Tuesday, March 29, 2011

End of the Ruby Road......

March 29, 2011

Exactly 10 month to the day, on February 17, 2011 I returned from the island of the Sun back to Copacabana, ending the journey of The Ruby Road.
All the Ruby Seeds had been planted and the mission was completed.
Looking back, I realized, it had very much felt like a mission. I did not have many specifics about the route or where to plant these seeds or how to go about it either.
What I did know was, that the journey would end at Lago Titicaca at the Island of the Sun. Then I would be free to do what I want or could dream of.
When I left the snow covered landscape of Alaska, I had no idea what I was getting myself into or if I would be able to reach the far away lake on the South American continent. My mechanical skills, to take care of any mishaps with Bluebird, my Volkswagen Camper, are next to none. This was a bit of a concern to me from the beginning. Keeping Sky comfortable in the hot central American countries had been another worry, besides safety concerns and keeping out of harms way.
Many good friends had reassured me, that I would be guided by spirit, as was my own belief, but I could feel their concern for our well being.
My idealistic view painted a beautiful picture of a great adventure, that would magically be guided by spirit, where I would know where to go and what to do at all times. This in mind, I did little preparation or planning for the trip.
Over time, after the second breakdown of Bluebird, I had to admit to myself, preparations are necessary and shortcuts are not allowed. Cause and effect are still the same, no matter what mission you are on. The physical world is goverend by natural laws that do not differentiate between good and bad. This was an eye opener for me,needing to get my head out of the clouds and dealing with the very physical experience presented to me at every turn of the road.
The journey felt like I had jumped into a river, wearing a life vest that was keeping me afloat and out of harms way, but being swept away by a current, that I had no control over.
The mind is a powerful and amazing tool we humans are endowed with, but also a terrible burden, when left to run it`s own course fed by opinions, experiences of the past or any other images conjured of ones interpretation of self in realtionship to others and this planet.
Early on I learned to follow intuition, keeping ahead and out of the way from natural disasters, that were raging in the Mexican highlands. That part was easy for me. Dealing with fear to enter El Salvador or being stuck in a small village on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in Guatemala was an entirely different lesson to learn. It was always about controlling my mind. Are the pictures in my head real or am I just imagining a reality created by my thoughts, that hasn`t even happened yet. Yes, the bus was in need of repair, but did that symbolize, the steep mountain we had come down, was now unclimbable and we would be stuck here.
In those first few months of travel, I had to do a lot of surrender to what is and take a good look at my thoughts, dealing with the moment and not an imagined future. It wasn`t a magical shift, but a step by step process, that got easier with each recurring time, because I recognized the falseness of my thoughts and had found a way to clear all of that garbage out and see the moment for what it really was.
The brake on Bluebird got repaired, we left the mountainside village behind and the people of El Salvador were one of the most friendly beings I had met up to date.
Ridding myself of fear did not mean to leave caution by the wayside, but it made the journey so much more enjoyable.
There were so many magical moments, like looking down into Telica crater and watching the lava bubble up, or the women in the field stopping their work to share their meager meal with me in the Highlands of Guatemala. The great Tucan flying by, settling on a tree branch right next to where Sky and I were sitting in Costa Rica.
The amazing thunder and lightening storm at Chichen-Itza right after the planting of the Ruby Seed there and all the wonderful experiences with the people of each country.
Leaving Bluebird behind in Costa Rica was hard. It meant, letting go of the last posessions I had, other then just the essentials of clothing and shoes and whatever I could carry in my backpack. I had to leave behind my guitar, my drums and my spiritual items, not to mention cookware and other comfort items.
Sky and I learned to foot our way in Ecuador. I also learned to pay less attention to what I did not have with me anymore, but to seek comfort in the spirits of the mountains and trust that Pachamama would provide me with what I needed.
