Hola dragones ¿còmo estàn?
We’re excited to present our tentative itinerary for this fall! Even as we write this, the instructor team is still chatting about the benefit of option A over option B, checking hotel availability, monitoring the weather, etc. That is to say, expect this itinerary to change. Traveling as a relatively small group allows us the flexibility to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and to encourage students to follow their interests. Moreover, as you will soon learn, travel in South America is not an exact science. Plan for moments where we will take it slow and embrace a different way of looking at travel—one that leaves room for delayed buses and possible re-routes, embracing the art of flexible travel. At this point we want to share with you a narrative sketch of our itinerary, to help you continue to visualize and imagine the fall course.
We’ll speak more to the logic underlying our itinerary design once we’re together in Bolivia, but for now, please know that we’ve intentionally chosen places and activities which provide a progression of opportunities and challenges throughout the semester, and which align with Dragons’ core values. Throughout the course the itinerary will focus and build on certain themes, which will provide a really unique and exciting view of Bolivia and Peru.
Arrival and Orientation (Sep 16 – 21): After hours of preparation and anticipation, you will finally land at the airport of La Paz, one of the highest airports in the world! We will head to Coroico, to a quiet eco lodge to begin our course. During this time, we’ll set individual intentions for the months to come, learn how to stay safe and healthy emotionally and physically, get to know each other and begin to come together as a group.
Los Frailes Trek (Sep 22 – 25): Taking our first (of many) long bus rides, we will arrive to Sucre and get ready here to start our first trek in the Frailes mountain range surrounding the city. The trek passes through a small red sand desert, J’alka indigenous communities, dinosaur tracks, and a crater formation. This is a really beautiful landscape to take in the magic of Bolivia, and spend time learning more about one another. During the trek we will put more emphasis on working together as a group and honing our trekking skills.
Sucre Homestay (Sep 26 – Oct 24): The group will now settle into our first homestay, located just outside the city of Sucre. Sucre is located in the southern highlands of Bolivia with a rich history of colonial heritage and presents a look into Bolivia’s legislative and administrative capital. We will also start learning about indigenous cultures in this area that are actively excluded. This area is also a major agricultural center and supplies food for the surrounding mining communities of the antiplano. While living with local families in the neighborhood of Lajastambo and exploring an Independent Study Project (ISP) with local mentors, we will also help you build your ability to have unmediated interactions with locals on this trip through intensive Spanish language classes.
Potosí and El Alto/La Paz (Oct 25 – Nov 1): After leaving Sucre, we will head a bit southwest to Potosí, one of the world’s highest cities – and an essential stop in our adventure. The city came into existence after the discovery of silver in 1545, and quickly became known for its wealth. Because of the existence of silver and other minerals such as tin, lead, and copper a somewhat tumultuous history exists here. We explore the effects of resource extraction in this area, and how this city plays a significant role in the greater history of development in Bolivia and the world.
We will then begin our journey north in the last week of October, heading to El Alto (twin city of La Paz). These cities are known for its political activism, and we will feel the undercurrents. El Alto is the largest indigenous city in South America. The people in this city identify mostly as Aymara, a pre-Incan culture based around the Titicaca Lake. El Alto is also the newest city in Bolivia gaining its independence in 1987. Here we will stay at an art and theater collective, where we will learn about theater and understand how the arts have been used in Bolivia as a tool for social change.
Trek in the Cordillera Real and Yungas (Nov 2 – Nov 7): We will spend the next day or so exploring the city of La Paz, the seat power for the Bolivian government. We will visit places of political and cultural importance and travel on the largest public cable car system in the hemisphere. We will prep for our trek in the Royal Mountain Range and begin by hiking around the imposing Huayna Potosi mountain. The glaciers and lakes that can be seen in this trek are some of the most amazing views in the area. Building on our knowledge from our first trek in Los Frailes, you will begin to take on more leadership for this trek, helping us to navigate the mountains, weather their storms, and take care of the group. As we continue our trek, the route begins to descend in elevation and the ecosystem changes with elevation from high mountain peak to subtropical cloud forest. From down in the forest, we can look up at the glaciers. This dramatic change in ecosystems will frame our conversations about climate change.
From the high mountains down to the lowland rainforests, we will head to Tocaña, the area of Bolivia where most of the Afro-Bolivians live. Here, we will be back in a rainforest with warm and humid weather. This climate allows for coffee and cacao to grow in this area and we will learn a bit about life and culture in the rainforest.
Amazon and Cusco (Nov 8 – Nov 20): The colonial city of Cusco will act as our home base for exploring the Amazon as well as the starting point for heading to Machu Picchu. The particular location of where we will be spending time in the Amazon is still to be determined, as we are chatting with our contacts and figuring out the logistics. Updates to come!
From the Amazon rainforest, we will make our way back to Cusco and then on to Machu Picchu, both sites of importance for Incan culture. We will get to explore Cusco, the heart of the Incan empire and capital of the Spanish colonial government in South America.
Expedition Phase in Machu Picchu (Nov 21 – Nov 30): The third and final phase of our semester begins in Cusco, where we hand leadership over to you all! You will work together to create an itinerary of travel, adventure, and learning that is meaningful for your group. As instructors, we step into a support and safety role. The expedition phase is a moment where the group is performing at its peak! We will guide you through the planning process and give you the tools to be able to organize your Expedition Phase.
You all will be responsible for making our way to Machu Picchu, we will have the opportunity to explore the magical lost city of the Inca and observe their advancements in architecture and scientific research. We will trek towards Machu Picchu passing by the Sacred Valley of the Incas, vital for the development of the empire.
Transference and Departure (Dec 1 – Dec 6): In the final days of the program we will spend time in Urubamba and bring the group tightly together for transference, which is something like orientation in reverse. We will focus our attention honoring one another, ourselves, and the people and places that illuminated in us and in the world places hitherto unknown. These days are a chance to reflect, synthesize, and celebrate our journey before we part ways.
Keshet, Paola, and Randall