The 18-year-old spent part of her gap year traveling to Bolivia and Peru before starting at Harvard University this coming fall. Malia traveled with a group of other teens through the Colorado-based organization Where There Be Dragons, which helps students “examine current political trends, social movements and environmental conversation efforts in the mountains and jungles of Bolivia and Peru,” according to the program’s website.
The 83-day trip, which costs $14,555, not including airfare, offers intensive Spanish-language courses and an extended home-stay with a family in the small town of Tiquipaya, Bolivia, near Cochabamba, the program’s website says. Other highlights of the trip feature visits to La Paz, Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu.
Gregario Mamani, who led the tour group on a five-day trek through Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountain range, told The New York Times that he and his fellow guides were unaware which teen needed several American bodyguards.
“There was a blonde girl, and we assumed she was the important one,” Mamani said, only later realizing that he was showing the mountain range to the president’s daughter. “She was very humble, chatty, spoke Spanish very well. She was mesmerized by the Bolivian landscape.”
Mamani added that Malia wasn’t given any special treatment during the hike and participated in ordinary chores, such as cooking.
According to Bolivian media reports, President Obama called Bolivia’s President Evo Morales to ask for his assistance in assuring his daughter’s safety and keeping her visit quiet. White House officials declined to comment to The New York Times about the phone call.
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