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

Cordillera Real Trek Day One

Today was a reminder of the magic trekking can do for a group. At 6:30 this morning we all lugged our big packs from our homestays to Teatro Trono to leave for our trek in the Cordillera Real. At the top of the seven flights of stairs was an amazing pre-trip breakfast of bread, eggs, and coca tea. After breakfast we loaded the bus with our packs, tents, food, and kitchen gear. By 7:30 we were on our four hour ride to the start of our adventure. The intimidating snow covered peaks in the distance occasionally peeked through the clouds filling us with nervous excitement. Half way through the drive we stopped in an Aymara town to grab some last minute snacks and say goodbye to the front country.

When we got to the trailhead the view turned our fear into motivation. Cold rain crept up on us about thirty minutes in and not one person complained. Instead people sang and played trail games to keep the morale high. Lunch was a perfect energy booster of avocado, cheese, and turkey on bread. The second half of our day was cold yet fun. When we got to camp we eagerly set up our tents, ready to get out of the rain. While Jhasmany’s cooking group whipped up a feast, I changed into my tennis shoes and all the layers I could find. I then crawled into Ella, Olivia, and Rory’s tent to snuggle up and learn a new card game called Monopoly Deal. This meal I speak of was not your typical backcountry dish. I don’t think of myself as a huge sloppy joe fan but this stuff was pure gold full of beef, onions, bell peppers, ketchup, seasoning salt, leftover avocado, and -still fresh- bread from the market in El Alto.

After stuffing ourselves we had our daily check-in announcing our water consumption, emotional level, the impact of altitude, and poop scale (we too thought this was weird on day one). Before bed we started a new group bonding activity to add on to check-in. One person asks a question and in a circle each person answers it. The question tonight was: who is someone you look up to and why? My response was about an old teacher of mine. I look up to him because he never settles. Every day he challenges his own values, and those of the people around him. He makes a point to include the excluded and to give voices to the silenced. He is a selfless, thoughtful, strong, courageous role model that influences everyone he meets. After just the first day of this trek I have gained more appreciation for the immense positivity and vulnerability of this group. I can’t wait to keep learning from them.