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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

Nos vemos en Peru!

Hi friends!

I write to you with anticipation from Red Lodge, MT, where my partner and I have been settling in to our new life here during the past week. We are feeling cozy in our home, which for the first time in three years, isn’t a car, motorcycle, or converted bus! While I love getting to know the town and having such epic access to the backcountry, I am thrilled to head south to meet you all in Peru πŸ™‚

Before working with Dragons in the Andes, I spent two years studying and then working in Peru and Bolivia. Arriving in Peru, I was quickly intrigued by the starkly contrasting cultures influenced by extreme geographical differences between the Highlands and Amazon River Basin. I wanted to understand how indigenous people and languages had remained so robust through centuries of colonial power in the region. I also wanted to study the forms of resistance people have employed to maintain their outlook and way of life. I completed two theses: the first examined the Incan network of footpaths that spanned the empire, and the second looked at different forms of feminism in mining communities. In Peru, I will be excited to dive into these topics with you all as we walk through landscapes that are both sacred to the Inca and their descendants and threatened by mining.

While much of wilderness travel in North America is intentionally isolated from civilization, there are very few corners of the dramatic Andean landscape that are not occupied or influenced by people. During my visits to the region after college, I fell in love with this aspect of Andean foot travel. As we move beneath 6,000-meter-high glaciers and around turquoise alpine lakes, I am excited for us to learn from the people we meet. Many are close friends of mine and will teach us of the cultural and spiritual significance of these majestic landscapes. While our mountain experiences will feel different from a backpacking trip in a US National Forest, I encourage you to embrace the intrigue of a fallow potato field, a herd of alpaca returning to a stone corral, or an aqueduct that neighbors clean once a year because of its proximity to a sacred glacier. With an openness to the wisdom of these landscapes, a foggy day in Peru can be as inspiring as a clear day when the glaciers shine.

I am eager to learn how your passions will shape our time together. It has been fun to read your yak posts πŸ™‚ (keep them coming)

Un abrazo fuerte,

Ben(ito)