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

Post trek thoughts

¡Hola a todos!

Group A has just completed our first trek, and while our feet are sore and our appetites are bigger than ever, our hearts are full.

Last night in Sucre, we met as a group for a debrief of the trek. There’s a lot on my mind after everything we talked about. Like how when we enter a town, a hoard of outsiders weighed down by backpacks and gear, we are projecting our image and tourism to the people who live there. People, who live off the land, who have always known these mountains. And we, who came here to trek, to “experience the wilderness”, who view these mountains as rarities and vehicles to help find ourselves. What right do we have to be here? What is the effect of our presence?

How do we enter this space in reverence and respect for everything that it is, and for everyone who dwells there?

I don’t know how to feel about it. I feel ashamed by our stuff, by our interruption, by our conspicuousness. But I feel peaceful, too. I’m humbled by mountains of the deepest shades of red, by thunderstorms that surround me on all sides, by curves of craters that frame Maragua, a town we had the gift of passing through. A town where I felt like an outsider, but where I felt joyful, too. Because I heard high and clear voices singing songs I’ll never truly understand. Because Candelaria danced, her  velvet purple skirt swinging in circles, and Linuel and Krispín bobbed merrily as they strummed guitars at impossible speeds.

Jhasmany says that every mountain has a name to the people who live there. I’m beginning to see that they are not simply giants to admire from a distance. They are a home, and they do not belong to me. I, too, came from dust, but these mountains are not mine.

There’s a lot more to think about, and wisdom found on this trek that I don’t yet understand. But I’m hopeful for the adventures ahead of us, and honored to be here in el país bello de Bolivia.

Con cariño,

Ella