Sacred Journey in Peru
By Chandroo D
It’s April 2009 and I am in London on a short visit to attend an important meeting and at the same time to meet up with my daughter and my grandchildren. It is always a joy to be with my three grandchildren and I try to spend as much time with them as possible, despite their busy school activities and studies. One fine Saturday morning, prior to picking them up early morning at 7 am for breakfast, I scan through my emails and attend to important ones immediately. One particular email caught my attention. It was from Sunu, wife of my brother-in-law Dhanesh, who lives in Dubai. ‘15 days Sacred Journey in Peru’, it stated! I vaguely glanced through it and closed it. First thing that came to my mind was, sacred? spiritual? – Surely that was not meant for me. For years my wife, Lavina, has a tough time trying to persuade me to join her in any of her holy Hindu rituals or occasions. As a youngster, brought up in a Buddhist environment in Burma, I valued the Buddhist thoughts and teachings and was more inclined towards it than Hinduism or any other spiritual teachings.
I forgot all about this email until a few days later while clearing up the pending mail, Sunu’s email popped up again! This time, I went through it carefully. Sunu emphasizes that this 15 days sacred journey in Peru was being organized by her very close friend, Sandra Gonzalez who is a gifted intuitive born healer. For quite some time now, she has devoted her entire time working in the spiritual and personal development arena with groups and individuals. Through specific meditations Sandra would guide the group to expand their visionary senses, self-healing, and discovery of the latent powers that resides within each of us. Sunu also mentions that she and her husband, Dhanesh, were planning to take this trip and wanted Lavina and I too also join in. I read the balance details of the schedule and found that this trip would take us up mountains with heights reaching up to 15,000 feet above sea levels, where the veil between the two worlds is the thinnest. It is common to experience a shift of consciousness and dimensions at this point. My experience, one time when visiting the Swiss Alps was still on my mind. Due to my heart condition, I had felt dizzy and had a severe headache. It took some resting time to adjust to the thin air then. Anyway, considering Lavina’s enthusiasm for anything spiritual or sacred, I forwarded the email to her for her opinion.
Lavina loved the plan and we talked about it in details. In the past most of our holidays were planned on individual basis, luxurious to major popular cities and well planned like a clock. We had never been to South America nor attended any spiritual or sacred gatherings before. This would give us a chance to involve ourselves into something different. Let’s go for it, we decided! First thing was to consult my cardiologist and check if I could survive the high altitude. “It should not be a problem”, he advised. All I had to do was to take a tablet, called Diamox, one day prior to arrival and during my entire stay at high altitude. His green signals give me the courage to finally accept Sunu’s offer.
We planned our trip and reached Dubai on the 9th May. We stayed there for a few days to meet up with Lavina’s mother and then joined Sunu and her husband Dhanesh on our long journey to Lima, via Amsterdam. Along with us four were participants from Dubai, Katrina (a holistic aesthetician) and Jessie (a Yoga teacher). Katrina discovered that her ‘earth star’ was Peru and this was a great opportunity for her to visit it. Jessie has deep family roots in Peru. Her grandfather travelled from Bethlehem to Peru at the end of the 1800s and her mother was born there. Jessie just had to visit Peru to trace back her roots and connect with long lost cousins.
Day 1 in Lima:
Just as our flight gets closer to Lima, the Andes Mountain range comes into view. This took me back to my school days, when I was taught about the famous Andes Mountains by our geography teacher. They are the world's longest exposed mountain range and lie as a continuous chain of highland along the western coast of South America. We reach Lima airport around 4 pm, exhausted after a long journey of approximately 20 hours flying time and 5 hours transit stop at Amsterdam. We were met by the tour guide, who drove us through the old city of Lima. With overcast skies most of the buildings, which were mostly ancient looking, were covered with fog or mist. Soon we drove into the main new city district, Miraflores. This was quite a contrast from the old city. New buildings came into sight and the famous restaurant brands popped up everywhere. Our hotel, Hotel Sol de Oro, was situated in the heart of the main city. We checked in and decided to meet up at the bar to mingle and introduce ourselves to the rest of the group, after freshening up. We were supposed to be 16 participants in total and surely we expected to bump into some of them. Unfortunately, only one other traveler turned up – Betty (New York). Each of us were given a complimentary drink coupon to try out the local cocktail called Pisco sour, made from egg white and local grape liquor. I passed up the drink and went for my usual gin and tonic.
