“Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace el camino al andar.”
“Wanderer, there is no path. A path is made by walking.”
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. 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.
And with that here is our Andes and Amazon B Spring 2019 TENTATIVE ITINERARY:
Orientation (Feb 8-12) 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 Huaran (close to Calca) located at a more comfortable 2,900m (9,514ft). In Huaran 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 12-16) From Huaran 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 end at natural hot springs. Along the way we’ll come together as a group and begin to hone our trekking skills.
Urubamba Homestays (Feb 17- March 17) 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 while studying Spanish and diving in on your Individual Study 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. We will have a mini Expedition during our time in Urubamba where we will visit Machu Picchu and spend other days exploring the surrounding wonders of the Sacred Valley.
View from above of Urubamba.
Nación Q’eros (Mar 18 – 23) 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 accommodations (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.
Trek in Nación Q´eros.
Cusco and Mid Course (Mar 24-26) We will spend some time in Cusco, the center of the ancient Incan empire. We will sit in awe at the architecture and history of this important historic city.
OFF TO BOLIVIA!!
Teatro Trono (Mar 27- 31) 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 about 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 from the Teleférico traveling from El Alto to La Paz
Potosí (April 1-4)– 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 metres/13,420 ft).
Sucre and Cordillera de los Frailes trek (April 5-9): We will then travel to Sucre, the charming and historic colonial capital of Bolivia to prepare for a first trek in the dramatic Cordillera de los Frailes, backpacking through the arid tectonic wonderland that is this range. Our trek will traverse dinosaur footprints, oddly shaped craters, and several Quechua communities known for their brilliantly imaginative weavings.
View from the top of the Crater
Amazon Expedition Phase and Trek (April 10-26) Throughout the course we will be working towards a more student-informed educational experience, and Expedition Phase is the culmination of what it means to lead your own educational experiences. For our Amazon excursion we will most likely visit the pristine section of Amazon rainforest located north of La Paz. Options include the Illampu Circuit to Camino de Oro – traversing the glaciated peaks around sacred Mt. Illampu before descending into montane forest and eventually the Amazonian tropics. Amazon Boat Trip – descend the Beni River by canoe to the Pilon Lajas indigenous preserve, with stops to visit waterfalls, look for wildlife, hike through the jungle, and learn about rubber tapping and other nuances of the forest.
Asunción de Quiquibey – village stay in the Pilon Lajas Biological Preserve, learning from traditional indigenous communities, studying rainforest ecology.
Alternatively, we could could head into the tropical wonderland of Parque Amboró in eastern Bolivia. We will craft this section of the itinerary together, drawing off the skills you’ve developed up until this stage of the course. It’s going to be an adventure and we are SO EXCITED!
Transference (April 27-30) 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 early morning of May 1st.
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!
Frank, Vincent y Elly