When Ezequiel Deniz of California and Lukasz Koszuk of Poland met at a Tuesday night couch surfing/barbecue event in Guangzhou five years ago, they never expected their friendship would evolve into a business leading hikes across the breathtaking terrain of China. Pacha Mama Adventures, launched this past June, is born of the pair’s longtime love of the outdoors, inspired in part by their separate experiences in Yosemite years ago. We caught up with Deniz and Koszuk this month to hear the story behind their enviable new part-time job.
How did the idea for Pacha Mama Adventures first come about?
LK: In February, we went to India to visit a friend studying in Mumbai, and instead of touring the city, he proposed we go outside. There was a guy who organized our ‘adventure,’ where we hiked up to this remote Indian community on the top of a mountain. The people there were incredible, and I just remember looking at our guide and thinking, he’s living the life, you know? This is his job, to bring people to this beautiful place and show them a sunrise.
At the time, I didn’t think we could actually do it. But then this April I thought, why not do this? We know places that are beautiful to hike – why not share the experience with people?
What are some of your favorite places to take hikers?
ED: Our first trip this June was to the rice terraces in Guangxi. We usually hike from point A to point B and in the middle, we stay in a village in the mountains, surrounded by rice terraces. We also take people to Yangshuo, where we’ll bike for a day and then hike to the top of this beautiful peak – the view is out of this world.
Do most people come for the exercise or social aspect?
ED: Some people want an escape from the city, other people want to socialize, others love hiking and nature, some Chinese want to practice their English… so it’s a mix of different people.
LK: The unexpected effect of the trips, which I didn’t predict, is that people actually become friends – like friends friends (laughs). Hiking is this nice way of hanging out where you don’t have to drink anything, you’re doing something good [for your body] and you’re having awesome conversations.
Why ‘Pacha Mama’?
LK: Pachamama in Quechua, an indigenous language from the Central Andes, means ‘Mother Earth.’ The people there depend so much on the earth to live, and they understand the importance of protecting it.
We try to live by that message too, and spread awareness. Like last month, we posted signs along a trail in Guangdong in both Chinese and English, encouraging people to think before throwing their trash into the lake.
ED: Once people see the beauty of nature themselves, they realize it’s worth protecting. They see there are still communities out there that depend on these lands. We cannot all be city people. We can’t lose the culture of mountains and rural areas.
How has living in China played a role in your decision to start a company?
LK: In Poland, I would not be able to open this kind of company because people hike on their own. Here, interest in this field is just starting to pick up, and people don’t always know how to go about [hiking in China].
But I think our market in the future will mainly be tourists, because this is the new era of traveling, in a way. People are tired of taking typical tours – I think we have to explore on a level where we get to meet locals and experience how they live their lives.
ED: China for me, for us, has been a place where we can start something. It’s an adventure in the end, and if we fail, we’ll move on. But it’s nice to know that we’re trying it – I don't want to just live my life thinking ‘damn, I should have done that before…’
What’s the story behind all the incredible photos we see of your trips on WeChat?
ED: That’s all Lukasz – he has a GoPro and drone, so will take photos of the trip and then make a 2-3-minute video to kind of sum up the awesome time we had. It’s like a little extra gift we tack on the package.
Do you have any new plans in store for the near future?
ED: We want to do these trips for businesses eventually, and do team building activities to help coworkers bond with each other. There’s research that backs this up now: the more you’re exposed to nature, the healthier mind you’ll have, and the more productive you’ll be. We’ll hopefully do some international things as well. Lukas, do we want to spill the beans?
LK: Haha, sure: we’re preparing a 10-day trip to the Himalayas during the Spring Festival. It’s real hiking, so is meant for people who are pretty fit, but should be a great time.
Anything else to add?
ED: Pacha Mama isn’t just about the trips – it’s about this community of likeminded people that come together to experience the beautiful terrain, and protect it.
LK: It’s a way we can contribute – by educating people about hiking, but also about the environment, hopefully, to spread the word and build a stronger community of people.
Want to join Pacha Mama on their next adventure? Scan below to follow them on WeChat (ID: pacha_mama_adventure).