A new José Stevens Article
Notes From Peru
Lena and I returned from Peru just a week ago, so these observations can best be described as preliminary and have yet to be integrated over the next weeks and months. Nevertheless I feel compelled to write about the journey because it has been so extraordinary, mysterious, and life changing.
As usual, the list of travelers changed many times prior to the trip as various people signed on, then dropped away for one reason or another, and others took their place from the waiting list. These changes are challenging because reservations have to be made well ahead of time, including passport numbers and deposits, many of which cannot be recouped after they are sent. Nevertheless we ended up with exactly the perfect group for the trip as designed by Spirit. Although we did not consciously plan it, the travelers, including Lena and I , were made up of twelve men and twelve women, including eight couples, thirteen Canadians, ten Americans, and one Australian. And what a wonderful mix they were! Most of the Canadians on board were friends of King and Victoria, who had decided to get married in Machu Picchu, and they came to support this wonderful event and to have an adventure at the same time. Linda, our Australian traveler, came on the recommendation of a friend to check out our web site and saw the trip posted there. We were most fortunate to have contracted with Puma, a well-respected guide from the Cusco area, to accompany our trip. Puma is a young man who was trained by his grandfather as a Paco (shaman), having been stuck by lightning twice in childhood, a sure sign of one destined to become a Paco. Puma is a beautiful human being, funny, knowledgeable, exceptionally positive, and most importantly very loving toward everyone. He remained with us for the first two-thirds of the trip, performing Coca leaf readings, leading us in moving ceremonies, and taking us to little-known sites to give us a broader understanding of the grand mystery of Peru.
As always, the trip began in Lima, our jumping-off place, and our first destination was Cusco or Qosqo, the place the Peruvians call the navel of the world. Here we acclimated to the altitude of eleven thousand feet and enjoyed the town’s colonial ambiance while visiting the powerful local temples, where we were able to see the uniting of the Condor and the Eagle—the ancient prophecy about the eventual meeting of North and South America—documented in pre-Incan stone carvings. The next part of our journey took us through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to Pisac, the Condor Temple and to Ollantaytambo, the Temple of the Llama and the Earth. During this early part of our trip, we prepared a despacho, an offering representing each of us, which was to be carried through our trip and finally burned in Lake Titicaca on the Island of Amantani. The stage was set for understanding the important Incan relationships between the condor of the upper world, the jaguar of the middle world, and the serpent of the lower world, representing truth, love, and energy, the three building blocks of the universe. With Puma’s guidance, we were able to clearly see the vision and power of prophecy of the pre-Incan seers and the extraordinary understanding with which they approached their world.
At Machu Picchu we began with King and Victoria’s wedding, a most beautiful and moving joining of two friends. Everyone jumped into the event, spontaneously helping to the dress the bride and groom, prepare the site, and contribute to the ceremony in creative ways. On that high feeling we took the grand tour of the temples, preparing us for the next day’s full ceremony. Despite the crowds, we were able to enjoy an amazing sense of privacy as we each found quiet nooks and places to contemplate the mysteries of this grand university. Some of the group felt compelled to climb Wayna Picchu, the steep initiatory mountain looking over the sprawling temple complex, and they were richly rewarded for their efforts.
After so much intensity, it was hard for the group to imagine that the trip could get any better, but we assured them that in fact each day could be better and better and that there was no limit to what we could experience on the trip. So we headed back to Cusco, stopping for dinner and spontaneous dancing and then a well-earned night of sleep. Next morning, we jumped on a bus to take us on an all-day trip to Lake Titicaca, stopping at the powerful temple of Wiracocha, where Puma led us in an extraordinary process of giving, and then to a most sacred shaman burial site, where we were greeted by the hundred-year-old guardian.
Upon arriving in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, two of our members had become ill with typical travelers’ sickness, so we arranged for them to stay behind in the hotel while the rest of us traveled to Amantani by boat. On the way there, a most extraordinary event took place. Now, by this time our band of travelers had come to realize that this was no ordinary trip to the Andes. While I was down below in the boat explaining the Chacana, the Andean cross, to some of our travelers, Lena and some of our group were on the roof of the boat when they saw fire in the sky . It looked like something was falling into the lake trailing rainbow-colored flames behind it. Apparently, it then came all the way to the shore and fortunately did not fall directly into the lake, or we may have had a mini Tsunami. No one knew what it was, as it could have been a rocket, a piece of space station, or a meteor. On the Island all the inhabitants were talking about it, as it appears the event was very rare. Several days later we discovered that it had indeed been a meteor that hit the ground near the shores of the lake, creating a crater 42 feet wide and causing an international incident. Apparently the meteor punched a hole in the aquifer and gave off such malodorous smells that it caused many people and animals in the area to become ill.
We contemplated what the chances were that our group had seen a meteor fall during the daytime and that it had actually hit the Earth. We had also been discussing the fact that Lake Titicaca is the new Spiritual center for the planet, following a shift from Tibet, a masculine center, to the feminine area of the lake. This is the reason for all the Tibetan lamas, including the Dalai Lama for visiting this area recently. They have been exchanging information and passing the baton to the Incan priests in the Andes. The Dalai Lama has also suggested that his next incarnation may be in Peru, another sign that a shift has occurred. Now a very visible meteor has landed next to the lake in total daylight. Interesting.