One day I had just bought a salad in a store, but forgot to take a plastic fork with me. We had walked a distance to a beautiful park, when I noticed, I had nothing to eat the food with. Not wanting to walk all the way back, I searched for a spot to sit down. On the way there I spotted some garbage and went to pick it up. It was a fork, still wrapped in the plastic and unused. Wow...I thought, I like this.
Obstacles along the way came and went. Most of the time they were not real obstacles, but opportunities to examine the flow of my thoughts and make necessary corrections, so I could proceed on the path and enjoy all the beauty around me.
The Galapagos Islands were probably the most magical place, where the abundance of marine and terrestrial wildlife was in such a stark contrast with the unforgiving landscape of the volcanic islands.
At times I struggled with lonelyness and missed my friends and community. Sky seemed to know when to cheer me up or when to be playful and lift my mood. Most often, after one of these episodes, someone would appear and be a travel partner or hiking companyon for a day or a week. Sky also seemed to have a grounding effect on me. I had to care for him, making sure he was comfortable and had what he needed, which included hikes, walks and having dog fun. He delighted in engaging kids in every country to throw a stick or a ball for him. The children would be amazed he could do tricks and fetch and couldn`t get enough playtime with him. People took pictures of him in every country and many a times I was asked, if I would sell them my dog.
His personality also changed over time. He became much more outgoing, exploring every new environment and learned to jump off the rocks at Lake Atitlan. He continued his new learned skills everywhere we went, but he never got used to big, noisy cities with crowded sidewalks. For this reason we avoided large cities or just stayed a day if necessary, seeking out the pueblos and campesinos. I had some concerns for his safety in the jungle of Ecuador, but he seemed to know it was alright to enjoy all the smells, but not to veer off the trails to far or chase anything. After the first day in the jungle, where he appeared a little scared,
he became the mad dog, running up and down the trails, his ears up and a smile on his face, because he loved all the new smells.It was so amazing to watch him adapt to new places and people. I rarely had him on a leash or had to give him any comands. If we were hiking in the mountains, he ran off to explore and have fun. When in a city or a village and I went into a store, he sat and waited infront of the door. Many a times, I followed him back to our hostal, because I was not sure which way to go, but he knew. His love, joy, dedication and preseverance was unshakable.
The shock of loosing him in Nasca, Peru so suddenly is still indiscribeable for me.
I had known even before leaving Alaska, that he would not return from South America,
but had envisioned us living for some time in the mountains of Peru, where he would love it, like he had loved the mountains and rivers of Alaska.
As in most cases, when we are busy making plans, life presents us with an entirely different scenario.
The month following Sky`s death was the hardest time for me, but it also gave me the deepest inside to my beliefs and desires. It enabled me to shed beliefs that no longer served me. I had everything I needed and there was no more need to look outside of myself to validate my existence. Instead, it was time to think about what I wanted for myself and how I want to serve on this planet.
I continued on my mission, planted the Ruby at Machu Picchu and took some time in the Sacred Valley to integrate what had happened, to grief, to understand the insights I was receiving and what that meant to me.
During the hike into Colca Canyon I felt something new emerging. I saw a new journey developing. Not necessarely a road trip, although it could include some travel. My thoughts had been cruising around for days about what it is that I want for myself,
what are my needs and desires.
More then anything, I had realized, I want to serve. Not that there had been anything wrong with my past occupation. I did serve in a beautiful way, but not always with the right frame of mind. Knowing,the Universe always makes use of any talents or gifts, I imagine, I will continue to use the skills of my hands, but am also open to new avenues.
One day I saw the title of my next blog: ^Journey of my Heart^. It felt so sweet, so beautiful and so feminine, I could hardly believe it. I also received a gentle nudge
toward an idea, I had kept in my heart for many, many years.
I was excited and scared at the same time, but before making further plans, I had to plant the last Ruby at the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca. The 12 days at the Lake and on the islands were pure magic. The perfect ending of the 10 month journey.

