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Rugged Travel
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Start to finish of our Amazon expedition seemed to challenge me both mentally and physically, each step of the way Tipnis seemed to present a new challenge or discomfort to overcome. As we clambered over the hill in the dim morning light of the rising sun the wide river seemed to beckon me with romanticized hollywood-esque produced images. Immediately these dream like thoughts swirling around me head were crushed to pieces as we loaded 16 people, food, and gear into two tiny wooden canoes. Within 30 minutes my legs were asleep, and so were two people both crammed next to me. The canoes were loaded to the brim and the boats were weighed down awfully close to the water, each movement brought anxiety to me as we motored our way upstream of the Caiman infested waters. As the day grew on, the sweltering heat mixed with the humidity of the rain forest. We pressed on into the night and finally set up camp on a sandy bed on the bank of the river. Mosquitoes swarmed and the heat refused to leave as we set up tents and ate a delicious hand made meal from our guide Kelly. We slept with the constant sound of pattering bugs hitting our tent like rain. The next thing I knew it was 3 A.M Thanksgiving morning, time to pack up and navigate the boats upstream by moonlight. As I lay down in the boat, slowly falling asleep to the humming motor and lapping waves, while looking up on a breathtaking view of the milky way stretching across the sky , I couldn't help but smile. Thanksgiving lunch consisted of freshly caught Pirinnah and rice. As we sat as a group overlooking the river picking bones out of our fish, I couldn't help but think of how different things could be. Strangely enough I was thankful to be sweating buckets in my longsleeved shirt, while swatting at swarms of mosquitoes in between bites. I was thankful to see a part of the world so different and remote. Animals like caimans, monkeys, capibaras, blue river dolphins, and exotic birds were exciting to watch as the boat continued to chug on. We pressed on into a jaw dropping sunset reflecting in the river. We reached the river community of Nueva Vida after dark and were greeted by more swarms of mosquitoes thrilled to see us. We set up tents under a thatched roof building that the community uses as a school. The next three days were some of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences I have been lucky enough to experience. We were welcomed by the people of Nueva Vida with a warmth unparalleled, they're generosity and kindness was unlike any other place in my travels yet. From harvesting crops, fishing, playing tag with the local children in the river, or playing hours of soccer on a sandy “field”. With they way they welcomed me in, I felt like I was a member of the village myself. The community seemed to be untouched in some pure way, they lived in harmony with the natural world and each  other. Something we of western culture seemed to forget long ago. On the other side of things, I personally think they were some of the toughest people I have ever met. Not only did they live in extreme humidity and heat among millions of mosquitoes, fending off lurking Caimans, Jaguars, and plenty of other dangerous animals. They grow their own crops, and catch their own food. On top of all of that they have been fighting against the bolivian government for years defending their land from the proposed Tipnis highway. Which would pollute water, divide communities and deforest precious amazonian rainforest. We had a talk about the current fight one night with Don Pablo, the community leader of Nueva Vida, as he talked many members chimed in with opinions and facts. As each person spoke, you could see their usual carefree smiling faces, shift into hardened, determined expressions. Their eyes seemed to gleam like soldiers ready for battle as they told us about how their old leader was killed during the protest march to La Paz. During this moment I too felt ready to take up arms and protect the land. while they talked  I forgot all about the heat, the bugs, and the discomfort of the world around me. The days seemed to pass slowly as I learned to embrace discomfort and revel in the strange world around me.A storm of emotions swirled around my head as we pushed off the bank of Nueva Vida. Our wooden canoe filled to the brim with gear, people and overwhelming relief to escape the ever present mosquitoes. Our journey home was just as stunning and uncomfortably packed as our previous ride. As I return to civilization, I am just starting to realize just how lucky those people are to live the way they do, so connected to family and the world around them. The way humans lived for thousands of years before these crazy times arose. Maybe our society and what our world has become is way scarier and discomforting than some heat and mosquitos.

