When I crossed the Q’eswachaka, aka the “last Incan grass bridge,” which suspends across a gorge in the Apurimac River of Southern Peru. Every June four distinct Quechua communities convene for three days to take this bridge down and ritually construct it anew using traditional Incan techniques of straw-braiding.
In 2012 I trekked to the Ausangate glacier to participate in the annual syncretic festival known as El Señor de Qoyllur Riti (Lord of the Snow Star); without a doubt, this experience is one that will live in me forever. The vivacious festival takes place in the last week of May in honor of both Andean and Catholic gods in the hopes of bringing a fertile crop year. Upon arrival to the town of Mawayani (the trek starting point), I steadily climbed for six hours alongside the Hatun Qeros Quechua community. While practicing my rusty Quechua with various members of the community, I was steadily surrounded by a swirling spectrum of dancers, musicians, and masked ukukus – a mythical “bear-man,” Andean trickster spirit, and the symbolic guardian of the festival. When I finally entered the mountainous panorama of the Ausangate Glacier, I breathed as deeply as I could at 4,600 meters, and began to dance.
Travel to La Paz, Bolivia to rehearse with a traditional Bolivian pan-pipe (sikuri) ensemble, and also to explore the pristine salt flats of Uyuni!