The Ruby Road had taught me a lot. I had adventures of a lifetime. Though, I could not have done it without the support of my friends, family and community. There were so many moments, I received an e-mail or someone posted on my wall at Facebook, or wrote a comment, when I most needed that encouragement. Or when I felt lonely and wanted to feel connected. Not to mention the shared pain and love sent, after Sky`s death. I feel very fortunate and very grateful to have such a loving community of friends and family. And Thank God for internet. What a wonderful way to stay connected and in touch with everybody!!!! Thank you, beautiful beings....

My new journey has already begun. It has a new title, which means, if you want to continue reading, you will need to bookmark the new title:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sillustani and the Islands of Lago Titicaca

March 10, 2011

Not far from Puno is the site of Sillustani. Giant Chullpas, round stone tower tumbs, reaching up to 12 meters in height situated on a plateau above Umayo Lake. Although the Incas built the largest Chullpas in the typical seemless stone construction, there is evidence of earlier tumbs of the Tiwanaku and Chimu cultures in this area.
While I was there, the sky almost turned black, but the rain never came. Instead the clouds opened up in one spot and a Rainbow appeared.
I was so thrilled to spent time with the Ancient ones, but the Highlands cool off very quickly in the late afternoon and the piercing wind never stops, that after a couple of hours I was glad to return to Puno and warm up under a hot shower.

My friend Manuela arrived from Cusco and we took off to Uros (floating islands), Amantani and Taquile islands on a 2 day tour. In Uros we were welcomed by the local women waving their arms and singing. They showed us how the floating islands
are made and that it takes over a year to make one. Sounds like a lot of effort to me, to live on a large, soggy spongelike strawmat and always have semi wet feet.
But the Uros have lived this way for a long time, until more recently, self sustained. The last true blood Uro however died about 50 years ago. Nowadays, many
young people choose to live, at least for some time, on the mainland. Some return with spouses and make their living now through tourism. Each family, consisting of an average of 12 to 20 people, including children, occupy an island. There was even a primary school on one of the islands. Later the children travel to the mainland for schooling every day. I taught the women a German song, while we visited and was amazed, how fast they learned the words and melody. From Uros our tour continued to Amantani for an overnight stay with local families. This island also receives major benefits from tourism, as we could see immedeately by their houses. All were finished constructions, unheard of in most parts of Peru and there was no garbage strewn about. Each family has to go through a training process,in order to be a host family. We arrived at a local dock and could already see the men and women comming down to receive us in their colorful skirts,shirts and hats. We were sent off to our families. The accommodations were simple, but really nice. The food was equally simple, but tasty and plenty. After the hike to the Temple ruins, we were told their would be music and dancing in the community hall. We were totally taken by surprise, when our hosts brought us local, traditional clothing to wear. It was great fun!!
There was a band playing while the men and women kept us busy dancing for over 2 hours. The lake is at 3850 meters, so any great excertion is very noticeable.
The women on Amanti are always knitting and never leave home without it, or are busy with a spindle, while running errands. The next morning, our families walked us back to the dock and waived good-bye....no singing on this island.
Taquile was a 4 hour stop,just enough time to visit a local village and then walk across the island to a dock,where the boat would pick us up. On Taquile the men are doing the knitting. They are producing some amazing handwork. I noticed the ware made by men was much more expensive, than what was made by women. Go figure!
We had phantastic views from the higlands with bright sunshine and sparkling blue water. Taquile island is very beautiful, with a steep stair path leading down to the dock. The Lake is so big aand was so blue, that it appears more like an ocean rather then a lake.
From there it was a spectacular ride back to Puno. I liked the excursion a lot, but there was something strange about it. Manuela felt the same way,but we could not really say, what had been so strange. It was not the touristy part. We had expected that. It was something else. The next morning we left for Copacabana and the Isla del Sol,again in the most brilliant sunshine imagineable. Yumani, the village on the south end, is a bit touristy, but the cobble stone stairs, pathways and the views were magnificent. Although climbing that steep staircase up from the port was a chore. Wonder how long it takes to get used to 4000 meters. We got lucky with a picture view window at the hostel plus had a couple of donkeys grazing below. The village is full of donkeys. Every family has several of them. They are used to haul up water in cannisters from the Inca Fountain, three quarter ways down to the port.
We spent the afternoon exploring the village, having dinner at sunset with a magnificent vista and took a long walk by the faint light of a crescent Moon. Our intent was to hike the Ruta Sagrado to the north end of the island. So we left at the crack of dawn, for us that was about 11 am, visited the Pilkokayna Ruins first and then set out to the north.
It was a brilliant day. The blue of the sky was matching the blue of the lake.
The route at first climbs up for some time, but then gently rolls along the ridgeline of the island. Along the way we met children, asking for bonbons or anything else we might have to give. Most of them are herding sheep or goats in the middle of nowhere. We came prepared with candies and ball pens for the local children that we were taking to the north village, but had not expected to find requests for it on the path. Somehow it took us a lot longer to reach the north end then twhat we were told, but we climbed every hill top on the way, paying respect to the mountain Apus. The weather suddenly changed in the afternoon to a strong, cold wind. By the time we reached Roca Sagrada, we were dressed in our Alpaca hats, jackets and long pants.
The Chinkana Ruins are a labirynth of passages and tunnels, sitting high above a pretty beach facing to the west. My favorite was Roca Sagrada, the birthplace of the Incas, according to their beliefs and the Sun´s footprints, where the Sun is tied to the Earth. We arrived at the ruins just in time to witness the setting of the Sun and thanked Pachamama and the Great Spirit with some offerings for this magnificent day. From there it was another 30 minute walk to reach the village of Challapampa, which we reached with the last light of the day. An old sheepherder aside the trail had recommended a hostal in town to stay at. When we got there, he greeted us happily at the door.
Manuela had to leave the next morning back to Copacabana and on to Puno. I wanted a day in the north and revisit the sites. Since it rained, I moped around that morning, feeling a little lonely after having enjoyed the company of Manuela.
I went back to Roca Sagrada and slept on it for a couple of hours, visited the ruins once more and then hiked over another ridgeline, watching the hawks dance in the sky. I had to plant a Ruby Seed here, but that day was not right. The next morning, when I returned once more, a Shaman was there and asked me, why I was there. It seemed like a real odd question. At first I kind of avoided answering, then I told him I needed to plant a Ruby. He said...we do Ceremonia now, then you go plant. I was a bit speechless, too surprised by the unfolding. We made a beautiful half hour ceremony and then he left. I planted the seed at Roca Sagrada and returned via Piedra Sagrada to Challapampa where I picked up my pack and headed south along the coast to Challa.
The morning had turned into another beautiful, sunny day. The hike up the coast was a winding path. With each turn a different amazing view. The water so blue far out and green in the bays with white sandy beaches. My head kept swiveling around, drinking in all the sights. It was a lot more up and down through several valleys to hike, so I was happy to reach Yumany in the late afternoon and chill out watching another magnificent sunset. The owner of the hostal was taking me the next morning to the Island of the Moon, as I wanted to visit the Temple of the Nustas (Virgins).
The place was deserted, but for one woman by the dock selling sodas and handicrafts. I loved the temple site and was right away greeted by a hawk. There was a really strong and beautiful feminine energy in the courtyard. I hung out for a long time until the captain came and wondered, if I had gotten lost.
We tuckered back to Yumani where I caught another boat to Copacabana.
When I got off in Copacabana I felt drunk. Not as in drunkeness, but happy....light..and in ecstasy. The islands of Lago Titicaca had been an exquisite experience, filled with beauty and joy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Colca Canyon...flight of the Condor