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Tales of Tipnis

Bryce Greenwald,Best Notes From The Field, FALL: Andes & Amazon B, Rugged Travel

Description

  Start to finish of our Amazon expedition seemed to challenge me both mentally and physically, each step of the way Tipnis seemed to present a new challenge or discomfort to overcome. As we clambered over the hill in the dim morning light of the rising sun the wide river seemed to beckon me with […]

Posted On

11/29/16

Author

Bryce Greenwald

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Getting off the boat:

We´ve stopped for six hours to sleep on another one of the sandy beaches that edge the river. We flee from mosquitoes, stuff bread and cheese into our mouths, and descend into a sweaty slumber. I fall asleep flat on my back, something I didn´t realize I could do until I awaken from a vivid, malaria pill induced dream I've since forgotten, staring at the top of the tent. The moon has just risen, a delicate crescent, perfectly in line with a planet (Venus?). We drift in and out of sleep once back on the boats, gliding through the illuminated and glossy waves, a knife cutting through soft fruity flesh. My hair is damp and pulls rather unpleasantly when I run my hand through it. I´m running on little sleep, there´s sand in ever imaginable place, my butt is a little more than sore from sitting on this wooden plank for the better part of the past 24 hours, and I have parasites. Yet, this is probably the most thankful I´ve ever been on Thanksgiving day.

Later in the day:
If I were home today, I would be sitting down in several hours to eat a lot of food, talk with my family, and then maybe start thinking about  Christmas. Or maybe we´d be doing something different this year, it often changes. Maybe we´d be staring out the window at the expansive mountains in Patagonia, watching birds float around the mesquite trees and taking care to close the gates that keep out the javelinas at night. But instead I´m in this humming boat, named a Peka Peka in ontamatapoeiac fashion. The water is just about level with the edges of the boat, threatening to slip in. If this happens, we will be ready with scoopers cut from gasoline jugs to bail the dirty water out. We just watched the sun rise, and it was just as lovely as the sun set was.

The previous day:

The air smells vaguely of earth, and something tangy, mixed with a slight tinge of gasoline. The sky has variegated pastel patterns in a spectrum from powder blue, lilac, cotton candy, to a soft mango yellow that rests in fruity foreshadowing on the horizon. Trees now are darkening to jungle black green in this dimming light . I skim my fingers along the rushing water at my side, warm as a bath, and the evening star winks at me.

Back in the boat:

Time moves quickly here, and for now the air is kind and cool, humid but moving. I know, however, just what will come in time, in the way one knows that a child will have grown into an adult in the blink of an eye, that the day´s heat will soon be upon us, compounded and reflected by the surrounding water. I know that soon my body will begin to protest and that great bands of sweat will roll down my face in raindrops, not at all assuaged by the river water that whaps at us without warning. But soon, too, we will stop for Breakfast, fill our stomachs, and arrive eventually. We will find some way to give our thanks to each other and break bread in the breaking dawn.
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FALL: Andes & Amazon B, Rugged Travel

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Thankful Travel

Casey Greenleaf,FALL: Andes & Amazon B, Rugged Travel

Description

  Getting off the boat: We´ve stopped for six hours to sleep on another one of the sandy beaches that edge the river. We flee from mosquitoes, stuff bread and cheese into our mouths, and descend into a sweaty slumber. I fall asleep flat on my back, something I didn´t realize I could do until […]

Posted On

11/29/16

Author

Casey Greenleaf

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    [post_content] => I woke up, quickly stuffed my sleeping bag and sleeping pad in their appropriate stuff sacks knowing I got out of bed ten minutes late. I unzip the tent and throw my belongings out of the short opening and jump out ready to stuff everything in my big pack for the day's journey. But then I  look up. I'm surrounded by vast mountains and up among the clouds I can see the ruins of Machu Picchu. I stop short and let out a giggle of sorts. I find myself experiencing this same type of epiphany most mornings. I wake up, rush a little bit to get my self together, then step outside and time stops for a moment. During this moment I return to a world I forgot I was in while I slept. The title of Ethan's blog couldn't be more fitting for how I feel to be a dragon. Lucky.

