First we flew to Cusco a city known for it’s approximity to the majestic Andes including Machu Picchu. Once we landed in Cusco’s airport and while waiting for our pre-ordered taxi to arrive, I saw group of taxi drivers brawling around playfully, as if they were wrestling or about to box. This playful fighting continued, while other taxi drivers would be cheering the ‘fighters’ on, it was quite comical to watch them throw kicks and punches while equipped with large size beer bellies, and in their universal taxi driver uniforms on, made of slacks, pointy toe dress shoes and button up shirt with a leather jackets. I remember thinking how strange it was seeing them brawl in bright day light, at times getting quiet aggressive but clearly never escalating to a real fight, I had never really seen anything like it. Later that same day, while walking in downtown Cusco I saw two young men on the street do something similar, periodically throw punches at each other, then laugh as it clearly wasn’t a serious fight. Sparked by curiosity, I later learned about this Peruvian fighting festival called Takanakuy (in Quechua language means ‘beat each other up’), it happens every year just before Christmas, often it’s used to clear out disputes or even legal matters, whatever beef you might be holding on to, you bring it to the ring and box it out! How fabulous! As an avid lover of fighting, I am now determined to return to Peru for the fighting festival, as they also have all women fights- YAY!
Okay back to Cusco…the town centre was Gorgs! With beautiful cathedrals, parks and artisan indoor market flooded with locale crafts, and traditional Peruvian textiles. I was keen on finding a typical Peruvian hat (as seen in the cover photo) with a colorful shawl, which turned out to be an easy task with many shops having a tall tower of all sorts of top hats. Now happy with my brand spanking new top hat, we headed back to the main square where big crowds of college students had gathered with signs for one love and a rock band on the main stage. This town also was clearly a wedding photo-op destination, I would spot long trains of white fabric weaving through the crowds of student protesters, as the freshly married couples (saw at least five of them) would be pacing through the city and stop periodically to have photo taken in front of statues and fountains.
The day for the Andes! Our hostel manager had graciously ordered us a driver to take us to sightseeing, but only about 10 minutes into the ride I thought about how I really wanted to talk to a local healer instead, I expressed this to the driver who didn’t seem know any…Still holding hope and determination of finding a healer, as we started ascending up the twisty roads along the Andes I saw a small sign for herbalist against a small shack on the road. I asked to stop there and investigate, sure enough we lucked out and it so happened that the local medicine distillery guy was about and was willing to take us up to his ranch where he makes his concoctions of medicines. Filled with excitement and gratitude, we all jumped back in the car and were now on our way to be schooled on the Andes medicine scene. After an hour of driving finally arrived at the top of a mountain where Jose (the medicine man) walked us through the ranch area and pointed out the plants that he uses in his medicines and finally we ended up in his humble medicine distillery, as he explaining the long process that it takes to create the small jars of medicines that are mainly for altitude induced issues like nausea, dizziness or respiratory problems. He had invested in a massive machine that he used to extract the oils and medicine from the plants. He showed us the process of what it takes to make a small jar of medicinal oils and medicinal extracts. He also had medicine for digestive or blood pressure problems as well as medicine for insomnia. I was well pleased with his generous spirit and sharing of his knowledge, and gaining deeper understanding of local plants and their healing powers. We purchased some of bottles before saying good buy…
On the way back to the car, Jose picked up a leaf from an Eucalyptus tree for me and rubbed off the coating which then released the potent fragrance of the tree, for the rest of the day I held the leaf in my hand placing it under my nose ever so often to get a swift of it! Amazing! Brought so much joy into my world each time. In the recent years I’ve just grown to really appreciate the power of fragrances, especially the natural ones, and essential oils…yessss! We were pretty hungry after this so the driver took us to have a local delicacy – a whole ass Guinea Pig roasted! wtf. Thinking back now, I probably should of declined, you know like it’s just not cute and although like most meat, it tasted just like ‘chicken’ just more on the fatty side. Hmmmm. After lunch we visited a rural artisan shop, run by all women. The ladies working there were so funny and upbeat, sharing the tricks of the trade and how the patterns of the tapestry is specific to each village. They also shared the secret of making lipstick from natural materials that can last 200 kisses!
Back in the car both me and moms, grooving to the beats of reggeaton just before the Cusco town centre we came across a local dancing festivity. I jumped out the car once more and marvellous a their beautiful colourful customs and observed the way they interacted with one another, some seem to be bored and not enjoying their partner too much some were giddy full of smiles and excitedly stumping away! The band playing for them was by far the livest of the bunch, as they joked, laughed and improved with their instruments. really enjoying the scene I was abruptly whisked away as the driver was waiting in the car and we had to be back in hostel soon…
Another early start at 5am we were on our way to the PERUTRAIL train station that would take us near the Machu Picchu. The train ride itself was already pretty exciting, watching the ethereal scenery of the majestic mountains jot into the clouds on both sides of the train. About 3 hours later we arrived at Aguas Calientes, where the buses take you to MP. It was at the height of tourist season so the queues were insane. It took us over 2 hours before we were finally in the bus heading towards the Machu Picchu. Once there, it was like being the world greatest playground. You could could go so many places, hide in the caves, take a long trail up the mountain to find old ruins that had all astrological significance, on one of the trails we came up on the massive sacrificial rock, I stopped and decided to take off my shoes and lay on top of it. I closed my eyes and almost immediately a burning eagle appeared in front of my closed eyes, the eagles eyes intensively piercing into mine, while the eagle was golfed in the white light of flames. First I was startled by the scene, but I kept my eyes closed and stared back until a wave of calm went through my body, the rock bed underneath me felt like a perfectly sculptured bed – I could of easily fell a sleep there, but there steady stream of wondering tourists, going ‘ what the hell is she I doing”, laid out on the rock. So after some time of meditating and giving thanks to the opportunity to be there and send love to the ancestors of Inkas and their great legacy, I opened my eyes and continued exploring the grounds.
I also ran into some super chilled lamas, who didn’t mind me joining them on the bed of grass. Reading about the discovery of the Machu Picchu and many speculations that Europeans and alike have been making about the way their communities were organised, trying to decipher if they had a hierarchy within their society and if they did who were considered more privileged and who were not, makes me laugh and sad at the same time. As we will never really know for certain, the facts remain that greedy Spaniards came and slaughtered much of Latin American indigenous communities from Inkas, Aztecs to Mayans and all the knowledge and understanding that they had acquired over thousands of years on architecture, astrology, social standards, birth, death, motherhood, natural medicines, working with nature instead of against etc, was lost with them. Examining the rocks and stones left behind, can give us clues but nothing past a speculations. What we know for certain is that throughout Latin America there are still plenty of gate keepers of similarly profound knowledge, these indigenous communities are also fighting for their survival under the ever growing thumb of capitalism that threatens to swallow us all…Let this great site: Machu Picchu be reminder of what must be preserved right now and right here before they too are far gone in history.