February 27, 2011

On my way to Arequipa, I stopped in Nasca to visit Sky´s resting place, bring flowers and sit in memory with my beloved companion. There is not a day that goes by, that I do not think about him. Yet the energy around his death had evaporated for
me and I was able to look at Nasca with clear eyes and an open mind.
Arequipa, although a beautiful city, did not hold much interest for me, other than it was on the way to Colca Canyon.
It is still the rainy season in the Highlands, but once again, I got very lucky on the 3 day Colca Canyon trek with sunny, warm days and cool, rainy nights.
We had barely entered the Canyon, when two Condors flew by in arms reach. I was so stunned by this magnificent sight, that at first I did not even comprehend, these were Condors. The first one was an appx. 5 year old Juvenile, whose colors had not yet completely changed, but already had an impressive wingspan. The second one was an adult who eyed us curiously. There are a good number of villages within the canyon, all of them are small, and only reachable on foot, horse or donkey.
We stayed with a local family, of the Cabana culture, enjoying Chicha and the ongoing Fiesta, dancing the night away in the village plaza. Most of the houses are made out of the tipical mud/clay and straw bricks, which are very common all over Peru, especially in the indegenous villages. They hold the heat of the sun very well and don´t seem to be as cold at night, as the cement brick buildings. We spent a comfortable night on our cots and awoke to brilliant sunshine, although there was no water in the morning for showers or anything. I am not really sure where or how they received the water. I could see no pipes anywhere and guessed that the donkeys are hauling it from a source above the village. We did enjoy warm water the night before. The watertanks are solar tanks and warm up quite nice. There is some electricity, but a lot of locals do not want to pay for it and make due without it.
At 7 am the band already started playing. By the time we got to the plaza the Fiesta was once more well on it´s way, with locals dancing and drinking large bottles of beer. We got invited to eat and drink, something you can not turn down, or it would be very impolite, but opted for the Chicha drink instead of the beer.
Colca Canyon is a well known destination, but there were few tourists to be found at this time of the year. We hiked back out of the Canyon and spent the 2nd night in Cabanaconde. Before leaving on the 3rd day, we had a visit to Calera Hot Springs for a soak. I love Hot Springs and enjoyed every moment we had there. The road from Cabanaconde to Arequipa leads over a 4900 meter pass, which was snowed in on our way back. Honorio and I lost hands down to the Austrian/Italian combo in the ensuing snowball fight, but we were top sliders on the icy road.
The next destination was Puno. Along the route I saw many herds of Vicunas and even some Flamingos in the high Lakes and Marshes. Arriving in Puno, I was greeted by music, dancing and much drinking in the streets. The fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria was in full swing, which lasts 2 weeks. It appeared more like a Carneval celebration with all the different costumes and only an occassional hint of the religious icon. Later I learned, that the masks of the Diablos and Achachis make fun of the Spaniards, or that the Morenados represent the chaingang of black slaves and that the rattles used by all dancers represent the sound of the chains. My favorite groups were the Waca Waca and Tinkus, indigenous communities from Peru and the Bolivian highlands.
Inspite of the amount of participants, fiesta revelers and tourists..the festivities were peaceful and very joyful. Well, after 4 days of dancing and drinking, the crowds got a little more rowdy and the participants more drunk and sleepy. I enjoyed the Fiesta and loved dancing through the streets, but was looking forward to the islands of Lake Titicaca.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Aimless wandering........