I wake up in new places every week, places I never imagined even existed nonetheless that I personally would experience. From the mountains of Apolobamba, Lares, Tiquipaya, Q'eros and Machu Picchu to the city lights of La Paz, Cochabamba, and Cusco. The small moments of reflection, when I step back, look up, and take in my surroundings remind me of how lucky I am to be on my first worldly adventure knowing there is only more to come.

<3

 
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Urpichay Sonqoy

Rebecca Long,FALL: Andes & Amazon B, Rugged Travel

Description

I woke up, quickly stuffed my sleeping bag and sleeping pad in their appropriate stuff sacks knowing I got out of bed ten minutes late. I unzip the tent and throw my belongings out of the short opening and jump out ready to stuff everything in my big pack for the day’s journey. But then […]

Posted On

11/4/16

Author

Rebecca Long

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    [post_content] => Step 1: Bring a good backpack. Not a crummy school backpack that digs into your shoulders and makes your back ache. Get a good one with water bottle holders on the outside and a hip strap to take the weight off your back. Don't be like me. Be better than me.

Step 2: Get a good water bottle. Not one that leaks all over the inside of your backpack. Putting on a damp jacket when you're freezing is not fun.

Step 3: Get sunburned, frequently and intensely. Marvel at the strange texture of your own lips and how your skin peels. Vow to wear more sunscreen next time, knowing in your heart that it's impossible to apply more than you've been applying.

Step 4: Be gross. Embrace it. Love it. Everyone else is too busy being gross to notice how gross you are. Slowly find yourself slacking on how often you change your underwear (because it's too time consuming in the morning and way too cold at night to bother).

Step 5: Look up at the stars. You've never seen stars like this before, and you may never again. The black jagged peaks sillouetted against the inky sky, splattered with constellations you can't see at home, take your breath away. Etch it into your memory so that you'll never forget this.

Step 6: Struggle. Don't be ashamed. This is physically intense in a way that you've never dealt with before. You may pull a muscle, get sick, or have a hard time breathing. If your instructor tells you to take a break and ride the mule, ride the mule. There is no room for pride during an Andean trek, particularly if you can't catch your breath at 15000 feet. (Hyperventilation is no picnic, my friend.)

Step 7: Be cold. When the sun disappears, so does the heat. It's a fact of life. Endure it. It won't kill you. (That said, a good pair of gloves borrowed from your dad may help, not to mention carrying a hot water bottle into your sleeping bag.)

Step 8: Love nature. It's as powerful as it is beautiful. Gaze up at the towering mountain peaks, feel the springy turf under your boots, drink from the glacial streams, and bow your head before the hail and lightning. Fear nature as much as you love it.  Never forget how beautiful or how dangerous it is.

Step 9: Be homesick. Miss your house, your shower, your family, your computer. It's all so far away, and you're here on some freaking mountain, busting your back for god-knows-why when you could be safe at home, cuddled up under blankets with pizza in one hand and a cold drink in the other. But you know what? Too bad! You're in the Andes, so take your head out of your ass and embrace how incredible it is that you're here. Hardly anyone gets to do what you're doing right now, so be brave, be grateful, and suck it up, buttercup. There's no turning back, now.