Now where was our organizer, Sandra? She was nowhere to be found! Finally, she called in and explained that she had taken the early arrivals out to a remote pyramid in the outskirts of Lima and that the tour bus had broken down. Since she expected to return back around midnight, we were advised to proceed to a famous restaurant, Raphael, just across the hotel. Arriving there, we were escorted to the bar area seating, since the restaurant was fully booked. Dinner on land, after a lengthy flight, turned out to be very comfortable. Betty was the most active one that night – darting questions at everyone, especially me! I kept wondering if she was a reporter from BBC or CNN! She was just curious about all of us and wanted to be well informed. She should aim to be a brilliant journalist or a researcher. She had heard of Sandra and the mystery surrounding this trip and that a Shaman at Machu Picchu had cured her friend of her ailment and hoped she could be cured of bothersome ailments as well.
Day 2 in Lima:
After a good night’s rest, we meet up for breakfast. I make no pretense of being spiritual in any way, (although I do enjoy my spirit, Bombay Sapphire Gin wherever I go) but I surely can recognize one when I see one. Still reeling from jet lag, my eyes fell upon Sandra for the first time. Her face and eyes marked her clear intentions and were pure. After a few exchange of words, I acknowledged and assured myself that she was the chosen one! Travelling with her guidance and experience was going to be an educational trip!
Soon we met up with the other participants. There was Volker, Sandra’s boyfriend from USA, Lanna, from Los Angeles; Adele and Chris from Hong Kong; Yoriko from Dubai; daughter Lavena from Los Angeles; Mark and Kathy from Colorado.
That morning we took in a city tour and were introduced to the history and traditions of Peru and its inhabitants. Later we stopped for a buffet lunch at ‘Mango’ restaurant overlooking the gorgeous blue Pacific Ocean. Never realized, that Lima is the only capital city in the world, located next to an ocean. The local residents looked cool, simple and very helpful. Afternoon, we were free to explore the city at our own. During the evening, Sandra reserved a long table for dinner at a nearby private family restaurant catering the local seafood fare. We all enjoyed the new company and the seafood.
Day 3 Nazca:
Early morning around 9am we boarded our bus along with our baggage and headed on a beautiful drive down the Pacific coast to the Paracas Peninsula. Unfortunately some small towns we passed were evidently victims of the big earthquake that struck Peru a few years ago. 3 hours later we arrived at a pier where we boarded a large speed boat out to the wildlife sanctuary of the Ballesta Islands. Initially, we were able to view the mysterious Candelabra, a massive deep carving on a large rock that point towards Nazca. As we get closer to the wildlife sanctuary islands we were greeted by a large flock of flying sea gulls and a pungent smell of bird poop. The islands are home to over 150 species of marine birds including flamingoes, pelicans and penguins. On the shores could be seen large numbers of sea-lions lazing around. The landscape and the view of the sea lions and the birds were just too overwhelming and awesome! It was worth seeing it in person after reading about it so often.