February 8, 2011

It is a strange sensation when life comes to a halt. When what you knew and the things you relied on are no longer so. Most everyone on Earth has had such a moment or two.
For me the shock of loosing Sky left me in a hace. At first you still try to do the things you had planned or what seems logical, but a part of myself wanted to stop all activity, needed to figure out how to be now.
It felt like entering an ocean of emotions, filled with grief and pain, but also seeing incredible beauty all around me and expiriencing a heightened awareness of so much love and support comming from friends, family, spirit and Pachamama.
Noga and I left for Pisac in the Sacred Valley to participate in an Ayahuasca Ceremony, shortly after my return from Machu Picchu.
The medicine was very strong for me. I was sure I would die that night. There were moments where I felt and saw Sky in his death throes, but then it was my own body being swept away. I told myself not to fight it, but surrender to whatever might be, wondering at some point, what my friends in Alaska will think when they find out, both Sky and I had perrished in Peru. The physical process was anything but easy.
The visual scenery however was amazing, with three dimensional lights, shapes and forms. At some point I entered a library of symbols, knowing the meaning of each glyph. I also received instructions on how to direct and control energy. After the second time of purging, a great peace came over me. Some ancient memory had left my body, as the little people carried off a fosselized large piece of ivory.
Although the effects of the halucinogen lasts appx. 5 hours, it took me 2 days to come fully out of it. The plant had also strongly told me to avoid consuming sugar, salt and coffee from now on.
Next I set off for a 4 day trek to Choquequirao ruins. The hike was streneous, descending from 3300 meters to 1900 meters and climbing back up to 3300 meters, the site of the temples. A curious puppy joined our trek on the 2nd and 3rd day. Aside from the coloring and the big ears, the puppy reminded me very much of Sky, when he was the age of around 6 months. I thought, maybe Sky is comming along in this puppies body and was grateful to have her along. We wandered through spectacular country, a deep canyon sliced through the mountains by the Apurimac River. The ridges looked like someone had taken a knife and carved them with very sharp, exact lines. We were a small group of four. Francois, another tourist, Guido our guide and David was in charge of the Mule and cooking and camping equipment, which was carried by the mule.
There are no villages along the trail, but a few dwellings here and there. Some deep in the canyon, others high up on the side of the mountain. All of which are 5 to 9 hours riding distance from the next village, where supplies can be found. There is no electricity. People live by the schedule of sunrise and sunset, cultivating maiz, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. The Choquequirao ruins sit on top of a mountain with wide views of the surrounding peaks,ridges and valleys. The trek was well worth the pain of reaching it.
Upon returning to Cusco, although I felt pretty good physically, all I wanted was to rest in a peaceful place and just be without schedule or intinerary. I decided to head back to the Sacred Valley, to be in the soft, soothing energy of the fertile valley and it´s majestic mountain terrain.
Without thinking about where to go or what to do I found myself back in Ollantaytambo, spending my days exploring the ruins and celebrating the full moon high up at the templo de la luna. My mind was very peaceful, but my body felt exhausted and low on energy. I still had not figured out how to be, without Sky by my side. There were many thoughts passing through my mind in these days, but they seemed kind of random, depending where my focus was directed at the time. I spent many hours listening to the river flow, walking aimlessly through the Valley. Before I knew it, ten days had passed. The aimless route had taken me to Urubamba, Pichingote, las Salinas (Salt Terraces), Morray, Calca, Tampay, Quisacocha Lagunas and back to Pisac.
It seemed like the San Pedro plant had been calling me to her. So it was no surprise running into Javier in Pisac, the second day there and discussing to join a San Pedro Ceremony.
From all I had heard, San Pedro is supposedly not as hard on the body as Ayahuasca, and I wanted an easy journey this time.
Even though, Javier had given me a very light dose of the medicine, what was to normally last 8 to 10 hours, turned into a 24 hour journey for me. It was physically not as taxing, but I felt like I was being dissembled and reassembled over this period, with the first three Chakras pulsing at an unbelievable frequency.
Somewhow all this was tied in with the heart of Africa. The pain of the people and the land of Africa. The beauty of their voices singing and their bodies dancing to the rythm of drumbeat. At other times I was flying, leaving my body behind, to the far corners of the Universe seeing a lot of things. My mind had long given up any attempt of interpreting what was happening, allowing me to be taken wherever the plant wanted to take me.
Again, my recuperation took a few days. One morning I woke up and felt very happy, delighted to be alive and be here. I also knew, that I was now ready to continue the Ruby Road to it´s conclusion at Lake Titicaca.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One Moment......a life lost, a life altered