Step 10: Be proud. Yeah, I know I said that there's no room for pride in the Andes. I lied. When you stand at the top of the 17000 foot pass, feel the pride in your chest. Feel the sun on your skin and the numbness in your toes. Feel the ache in your bones and the small stone in the palm of your hand that you carried up to this point to place on the pile, leaving with it your negative thoughts. Feel the coca leaves in your fingertips as you ask the mountain god for the best in the world. Feel the tears rolling down your cheeks, hidden by your sunglasses, as the accomplishment dawns on you. You did it. Be proud.
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SUMMER: Peru 4-Week, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

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How to Survive a Five Day Andean Trek

Angelica Kero,SUMMER: Peru 4-Week, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

Description

Step 1: Bring a good backpack. Not a crummy school backpack that digs into your shoulders and makes your back ache. Get a good one with water bottle holders on the outside and a hip strap to take the weight off your back. Don’t be like me. Be better than me. Step 2: Get a […]

Posted On

07/13/16

Author

Angelica Kero

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    [post_date] => 2016-07-07 11:00:38
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    [post_content] => It's chilly in Ocangate, an abrupt shift from the hot and muggy Amazon, albiet not an unwelcome one. My fingers are a little bit numb as I type this, sitting in an internet cafe next to the town square, and my stomach is on the outs (as is to be expected during travel), but that's all part of the adventure.

Today, we start our five day trek. Yesterday, we did a starter trek up the mountain. Oh man, I'll tell you, living at sea level all my life did not serve me well during that initial climb. It was pretty tough, making my way up that mountain. My lungs couldn't get enough air and I lagged far behind at first. However, I was very proud of myself when I finally made it to the top. We were at 12000 feet, and before this trip, I don't believe I've ever been above 4000. The rest of the trek along the ridge wasn't too bad, with the hardest part of the climb behind us.

We descended back into the valley and went to Fabian's house. There, we purchased some beautiful textiles (I got a scarf and a bag), and participated in an intricate ceremony meant to bring us luck and safe travels on today's adventure. They laid out an altar on Christmas wrapping paper, consisting of objects that represented the local land. Flowers, grains, herbs, seashells, starfish, and coca leaves. We blessed the leaves by blowing on them, then we washed our hands with an alcohol mixture (similar to smudging), and Fabian's wife sang a traditional song that sounded like a mixture of potlatch, pow-wow, and throat singing, followed by Fabian on the flute. It was eerie and beautiful.

They wrapped the blessed objects in the paper and took it outside to the fire. We blessed the package with our hands, then we burned it. We stood around the fire as it burned, holding hands with the people next to us. When it was burned, we hugged everyone. I loved that part. People don't hug enough.

We walked home from Fabian's in the dark. I had my new scarf around my neck. It was a cool and clear night. Something in the air felt mystical.

We start our five day trek today. We'll journey around the base of Mount Osangate, passing through hot springs and ending in the tiny town of Qeros. I'm a little bit nervous, but not too much. It's such an adventure, I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it. I worked hard to get here, and I intend to enjoy as much as I can. Even the less than enjoyable parts will either teach me an important lesson or make a good story, or both.

Either way, I'll have a story to tell.
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SUMMER: Peru 4-Week, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

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Mystical Air

Angelica Kero,SUMMER: Peru 4-Week, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

Description

It’s chilly in Ocangate, an abrupt shift from the hot and muggy Amazon, albiet not an unwelcome one. My fingers are a little bit numb as I type this, sitting in an internet cafe next to the town square, and my stomach is on the outs (as is to be expected during travel), but that’s […]

Posted On

07/7/16

Author

Angelica Kero

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    [post_content] => "Listen Close" she said, and so I put my head down to the dirt and listened as she sang a song woven with life, growing on life.

Look at the dark silloughette of the crouched mountains, look at their grace, their patience. And now, the fog creeping over, moving together, and still each tendril moving with a mind of its own. The glistening, chewing and slurping. The rock bridges and steady breathing and stepping over paths which have been used for as long as there have been feet. The granite and green, moss and rock, rushing water. The language of the people, gentle and hissing without end, through the air, carried by the wind.

Potato sacks hung over bed with sleeping children, their cheeks red and wind beaten, with shyness that melts like butter on a skillet. Constant newness, and the knowledge of old life. Each sunrise, spreading over the jagged peaks, the green slopes, expertly planted with hands who know.

