This installment of our updates comes from many authors – some student artists, Mary Reid, Meredith, and Jenna – all working to capture a bit of the many adventures from the past weeks.



As some of you experienced, flying into Cusco felt like an immediate warm welcome. We landed near sunset and our Puma Adventures team whisked us into the center of Cusco’s historic district where grand facades of monasteries, baby llamas, steep staircases, and an abundance of textile shops all characterize the narrow streets. We stayed at Casa Elena for the better part of two weeks in total, and we were grateful for their heavy blankets and cozy libraries through some of the stormy afternoons.

Soon after settling into the city, we were able to meet more of the team of guides – Jhimmy, Nelly, Miguel and Rebi all accompanied us in the first days of history and culture lessons. We visited the Incan site of Sacsayhuaman, an ancient citadel on the hill overlooking Cusco city, to learn about the Incan methods of architecture and to witness the huge slabs of stone which balance together without mortar in the enduring walls. We trailed down into the “navel” of Cusco city to Qorikancha, the religious center for the Incan worship of Inti the sun god, and we stretched our imaginations back in time when this temple was covered with astounding amounts of gold leaf that would eventually be stripped down and taken by Spanish conquistadors.

We also traveled outside of Cusco to Chinchero, the Rainbow community, where many of our guides call home. Our Quechua vocabulary began to grow as Jhimmy and Miguel taught us about the importance of Anay (heartfelt gratitude) and Ayni (reciprocity); these concepts were demonstrated as Puma – a shaman, teacher, and long-time friend of TTS – blessed the group with palo santo and wished us abundance and celebration of the current moment. “Today is the best day of all of our lives” he reminded us, and surrounded by the peaks of the Sacred Valley on the horizon line, it was easy to nod our heads in agreement. At the family’s community workshop, we watched the processing of various plants and even parasites into pigmented dyes used to color wool.


After a couple more days of class, TTS40 woke up before dawn to bus to the start of our second backpacking trip – the Lares trek! When we arrived at the trailhead outside of Urubamba, our INCREDIBLE team of support staff (cooks and animal handlers) had prepared a hot breakfast for us to wake up our bodies and start our journey up to 15,800 ft. Countless times over the subsequent 48 hours, we felt very lucky to have this team!

Our hike up to Puyoc on Day 1 of the trek was characterized by yucca plants that gave way to moss covered tree trunks and a small glacial stream which eventually connected to large waterfalls alongside the ascending trail. Cambyr was fueled by a water bottle full of milk, and some of the rest of us tried the coca leaves given to us by guides as we marched into the higher elevations. We reached our drizzly high-alpine campsite around 3 pm, and we feasted on a hot lunch and hot tea before settling into tents for a pre-dinner nap. In the evening, the sky was clear and we were able to see special constellations like the Southern Cross.

Maeve led the team as Student Leader of the Day (SLOD) on Day 2 of the trek. Her energy and enthusiasm made our early wake-up call easier, and she helped choose our pace up the final 2 hour ascent to cross the Sicllakasa Pass. We piled on layers and celebrated with dark chocolate at the top. We were very proud of every student, and it was a unique joy to watch Kate D summit her first peak with misty eyes.

The remainder of the day was spent in a gorgeous descent past Yanacocha Lake and into the Lares Valley where we traversed steep green hillsides speckled with alpacas. We ate lunch in the village of Cuncani and continued on a trail through the communities of this valley until we reached Lares – our night 2 destination. We were all surprised and delighted to find that our campsite was just steps away from the Lares hot springs – an incredible treat after about 10 miles of descent. We slept deep, knowing that the following day was filled with many more joyful treats.

“Cambyr drinking milk” by Claire


From Mary Reid: The students met up with the parent group for a few days of touring together. After seeing the group launch from DC in February and following along closely since then, it was wonderful to lay eyes on each student and to spend some time getting to know some of the parents. We also got to see Olive and Ryan flex their muscles as student leaders of the day! 


We took the train together to Aguas Calientes, the launching point for Machu Picchu, and headed to the site first thing in the misty morning. Cambyr gave a History presentation about Hiram Bingham III, the Englishman who popularized Machu Picchu for international tourism, and our Puma Adventures team toured us around the archeological site. 


The next days included a visit to Ollantaytambo, Literature & Global Studies classes with the parents, free time in Cusco, and a final celebratory dinner with the Puma Adventures team. 

A day at Machu Picchu, from Chloe



And suddenly – it was time for us to carry forward to Bolivia! As advised in a morning spent chatting with Puma, we called ourselves forward from the city as we drove out of town. (Truly – I said “come on Jenna, it’s time to go”) Our first night bus adventure took us to the shores of Lake Titicaca by dawn and across the border into Copacabana, Bolivia by early afternoon. 

And what activity did we choose to celebrate the entry into our THIRD country this semester? We hopped aboard a giant inflatable octopus and spun across the waters of this massive lake, giggling like mad.

I wanted to include here some of the words that Meredith read to the students the evening that the parent group left and she too prepared to separate from the group for her time off.

My dearest TTS40. 

This is a time that can be one of the harder times of the semester… it is a time in which we once more are flying between trapeze swings, letting go of something familiar and hurtling towards the unknown of the next chapter. Many of us just got a waft of home air, the smell of comfort and the taste of cozy, of which we had to say goodbye: for some of us it’s a relief, to others a pain on top of others. 

As a group, I believe we must be getting better at transitions and goodbyes. We’ve had so many this semester… we have made so many connections that we were asked to let go of quickly; remember Mari, and Omar and Kuri, our guides from the jungle, the faces of our homes in Agualongo…. Soo many people and so many sweet connections. What I wanted to say to you all is that transitions are an art, and saying goodbye is a practice that will continue to develop in your life.  It is rarely easy to say goodbye to loved ones, but with time perhaps we all start to remember how much growth is in this space, the in between of turning from something and walking towards something else. The practice is to remember yourself, remember there are other things, other loves and connections to turn to, and at the end of the day there is always you. You will always be there for you. 

I hope in the next couple of days you turn from the pulls of family and friends and towards one another once again – saying hello and hola to the home you have been putting so much work into building here… to the fart smells, early mornings, and sleepy passing periods. I hope you turn to embrace the intricacies of pushing yourself when you’re tired, holding one another when you’re sick, and relying on these people, the people that were once strangers scary and unfamiliar and now the ones you might seek for ten hugs today or an extra dose of love. 

And speaking of love, there is so much for you here! I hope this week you all bring this certain specific flavor of TTS40 love than ever before – which to me includes so many “Yes, Maeve!” Or “go off Chloe” – so much affirmation, so much support, so many jokes and so so much care. You all have the responsibility, and the true privilege of showing up for each other now – in our next phase of TTS40 – and heck in life beyond too. Don’t forget the true gift that each of you are to this group, to yourself, and to so many around the world. Take care and be there for yourself and others, and others will be there for you too. 

I read you all this poem at the beginning of the semester, and I think it pertains to now as well. It guided me significantly in moments of change and challenge, and is an image that I believe resonates so well with that experience of moving into a form of ourselves greater than ever before – which is often on the side of transition. 

I love you! Good night, and enjoy! And see y’all in La Paz! 


“The Journey”

-Mary Oliver 

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do– determined to save

the only life you could save.


With love to you all and amazement for the adventurous spirit of the students you hold close in mind,


Drawing of Copacabana fun by Maeve