January 20, 2011

I have been trying to write this blog for the past 14 days, but I could not bring myself to do it.
On January 1, 2011 my dog ¨Sky¨ died in my arms, due to internal loss of blood.

We had arrived in Nasca 4 days prior to see the famous Nasca Lines and Figures in the desert. The airport was a zoo, when we arrived there, with people backed up waiting to get on a flight, because the airlines had been out of fuel all morning, not able to make their schedule. I had a reservation, but the price had gone up to $ 100 and higher, as I found out later. The companies were trying to recuperate their morning losses from the eagerly waiting tourists, knowing that many only had that day to make the flight. It was a nasty scene. I debated to wait, but one of the vendors told me this had been going on for days. So I paid the price to be done with it.
Seeing the lines and figures was impressive. One wonders how and why were these created over miles and miles of sprawling hot desert.
Before I could leave the airport, some Shaman looking guy decided to vent his anger over the commercialisation of the Nasca culture, to which I had to listen, since he had me cornered. The town was nice enough, but I wanted to leave the next day, feeling ill about the price gauging. We found an overpriced and undersized room in the center, but then got rescued to a nice and reasonable Hostal by a man who had been looking for us, because his cousin, who I had met in Huaca China, had told him we were comming to Nasca. Things were improving before they got worse.
That evening, Sky fell off the roof terrace through an opening, which serves as ventilation, onto a tiled floor below. It happened so fast.
The Veterinarian gave us coagelents for internal bleeding along with other meds. He seemed to be doing well, had no broken bones, consumed soft food and water and was able to walk, although I kept him quiet at all times. I sat with him, doing everything I could, hoping he would come through. Mysteriously, the Shaman, who I had encountered at the airport, showed up at the hostal, offering his assistance, because he had heard about a lady and her dog, but had no clue it was me. New Years eve, Sky was getting weak and the next morning he stopped eating and drinking. I knew he was leaving. The meds were not working and Nasca has no emergency veterinarian services.
I sat with him all day, sang to him, brushed him, we talked about all the people he loved and what an amazing dog he was. When his heart started racing, I prayed for mercy, to let him go. He died shortly thereafter of a heart attack.
The next morning I brought his body into the desert, a place I had seen from the plane, with the help of one of the guys from the hostal. He had brought pick and shovel to dig a grave and left quietly when it was done, so I could be alone with Sky´s body. I decorated all of his paws with my bracelets from the different countries we had been to, put food, his blanket and a coral stone with him. When there were no more tears to be shed I sang ¨Amazing Grace¨, because that is what he had been to me. The Shaman arrived, pointing out, that Sky´s grave was next to a Nasca Line. We built a stone tower, to which I attached the Eagle feather, I had carried with me from Alaska, so Sky could fly like a bird ...to all his favorite places.