"Now look again", she sighs into my bones. I look at this life, this way of being, the closeness to the land, the elements, the life force. I look at the life and envy it, wondering how I have strayed so far from it. I look at this life and call it sacred, I put it on a pedestal and shy away, a voice inside my head saying I am not worthy to look.

"Now feel"

And I close my eyes, and feel the sound of the rushing water, a vibration that is endless, a sound that is universal. I listen and in it I feel the spirit of Patchamama, and in this I know all is sacred, from the trash strewn streets of LA, to the high Andean peaks I find myself in. That all life, everything that we know, is sacred.

And as the song ends, I inhale the cool mountain air, I let the full moon bathe my skin in a pure glow and feel the comfort of the earth below me, the comfort that not even 10ft of pavements can take away.
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SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

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Sacred Sounds

Grace Powell,SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

Description

“Listen Close” she said, and so I put my head down to the dirt and listened as she sang a song woven with life, growing on life. Look at the dark silloughette of the crouched mountains, look at their grace, their patience. And now, the fog creeping over, moving together, and still each tendril moving […]

Posted On

03/25/16

Author

Grace Powell

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    [post_content] => The mountains breathe. Green velvet moss blankets the slopes with patches of rock and shrunken cliffs embedded within. Sheer, craggy peaks, towering over the labyrinthine valley, pulsate with the infinite knowledge that time is cyclical and this moment will come again; there is nothing to be rushed. The first lake we pass is the location of our ceremony but from that point on they only grow in size and frequency, their strata of colors shifting with the position of the sky. Nothing here is stagnant. Everpresent clouds, misty and indefinite, shift at the slightest request of the wind and smirk at their dominance. I rise and fall with every heave of the earth and it's apparent, low and deep in my core, that this pocket of unearthly paradise exists to be sacred. The people of Nacion Q'eros know this. They've known it for years and their profound gratitude and pride born from potato roots themselves have allowed them to cling tightly to their traditions as "the last true Incas."

The sacredness of this place is both ubiquitous and unique, solemn and light-hearted, temporary and ancient. After the sheep have been slaughtered with a slit to the throat for the Pachamanca, a traditional ceremony performed due to our presence but for which the entire community gathers, we are entreated to dance in a timid circle around the still-warm bodies. There is laughter throughout the butchering and some of it is certainly for show. But the pig-tailed toddler grabbing the skinned hind leg when I slack in my helping duties and the women sliding the intestines into sausage-ready segments are undeniably real. The stacked-stone oven covered with wet jackets and plastic is a testament to the power of adaptation and integration. Pachamama absorbs the blood and the age-old connection is there, cemented in red grass and obedient steps to notes on a wooden flute. Filling the corners of the communal house with its citizens lining the opposite side, chopped chunks of meat drop into plastic buckets and potatoes of varying colors hailing from nearly every family roll out from unwrapped squares of cloth into piles on the floor. One clear voice begins the thanksgiving as we close our eyes and a slow, deep wave of unintelligible prayer rises, undulating beneath my eyelids with each individual contribution and I'm swept up in a melding of senses until the vibrations dim as subtly as they began. I can taste the earth in my meat.

My own spirituality often finds harmony with the Andean Cosmovision of Nacion Q'eros. Blessings grow when watered and mountains give birth to gratitude where the sun envelops the moon and kisses the earth. The coca leaves of the Andes, at once abundant and endlessly sacred, are my breaths of sunrise on a precarious and chilly summit. The cheerful dances and tune of the Tinkuy atop a mountain pass are my laughs with my sister and snuggles with my mom. Nestled in straw on the floow of a stone hut with my host sister and a traveling companion turned close friend, distinctions of sacredness fade. We breathe together and the source is all the same: there's enough special in this world to go around.
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SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Rugged Travel

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Breaths

Barae Hirsch,SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Rugged Travel

Description

The mountains breathe. Green velvet moss blankets the slopes with patches of rock and shrunken cliffs embedded within. Sheer, craggy peaks, towering over the labyrinthine valley, pulsate with the infinite knowledge that time is cyclical and this moment will come again; there is nothing to be rushed. The first lake we pass is the location […]

