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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Updated itinerary!

Dear friends and family,

Hello! Things are off to a great start here in Sorata, and it has been fun to see the group come together these past few days.  Today we took a day hike near Sorata to take in the scenery and and start to prepare for our first big trek in the Cordillera Real range.

We’ve made a couple of minor changes to our itinerary in the best interest of the group, moving up our homestay in El Alto by about a week and adjusting the dates for our Q’eros excursion.  We feel this first homestay will give students a chance to start using their Spanish skills and connect more with the local culture before we make our way to Potosí and the Uyuni Salt Flats.  Our updated itinerary is as follows:

ORIENTATION

Sep 16: Arrive to El Alto airport just outside of La Paz and travel to Sorata, a sweet little Aymara mountain town. We will have lots of lovely outdoor space and have a chance to acclimate to our new surroundings, heights, and Bolivian culture.

Sept 16 – Sep 20: Orientation week will take place in Sorata. Here we’ll have workshops on group dynamics, our goals and expectations for the semester, and tips for navigating the culture and places we visit.

SKILL ACQUISITION

Sep 21 – Sep 26: We will prepare for our first trek in the Cordillera Real; 5 days of continuous trekking and camping along the way. Cordillera Real has more than 600 peaks over 5000 meters high, it’s a spectacular and exotic range. We will review the basics of trekking as well as the impact that we make on our environment.

Sep 27: Returning from our trek, we will make our way to El Alto. There we will partner with a local theater and arts organization called El Trono. We will learn about social movements and activism in El Alto and about Aymara indigenous identity.

Sep 28 – 3 Oct: In El Alto we will spend some urban time and we will have a six-day long homestay with Teatro Trono. Our time here will be highlighted by excursions into La Paz to meet with guest speakers, an exploration of the largest black market in South America, and an urban hike from El Alto to the Valley of the Spirits south of La Paz.

Oct 4 – 7: We will take an overnight bus to the beautiful city of Potosí, a colonial city with a difficult history. It is the site of the infamous Cerro Rico which single-handedly financed the Spanish Empire for centuries and contains one of the most tragic stories of abuse of indigenous cultures in the Americas. Today it is Bolivia’s poorest region and the still active mines give insight into resource extraction and environmental issues.

Oct 8 – 10: We will travel to the stunning Uyuni Salt Flats. The 4,000-square-mile Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and one of the legs of the lithium triangle (Chile and Argentina are the other two). We will look more into resource extraction and the impact on the environment in this area. On the way we will do a volcano hike and then we will spend two days in the Parque Avaroa home to diverse flora and fauna like Andean flamingoes, vicuñas, and ñandus.  

Oct 11: We will travel from Uyuni to La Paz.

PRACTICING

Oct 12 – Oct 14: We will travel to Copacabana and spend some time around Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable fresh water lake in the world), where we will learn from one of the oldest civilizations in Latin America, this will be our transition between Bolivia and Peru.

Oct 15: We will travel to Cusco to transition into our time in Peru before our Homestays in Urubamba.

Oct  16 – Oct 23: This is the time for you to connect on a deeper level. We will be in the middle of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, in the city of Urubamba, where you will do a three-week long homestay and be able to connect with the community. Here you will attend Spanish classes and dive into your Independent Study Projects with local mentors. During this time we will visit the city of Cusco, the ombligo, or belly button of Inca civilization, with much colonial history and beautiful architecture.

Oct 25  – Oct 31: We’ll be heading to Ocongate, to prep for our next trek and adventure. We will visit Nación Q’eros and have homestay experiences in rural (Quechua) communities accessible only by trails. The Q’eros people trace their lineage directly back to the Inca and in this kind of altitude nothing grows except for potatoes, so we’ll be enjoying potatoes for days!  

Oct 29 – Nov 9: We will continue with our time in  the Community of Urubamba.

Nov 10 – Nov 12: We will have a mid-course excursion, and we will visit the magical Machu Picchu!

Nov 13 – Nov 19: This will be the time to finish ISPs, prepare for the expedition phase, and say goodbyes to your homestay family.

EXPEDITION & TRANSFERENCE

Nov 20 – Dec 1: For the final Expedition Phase of our semester to the Amazon, the itinerary will be determined largely by the student group.  Options include Huacaria and Villa Carmen research station, the Puerto Maldonado area working with Fauna Forever and their biological research team, the Weyquechua Cloud Forest research station, or heading to Pucallpa to work with Alianza Arkana and Shipibo indigenous communities.

Dec 2 – Dec 5: During our transference phase we will head back to the Sacred Valley where we will discuss, reflect, and begin to integrate what we have experienced and learned during our journey to our current selves and our lives back home.  

Dec 6: Going home!