We have spent the last four days in the beautiful Las Chullpas Ecolodge in Urubamba, in the heart of the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is located about an hour away from Cusco and it is a very popular tourist destination — both because it is a lower altitude than Cusco (so warmer and more comfortable) and because of all the beautiful Incan archeological sites located throughout the valley. And you have to go through the Sacred Valley to get to Machu Picchu!
Today we went on a short day hike to some chullpas right near our hotel. “Chullpas” are ancient Incan ruins — where the Incas stored their corn, beans, and other vegetables for the entire community. During the hike, we discussed expedition and group trekking behavior: how to hike, how to pack our packs, and (most importantly) how to take care of each other. We are gearing up for our first few treks, which are coming up fast in the next few days — one to Machu Picchu and one to the Cordillera Vilcanota!
In orientation, we have been eating incredibly delicious, mostly vegetarian food. We have been passing our classes sometimes in a beautiful outdoor garden with sacred plants, and sometimes in a yoga/ meditation space. We have been putting time into getting to know each other, talking about our identities, our families, and our communities. We also have started to shift towards talking about Peruvian culture, and had an academic talk on pre-hispanic, Colonial, and contemporary Peruvian politics given by a local professor. When debriefing this talk, we also considered how history is never partial and is often told from the perspective of those with economic and political capital. The students had so much to say in this debrief—their interest and insights blew us instructors away.
In general, the students have thoroughly impressed us instructors — their thoughtfulness, attentiveness, level of engagement, and constant respect and care for each other has been incredible. We instructors cannot wait to keep getting to know each other and get this adventure rolling!!