Spotlight on Peruvian Guide Extraordinaire, Wilfredo Huillca
One of the top reasons to travel with Vaya is the quality of our local guides. We’ve worked with our local partners for years, and we’ve established relationships with the best private guides in South America. When you travel with a Vaya guide, you’re not on tour – you’re traveling with a fun, knowledgeable friend and learning about their home.
Today we want to shine the spotlight on our dear friend Wilfredo Huillca, who has been guiding Vaya travelers for years on their Peruvian adventures around Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. We caught up with Wilfredo for a chat about his time as a guide and some of his favorite experiences.
Did you always want to be a guide?
From a very young age I was involved in this activity called tourism – as a child, I would approach travelers in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, trying to learn English and interacting with them to learn about their lives and cultures. I knew that I wanted to work in this beautiful career, so I studied tourism at UNSAAC, the University of San Antonio de Abad del Cusco. After graduating, I dedicated myself to guiding. I’m also a musician, and I have dedicated part of my life to music as well. I love to share music with my travelers in Peru.
Do you remember your first tour? How have you changed as a guide since then?
Oh yes, I remember organizing a tour to the Sacred Valley for some French travelers. Initially, I was a little nervous, but my confidence grew with time. In the end they liked my work and the passion I expressed for the history and architecture of these places. I think my travelers can tell how much I really love Peru. In Cusco, especially, there is history in every corner of the city.
Since that first tour, I have experienced a lot of deep learning. Not all travelers have the same interests; some like history, architecture, geology, etc., while others don’t. Sometimes a traveler asks a question that I don’t know, which means a new topic that I get to learn and explore. I have 24 years of experience as a guide, and I’m still learning new things all the time.
What do you think makes you a successful guide?
As a guide, the first part of my job is to connect with my passengers. That’s great for me, because I’m interested in everyone I meet! I want to know about my travelers, so that feeling of confidence and rapport comes naturally as we get to know each other. I also want to share of my love of Peru in a way that inspires my travelers’ interest: showing them some aspect of local culture, introducing them to local people, taking them to taste foods and fruits that they never saw or ate. These are the details that make a trip memorable. But I customize everything. If a traveler is interested in something specific, like history or anthropology, then I am interested in their interest for it, and tailor the experience to be really personal for them.
What is your favorite destination or excursion?
It is my great luck and my great pride to have been born in a very diverse country like Peru. There is so much to see and do here. I love hiking; my favorite is the Inca Road to Machu Pichu! Another favorite for me, and a very unique place, is Ollantaytambo. This place is so interesting in how it shows you all the details of how it was built. There are still ramps in the places where they dragged gigantic blocks for the construction of the temple. After visiting this impressive place, travelers will already have a better understanding of how these structures were built, which in turn helps them better understand and appreciate other sites, like Machu Picchu.
Tell us a story about your travels.
Oh, I have many! Here is one that started years ago and just concluded this year. Many of my travelers like animals; they enjoy petting the dogs and cats that live in the villages we cross. Several years ago, I was guiding a group on a trek to Machu Picchu, which takes several days and crosses a number of local communities. In one of them we met a puppy, and my hikers just loved him and started feeding him and petting him, and we named him Chico. Chico decided to accompany us on our trek. After a couple of days, we reached a lodge, and everyone took off their trekking boots to leave them in a basket outside. We rested, had dinner, talked and went to sleep and nobody thought about their boots until the next day. Early the next morning I had to go an hour ahead to take part of the group for another activity. My assistant guide stayed to lead the remaining passengers down to the main road, where I would meet up with them. Our meeting time came and went. I waited and waited, and finally the muleteer appeared, who was a boy of about 15 who helped us with the luggage mule, and he told me that John, a passenger who had been the dearest friend of Chico, had lost his left hiking boot. EVERYONE was looking for it – John, the other travelers, the lodge staff – and I went back up to help look for it too. Well, we never did find that boot, and by coincidence, we never saw Chico again either. Our theory was that he’d nabbed his friend’s boot as a souvenir and taken himself back home to his village.
Unfortunately, John had unusually large feet, making it impossible to find him a quick substitute. He wound up making the last day of the trek in a pair of casual shoes, which was difficult and slow going. Luckily he was very good-natured about it and knew it would make a good story afterward! I kept hoping that the staff would find the boot and send it along to us by mule, but it never turned up. It was a good lesson for us to be careful about enclosing the boots – since then, we keep them closed in a box overnight – and also about not giving too much love to the local dogs!
This year I returned by the same route, and the lodge staff told me that they had just, years later, found the boot nearby – lovingly chewed to pieces.
Anything else to add about yourself?
In addition to being a guide, I am also a musician. I was in the artistic world for many years. I made professional wind musical instruments (quenas and zampoñas and others), and I traveled to the USA with my band, invited by the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I have a small museum of pre-Inca and Inca indigenous instruments, and another collection of silver coins from the republican and contemporary colonial era. I also give talks and demonstration of the sounds of Andean musical instruments, and have taught many people how to play them.
Our travelers who have explored Peru with Wilfredo and his colleagues consistently talk about what an amazing experience it was to get to know the area with a private local guide – someone who not only knows the region, but has the privilege to call it home. Contact us to arrange your own custom tailored, privately guided journey to Peru or one of our other destinations, and discover the difference of traveling with an outstanding private Vaya guide!