that they get to exercise their rights with complete freedom.

Thanks for reading my little rant guys!

You can keep up with my adventure on instagram @vanishamay

Happy travels!

Vanisha

Umoja, Kenya

Umoja: The man-free land.

Looking for a different kind of adventure? Interested in travel? Passionate about society and women’s rights? Then you need to make this inspiring community a priority for your next big trip! Where are you going…? The fascinating lands of Kenya!

 

For more than 500 years tradition and culture have dominated the lives of Kenyans women. Living in patriarchal communities where men make the rules and women have few rights. Where rituals such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages are common even today. This means that girls as young as 12 years old are being mutilated and married off to lives as wives and mothers. Though, this isn’t an essay or a lecture, but an informative and interesting travel article of why I think you should visit this land like no other, the land with no man, the inspiring village of Umoja, North Kenya.

 

Tourism is Kenya’s second largest industry which attracts millions of tourists travelling in hopes to see the wanders of the wildlife, exploring the safaris and holiday on the white-sand beaches with the exotic marine life and exciting activities. Meanwhile in the dry lands of Northern Kenya, the women of Umoja are transforming lives and changing their own fate.

 

Umoja (meaning unity in Swahili) is a safe haven for women who have been abused, raped, and who are fleeing from the oppressive formalities of their culture. Located in the Samburu region, Umoja is home to almost 50 newly-empowered women and their hundreds of children. The village that is inspiring women all over the country to make possible and influential changes is also a village that has a no man policy. This is one of the first communities in the world to run as a matriarchal society prohibiting men to live there. How interesting is that?!

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The woman behind it all is Rebecca Lolosoli (pictures above by The Guardian) who created the movement 25 years ago and formed the village with other women who revolted against their rapes committed by British soldiers and discriminating communities. Fifteen women spoke up about their horrifying abuse and decided to make change. Now they support other women living in fear of FGM, early marriage and domestic abuse from the men of Samburu. In an interview, Rebecca explained how much power the men had;

 

“If the husband wants to kill you, he has a right to kill you, because you are like property.”

-Rebecca Lolosoli

(you can watch the short documentary here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnmBLB-UX4)

 

So, what better idea than to just leave and form a whole new village where women have rights, freedom, a voice and more importantly, safety.  The women of Umoja are living completely independently without a man for the first time in history. They’re building their own huts, forming their own businesses and they’ve even created a school for the children. And for those thinking “but how do they even have children? How can they keep this going?” as one Umoja resident explained to a Guardian reporter;

 

“We still like men. They are not allowed here, but we want babies and women have to have children, even if you are unmarried.” – The Guardian

 

Completely inspirational.

 

Depending on tourism, the women welcome visitors and usually with a very big, all singing and dancing celebration! Handmaking brightly coloured jewellery, clothing and gifts to sell to tourists, the money helps fund their communities and gives the women the opportunity to earn their own income and stand on their own two feet.

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So be inspired and take a trek off the beaten track! Visit the wonderful women of the village and adventure to the worthy and incredible no man’s land!

 

Here’s how you can visit:

  • Book a tour! Agencies and tour operators offer safaris like the Samburu National Reserve Safari which usually include visits to the village. Convenient if you want to pay a short visit.
  • Camp in the village! To provide further income to the village, the women of Umoja have created a campsite adjacent to their homes for guests and tourists to spend the night or two. The Umoja camp is perfect for budget travellers and has a bar and restaurant, along with traditional entertainment of singing and dancing with the women.
  • Stay in a lodge. There are many lodges around the area so for those seeking slightly more luxury but want to stay nearby, this option is the best one for you!

 

List of useful websites, news articles and information on how to get there:

 

 

Hope you enjoyed it and let me know if you’re planning a trip to Umoja or have been before!

Follow my South American adventure here om instagram @vanishamay

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha Sparks

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