Tour Guides and a Grain of Salt

Another topic that comes up on trip Advisor on a regular basis is whether or not to hire a guide when touring the local sites. There are mainly two sides to this argument, one  is that a good guide book will give you all the information that you need, unfortunately there are not many signs at the sites that point out key locations, and we have run into many tourists that have a book and are trying to find a specific point at the site.

The side that is pro guide points out the fact that there are no signs and it can be hard to know if you are actually looking at what you are reading a description for. They also say that the local guides can impart much more information that what you might find in any book, on not only the site itself, but the history of the culture.

Well I now have a third point to offer. Since moving to Huarocondo and opening GringoWasi approximately a year ago, we have had the opportunity to make numerous visits to all most all of the sites in and around Cusco. During these visits we are often within close proximity to tour groups and can often hear what the guides are saying.

One of the interesting things that we have noticed is the variety of explanations given by different guides. For example, in Ollantaytambo there are two faces that are often pointed out on the mountain across from the main site. While the largest of these that is near the Storehouses, or qollqas in Quechua, seems to always be referred to as the Inca god Wiracocha. The other face (profile) near the top left of the mountains seems to be attributed to a few different people including the Inca Pachacuti.

 Wiracochan 2

Inca 2We have herd that these faces are natural formations as well as manmade, and we have herd several accounts as to what some of the buildings and fountains were used for. While the overall information relayed by the guides seems to agree, there are those bits that I believe they just don’t have answers for, and rather than saying “we don’t know” or offering up a few theories, they tend to offer up one theory as if it were fact.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think the guides at the sites have a lot of valuable information to offer, and I don’t mean this to be a guide bashing post. I just think that those that do hire a guide while visiting the sites, should take what the guide says with a grain of salt, and consider that some of what is being offered may be more opinion than fact.

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About Lyle

I love travel and am currently operating a Bed and Breakfast called GringoWasi in Cusco Peru with my beautiful Peruvian wife.
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