We circled the islands for about 45 minutes and then returned back to shore for lunch at a restaurant on the promenade. A solo singer/drummer sat next to our table and entertained us with some lively music. Sandra and Jessie just could not resist sitting quiet on such good musical vibes and finally jumped out on to the promenade and danced away in rhythm. In the afternoon we continue our drive to Nazca. The drive was approximately 3 hours and to entertain myself, I opened up my vodka bottle and Sprite (unfortunately I could not find tonic water). Chris and Lanna joined in and we chatted and laughed away the time. Finally we reached Nazca and checked in at Hotel Cantayo in time for dinner. The hotel was great looking with a spacious farm and a huge outdoor pool in the background. It was late when we arrived and we had to walk in the dark on a dirt road to reach our villa. The first thing prior to dinner was to take a warm shower. This is where I felt like Indiana Jones, keeping the hand shower at bay, as it was acting like a snake attacking me every time I hung it up on the hook. Down next to the bath tub where 2 cockroaches staring at me! Whack! I swung my towel to get them running off! Dinner was fine, except for the slow service and the waiter’s ignorance of the wine selections. Too bad the owner was not present. Later the next day, after getting a great massage by Mark’s ‘magical hands’ and being amazed with our group, he became very friendly with us and joined us in Punno to visit the famous Amaru Muru (inter-dimensional gateway).
Day 4 Nazca:
Early morning we visit a nearby airport to fly over the Nazca Lines for around 30 minutes. Nazca lines, discovered in 1927, are a series of complex designs, some up to 300 yards long, which can only be seen in their true dimension from the sky, at an altitude of at least 1,500 ft. There are many individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbird, spider, monkey, condor, whale, astronaut, and dog. The lines that decorate the desert floor have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and are believed to have been created by the Nazca culture years ago or aliens.
Later, we got back on the bus and start our 1 hour bumpy dirt road ride through the empty desert to visit a the archaeological site of the Cahuachi Pyramids, a massive (20 square miles) complex created, then deserted, by an unknown culture from millennia past. Prior to our entering the desert dirt road, we stopped at a point to pick up Shaman Felix, who was chosen by Sandra to be our guiding spirit. He had long hair, was all dressed up in traditional yellow garb and sporting 2 feathers on his headband. He resembled a Red Indian ‘medicine man’ who just stepped out of a western movie. Just so that we understand correctly, a Shaman is a person who has special powers to control or influence good and evil spirits (beings which cannot be seen), which enables them to discover the cause of illness, bad luck, etc.
Off we continued on the dirt bumpy road, passing an expanse dry desert landscape filled with many cactus plants. The weather was very hot that day. Soon the grand ancient pyramid came into view. Cahuachi is considered a major ceremonial center of the Nasca civilization in Peru and therefore rightly chosen by Shaman Felix for us to be blessed spiritually. Shaman Felix climbed up to the highest vantage point and prepared his ritual ornaments along with a fire urn on a red chequered cloth. Soon we followed – myself, huffing and puffing away. We all stood in a circle to take part in his ‘blessing’ ritual. He praised loudly to the Pachamama (Mother Universe) and his forefathers with outstretched arms. He, waves the smoke of his fire urn pit towards us, air brushes our body with his rattle to remove all the negativity and then offers each of us the same mug to partake a sip of a drink after first spilling and offering a little to the ground. Unsure of its content, I discreetly just touched my lips to the mug. Shaman Felix then approached every individual and repeated exactly what he did with me. He waved his hand over my body, rubbed some liquid on my head. He touched my forehead with both hands, trying to read my energy and then with his right hand over my heart and the left hand on my right wrist, he stopped and looked deep into my eyes. He paused for some time! I guess my vibes (or heart beats) were giving out alert signals to him. He called Sandra and explained to her in Spanish that he sensed that I was holding back a lot of grief and should endeavor to open up and let go. I informed Sandra that perhaps he felt my irregular heartbeat, since I had just huffed and puffed up the mountain. Besides me he also sensed something in Lana, from California. After everyone went through the same procedure, he asked us to face towards the sun and take in as much of the good energy as possible. We all then danced around to a very catchy Incan music from his stereo. Finally he offers each of us a crystal to cherish and hold to our hearts.
