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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Huacaria & Peruvian Amazon

Dear friends and family,

A quick update from the community of Huacaria, in the Manu area of Southern Peru!

A few days ago, we had our most rigorous travel day: 2 hours walking out of Nacion Q´eros, finishing at around 15,000 feet in elevation. We piled into a truck that took us slowly for 3 hours over rugged roads down to the town of Ocongate. There, we got into a public bus to descend further, another 6,000 feet into the Sacred Valley of the Inkas. From the town of Urcos, we boarded a private van to take us another 8,000 feet down and down and down from the Andes into the Amazon. At about 9:30 at night, we finally arrived amidst big thunderstorms in the Amazon! But… our travels weren´t over yet! We again squeezed ourselves into the back of a truck: this time a WWII surplus 4×4 that chugged along slowly from the town of Pilcopata into the jungle of Huacaria. Wow! We arrived into the jungle after our 18 hours of travel exhausted but happy to be in such a new place. It´s hard to find a bigger shift in environment than dropping from the high Andes into the Amazon basin in one day.

Huacaria is a fantastically warm community with fascinating history. The native community here was kept essentially in slavery until the 1940´s, in living memory of the elders here. Now, they are part of a large social and political movement of Amazonian indigenous peoples striving to keep alive their cultures while adopting new ways of life, seeing outside influence from tourism & resource extraction, and exploring what it means to be indigenous in a place while most of their culture was lost in the last two centuries of turmoil, poor treatment, and disease.

Students have been spending mornings with their homestay families and meeting up in the afternoon for chats with communithy members and lessons on making traditional crafts like bows & arrows and baskets. We´ve been exploring the ideas of “development” in this community that appears to Western eyes to be poor, but has most of what it needs to survive.

This yak is being posted from a neighboring community down the river… we´ll be in better touch in a few days!