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

Urpillay Sonqollay

I would not consider myself to be very spiritual, religious, other-worldly, or whatever you would like to call it. The trek from which we just returned, however, definitely showed me the immensely transformative capabilities of strong belief systems that not only inform the way one approaches experiences but also how one interacts with the material world. Before we set out on our trek our guide, Siwarkenti, showed us a ritual in which we asked both Pachamama and the sacred Apu Ausangate for permission to enter and pass safely. Once out in the backcountry we participated in rituals aimed at reciprocating (the best we can) the wonderful things the incredibly beautiful mountain Ausangate gives us. While the simple (and sometimes more complex) thanks we give to the mountain and the the earth cannot make up for the destruction we cause, and the water we take from the rivers and streams is likely not going to be replaced, it certainly made me appreciate the life it gives us evermore. I do not know how spiritual I am likely to be moving forward, but I have certainly found a new appreciation for the power of simply saying thanks.