We return back to the hotel and have a circle meeting with Sandra where she distributes a few mementos to all. Since we were requested to bring in inexpensive gifts for every participant, Lavina and I distributed ours to everyone present, including Shaman Felix. Sandra mentioned that Shaman Felix had a master in Cusco who would be able to perform Ayahuasca for anyone wishing to join. Ayahuasca is purification and cleansing of body, mind, and spirit in a shamanic ceremony which can be the beginning of a process of profound personal and spiritual discovery and transformation. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the Ayahuasca vine and the leaf of the Chacruna plant. The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world. One thing is sure, and that is that every person gets a unique experience. Since a person will go into hallucination, they have to be vigilantly supervised by the Shamans in order to keep him under control. Since, I consider this as some sort of potent drug; Lavina and I were definitely not considering it. Anyone wanting to join would have to sign up and go through it at our Sacred Valley stop.
Day 5 Ariquipa:
We board the bus early morning and start our 10 hours journey to Ariquipa via the beautiful Pacific Ocean highway. We pass many deserted beach squatters and great sandy beaches. Surprisingly, no commercial Spas or hotels have popped up on such exotic available land as yet! We arrive late into Ariquipa city (7,800 feet above sea level) and check into Hotel Posada del Inca situated in the busy central plaza area. We later meet during dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby. Living at high altitude was definitely not comfortable for ‘ground Zero’ persons like me and Lavina. We both experienced dizziness, headaches, bleeding noses and loss of appetite. We were advised to perform moderate physical activities and to drink coca leaf tea to prevent the effect of altitude sickness.
Day 6 Ariquipa:
Arequipa is called the White City because its buildings are made of sillar, a volcanic stone, which shines due to its sunny weather. It is the second largest city in Peru and has three guardians, Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu volcanoes. I loved this lively city comparing with Lima and wondered why this was not the capital city! We took the city tour, visiting churches and historical buildings. Later, with Volker’s suggestion, a few of us visited the Santuarios Andinos museum housing the famous ‘Juanita’, the ice maiden. Juanita, the beautiful young girl was discovered in 1995 by anthropologist Dr. Johan Reinhard. The Ampato volcano with an approximate height of about 6,000 feet above sea level sheltered this beautiful Inca girl in its bosom for about 500 years or more. She must have been 12 – 14 years old at the moment of her death. She was offered (sacrificed) to Apu (Mount) Ampato by the Inca priests of those days. She had to be put to sleep before a precise blow on her right eyebrow would cause her to die. She was totally frozen and now preserved as found, in this museum. Research is still going on her body and we had the opportunity to see her. She was sitting in a fetal position totally frozen in a glass casing. No photography was allowed.
Sandra had arranged another Shaman to accompany us on the oncoming stops. He was Shaman Raul, young and energetic. Later that evening we had another round circle meeting with Sandra and he was introduced to us. At one point we each had to pick up a tarot card. Surprisingly, my card said ‘surrender and release’. Sandra laughed out so loud that she went down her knees on the floor! The message was in line with Shaman Felix’s advice. In my defense, I explained that this message was true. Being the head of the family, I always faced the problems in the front line personally and kept the negative news/thoughts away from my family. It has always been my natural human instinct of protecting the family in any way to keep them positive and happy. Therefore to surrender and release my problems to others was not my way of life during earlier years. But today, being semi retired, the situation has changed and I do pass on all the problems to the family to solve them.
Day 7 Colca Canyon:
Waking up early, we resume yet another 5 hours bus ride to Colca Canyon. On the way, we stop at the highest point of around 15,000 ft above sea level. Prior to reaching this spot, we stop at a tea house for Coca tea and are also taught by the guide on how to chew on the coca leafs by holding the leafs on the side of the mouth for around 20 minutes and then spit it out after extracting the juices. This helps to adjust our bodies to the high altitude. Photos: 1 + 2. Once we reached the top, most of us felt quite unbalanced. Shaman Raul arranged a bondage ritual for us, by asking each of us to collect one flat stone slab. He then collected the same from each of us to stack one on top of the other, starting from the largest to the smallest. All went well, until Volker turned up suddenly in the end with the largest slab. Shaman Raul tried his best to balance his large slab over the smaller ones – but failed. Well this was not a good sign, so he decided to restart this procedure on our return through the same route.
