Peru Expedition Leader Interview: Raul Montes
Where are you from?
I’m from Cusco, Peru.
Where do you call home?
When did you catch the travel bug?
During college I was a member of a climbing group and we traveled every weekend. One day I decided to drop law school and enrolled at the mountain climbing school in Huaraz, in northern Peru. My parents thought I had gone crazy, but I guess it is in my blood, so I followed nature’s call.
How long have you been an expedition guide leader?
Starting in 1987, I guided in the mountains of Peru, then I traveled a lot, visiting and learning about new places in the rest of South America and Central America.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak English, Quechua and some Italian, and, of course, Spanish.
Tell us about your job - What do you do? How do you prepare? How often do you go out?
As a tour guide in one of the richest tourist destinations in South America I consider myself a busy person. My traveling schedule is not totally regular and varies from fifteen to twenty days per month. What I usually do are trekking and cultural tours in the Cusco area. When there is demand I organize trips for other countries in South America and Central America, serving as a private guide. The length of these trips range from two weeks to a month. I have a group of people working with me, doing the office work, buying train and plane tickets, organizing supplies, checking reservations, etc. I plan each trip down to the smallest detail. I understand that this job is a continuous challenge, so I have to be prepared and the best way to be prepared is by absorbing all of the knowledge and training possible. Along with the training I received at the mountain climbing school in Huaraz, in 2006 I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Tourism at the State University in Cusco. I also continue taking different training courses like CPR and safety, and learning about new destinations in the area.
What is your favorite part of the job?
What I love about this job is that every day there is something different, new, interesting, sometimes amazing, sometimes dangerous. I think this is the magic. No routine, no nine-to-five. I consider myself a very social person, so meeting new people, learning about new cultures and understanding different backgrounds is a joy. I also enjoy nature and remembering history, which also make this job very easy and pleasurable for me.
Can you tell us about a particularly unique experience you have had with a traveler on an expedition?
I almost got killed by a rock avalanche on one of my trips. But the most rewarding fact is that I have saved the lives of three passengers over time.
What should people know about traveling to your destination?
The UN has declared Cusco the Archeological Capital of the World and Machu Picchu is now considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Cusco is a city where you can breathe history while surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. The Incas were a great culture, very well organized and established, and we can appreciate this at the amazing historical sites. Lately Peru has also earned a reputation for its gastronomy; exquisite dishes can also make this destination unforgettable.
What, if anything, do you recommend that travelers do to prepare in advance of their trip?
Read up on the history of the Incas. Also, in Peru, altitude changes a lot and depending on what you’re doing you should prepare for that.
Is there a place you haven’t had a chance to visit yet that you’d like to?
I wish to go to the Himalayas. It is a dream for me.