Upon reaching the pass in which we started our journey into Nación Q´eros, a flood of emotions hit me with a force comparable to that of the many rivers we crossed during the last six days of trekking. I felt calm and at peace after spending so many days removed from the constant movement and stimulation of our last month of travel around Peru. I felt a deep connection to Pachamama after having been held by the Apus (mountains) and tested by her lluvia (rain) y nieve (snow). I felt an immense appreciation for the familties that welcomed us into their homes, including the children who only softly giggled as we bumped our heads on the door frame and struggled to fit our packs through the small opening. I felt humbled by the offerings of food and extra blankets for us to sleep with even though we had large, foreign looking sleeping bags. The way my host mothers would ask “¿aumenta?”, meaning “more?” the second I set down my empty tupper showed their genuine concern and caring nature. I would say to them in Quechua “Urpichay sonqoy” which loosely translates to “thank you” after being served my potato soup, and be responded simply with “come papa”. This clearly illustrated to me that from the perspective of our host families, the most sincere thank you was to eat the offering of their sacred food, the potato.
After researching Nación Q´eros for a pre-trip assignment, I thought that I had accumulated a good understanding of their culture, including their sprituality and way of life. Very quickly I realized how wrong I was. There is no way to distill the culture of the people of Q´eros into something easily disgested by the masses. Even while staying in their homes, being guided by a member of their community, an incredibly spiritual man named Siwar, and seeing with my own eyes the lands they have called home for hundreds of years, it is still impossible to summerize everything that makes Nación Q´eros what it is. I feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to connect with the people of Q´eros, and it is important to me that I continue to ponder and share the magic of their culture when I return to mine back home.