It is Easter Sunday (Dia de Resurreccion) and I just returned from my visit to Lake Titicaca, otherwise known to the Incas from this region as their god – Pacha Mama – the feminine divine. After the 3 hour boat ride back to Puna, I am resting in the hotel in preparation for my all-night bus ride and reflecting on the highlights of my amazing journey. I don’t usually blog about my travels, but there is no real way to separate my journey through these sacred Inca lands of Peru from either my physical or spiritual yoga practice.
I stayed last night with a local family in their humble home (without electricity) on the magical island of Amantani. Amantani, like many of the key Inca sacred sites, is geographically located on an energetic line that runs 45 degrees across Peru known in Spanish as the Camino de Wirakocha (their name for the supreme being). The language spoken here is Quechua, which has no written form and was passed on orally over thousands of years.
The father of the household, Vicente, was a Paco (traditional spiritual priest) and I was here for him to take me through a traditional ceremonial practice known as Fecha Churana. To prepare for the ceremony, my guide and I had to bring many artifacts to sacrifice in the fire, along with a large bag of cocoa leaves – the sacred plant at the heart of the ritual.
After some consultation with the plant, Vicente decided we would hold the ceremony on the peak of the mountain (around 4,150 meters). Shortly before sunrise, and after a beautiful meal prepared by Aurelia, the woman of the house, (all various dishes using potatoes as the main ingredient), I followed the Paco up the path to the top of the mountain.
The view was absolutely stunning. Bolivia to one side and Peru to the other; with the sunset filling the western sky with golden yellow and the northern sky with bright pink setting into deep purple. The path was very steep and I doubted several times whether I would have the strength to keep climbing, but the Paco (who could have been the Inca reincarnation of my grandfather) walked steadily ahead of me without hesitation, carrying the large bag of offerings and firewood over his shoulder. I was not about to give up, witnessing the strength and grace of this stocky old man.
When Vicente and I finally reached the mountaintop, we were in complete darkness, other than the star-filled sky. He found the right energetic spot to build the fire and we sat down for the ceremony. We offered our intentions through the cocoa plant and into the fire, chanted various prayers and burned the artifacts as a sacrifice and offering to the spirits.
After quite some time, we headed down the mountain and I went to my hut to rest, only to be woken later by Vincente, Aurelia and their daughter to go to the local pena to dance to the traditional music of the Island’s musicians.
There were too many highlights, and lessons, in my 48 hour visit to the magical Lake Titicaca to share them all here. The other stop which was incomparable to anywhere I have been in the world, was our visit to the Uros – a series of floating islands and home to many local natives. I had brought a bag of tiny gifts for the children and quickly became their friend (or their santa). I spent time with the chief of one of the Uros and learned the fundamentals of their beliefs and simple way of life.
I’m off now – to return to Cusco and prepare for tomorrow’s journey to Machu Picchu with my new friend and shaman Kuichy. The teachings I am receiving about the beliefs and history of the Inca and pre-Inca civilizations have many parallels to the vedic principles that are the foundation of yoga – the ancient tools and insights that will help us build a more conscious and connected future.