I left Nasca that evening on a bus to Cusco. The images of the past 4 days kept circulating through my mind not allowing for any sleep, nor had I slept much the days prior. There was a friend from Israel in Cusco that I wanted to meet up with.
I needed company. However, on arrival at the hostal in Cusco, Noga did not seem to remember me. We had met in Israel the year before and spent several days together.
I was stunned, but too tired and in deep shock over the loss of my dog, to give it any thought. The next three days I drifted all over Cusco, walking, looking, but not really taking in anything. Noga and I were also getting acquainted again.

Cusco is a beautyful city, but very busy and full of tourists. The Shaman business is big business in Peru. There are Ayahuasca and San Pedro Ceremonies offered in every other store, or you can buy the brew in the market and do it yourself. Peru is going through a spiritual revolution/evolution and people from all over the world are flocking here to feel the energy. I had been wanting to do a Ayahuasca Ceremony, since I had arrived in Peru, but this spectacle in Cusco was way to confusing for me. On one of my walks through the city, a group of young Peruvian students shared their aspirations with me. They all wanted to study tourism, because that is where the money is. When asked, what they needed so much money for, the answer was...a house, a car, a good wife/husband....simple. Who can blame them, they want things we have enjoyed for a long time. Noga, who had been in Peru for the past three month and who was working with the plants, knew a trustworthy Curandero (healer)in the Sacred Valley and invited me to come along for her next ceremony, which would take place in a few days. I used this time to travel to Ollantaytambo to visit the pre-Incan ruins there and then on to Machu Picchu.
It is kind of crazy at Machu Picchu, there are at least a thousand visitors daily.
I caught the second bus at 5:30am to go up to the entrance, which was already jammed with the early bird hikers. Only the first 400 people are allowed to climb Huayma Picchu, which is a good thing, as the trail is steep and narrow. The Gods were with me and I got entrance to climb the mountain. Since it was still foggy at this early hour, I decided to descend to the Temple of the Moon first, hoping the majority of people would be gone later. The temple of the Moon was a long way down, but what a site. There was not a single soul. I used the peace and quiet for prayer, meditation and a journey with Sky. His collar was in my pocket. The trail up to Huayma Picchu was beyond steep, but the first view of the entire Machu Picchu site was breathtaking. By now the sun was out with only a few low clouds moving around.
I spent the rest of the day wandering around Machu Picchu, planted the Ruby crystal at the Temple of the Condor, hiked to the Inca drawbridge and layed in the grass amidst the giant stone walls.
One re-curring thought kept circling through my mind, since I had lost my dog companion. I am done looking, looking for something outside of myself, looking to others to give me something, that they can not give. Even connecting with all these amazing sites can not give me anything in addition, if I do not already have it inside of myself. I am done....

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peru..........on the road less travelled

December 30, 2010

How many countries can you travel through in 9 month. I just counted the countries we have visited. We are in Peru, the 9th country, in the 9th month of our journey.
When I received this travel plan, back in Mexico last February, I was told, it would be a 9 month journey. I have known all along, that the end of the Ruby Road is at Lake Titicaca. Then we can do, be and go wherever we want. Maybe a new plan will follow.

