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  • Carlee Frank

Haku Expeditions: Peru

Photo by Deb Dowd

Have you ever skipped the tourist guide book, double-decker bus and 5-star hotel, opting for the ‘secret menu’ of tourist activities, so to say, and ended up experiencing something much more incredible? Well, Haku Expeditions is the exact tourism company to wander off the beaten path with you.

Established in 2014 by William and Nicole Koch, Haku Expeditions is a Peruvian-based adventure tourism company that gets travelers out of their comfort zones while immersing them in the surrounding culture.

Haku has branches in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Nepal. Yes, Nepal, the beautiful Himalayan country of South Asia.

Nic had been wanting to provide Haku trips in Nepal for ages, saying “I thought it would be one of the only places on Earth with biking like Peru.” So, as of 2019, Haku provides culturally rich Nepalese trips, not for the faint of heart.

In each country, there are mountain biking trips and walking treks, however, no trip is the same. Haku focuses on authentic experiences and extreme adventure, so, every journey adapts to and flows with the locals, the desires of the riders and their willingness to wander.

The itinerary in each country is developed after Bill and Nic themselves visit, explore, mountain bike and establish a relationship with local people. After living in Peru for 13 years, they have developed an incredible mix of itineraries such as visits to Machu Picchu, 10-day mountain biking trips and 7-day treks on Incan trails.

“Peru called us, we never went there for tourism,” Nic said.

She and Bill moved to Peru in 2007 as Catholic missionaries, working in two different schools for the poor as social workers. After seven years in this capacity, however, the long hours took a toll on their family of seven. They then opened an Airbnb in Cusco, Peru called Bill and Nic’s House.

They were asked so frequently to organize tours around Cusco, trips to Machu Picchu, horse backing riding adventures, and so on, that they opened an official adventure tourism company in 2014. Haku means “let’s go!” in Quechua, an ancient Incan language still spoken in many parts of South America.

“I want people to be able to steep themselves in another culture and take that back home and let it help them grow,” Nic said.

Besides "shredding epic single track in some of the most majestic places on earth", travelers can expect to meet, eat with and get to know local people. While mountain biking, Bill and Nic met a completely self-sustaining family in the south valley of Cusco. They are organic farmers, cook on fire, have guinea pigs roaming freely, Nic said, and this lifestyle is precisely how they put their children through college.

A lunch is arranged with the family and Haku tourists get to know and see how people in the countryside truly live through this visit.

Another local lunch takes place in a completely different location in the Cusco-area, where Haku travelers take part in Pachamanca. Pachamanca is an ancient cooking method in which food is cooked in vessels in the ground , covered with earth and pulled out when finished. Meals together are a great way to sit and talk, however, Haku also provides food to Peruvians living in high altitudes.

“On the way up to Lares, we stop along the way to give away fruit and bread because it’s so high –I mean, we start at 15,000 ft. –that the people who live up there don’t have things like bread and fruit,” Nic said.

Nic believes tourism is a vital tool in opening peoples’ eyes to different ways of life. While on a trip to Colombia, she and her children obtained firsthand experience of the horrors of the Venezuelan crisis. Her children came home from the basketball court where they met a Venezuelan boy who had walked eight days to Colombia and had not eaten for three days prior to his escape.

She said tourism is important in realizing there is a vibrant, beautiful and sometimes tumultuous world outside of your bubble.

“You go somewhere and realize the hardships they [people] face or that a lot of people in the world don’t need much to be happy,” Nic said.

If you are interested in a Haku Expeditions trip,

contact them via their website or explore their Instagram @hakuexpeditions

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