As a touring musician, Kurtis Rettenmaier collected plenty of passport stamps. More than any of his bandmates, because instead of flying straight home after an overseas gig, Kurtis would regularly bolt on another trip and keep exploring.
Due to this love of wandering, and a friendship with the founders of TripADeal, Kurtis was offered the chance to be part of the travel company based in his hometown of Byron Bay. That was five years ago and it’s an opportunity that’s led him to think about the planet in a different way.
“By selling discount travel, we’re helping more people see the world,” says Kurtis. “So it makes sense that we start giving back to some places in the world that are in need.”
With several charity projects on the go through TripADeal, Kurtis has been driving one that supports a small corner of the Peruvian Amazon. Trekking deep into the rainforest in 2016, he went on a mission with 18 other volunteers to source clean water for a village called San Francisco and returned home determined to make it happen.
In simple terms, the Amazon is the lungs of the earth,” he says. “So we need to look after it to preserve everywhere else on the planet.
“The main food and water supply there have been threatened by mining operations,” he reports. “Deforestation is also polluting the rivers, so we needed to start with clean water to stop the growing disease and suffering in the area.”
It took 12 months, but the team eventually raised the $29,000 needed to build a “water tower” which is a primitive well that draws H2O from deep within the earth, unaffected by the impact of nearby industry. Speaking about the construction, which started last month, Kurtis said: “It’s great to know the process is finally underway. I’m looking forward to following its progress. Hopefully it’ll inspire other people to get involved.”
With almost 15,000 kilometres in between the TripADeal offices in Byron Bay and this tiny community in the Amazon, the link might not be obvious, but Kurtis saw the connection, even before he’d visited.
“In simple terms, the Amazon is the lungs of the earth,” he says. “So we need to look after it to preserve everywhere else on the planet. We realise it’s only one well in one village, but it’s a start.”
Click here to learn more about the Selva Spirit Association, the local not-for-profit dedicated to preserving Indigenous culture in the Amazon.
Image: Using rivers instead of roads, water takes on a new meaning in the Amazon.