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

Our First Trek!

Our first trek was a success! We have now reached Tiquipaya, where our 3 week long homestay will begin. Today we are meeting our families and I couldn´t be more excited! Our trek was incredible. Although some of our group got sick, we were still able to see beautiful landscapes and learn a lot about the national park we were visiting, Toro Toro. To our surprise, our guide, Don Mario, had an extremely influential role in the founding of the park.

In Toro Toro, we were surrounded by endless mountain ranges all different colors and shapes. When we would look down into the valleys we could see the lights of the town in the distance, and the flowing rivers. It was absolutely breathtaking. On our second day of the trek, we did an 8 hour long day hike in the surrounding area of our campsite. During this hike, Don Mario lead us to an old Incan fortress at the top of one of the mountains. On our way up, which was about a five hour walk uphill (and at altitude), we encountered dinosaur footprints. Actually seeing proof that dinosaurs existed was so incredible and mesmerizing. The footprints were so defined and could really help us imagine how this area of the world looked when dinosaurs were roaming the earth. Don Mario shared with us that Toro Toro´s history was very long, and he was one of the instigators of establishing it as a national park. Having Don Mario as our tour guide really made the experience amazing. When he would explain things it was so obvious how passionate and educated he was about this park. It was his home, and he was leading us through parts of the park that he would explore as a child. At the end of our trek, as we all said goodbye and thank you, Don Mario and his daughter Lin, who accompanied us as well, started to cry. It was so inspirational and emotional to see them choke up, and to know that they shared with us something that is so important in their lives. Knowing we had that impact on them, and that they had it on us too was an incredible bonding experience that I know none of us will ever forget. Our trek was difficult, but also so fun, and we as a group have gotten a lot closer and learned a lot about each other and ourselves. We also were able to practice our Spanish a lot, whether it was an hour of Spanish while hiking, our a Spanish only dinner. It was in preparation for our next chapter, the homestays.

 

Till next time,

Maayan