Patacancha and Student-Directed Travel

By Lauren

This week we started in the small town of Patacancha located outside of Ollantaytambo. There we learned more about the organization Awamaki, which is a nonprofit that helps women in the area sell their textile work to a larger market. We got to work with the women and see the work that goes into making these crafts; starting from the dyeing of the wool to the finished product. We also got to try making textiles firsthand by learning how to make our own headbands and bracelets. Let’s just say it’s magic what these women can do.

Our three days there consisted of a morning hike to a nearby alpine, glacier-fed lagoon, textiles workshops, and learning more about the local government and culture, where we learned about their self-sufficient government and rules. On our last morning, we participated in an alpaca shearing ceremony. During the ceremony we had to thank Mother Earth and ask for permission to sheer the alpaca. We blessed the alpacas, married two baby ones, and danced in celebration of the completed ritual.

After saying goodbye to Patacancha, we headed off to Cusco—but not before making a pit stop to our favorite bakery in Ollantaytambo to stock up on brownies before our hectic week of Student Directed Travel (SDT). For those of you who don’t know, Student Directed Travel is a week where we, the students, decide what activities we should do during the week while sticking to a budget.

The first adventure of SDT was Rainbow Mountain. Five brave souls of the group woke up at 3:00 am to trek up to 19,000 feet above sea level to see the unglaciated glacier, while the rest of us slept in and toured around Cusco. That night we took a 10-hour night bus to the city of Arequipa. We stayed there for a day exploring the historical town before embarking on our three-day hike into Colca Canyon. We woke up at 3:00 am to take a three-hour bus ride to the canyon (but not before stopping to see the second largest bird in the world, the condor).

We then began our 3,300-meter drop into Colca Canyon. It was an epic experience with basic accommodations (as our tour stated), early morning wake-ups, a couple rolled ankles, and soccer games, but we all survived it in the end. After a rewarding hike up the canyon, we then headed to the hot springs to relax our muscles. Then off to an all-you-can-eat buffet which we all indulged in.

Finally, off to our last stop of SDT, we took a seven-hour bus ride to Puño. In Puno, we spent the day touring the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and were pressured into spending 10 soles to ride a traditional floating reed boat. Besides that, we enjoyed our time on the islands learning about the history and eating some delicious rainbow trout. After one more night bus, SDT is done and we can all say that we are excited to relax a little at the yoga retreat.

Rainbow Mountains.

Made it to Arequipa!

Hiking in Colca Canyon.