We continued and took the dirt road route down to Colca Canyon which was extremely rough and narrow, making it very difficult for an oncoming bus to cross. Luckily our experienced driver maneuvered well close to the cliff. Eventually, we could see our hotel, Hotel Colca Lodge, from the top of the cliff. What an amazing sight! Built completely of stone, mud bricks and thatch roofs, Colca Lodge is located in the heart of the Valley, next to the Colca River, in the midst of ancestral farming terraces. The spa has its own source of hot springs. We finally descended and arrived at the hotel, not direct to its main entrance door, but at a higher level. We walked down a long stony staircase with our hand carry to the reception area. By the time the suitcases reached our far away villas, they had accumulated dust. Our black suitcases turned into dusty beige! I remember the same thing used to happen to my luggage whenever I returned home from any city in China back in the seventies.
Part of the group rushed straight out to hiking in the canyon before the sunset and part of the group relaxed and enjoyed the hot spring spa. The weather was cool around 8 degrees Celsius. Eventually, we met up for a dinner at the fine dining restaurant in the lodge. Betty is a lover of Chocolate and cakes and who observed it? None other than Volker and he surprised her with a huge Chocolate Cake after dinner. Besides the ambience and dinner which were excellent, the head chef happened to be a handsome young married man but this did not stop Lana from trying to pass her room key to him.
Day 8 Puno:
We were awake early to have breakfast and ready to board the bus, with all our baggage by 7am. Back on the road again and up the mountains to catch the early flight of the Condors. We stopped at 'Cruz del Condor' which is a popular tourist stop to view the condors, the pass where condors soar gracefully on the rising thermals occurring as the air warms. The condors are best seen in the early morning and late afternoon when they are hunting. We hiked down the slopes to a viewing point overlooking the valley. The landscape view was magnificent. Thanks to Adele’s secret calls, we were able to see many soaring Condors at fairly close range as they flew past the canyon walls. After the viewing, Shaman Raul circled us around to perform a friendship ceremony to ‘connect ourselves’. He approached each of us; looked deep into our eyes holding our hands to his heart first, then to his forehead, then kissed it and finally pointed it towards the sun. Eventually, we all had to perform the same binding process with each and every one of the participant. Interesting!
He also explained the three tiers of the world which were represented by their revered animals: the condor, puma, and the snake. The condor represented the upper world in the sky; the puma, a powerful land animal represented the middle world; and the snake, living underground, represented the lower world.
After a few more Condors sighting, we trekked up the mountain to get back on the bus to continue our trip to Puno. We reach Hotel Taypikala Lago in Puno (12,421 feet above sea level) around 8 pm completely exhausted and are met by the owner and the famous guide/writer/Shaman, Jorge Luis Delgado. He is very graceful and makes all efforts to make us comfortable. We had a light dinner and retired to bed.
Day 9 Puno:
Early morning around 7am I get a call inviting us for a ‘Crystal’ ceremony in the gardens in the morning. I walked over to the garden after breakfast to check it out and discovered that Sandra had arranged with Shaman Jorge to perform an Incan traditional wedding for Chris and Adele in the garden. The couple were taken by a surprise themselves on this sudden event. Sandra saw to it that they were dressed appropriately for the occasion. While we all stood in a circle round an enormous attractive crystal piece in the garden; the couple arrived traditionally dressed in all glamour with Shaman Jorge waving the smoke urn around them keeping the evil spirits away. Shaman Jorge did a fine ceremony explaining well in English.
