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

Muchas Gracias, Toro Toro

Who would have known that a group of 16 persons, all from vastly different backgrounds would connect so deeply with two guides, native to the Toro Toro National Park in Potosi, Bolivia. It seems that when diversity meets diversity, souls are saturated with impermeable bonds.

Our parting words were bittersweet as Don Mario and Lina´s eyes wet with tears, reminiscing on our five days together in las montanas. I think Don Mario is a magical man of the land. He dedicated his life to Toro Toro – his childhood was spent exploring it and his adulthood conserving it. The earth listens to him. He leaps down canyons and across rocks knowing their every formation – as if he was there when it was created. He drinks from streams knowing that the land will provide and protect him. It’s clear that he embodies the spirit of the mountains. Don Mario is Toro Toro.

On one of our hour long day hikes, Don Mario took us to La Ciudad de Los Hijos Perdidos – The City of the Lost Children. Jhasmany suggested we be silent and listen to the sounds around us. I often think the world is too loud so this suggestion to spend minutes listening and observing was an idea I supported wholeheartedly.

Walking through the channels made by water that had carved out pathways through the limestone rocks was refreshing. La Ciudad de Los Hijos Perdidos (named by Don Mario) was a sight to behold. I watched each Dragones gravitate towards a different rock, each in search of something slightly different. I myself was in search of a little rock mountain that I felt a personal connection with and one that had a panoramic view of the mountains across the Rio Caine. I reached my rock of choice, reclined and felt the gusts of winds sweep across us. Each time my brain got too noisy, I felt the wind pick up speed, caressing my face and silencing my mind. I think it was reminding me to be still, focus on the beauty that surrounded me and feel peace. I felt it.

I believe this is an integral part of the Dragons program. Time has passed so slowly. These past ten days have felt much longer. I think we have slowed down time to increase moments of silence, mindfulness and connectivity. Where there be dragons, there be moments of silent thoughtfulness.