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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

16,600 ft of Spirit

For the past 2 weeks of being in S. America I’ve been contemplating the name of this program, Spirt of The Andes.

From the get-go in Ollantaytambo it was clear ritual was extremely important. I experienced ritual in Paru Paru with Coca by offering it to Pachamama and the Apus (mountains) from the hikes to potato farming and even just being together, there was ritual to honor spirit.

When we arrived in Ocongate the night before our trek we went to Miguel Inti, our trek guide, to meet his father at his house where he held a sacred ceremony to offer the spirits of Ausagante gifts in order for our group of 15 to have a safe journey into the mountains for the following three days.

Having Miguel Inti on our trek made it extremely special. Each day once we packed up camp, we would join together in a circle where he would offer a prayer to the spirits of the Apus. Throughout the day he would play his flute, as if he knew the spirits of the apu’s and animals were listening to him (I think they definitely were.)

We had five other guides and six horses who were carrying our packs. The guides are known as the Condori Brothers who are the from the area and took us in as family. This was their backyard, a place where many trekker’s have come and gone but very few who have connected with the spirits as deeply as we did.

On the last day of our trek the group split up, some to do the pass and the others to meet at our final camping spot. Once again Miguel Inti shared his knowledge of the great apu’s and held one of the most memorable prayer/walking meditations I have ever experienced. The intention was to find a long rock, hold it in our left hand and let go all of the energy no longer serving us. Once we got to the pass, we threw the rocks into the depths below us.

Before our final decent he acknowledged those who did not come with us to the pass but to honor how far they came. For me in that moment I felt the feeling of family, an intention the Condori brothers had set before.

It’s been a long two weeks of culture shock, non-stop travel, sickness, and so much more but on this trek, we were able to experience the great Spirit of Pachamama everywhere we went thanks to our amazing guides.

For me, how I’m beginning to understand the meaning of this program, is it lays deep within each moment we experience. The Spirit of the Andes isn’t metaphysical it’s everywhere – in the fields, in the sky, in the people.

*Pictures –
1. At the pass – Zayd, Francisco, Miguel Inti, Myself, Chandra, Tigger, Faith.
2-3. Luis, Tigger and me.
4. Not sure where but it sure is beautiful!