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It is the moment we have all been waiting for — we present you our *tentative* itinerary for Andes and Amazon Spring 2020!!!
We have 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 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 ( Feb 8 – Feb 13): Orientation in 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. 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 then head on a long bus ride to La Paz, Bolivia — the base for our first trek.
Week 2 (Feb 14 – Feb 20): Takesi Trek in Los Yungas, Bolivia
After our orientation, we will embark on our first trek. On the Takesi Trek, we will spend 6 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, at the base of glaciers, 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. We will also have opportunities to observe pre-Incan trails and ruins, develop our trekking skills, and get to know each other better as a group.
Weeks 3, 4 & 5 (Feb 21 – Mar 14): Tiquipaya Homestay, Cochabamba, Bolivia
After our trek in Los Yungas, we will head to Tiquipaya, the location of our extended homestay! 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.
Week 6 (Mar 15 – Mar 23): Midcourse and Teatro Trono Homestay, El Alto, Bolivia
After our time in Cochabamba, 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!)
In El Alto, we will first undergo our 2-day “Midcourse retreat.” Midcourse, much like orientation, is a time to turn inwards as a group and reflect — on what we have achieved so far, and on our goals for the rest of the course. After Midcourse, we will do our second homestay — this time with Alteño families!
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.
Week 7 (Mar 24 – Mar 29): Vilcanota Trek, Cusco, Peru
After our time with Teatro Trono, we will take a long night bus back to Peru. We will arrive to the small Andean city of Ocongate. In Ocongate we will prep for our second trek, a 5-day trek amongst glaciers in the Vilcanota mountain range, 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 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 and with Pachamama.
Week 8 (Mar 29 – April 4): Cusco and Machu Picchu Trek
After our trek in the Vilcanota, we will head to Cusco and spend a few days in the city of Cusco, the ancient Incan capital. Cusco today is still a heavily Quechua Indigenous city. We will have the opportunity to learn about the “Politics of Tourism in Peru” and the “History of Indigenous Resistance in Peru” from guest speakers. We will then go on our 4-day trek to Machu Picchu, starting in a “ceja de selva” (eyebrow of the rainforest) town called Santa Teresa, and ending at the famed Machu Picchu ruins. Our Machu Picchu trek will be a great opportunity to critically reflect on all that Machu Picchu is and represents — and how it is both an incredible wonder and a complicated, exploitative tourist attraction.
Week 9 (April 5 – April 9): Lima, Peru
After our Machu Picchu trek, we will head back to Cusco and take a next-day morning flight to Peru’s capital city Lima. We will spend four days in this massive city and have the opportunity to learn about various social organizations, as well as contemporary Peruvian history. Some activities will include: a Muay Thai class with a social organization that works to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs in one of Lima’s historic “red zone districts”; a visit to the Shipibo-Konibo migrant village in Lima to learn about one of the Peruvian Amazon’s largest Indigenous groups; and a visit to el Lugar de la Memoria, Peru’s museum dedicated to its era of terrorism and violence in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Our time in Lima will also surely be full of amazing food, and perhaps even a visit to the beach!
Week 10 (April 10 – April 18): Visit to the Peruvian Amazon, Pucallpa, Ucayali Department
After our time in Lima, we will take another flight to the Amazonian port city of Pucallpa, located on the Ucayali River, one of the Amazon River’s main tributaries. Pucallpa is the second-largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, and the capital of the Ucayali Department, the home of the Shipibo-Konibo Pueblo. We will spend ten days learning from these incredible people about their Amazonian lifeways, their traditional medicinal practices, and how they are fighting to protect the Amazon from multinational extractivism and deforestation. We will split our time between the city of Yarinacocha and the Shipibo community of Nueva Betania. Yarinacocha is a city near Pucallpa that is a popular place for Shipibos from nearby communities to migrate, and Nueva Betania is a small and remote Shipibo community located a few hours down a tributary of the Ucayali River. In Yarinacocha we will be learning from Alianza Arkana, an NGO designed to support economic and social projects in Shipibo communities along the Ucayali. In Nueva Betania we will do our final homestay, in which we will have the opportunity to live with and learn from Shipibo families. Amazon time is often one of the most incredible and most intense times on a Dragons course — be prepared to expand your mind!
Week 11 (April 19 – April 26): Expedition Phase!
As we near the end of our course, we will transition into the students’ “X-Phase”, in which students will have the opportunity to completely self-guide the course for around 8 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! Your X-Phase will start in Pucallpa and end in Lima.
Week 12 (April 27 – May 1): 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 Pucusana, a small beach town located about an hour south of Lima. During this time, we will wrap up the 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 Lima in the early morning of May 1st.