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It is the moment we have all been waiting for — we present you our *tentative* itinerary for Andes and Amazon Fall 2019!!!
Ben, Sandy, and I have all been pretty darn excited planning the itinerary for these three months. We so much look forward to showing all of you around these places, many of which are near and dear to us. We will be visiting places in which Ben and Jac have lived, studied, and worked and where, of course, Sandy is from and has worked as an activist for the Afro-Bolivian community. We all cannot wait for you to experience the power that is Peru and Bolivia!
As you all know, Dragons courses are dynamic, and our itinerary may shift due to a variety of factors related to the country’s political or environmental climate, or factors related to our group. That being said, we are excited to present the tentative plan as it now stands!
Week 1 ( Sep 16 – Sep 22) — Orientation and Machu Picchu: The Sacred Valley, Peru
We will start our semester in the Peruvian Andes, and pass our first four days together in the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco, the ancient Incan capital. Cusco today is still a heavily Quechua Indigenous department. Orientation is a time for us to settle in, rest up from our long travels to Peru, learn more about one another, and focus on our itinerary and how we can embody responsible travel. These days will involve a lot of vulnerability, with the goal of really getting to know each other and creating a safe and supportive community! At the end of the first week, we will also visit the famed Machu Picchu, located a few hours outside of the Sacred Valley in the ceja de selva (“eyebrow of the rainforest”).
Weeks 2 & 3 (Sep 23 – Oct 6) — Homestay and Trek in Peru
After our orientation we will embark on our first rural homestay, followed by our first trek. Our homestay will be four days in the Paru Paru community in La Parque de la Papa (“papa” means potato in Spanish). The “potato park” is located in the Sacred Valley about 45 km from Cusco, and is made up of six distinct Quechua communities, including Paru Paru. During our time with these families, we will learn about the agrobiodiversity of their potato production, as well as the relationship the community maintains with la Pachamama ( loosely “mother earth”) based on Indigenous principles of reciprocity and Sumaq Kawsay (“vivir bien” or “living well”). After our time in la Parque de la Papa, we will head out on our first trek, a 6-day trek in the Vilcanota mountain range in the Ocongate region located a few hours outside of Cusco. This range is home to Cusco’s patron Apu (a sacred and sentient mountain), the glacier Ausangate. We will therefore have the privilege of traveling over extremely sacred land by foot, where we will learn about the local ecological systems and Andean relationships with the earth.
Weeks 4, 5 & 6 (Oct 6 – Oct 31): Tiquipaya Homestay
After a final post-trek transition day in Cusco, we will head to Bolivia where we will spend the rest of the course! We will travel by bus from Cusco to the city of La Paz, located in the Bolivian highlands. We will spend a rest day there, and then carry on to the city of Cochabamba, where we will spend the next three weeks in our Tiquipaya homestays. Cochabamba, like Cusco, is a Quechua region. It is also a historically important site of political activism in modern Bolivian history. Tiquipaya is a semi-rural community located not far outside of Cochabamba proper. Over the three weeks, students will connect with their local homestay families while participating in intensive Spanish language classes. In the afternoons, students will work on their Independent Study Projects, with potential topics including weaving, Quechua language study, Andean music and dance, socio-political issues, traditional agriculture, and Bolivian cooking. We also meet with guest speakers and learn about the vibrant history of social mobilization in the region.
Weeks 7, 8, & 9 (Nov 1- Nov 19): Bolivian Lowlands
After our time in Cochabamba, we will head back to La Paz and prepare for our second trek. We will spend four days trekking in Los Yungas, the tropical part of the La Paz department that is often referred to as the “cloud forest.” We will start at La Paz’s high elevation of nearly 12,000 feet and slowly descend into the Bolivian lowlands. Along the way, we will be able to observe with our own eyes the rapidly-changing ecological steps. After our trek, we will spend four days in Tocaña, a community in the Yungas where instructor Sandy is from. We will learn all about the Afro-Bolivian communities in Los Yungas, where the majority of Afro-Bolivians live in Bolivia. After our time in Tocaña, we will spend two days traveling on the River Beni to descend deeper into the Sud Yungas, ending in Asunción de Quiquibey, where we will spend 5 days. Asunción de Quiquibey is located in Pilon Lajas, an Indigenous-run preserve mainly of the Tsimane and Moseten Indigenous Amazonian communities.
Weeks 10 and 11 (Nov 20 – Dec 2): El Alto and X-Phase
As we near the end of our course, we will return once again to La Paz but this time to spend time in its sister city, El Alto, a city of incredible importance in the modern history of Bolivia. El Alto is a city resting on the mesa above the city of La Paz, at 4,100 meters above sea level (13,500 feet!!) The city is surrounded by snow-covered peaks and filled with cultural diversity. The majority of the population is Indigenous Aymara, and the region is known for being a site of resistance and Indigenous uprising. It is also Bolivia’s second-largest and youngest city (officially its own city only since 1985!)
Our main point of contact and connection with the El Alto community will be with Teatro Trono/COMPA (Comunidad de Productores en Arte). For 30 years, Teatro Trono has been a cultural space in which young people are able to connect with artistic expression, a space where dreams are made a reality by sharing ideas and proposing societal changes through the arts. During our time in El Alto, we will learn about Bolivian colonial and contemporary history via Trono’s incredible, interactive theatre productions. We will also partake in theater workshops ourselves, as well as stay with Alteño homestay families.
After our time in El Alto, we will transition into the students’ “X-Phase”, in which the students will have the opportunity to completely self-guide the course for around 9 days (with the watchful eyes of the instructors, of course). This is a time for the students to put everything they have learned over the last three months into practice. A time to be challenged, to grow, and to excel!
Week 12 (Dec 3 – Dec 6): Transference and Return Home
We will spend the last few days of our course in a period called “transference,” location TBD but most likely In the La Paz area. During this time, we will wrap up the entire semester and begin to wind down and reflect on the experience as a whole. Here we reflect on our journey, celebrate our time together, and prepare for the transition home. Students will then fly back to their homes from the airport in Santa Cruz on Dec 6.