Posted On

03/25/16

Author

Barae Hirsch

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    [post_content] => Nacion Qeros was one of the most unique experiences of my life. To be completely removed from the developed world, eating potatoes for breakfast lunch and dinner while living with people who are so proud and so true to their heritage and not to mention the breathtakingly beautiful Andes mountain range as a backdrop-- it was truly an amazing week. The one defining moment for me was on our fourth day we hiked to a laguna where Siwarkentee and his wife Patricia preformed a purification ceremony in respect of Pachamama, or mother earth. I waded out into the icy cold , perfectly still laguna, surrounded by cloud breaking Andes Mountains where Siwarkentee and his wife were waiting for me. Using mountain flowers they dribbled water over my head and heart-- to cleanse my soul of bad vibes and heighten my intelligence, all while reciting a prayer in quechua -- thanking the earth, sky, water, sun and moon for all that they are, all that they have given and all that we will continue to receive from them. The faith, and devotion these qeros people have for their environment is truly humbling. To attest everything you are and will be to the mountains and the lakes, to walk through the world with such love, peace and respect towards your environment is truly inspiring. Our time in qeros for me was defined by meeting people whose culture is untainted by globalization just as their environment is undisturbed by the developing world.
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SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Rugged Travel

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nacion qeros

Meghan Buonanno,SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Rugged Travel

Description

Nacion Qeros was one of the most unique experiences of my life. To be completely removed from the developed world, eating potatoes for breakfast lunch and dinner while living with people who are so proud and so true to their heritage and not to mention the breathtakingly beautiful Andes mountain range as a backdrop– it […]

Posted On

03/25/16

Author

Meghan Buonanno

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    [post_content] => Potato soup. What does that mean to you? For me, it's something I might expect to see as the soup of the day at a restaraunt, and probably wouldn´t order. But for the people of Nacion Q'eros, it's what sustains life, what they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. Q'eros, a community made up of 5 small villages, is situated high up in the Andean mountains, with the highest village located approximately 14,000 feet above sea level. They are the last Peruvians who can directly tie their lineage to the Incas. When the Spanish conquered the Incan Empire, they couldn't reach these villages since they were nestled so deep in the Andes, and these people have lived there ever since.

For 5 days, we trekked between the villages, hiking for five to eight hours every day and staying with a different host family every night. It was an incredible experience, not only because of the astonishing view of the mountains and lakes that surround the communities on all sides, but also since I learned so much about a culture that is so different from my own. I'm already sick of potatoes after just five days, so I can't imagine living my entire life eating them as 95% of my daily consumption. They also see nature and their surrounding land so differently than we do. The people of Q'eros treat mountains and lakes as sacred, since they provide the people with water. They pray to mother earth, since she allows them to plant their crops. This community lives a simple life, more so than I've ever seen, and have a culture that has been preserved for hundreds of years.

While the people of Nacion Q'eros have been able to keep their way of life throughout generations, that can't be said for many rural and indigenous communities around the world. 50% of global languages are expected to die within the next century, and the biggest reason for that is they are no longer being taught to children. Learning that has made me much more appreciative of the education I received about my own culture and heritage. I was privileged to attend a Jewish day school for 16 years and to have a family who immersed me in the culture. Educating the youth is the only way to keep a culture alive, and that idea should be spread around the world and passed down for generations to come.
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SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

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Potato Soup

Seth Sholk,SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

Description

Potato soup. What does that mean to you? For me, it’s something I might expect to see as the soup of the day at a restaraunt, and probably wouldn´t order. But for the people of Nacion Q’eros, it’s what sustains life, what they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. Q’eros, a community […]

