Extreme Tourism: Italian Mission to the Spiritual Q’eros

The mission: Q’eros – the latest Inca-Andes Peru Expedition 2022 – coordinated by Valerio Ballotta has successfully concluded. Researchers and photographers from a challenging itinerary in the heart of Andean Peru returned to Italy at the end of February.  The 4 Italian expedition members completed important research of Peruvian descendants of the Incas, one of the main objectives of the enterprise.

Valerio Ballotta, head of the mission, described it as “unique and in some ways unrepeatable.” The experience took place in the Q’ero village on the Andean plateau where the Q’eros live in harmony with nature.

The expedition, after having been in  Cuzco at 3,300 meters, gradually climbed to locations between 3,700 and 3,900 meters high for 2 days to acclimate their bodies to higher altitudes. They then reached the Paucartambo (Cuzco region) which marks the border between the “civilized” world and the Andean plateau, in a 4-hour bus ride to the Q’ero village.

The team

The Andes Peru Expedition 2022 as told by Valerio Ballotta

“The road to reach Paucartambo,” Ballotta explained, “winds through the Andes on impassable and unpassable safe roads, but with breathtaking views, between 4,000 and 4,500 meters where the first Q’eros outpost, the Chua Chua village, is located. From there, after hours of walking, we reached the first families in their typical houses: the mud and stone walls support the thatched roofs. We experienced great hospitality from a family who mainly breed alpacas.

“In their spiritual world, there are no divinities to worship, except for the search of a connection with nature (Pachamama) and with the spirits of the mountains (the Apus).”

The expedition traveled and lived between 4,500 and 5,000 meters for 4 days, sleeping in tents and in school locations that the Q’eros people made available to them, given the bad weather conditions encountered: violent rains, snow, and temperatures below zero with 100% humidity brought by clouds formed in the nearby Amazon. The young people of the expedition were the first “foreigners” that this community met after the outbreak of the COVID pandemic.

The Q’ero and their llama

“We were prone to adaptation,” continued Ballotta.

“As far as food was concerned, we had taken a good supply from Italy, just in case, that we shared with the Q’eros, who made us taste their food based on potatoes, vegetables, and meat, as simple as their way of life.”

Alessandro Bergamini, from Modena (Italy) by adoption, one of the member photographers in the expedition and enthusiast about the photographic aspect, declared: “The area looks like a paradise, incredible landscapes. The Q’eros always dress in traditional clothes and seem to be one with their land.” He too underlined the difficulties of the expedition, linked above all to the monsoon, typical of the region in February, and the steep paths they had to cross to reach the Q’eros villages and families at an altitude of more than 4,500 meters.

The team above 5,000 meters

Lastly, he underlined their spontaneous willingness to welcome the people. “The meeting with the Q’eros was certainly positive, and they introduced us immediately into their world, making us feel at home despite all the difficulties and poor comfort.”

The other photographer of the expedition, Tommaso Vecchi, from Cento city, Italy, is also a great connoisseur of diversity among distant peoples, and this was for him an experience full of emotions and discoveries. He stated: “Living in close contact with the Q’eros people has allowed us to deepen their culture, customs, and traditions.

At the top of the Andes

“I was speechless in front of so much authenticity.”

“Preserved in the years thanks to their creed that brings together Mother Earth (Pachamama) and the gods of the mountains (Apus). We returned home tired but enriched, ready to plan our next destination!”

The video maker of the expedition, Giovanni Giusto, said that one of the things he most appreciated was the openness of mind towards foreigners on the part of people living in areas so remote in the world.

“Knowing that there are still such pure and pristine thoughts in the world, surprised me and filled my heart. I hope to be able to transmit their genuineness and open-mindedness through my images, inviting those who have a different idea of ‘border’ and ‘foreigner’ to take time to think.”

The group did not have negative aspects, both in terms of health and physical efforts, given the planning which began months before departure and to the great harmony that has been created between them.

An illustrated book on the expedition is under preparation that will be presented on the occasion of the exhibition at the Ceribelli Gallery in Bergamo, Italy, on May 7. The subsequent appointments will be from May 13-14 in Vignola, both at the Rocca and the Library, on September 9 in Cento di Ferrara at the Don Zucchini Cinema, and on October 15 in Malta, at Heart Gozo Museum in Gozo, Victoria (Malta). In all these events, in addition to the book, a documentary film on the expedition will be released by Giovanni Giusto of 010 Films.

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