Soon we boarded the tourist bus with Shaman Jorge to visit the mysterious Doorway he discovered. Jorge Luis Delgado stumbled across the structure while trekking through the surrounding foothills trying to familiarize himself with the area as his job is as a guide for mountaineering tourists. Cut into the reddish brown sandstone thousands of years ago, is a shallow mysterious keyhole shaped opening called The Doorway of Amaru Muru. He had dreamed of such a construction repeatedly over the years and to discover it was like a revelation from God. In his vision he saw the back of a man walking through the doorway and disappearing into the wall. The doorway has many legends surrounding it, including the stories that it is an active working portal that transports beings into and out of this world. Some believe it to be an inter-dimensional gateway and where the seeds of all existence originated. Except for me, everyone in the group took turns to stand at the doorway and they did feel some sort of energy flowing around them.
We stopped in for lunch at his restaurant in one of his newer hotel. His resident curios and handicraft shops did a good turnover with our shopping that day. After lunch we headed for Lake Titicaca, one of the world’s highest navigable lakes at an elevation of approximately 12,400 feet. Titicaca is notable for a small population of people who live on the Uros, a group of artificial islands made of floating reeds. These islands float, and the natives who live here carry on a tradition that goes back thousands of years. We took a boat, boarded one and had the opportunity of watching how the locals lived and went about their daily life. I was amazed with the soft carpet feeling reeds I treaded on. There was also a school on a floating island with children commuting by small boats. Some of the local people claim that unidentified flying objects descend into the lake and an underwater ethereal city still thrives beneath its waters.
Lake Titicaca is a most sacred place when it comes to Inca religion and therefore before returning to the shore, Sandra arranged with Shaman Jorge to stop mid-lake so that Betty could spread her lovable cat’s ashes into the sacred lake. Sentimental but very practical!
We return back to the hotel and are informed by Spiritual Sandra that there would be a private floral ceremony especially for Katrina and men were barred from attending due to nudity. Blimey! The best part of the trip and we are banned!! A spy informed me full details and due its privacy nature, I am not supposed to reveal the ceremony. The only thing I noticed, the next day, was Katrina beaming away like a new born baby!
Day 10 Sacred Valley:
We are up early to catch the 8am train to Sacred Valley. Shaman Jorge is there to drop us off at the station. The PeruRail train is a first class luxurious train with panoramic windows and well equipped for foreigners. The seats were very comfortable and included dining service. A private bar coach with singers and live music and an open air last carriage allowed us to pass the time well. It toke us around 10 hours to reach the main city, Cusco where we were met by Pepe our guide. It was around 7pm and Sandra decided that we should have dinner at the main plaza area before proceeding to Sacred Valley. At the restaurant, we were met by Shaman Felix, who had travelled directly, courtesy of our donations. By this time the travel bug finally caught up with my and Lavina’s tummy and we both lost our appetite. After dinner we travelled on a bus to Sacred Valley. 2 hours later, we finally reached our hotel, Hotel Aranwa. This spa hotel was fabulous and part of the famous “preferred hotel” group. Here we were met by Shaman Felix’s master, Shaman Raul’s master, Don Jose and an apprentice, Shaman Manco. The all had congregated here to perform the Ayahuasca for whoever wanted to take part.
Day 11 Sacred Valley:
The sacred Valley is without doubt a peaceful place. It is the perfect site for resting, reflection, healing and meditation, surrounded by the giant Andean Mountains. The spa hotel was exquisite and considering my irritating tummy, I decided to skip the morning tour to a temple and the ruins and relax for a day at the spa. I persuaded Lavina to also stay behind, so that we could be fit for the major final part of the journey, Machu Pichu – but she wanted to brave it out! I had the most relaxing day, sat by the pool, read a book and had a massage by a local Spanish girl. I stayed on a 7-up diet the whole day and slept well. Lavina returned in the afternoon looking feverish and pale. The climb up to the temple had got her. Shaman Felix was guiding her all the way and even offered to carry her! (glad he did not, or she would have broke his back!) Straight to bed she went. Meantime, the hotel management had given permission for the Ayahuasca ceremony to be held at a quiet back area of the hotel, where there would be no disturbance. Except for Lavina, we all met at that quiet area. All the Shamans were present setting up the ritual area. It was totally dark, except for a small fireplace prepared by the Shamans. Sheets were laid out on the grass with blankets. We had to wear traditional caps. Six in our group would be taking part in this cleansing process. We all were there to give them our blessing with the help of the Shamans. The smoke urn was swayed around us to clean us. The coca leafs were give for us to chew on and a cigarette was passed on to each of us. Discreetly, I did not inhale. After the blessings, we all had to leave and give them privacy. Before leaving, Shaman Raul checks with me on Lavina’s health and I informed him that she had a tummy problem and was resting. He insisted that he would take some time off during the ceremony to visit us in the room to give good energy vibration to her. Knowing that he would not make it that evening, I replied that he could visit the next day if he could not make it that evening due to the long process he was performing.