Posted On

03/25/16

Author

Seth Sholk

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    [post_date] => 2016-03-18 11:44:27
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    [post_content] => My own breath surprised me with its fluidity; I hadn't known I was suffocating. Air here is untainted with the slow, lush movements of the jungle and the mountains spring up gasping for it, shunning excess oxygen back down into the green valleys of sloths and mosquitoes. I am ashamed of my inability to exist in the jungle and my absolute, pitiful surrender at the slightest urging of an ant. The rainforest is vibrant and fertile to a fault. Mystical quests and astonishing, surreal animals seemingly lifted from the pages of magical realism make sense when placed between the wrist-thin vines and centarian trunks of intimidation. Hidden behind great banana leaves, though, are the trials of the jungle we can't prepare for from books, that require a certain strength of character I'm dismayed to find I don't readily embody.

In the mountains it's hard to contemplate the complexities of the jungle. Ausangate, the Sacred Peak, stands vigilant, splendid in its Quechua namesake of untouched snow. I find a small hillside above the lookout point in the compact Andean town of Ocongate and scramble up the scree-covered slope. Tiny alpine flowers greet me between the rocks and patches of hard earth, laughing at my ragged breath enticed by tens of thousands of feet of altitude and magnificence. Even on the bus, when I caught glances out the window between the worst of Hollywood dubbed in dramatized Spanish, I was overcome by alternating flutters of excitement and relief. Green, stony hillsides striped by Incan ruins grew beside us as we climbed, lifting us closer to Hanan Pacha, the world above the earth, and tranquility and thin air. Once the bus deposits us on the side of the road in Ocongate with one backpack too many, we meet Siwarq'ente, or Fabian, our guide to the relatively untouristed and untarnished magic of the Andes. The two of us connect instantly. Maybe it's his generous, unguarded smile or the fact that I've grown accustomed to introducing myself by my middle name, Sol, meaning sun in Spanish and offering me a slight pathway past my face value of just another gringa with a name that's difficult to pronounce. Siwarq'ente kisses my cheek and calls me Inti, the Quechua word for sun. His own Quechua name means hummingbird, or colibrí, and I show him the tiny silver hummingbird earring perched on my left ear. He grins and points at himself.

The following day we eat breakfast and lunch together, and he helps me pick a restaurant for dinner. Siwarq'ente rides a red bicycle through town and passes me no less than five times throughout the day, somehow always managing to show up right on time for a meal or a quick laugh. Thick black hair with few clandestine strands of silver and unrelenting mischief constantly playing in his eyes belies his fifty years, but I can tell that more wisdom than I can envision is harbored within Siwarq'ente's dynamic impression. On the way back from our preliminary ceremony recognizing Ausangate, we laugh and plan a secret hike across the ridge line that we will soon divulge to the rest of the group. Notes on a wooden flute dance from his lips on the path down from the lookout, converting a minor excursion into a sacred pilgrimage. I have no reservations following this hummingbird.

Alone on my short hike to the cross looming over the city, I stand with my hair whipping and the sun piercing easily through the fine-combed air. The ridge extends forever and my mind with it. Brown-roofed buildings below are becoming when ringed by the green and blue sloping mountains joined in the center by the great Ausangate. I feel the Rikuna, the spirits of the land, rippling through that intoxicating mountain air and the voices of the Incas are unmistakeable. The Quechua phrase for 'thank you,' Urpichay sonqoy, means "my heart flutters like a dove." My entire being agrees and I'm pretty sure it's not just the altitude.
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Best Notes From The Field, SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

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Colibrí in the Peaks

Barae Hirsch,Best Notes From The Field, SPRING: Andes & Amazon, Rugged Travel, Trekking and Wilderness Exploration

Description

My own breath surprised me with its fluidity; I hadn’t known I was suffocating. Air here is untainted with the slow, lush movements of the jungle and the mountains spring up gasping for it, shunning excess oxygen back down into the green valleys of sloths and mosquitoes. I am ashamed of my inability to exist […]

Posted On

03/18/16

Author

Barae Hirsch

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