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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Presenting our Tentative Itinerary!!

Hello dear students,

Over the past weeks, we have been working together to craft a course itinerary that is dynamic, immersive, and inspiring.  We will be visiting so many places that are going to enrich our understanding of our world and provide us with incredible insight into many beautiful and difficult situations, creating a space for us all to become real global citizens.

As you will soon learn, travel in Bolivia and Peru is not an exact science and we’ll all soon become South American “travel yogis” able to bend, stretch, and breathe into the unexpected events that can be opportunities for patience and magic on the road. Over the coming week or so you’ll each be receiving a call from one of use to talk about the itinerary and address any last minute questions you may have, so keep an eye out for that communication!

At Dragons, we intentionally keep our itineraries flexible so that we can take advantage of the unexpected opportunities on the ground and adaptively craft the trip to match the interests of our group. We’ll speak more to the logic underlying our itinerary design once we’re together in Peru, but for now, please know that we’ve intentionally chosen places and activities to provide a progression of challenges and opportunities throughout the semester. The culmination of that progression is the “student led expedition” (often referred to as the x-phase) in which you all will be responsible for planning and running the final 10 days of the course. Exciting, yes?

Our excitement has been growing as we’ve delved into planning details, and we can’t wait to share these wonderful places with each of you!  So with great anticipation, here is our tentative Fall 2017 Andes & Amazon itinerary for Group A

With no further introduction let us present our itinerary:

Orientation in Pisac (Sep. 16 – 19): We could not have a better starting place. Pisac is a small town outside of Cusco. It is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and has beautiful Incan sites right outside of the town. We will be staying at an ecolodge, where we will prepare for our three months here in the Andes and Amazon area. We will get to know each other and create a strong group culture that will support us during our course. We will get to explore the town and have our first experiences of Peru in the food that we eat, the landscape that we experience and our first glimpse of the language Quechua spoken by the Incan empire.

Parque de la Papa (Sep. 20 – 24): From beautiful Pisac we travel to yet another incredibly stunning place. Paru Paru is a small community in the Parque de la Papa (Potato Park) reserve, a protected indigenous territory in the Andean highlands above the Sacred Valley. The community works to preserve their ancestral agricultural practices and protect crop diversity in the area, and produces over 600 varieties of potatoes alone.  Our friend Mario will be in charge of arranging our homestays and the activities we will be participating in, including working the fields, learning about textile traditions, and hiking in the nearby area.  We will be hiking to Paru Paru in order to develop our trekking skills.

Trek Ausangate (Sep. 25 – Oct. 1): This is our first real trek on the course, and there’s no better place to trek for the first time in Peru than in the shadow of the most sacred peak of the Quechua people. The landscape here is very dramatic, and we will be hiking around the base of Mt. Ausangate starting in Ocongate, a small highland town southeast of Cusco. We will enjoy the company of another amazing group of people here, the Condori brothers, who will guide us along the route. They are very knowledgeable about this area and will show us beautiful rivers coming out of the glacier and alpine lakes formed by melting water. Our dear friend Fabian will teach us about the traditions of his ancestors, the Inca, and the significance of this mountain in Andean mythology and the development of the local culture.

Fauna forever (Oct. 2 – 7): From the high altitudes of the Andes we will descend to the Peruvian jungle. Starting in Puerto Maldonado, the biggest Amazonian outpost in this area of Peru. We will then travel by boat along the Madre de Dios river to a research station started by our friends at Fauna Forever. The organization focuses on scientific research, environmental education, green business development, and collaborative engagement with local communities. We will have a Learning-Service experience here, where we will get to understand the importance of this area for the entire world.

Machu Picchu and Cusco (Oct 8 – 12): From the Amazon rainforest, we will make our way back to Cusco and then on to Machu Picchu, both sites of importance for Incan culture. We will get to explore Cusco, the heart of the Incan empire and capital of the Spanish colonial government in South America.  Making our way to Machu Picchu, we will have the opportunity to explore the magical lost city of the Inca and observe their advancements in architecture and scientific research.  We will make our way to Machu Picchu passing by the Sacred Valley of the Incas, vital for the development of the empire.

Tiquipaya Homestays (Oct. 13 – Nov. 6): After so much travel, we will transition from Peru to Bolivia and settle into a beautiful valley near the city of Cochabamba. We will meet our homestay families, who will be very happy to receive you and teach you about their ways of life. In Tiquipaya, we will shift our focus to some program components that are easier learned in a stationary environment. In addition to living with the same family for almost a month, you will be taking daily Spanish lessons in the mornings and we will bring in guest speakers on a regular basis to speak about Bolivia’s history and current events. Each of you will have a mentor for an independent study project (ISP), and you’ll meet regularly with them to learn some kind of trade, craft, or local knowledge. Your host families have much experience working with students like you and will provide a great resource to learn about the context. Most students fall in love with Tiquipaya and don’t want to leave when it’s time to go. The place, the temperate weather of the valley, your new friends, and the love of your new family will have you planning your next visit here.

Part-way through our time in Tiquipaya, we begin to hand the reigns of the course over to you all. As a group, we will bring you into our conversations about planning the course, working on logistics, and deciding what we learn. This transition is our first major shift in how the course runs. We call the first phase of the course Skill Building. No is when we transition to the Practicing phase, where you have more responsibilities, but are not fully in charge. We’ll challenge you with opportunities to take leadership.

La Paz and Trek in the Cordillera Real (Nov 7  – 16): In the second week of November, we will leave our homestays and head to La Paz, the seat power for the Bolivian government. We will get to explore the city and prepare for our trek in the Royal Mountain Range. La Paz is known for its political activism, and we will feel the undercurrents. We’ll explore places of political and cultural importance, travel on the largest public cable car system in the hemisphere, and visit El Alto (a twin city to La Paz), the largest indigenous city in the Americas.

Leaving La Paz, we trek into the cordillera real. We begin by hiking around the imposing Huayna Potosi mountain. The glaciers and lakes that can be seen in this trek are some of the most amazing views in the area. Building on our knowledge from our first trek in Peru, you will begin to take on more leadership for this trek, helping us to navigate the mountains, weather their storms, and take care of the group. As we continue our trek, the route begins to descend in elevation and the ecosystem changes with elevation from high mountain peak to sub-tropical cloud forest. From down in the forest, we can look up at the glaciers. This dramatic change in ecosystems will frame our conversations about climate change.

Yungas (Nov 17 – 19) : The Yungas is the area of Bolivia where most of the Afro-Bolivians live. Here, we will be back in a rainforest with warm and humid weather. This climate allows for coffee and cacao to grow in this area. This is Sandy’s home territory, and she will introduce us to her community, where we will stay with families and learn about life and culture in the rainforest.

Expedition Phase (Nov 20 – Dec. 1): The third and final phase of our semester begins in the Yungas. We hand leadership over to you. You will work together to create an itinerary of travel, adventure, and learning that is meaningful for your group. As instructors, we step into a support and safety role. The expedition phase is a moment where the group is performing at its peak! We will guide you through the planning process and give you the tools to be able to organize your Expedition Phase.

Transference (Dec. 2 – 6): Sadly, we are almost at the end of our course. Expedition Phase ends at a pre-determined location: the small town of Samaipata. Transference is a chance to reflect, celebrate all that we have accomplished, and look forward to our next steps in life. What will it be like returning to an environment that is familiar after everything we have learned and experienced? As all good things do, our trip also will come to an end. We will leave Samaipata on the 5th and travel to our final destination: Santa Cruz. We will say goodbye here, but the experience will be with us for the rest of our lives.