¡Bienvenidos a cada [email protected]! Over the past few weeks we have been evaluating past courses, our own experience and expertise, and most importantly, what Peru and Bolivia have to offer a group of intrepid travelers like ourselves, in order 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 the undercurrent throughout the course, guiding us through the experience. At each phase of the course you will find yourselves delving deeper into these themes. 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 road map together, and we can’t wait to share these wonderful places with each of you! Below you can read over the Fall 2018 Andes & Amazon Group B tentative itinerary!
SKILL ACQUISITION PHASE
Orientation (Sept 16 – 19) We will meet you at Cusco’s International Airport on the morning of the 16th. 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 (Sept 20 – 23) From Urubamba we will prepare and head out on our first trek in the mountains around the Sacred Valley of Peru. We will 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 Andean peaks, hike along sparkling streams and 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.
Urubamba Homestays (Sept 23 – Oct 2) In the Sacred Valley a town called Urubamba welcomes many a passer-through on the well-trodden way to Machu Picchu. We have the privilege of staying a bit longer in order to see how urubambinos live and to study Spanish and get a jump-start on your Individual Student Projects or ISPs. During our time in Urubamba you’ll stay with homestay families in order to get a better feel for what a Peruvian home looks and feels like. This, of course, is also the best way to fully immerse yourself in the Spanish language and the Peruvian culture.
View from above of Urubamba.
Nación Q’eros (Oct 3 – 9) 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 Qenti. Siwar grew up in Q’eros, has worked with dragons for more than a decade and is excited to share the unique, complex culture of this region. We will stay with families along the way who live in very simple accomodations (many times one-room stone houses with thatch roofs), learning some Quechua, eating mostly potatoes, and experiencing this rich culture that traces its lineage directly back to the Inca. This trek includes some spectacular vistas, high mountain passes, and sacred spaces.
Fauna Forever and LPAC (Oct 10 – 19) 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 walks in the jungle. We’ll use our time here to study issues related to tropical biodiversity, natural resource use in the Amazon, and lowland indigenous culture. Then we’ll make our way to Las Piedras Amazon Center or LPAC, further up Río Las Piedras, where we will visit a research station investigating the diminishing rainforest and the fauna and flora that inhabit it.
Rainforest in Boca Pariamanu.
Cusco and Machu Picchu (Oct 20 – 23) We will spend a day on either end of our time in Machu Picchu in Cusco, the center of the ancient Incan empire. Full of history and mystery, Machu Picchu has much to teach us in terms of what is used to be as one of the greatest Inca citadels and what it has come to symbolize today as one of the most visited destinations in South America. Here we’ll dive into ancient history and also examine the effects of tourism on modern day Peru.
View from Machu Picchu Mountain
OFF TO BOLIVIA!!
Teatro Trono (Oct 24 – 29) We will make our way to the city of El Alto, which surrounds the city of La Paz at more than 4,000 meters. We will spend a few days with the theater group Teatro Trono, 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.
View of El Alto from Tetro Trono
Activities in front of Teatro Trono.
Cordillera Real Trek (Oct 30 – Nov 3) A true Andean trek, we will explore the base of Illampu, climb mountain passes, and enjoy beautiful alpine lakes. Illampu’s peak can be seen from La Paz but we’ll get to see it up close as we enter the sleepy town of Sorata where we will start and finish our hike. Here you will get to practice the trekking skills you have learned up until this point and incorporate a few more.
Departing from Sorata, view of the Cordillera Real.
Tiquipaya Homestays (Nov 5 – 25) At this point you will already have had some homestays under your belt so settling into Tiquipaya will feel good to call home for a while. From La Paz we will travel to the small town of Tiquipaya, right outside of Cochabamba. Here we will spend nearly three weeks focusing on homestays and language study. During this time you will hone in more on your Independent Study Project (ISP) themes–weaving, Andean music, dance, politics, and cooking, among others–and work with a local mentor. 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.
Expedition Phase and Student-led Trek (Nov 26 – Dec 2) Throughout the course we will be working towards a more student-led educational experience and during expedition phase is the culmination of what it means to lead your own educational experiences. For this portion of the course you will have to work together as a team to create a rewarding, challenging, educational week of travel. During the xphase you will incorporate a trek to demonstrate all that you have learned as well as learn about a new Bolivian ecosystem. You will have the opportunity to own your own learning and create a transformative experience for the group as well as individually.
Trek in Nación Q´eros.
Transference (Dec 3 – 6) 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 so that we are ready to fly out from La Paz the evening of the 6th.
It might be fun 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! Let us know if you have any comments, questions, or concerns as well. The Yak board and your instructors are here for you!
-Tus [email protected]