Day 12 Aguas Caliente:
In the morning Shaman Raul and his master visited our room to perform a healing ritual on Lavina. While the master, Don Jose, performed his prayer with outstretched arm to Pachamama and his ancestors, Shaman Raul waved his healing hand and a crystal with full energy power over Lavina’s body and gestured the pain to leave her. This went on for around 20 minutes.
Soon we board the morning train to Aguas Calientes which is situated at the base of the Mountain below Machu Picchu. Our main luggage is sent on to Cusco and we carry only overnight clothing. The 1.5 hours journey takes us through a picturesque view of rapids, mountains and forests. On arrival after checking into the hotel, Sandra arranges for the group to visit Machu Pichu after lunch. Lavina is still under the weather and I stay back with her at the Hotel Sumaq and decide to call a doctor. Two young local doctors visit us, gives her a shot and some pills guaranteed to heal her so she could be fit to visit Machu Pichu the next day.
Day 13: Machu Pichu:
After a good night’s sleep, Lavina is back to normal and ready to visit Machu Pichu in the morning. Pepe the guide takes us along with Yoriko for a private tour. The dirt road drive upwards towards Machu Pichu runs zigzag and is pretty narrow. As we get closer, Machu Pichu comes into sight. What a fantastic view. We all stared at the site in amazement. Machu Picchu stands approximately 8,000 feet above sea-level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting. It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. We walked inquisitively through the ‘The Lost City of the Incas’. This is an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization. It had been my secret wish to visit this amazing Machu Pichu once in my lifetime and today it has undoubtedly resulted in an enriching and memorable experience I will treasure for years to come.
Meantime, Spiritual Sandra had one more surprise up her sleeve and announced that she and the Shamans had arranged for Dhanesh and Sunu to renew their wedding vows up on a mountain top above Machu Pichu. Lavina and I looked up at the high up site and gasped! Lavina decided to stay back with Yoriko and Pepe at the base. I joined the others and slowly hiked up the zigzag stoned rough slope huffing and puffing once again. I presume it was about 800 feet above the base of the Machu Pichu. This strenuous climb easily replaced the stress test I normally go through with my cardiologist. What a panoramic view once I got to the top! Fantastic! The surrounding mountains, Machu Pichu and the river below are still embedded in my mind.
Before our arrival to the top, Shaman Felix, Raul and Master Don Jose had already prepared for the ritual. Shaman Raul appointed Spiritual Sandra to perform the ceremony so she could translate the ceremony in English. We all sat on the ground in a circle and listened to the Master’s recital and blessings. Sentimental Sunu had a few tears in her eyes reminding of her happy 30 years together when the couple had to recite their individual vows. The highlight of the ceremony was when Shaman Raul presented them with many mementos. Among them was a female doll for Dhanesh and a male doll for Sunu. Shaman Raul explained – if ever Sunu was personally angry with Dhanesh for anything, all she had to do was scold the male doll first, “you have been very naughty today and I am not happy about it”. This of course, will make her laugh eventually and forget about reprimanding him in person. The same thing applied for Dhanesh.
