Back to

Partnerships in the Cordillera Vilcanota

It was the second to last night of our trek. The students were making some instant pudding on the soccer field in Chillca, our campsite for the night.

I sat down with Miguel Inti and Francisco Condori to picchiar coca, a familiar evening moment of sharing. Pablo, Raymundo, and Romer Condori shortly joined us. Together, they made up our team of guides. They guided our 12 horses and 11 students, physically and spiritually, as we traveled among sacred peaks and passes. While they call this region home, and are very familiar with each path and river bend, they all maintain the same sense of awe and excitement that I do when passing through the Cordillera Vilcanota on a clear day. It made me happy to see them connect with their home, and reminded me of how I feel in the Northwoods.

We started shooting the breeze, Miguel Inti occasionally translating from Quechua to Spanish so I could understand the Condori brothers. I could usually gather the gist through their hand gestures and mix of familiar Spanish and Quechua words.

Fransisco Condori’s tone changed as he spoke to Miguel Inti, occasionally glancing over at me. Paola sat down to join us, as Inti asked us if we would mind if they gave us some suggestions, translating. It was time for feedback. Each Condori brother had a suggestion for Dragons and us instructors; they have all been working with us for years. This is only my third course.

After sharing suggestions, and coming up with some solutions, we began to talk about la Familia Dragones, and what it means to each of us. We acknowledged how much we appreciated the ability to talk candidly and make steps to improve our treks and relationships. I would like to share some quotes from that convo.

Miguel Inti: “No es como nos vemos por un rato para trabajar, y despues chao. Estamos haciendo mas, como familia. Estamos todos aqui para aprender. Tampoco somos perfectos, como profesionales, pero poco a poco siempre vamos con ustedes haciendolo mejor.”

It’s not like we should just see each other for some time to work together, and then just say bye. We are doing more here, like family. We (Inti and Condoris) are here to learn. Professionally we aren’t perfect, but little by little we will improve our work with you all.


Inti: Eres lo mas joven de Dragones, no cierto?

Yo: No tanto, pero mas o menos. Que edad tienes vos?

Inti: 27. Entonces, entre jovenes, podemos ir más allá con todo eso. Osea las cosas, siempre pueden estar cambiando… para lo mejor. Los estudiantes, son el futuro. Vienen aquí de mucho lejos, y la mayoría de turistas no logran de aprender de estos lugares sagrados, sentir su energía. Ven todos, pero pocos reconocen el privilegio de vivir esas experiencias. Por esto tenemos que seguir trabajando…

Inti: You are the youngest Dragons instructor, right?

Me: Not actually, but more or less. How old are you anyway?

Inti: 27. So, between young people, if I may. We can do more with this whole thing. I mean, we can always be making this better. These students, they are the future. They come here from super far, and the majority of tourists don’t end up learning from these sacred places, or feel their energy. Everyone sees, but few recognize the privilege to actually live these experiences. This is why we need to keep working.


I have only had three conversations in my life that left me feeling the need to immediately journal and write down quotes. I wanted to remember this conversation, because it showed me what a horizontal relationship between us instructors and in-country contacts can feel like. It feels like both parties investing in each other and sharing in the inspiration of their home.