“Oh, the places you’ll go!”
― Dr. Seuss
Exploring the Palca Canyon brought to the forefront of our minds how small each of us is as an individual when faced with the grandness of the natural environment. In a conversation with Aaron Bivins, a PhD student and TA for the class, he spoke on how living in America can give a false sense of power to the individual. When faced with the beautiful mountains that shape the Palca Canyon, the façade disappears allowing one to truly face what little power he or she possesses and opens the mind to begin to ponder on how to put that power to good use. Witnessing the beauty of today has personally led to my own self reflection and a bigger, more realistic view of the world.
Our day started at 8:00 AM where we met our wonderful tour guides, Donovan and Gabriela. During our 30 minute drive up the mountain, the view down into the city was breathtaking. Because today is Palm Sunday, several Bolivians were carrying palms in a processional through the streets to recognize Jesus Christ’s journey to Jerusalem.
Prior to the hike, our guide did a great job of consistently stressing the threat that climate change and other factors have on Bolivia’s biodiversity. Many may be unaware that Bolivia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The mountainsides are covered with a variety of crops including but not limited to maize, beans, potatoes, etc. This past year the rainy season provided almost no rainfall, and the glaciers that feed water to lower parts of the mountain have been diminishing in size. Fortunately, we were able to get a firsthand view of the remaining glaciers which was definitely an eye-opening experience. Another interesting view related to the opposite sides of the valley. Mountains facing the North appeared to be very dry and desert-like while the mountains facing the South were much more lush with greenery and agriculture.
Being that we were in rural area, there was no access to bathrooms. This reality gave us a clearer picture of the divide between urban and rural areas.
Throughout the journey, there was a constant need to explore and deviate from the path. Each new turn prompted curiosity. Each new point of view called for a picture. While in the canyon, we were able to walk along the river. As it flows, it collects sediments which makes it very turbid. Being at the bottom of the canyon and taking pictures along this river yet again reinforced the beauty of the city.
After a quick picnic lunch in the canyon, we finished our hike by walking up into a village. Although almost all of us were suffering from sunburn, we were able to enjoy pizza at a local restaurant later in the evening. While there, we discussed our plans for tomorrow’s workshop with UNICEF and our first day sampling.
Stay tuned to hear more about the workshop and each group’s first day in the field!