On Amantani we stayed with families as we usually do, and the next day did our ceremonial climb to the Temples of the Sun and the Moon on the twin peaks of the Island. Being Sunday we were accompanied by many members of the families we stayed with, including a little band with flutes and a drum. The townspeople had dressed Ella, a Canadian, up in traditional garb, so she took the hike in festive native attire. After visiting the Temple of the Sun, which was as usual locked up, we crossed the Island to the Temple of the Moon, where we found, to our amazement, the temple open, although it had always been closed before. Our guide, Gabriel, a local Paco, contemplated a moment and then decided that since the temple was open we were being invited inside. So in we went to perform a ceremony within. We set up an altar and called in the Eagle and the Condor to preside. Just as Lena began to sing a beautiful song, a towering dust column formed just outside the temple. The Column, like a mini-tornado. jumped the wall of the temple and swirled right among us in the circular space inside, blinding everyone with blowing coca leaves, dust, dung from the fire, and everything from the altar. I saw my vest sailing a hundred feet into the air to disappear somewhere outside. Amazingly, Lena had the presence to continue singing as if nothing unusual was happening, and suddenly the tornado was gone and all was calm. Everyone was stunned, including the locals, who were amazed as well. Gabriel said it was a most auspicious sign. So at that point we put together the altar again and called up Nancy Carleton, to honor her for her fiftieth birthday. After everyone hugged her, we called up Scott and Ella to honor their relationship.
Now Scott and Ella were engaged and planning a wedding in October back home, but after witnessing King and Victoria’s wedding they were so moved and inspired that they wanted to do some kind of ceremony for their own engagement on this trip. Scott had sidled up to me the night before and asked if we could do something on the mountain the next day. So we called them up to stand in front of everyone. Ella looked most beautiful in her native attire, and Scott was handsome with a native scarf; they looked just like a couple about to get married. So suddenly a local woman jumped to Ella’s side and Gabriel jumped to Scott’s side to be the maid-of-honor and best man, and all the local women and men jumped up because they got that it was a wedding. So we honored Scott and Ella and everyone cried and they did too, and they got exactly what they had asked for. After everyone congratulated them, we filed out, and at thirteen thousand feet had a big traditional dance in the field outside, with the band playing and with fabulous blue Lake Titicaca shining all around in every direction. Then the townswomen spread out a big feast of tubers, potatoes, fish, corn, and beer they had lugged up the mountain on their backs. We were all more than amazed, and everyone had to admit the trip was just getting better and better and better. It was possible to be happy day after day after day without the usual grumpiness and complaining that happens on long trips to foreign lands. In great happiness, we danced our way down the mountain holding hands with our Andean hosts.
After leaving the island, we joined up with the rest of our party, who were now healed of their fevers. We then flew to Arequipa for the next and final leg of our journey to Colca Canyon to witness the flight of the Condors. We took a bus to Chivay, and on the way, crossing the pass at fifteen thousand feet, got out to add our personal touch to the thousands of cairns left for good fortune over the years by countless travelers. From this vantage point, we were surrounded by snow-covered peaks in every direction, mountains held sacred by the Incan people. At Chivay we visited beautiful hot springs and soaked some travel weariness away. Upon arriving at our hotel in a wonderful mountain village, we were greeted by villagers celebrating a fertility festival and were immediately drawn once again into dancing and music. The hotel boasted views of all the major apus (sacred mountains) all around, and we once again feasted with our traveling community.
The next morning saw us up early to witness the Condors as they circled up the thermals to fly over the cliffs on their way to their daily travels. This is an event that simply cannot be described to do it any sense of justice. I had been there a couple of years earlier with Matt Pallamary and vowed I would come back here with a group. Now here I was once again with great anticipation. Sure enough, the Condors obliged and circled up by the dozens, so majestic, so full of power and grace, blessing everyone in their flight over the heads of a hushed crowd of people from every nation. It is hard to explain how the flight of these birds can bring one to tears, but just as before, my deepest emotions were brought to the surface. After the great birds had gone, ,we drove back to the village, exhausted from the stimulation, for an afternoon of rest and free time. That night we celebrated yet again with a feast and music, singing, and much laughter. Yes, it’s true, Canadians are a wild bunch, and all it takes is one Australian to make an outstanding party, with a few Americans sprinkled in to appreciate it all and to extend a little permission to be bad. Voila, you have the makings of a truly good time.
The next morning, addicted to the grand birds, we decided to swing by and watch the Condors again on our way back to Arequipa. Not only did we see the Condors but we also spotted an eagle, several hawks, and some giant Andean hummingbirds balancing out the scene. This day the Condors put on an even better display than the day before, spiraling and gliding around and around our heads and coming close enough for us to hear the wind whistling in their feathers. Twice blessed and grinning from ear to ear, we boarded the bus, where everyone promptly went to sleep on our long journey back to Arequipa
The next day, after flying to Lima, everyone said fond farewells, marveling at the two-week trip we had just completed. For Lena and me, our next step was a quick three-day trip to the jungle for a visit with Herlinda and Enrique. The heat of the jungle was so intense after the cold of the Andes we could barely move, so we simply and quietly lay in hammocks integrating all that had happened.
On this trip, we ate, talked, danced, drank, shared, did ceremony, saw new sites, and enjoyed meeting the Andean people. We celebrated, shopped, prayed, sang, and supported one another in countless little ways. As our guide Puma said over and over, “It’s not the way you arrive that matters; it’s the way you leave.” We left truly happy.
Since not everyone on the list could go on this trip, we have planned another for late March and early April of 2008 with a very similar itinerary. We will return to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, and we will head down to Lake Titicaca. However, instead of going to the island of Amantani this time, we will go to Bolivia to visit Tihuanaco, an ancient and mysterious temple town, and along the way we will visit another temple considered to be an ancient portal to the Spirit World. We will go to La Paz and Copacabana and visit the Island of the Sun and Island of the Moon on the Bolivian side of the Lake. Then we will fly to Arequipa and head once more to Colca Canyon to visit with the Condors. If you are interested in going on this trip, we will need deposits very soon as there is every indication this trip will fill up very quickly, especially after word gets out about the last one.
Originally posted: October 3, 2007
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