At the end of the ceremony with all of us in a circle, Shaman Raul approached me and chose me as the matured person in the group. He presented me with a few gifts including similar male and female dolls. He advised me to love and take care of my wife and ensure she is always kept happy. I had a feeling that all the while he seems to have this notion that I am a disappointing husband. So I finally brought it to his attention and asked Sandra to translate and inform him that I have been married for 39 long years to one wife and wasn’t that enough genuine proof of long lasting love? He must have been surprised and promised to pray for me next year when I completed my 40th year. Wonder if he will remember!
We finally climbed down the mountain and picked up Lavina and Yoriko. We reached the train station in time for lunch. Prior to boarding the train back to Sacred Valley, we had a chance to see the indigenous citizens protesting at the station. They were all dressed up with war paints on their faces holding spears or bow and arrows. For centuries they had never paid for their natural water supplies and were objecting to the government suddenly charging them for it. They also objected to the government allowing the foreigners to exploit their native lands. I presume they were referring to overseas oil drilling and mining companies. The group stood on the railway track and blocked a tourist train from moving. Our Shamans too joined in patriotically. Luckily our train to Sacred Valley was on a higher level track and we managed to get to the relative station in time to board the delayed train.
We reach Sacred Valley late in the evening and took the bus to our final stop Cusco. The ride was approximately 1.5 hours. We arrive at the Hotel Novotel exhausted. Our luggage had arrived earlier and was already in our designated rooms.
Day 14 Cusco:
Cusco, 9,800 feet above sea level, is the ancient capital city of Tahuantinsuyo. The magnificent Inca walls, crowned by Spanish styled balconies and tile roofs are a testimony of its legacy. Pepe arrives early to take us for a city tour. Lavina and I skip this tour and instead walk in the city and explore it on our own. Somehow we seem very relaxed that morning, away from any tied up schedule. I even relaxed and stopped in for a shoe shine. We all meet for a lunch at the hotel. Prior to lunch, Spiritual Sandra arranged a last round circle meeting for all of us together with the Shamans in a private dining room. During that time we each had to pick up an essential oil to rub every Shaman’s forehead and face as a gesture of appreciation and thanks for all the blessings and goodness they had rendered us. Each Shaman took it humbly in reciprocal.
Lunch was served and the Shaman opened up a bottle of their local liquor for us to join in. I brought in my half bottle of Hennessy XO cognac and Dhanesh his left over Chivas. We happily enjoyed and drank together. Some of us meantime, donated our used clothing to the Shamans so that they could distribute it the needy.
In the evening, Shaman Felix and Shaman Raul suggested that we eat at a local restaurant serving the famous spit chicken. Everyone enjoyed the finger licking chicken with glee. The Shamans then suggested we visit the local disco frequented by many Shamans. For a moment, I thought it would be a spiritual disco – but surprised to find a regular live music disco. Shaman Raul was dancing with full swing and everyone joined in. By around 11pm, Lavina, Yuriko and I decided to call it a night and left the group.
We meet for breakfast and to wish everyone goodbye. We leave around 11am to board the flight to Lima where we have a transit time of around 5 hours before boarding our flight to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam we have another transit time of around 7 hours. We take in a local city tour to stretch our legs. We finally reach Dubai at around 5 am the next day.
In conclusion, I must emphasis that this trip had been a very enlightening for me and Lavina. Had we taken this trip on our own, we would not have ever seen or experienced the same effects. Spiritual Sandra had taken great pains to ensure that everyone was well taken care of. All her organized tours, meals, hotels and Shaman spiritual events fell in place accurately like a jigsaw puzzle. During this trip, I had seen her personally attending to participants who had sudden pain or aches. She came to everyone’s rescue should we encountered a choice from the menu or needed translation. She ensured that the group connected closely together. She surprised us with a marriage, wedding vows and finally arranged Betty’s dispersing of the cat’s ashes - all this in Incan tradition. She heartily brought us close to the Incan mysterious life style.
I better end now and 'surrender and release' to my wife, Lavina, since I can hear her reprimanding the gifted male doll, “Why are you always late for dinner?”