Welcome to your course. Over the past few weeks we have been evaluating past courses, our own experience and expertise, and, most importantly, your passions and interests to design an itinerary for our upcoming semester together.
We would like to give you a bit of background on the way we design our courses. While the places we visit are beautiful and deeply moving in themselves, the flow of our course is designed carefully and intentionally to create a progression of experiences. In the first phase, known as Skill Acquisition, you will be learning important tools concerning how to be responsible travelers and taking ownership over your experience. During the Practicing phase, you will make use of these tools and engage on a deeper level with your surroundings. During the final Expedition phase, students take on a more active role in the planning and implementation of course elements. As we move through the course, the challenges will increase and your ownership of the experience and responsibility will increase in kind. Throughout the process, you will be guided by us, your instructors, and by the local people and landscapes.
Furthermore, our Core Values of Awareness of Self, Global Citizenship, and Leadership and Skill Building will act as an undercurrent throughout the course, guiding us through the experience. At each phase of the course you will find yourselves delving deeper into these themes. And finally, as always with Dragons, the course will be flexible and spontaneous, allowing us to make changes depending on local conditions, group interests, and other opportunities that may present themselves along the way.
Our excitement has been growing as we’ve put this together, and we can’t wait to share these wonderful places with each of you! So, without further ado here is our Spring 2018 Andes & Amazon Group B tentative itinerary!
SKILL ACQUISITION PHASE
Orientation (Feb 8th-11th)– We will meet you at Cusco’s International Airport on the morning of the 8th. Cusco is at 3,400 meters (11,155 ft) so to help us acclimatize we’ll leave straight from the airport and drop down to the town of Urubamba at a more comfortable 2,871 meters (9420 ft). In Urubamba we’ll get to know each other, set our goals and expectations for the semester, and learn some crucial tools for navigating the culture and places we will be visiting.
First trek (Feb 12th – 15th)- From Urubamba we’ll head out on our first trek in the mountains around the Sacred Valley of Peru. We’ll experience a wide variety of climates as we make our way up over mountain passes exceeding 15,000 ft! We’ll camp at the base of snow covered peaks, hike along sparkling alpine lakes, and possibly drop down into the cloud forest by foot to observe the dramatic ecological transitions this region is known for. Along the way we’ll come together as a group and begin to hone our trekking skills.
Fauna Forever (Feb 16th- 24th)- In drastic change from the mountains around Urubamba we’ll find ourselves in Puerto Maldonado, a booming, tropical town and the gateway to our Amazon adventure. Traveling by boat in the Amazon River Basin we will arrive at the indigenous community of Boca Pariamanu and work in conjunction with the conservation organization Fauna Forever. Fauna Forever is a biological research organization seeking to document the incredible biodiversity this region has to offer, and support conservation initiatives. The community will kindly invite us to be guests and participate in daily activities such as fishing, weaving, and arrow making. We’ll use our time here to study issues relating to tropical biodiversity, natural resource use in the Amazon, and lowland indigenous culture.
Nacion Q’eros (Feb 25th – March 6th)– Most of Q’eros is only accessible by foot so we’ll be hiking from community to community with our dear friend and trusted guide Siwar Kenti. Siwar grew up in Q’eros and is excited to share the unique, complex culture of this region. We’ll stay with families along the way, studying Quechua and learning about this rich culture that traces its lineage directly back to the Inca.
Cusco + Machu Picchu (March 7th- 11th) – We’ll spend 2 days in the center of the ancient Incan empire, Cusco, before heading off to the infamous Machu Picchu. Full of history and mystery as well as being one of South America’s top tourist destinations Machu Picchu has so much to teach us. Here we’ll dive into ancient history and also examine the effects of tourism on modern day Peru.
OFF TO BOLIVIA!!
Tiquipaya Homestays (March 12th- 31st) – We’ll make our way to the small town of Tiquipaya outside of Cochabamba. Here we’ll spend nearly three weeks focusing on homestays and language study. During this time you will be introduced to potential Independent Study Project (ISP) themes -weaving, Andean music, dance, politics, and cooking, among others. Our time here will be defined by small group Spanish classes during the week, as well as the time with our homestay families. This is a valuable opportunity to immerse ourselves in the local community, engage with important themes in Bolivian history, and learn about farming in this agricultural community.
Potosi (April 1st- 5th)– The little known city that shaped the world. Potosi is home to Cerro Rico, the most important silver mine in human history. The silver extracted from Potosi helped fund the Spanish empire and changed the world as we know it. We will work with local miners and organizations to learn about modern day life in this city resting on top of the world (4,090 meters/13,420 ft).
Teatro Trono (April 6th- 9th)- We will make our way to the city of La Paz, and spend a few days with the theater group Teatro Trono, based in El Alto. Teatro Trono is an organization that works with young local artists and actors who perform and paint/sculpt/create to raise awareness of current social issues in Bolivia. During this part of the course, we will dive into hands-on learning about the arts for social change, as well as development and resource use throughout Bolivia.
El Choro Trek in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real (April 10th – 16th)- A true Andes to Amazon style trek. We’ll start at the base of Huayna Potosi and go over passes surpassing 5000 meters (16,400 ft). Then we’ll quickly start dropping down in elevation until our final destination of Tocaña at around 1400 meters (a mere 4,600 ft!). During our descent we’ll pass through one of the widest variety of climates you likely have ever experienced. We’ll start in barren snow-covered mountains and end in lush rainforest filled with the sounds of tropical birds.
Tocaña Homestays (April 17th – 21st)- During the time of colonization the Spanish brought people from Africa to work as slaves in the silver mines of Potosi. Due to issues with acclimatization many of these men, women and children we’re relocated to an area called Las Yungas to work in the coca fields. Hundreds of years later the descendants of those individuals still live in Los Yungas in communities like Tocaña. We’ll spend a few days with this community learning about their fascinating culture and working the land alongside them.
Expedition Phase (April 22nd – April 27th)- Throughout the course we will be working towards a more student led educational experience. For this portion of the course you will have to work together as a team to create a rewarding, challenging, educational week of travel. Own your own learning and create a transformative experience.
Transference (April 28th – May 1st)– Transference is a time for us all to reflect upon our time together and to think about how we’ll bring what we learned home with us. We’ll slow down and spend a few days in a relaxing, beautiful natural environment.
Start to familiarize yourself with these places. Find them on a map, research their history, look for relevant news articles and most importantly get excited for this amazing adventure!
-The Instructor Team.