The road to Balza, the Peruvian border, was unbelievable. A continuous steep climb on a dirt road that got smaller and smaller until it was just a single dirt track to Zumba, where the busline ends. I had met a young Israeli on the bus, together we continued on a pick up truck to the international bridge and entered Peru. Sky just ran accross the border and in to the Customs building, while we had to get several stamps from immigration and police, located in different shacks. There are no bus services from Balza. A little Moto taxi arrived, to take us to the next village 3 km down the road. When Sky heard the taxi, he came out and jumped on. We travelled by auto, with 4 adults and a 6 year old child in the rear seat, 2 passengers in the front and the driver for 4 hours. Sky was in the back and probably the most comfortable. At some town we switched to a Micro bus, thinking it would be better, alas it was not.
Jaen, the first major town, where we spent the night, appeared chaotic with hundreds of moto taxis buzzing through the streets and very few cars. We finally arrived in Chachapoyas after another 5 hour ride in a car with too many occupants.
I loved the country side we had come through, but would probably never again want to endure that much physical discomfort getting somewhere, when there are other options available.
A visit to Kuelap, a pre-Inca citadel, high in the mountains (3000m)let me forget soon, the road less travelled. Karajia and Pueblo Muerte, where whole mountain sides are full of tumbs, mostly unearthed, are amazing places. I spent Winter Solstice walking among our dead ancestors. Most of these sites have little protection, or just a small portion of it is included. It is very common for farmers to find bones, vessels, painted masks while clearing a hillside and keep the goods in their house. It took me a couple of days getting used to the roads in this part of Peru, where they are generally dirt, steep, narrow, far and very curvy. The trails to the sites or hiking anywhere match the roads, leading along steep cliff sides and over rickety foot bridges. Peruvians are manic drivers, who will pass other cars in the dead of a curve, but I got used to it. Gocta, a 771 meter high waterfall (3rd highest in the world)was another highlight near Chachapoyas. There are great treks in the area, but the rainy season started, so I opted to head to the northern coast instead.
I wanted to see the Moche Temples of Las Huacas del Sol y de la Luna, famous for their beautiful polychrome friezes. This time we booked a comfortable overnight bus to Trujillo and arrived rested in Huanchaco, a small beach and surf village.
At first I was not too excited about the coast. There are big waves, undercurrents
and the village is surrounded by dessert, with hardly a plant sticking out.
After a couple of days there, the village started growing on me. It had a really good local feel, the people were very nice and there were relative few tourists.
I decided to stay for the Christmas Holidays.
On Christmas Eve, about 6 pm, a procession arrived in town. Apparently the procession had left a few days ago, carrying the Virgen de Socorro and San Pedro 13 km to Trujillo for the Blessing in the great Cathedral and was now returning back home to their own church. This was not anything I had ever seen before. From the outside it looked more like a carneval parade, with people in costumes, except for the Saints and Virgin being carried. Soon I learned, the first group of dancers were the black mask beings, representing the evil existing in humans. The second group were the demons and devils of the other realm. The demons had these amazing headmasks and very colorful costumes, dancing all the time while making deep growling sounds. They represented the dark spirits on Earth and around humanity. Infront of the Virgin and Saint Pedro, who met up with San Jose in town were a group of girls in angel dresses. All this was accompanied by great fanfare, fireworks, poems, speeches, music and gifts of flowers being presented to the Virgin.
It was amazing to witness the love and devotion of the people to their Virgin, so much beauty, joy and love. I felt half drunk in this flow of hightened energy and continued with everyone else to the church for the midnight mess. After church the families share a sumptuous dinner and exchange gifts. At 2 in the morning you could see lots of kids out in the street playing with their new toys. Christmas day business is as usual, except the beach was packed with families from Trujillo comming for the day.
My next stop was Lima, but when I arrived there, I wondered why I wanted to be in Lima and instead continued on to Ica, to an Oasis nearby, called Huaca China.
That place was great. A very small community of 200 people living around a lagoon, surrounded by huge sand dunes stretching far out into the dessert. Sky and I hiked a few large dunes in the evenings. He especially enjoyed the run down. I also tried out sandboarding. Great fun....!
Nasca and the great Nasca lines are next on our itinerary before turning back inland to Cusco.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fire...Water....and Ash

December 22, 2010

Not having my own laptop with me anymore makes writing a little more of a challenge.
There are plenty of internet cafes everywhere, but the connections are often soooo slow. Not to mention, when the whole system suddenly shuts down and all is lost.

Amazonia, Ecuador has left a deep impression in my psyche. Every time I close my eyes, I can still smell the Jungle and see the plants and forest in vivid colors.
The thought, that some of these plants can kill you, if touched is mindboggling and leaves me in awe of nature and the amazing synchronisity in which nature is arranged.

Leaving the Jungle behind in a westerly direction, the road climbed slowly back up into the mountains to Banos. A tourist destination, well known, for it´s thermal waters, spas and bungy jumping adventures off high bridges.
I opted out on hurlying myself off a bridge, but enjoyed the soothing hot springs after a strenuous day´s hike, or had a steambath. The Volcan Tungurahua was belching out huge clouds of ash almost hourly. I felt the Earth shake, the first night I spent there and realized in the morning, that this was from the volcanic eruptions. One of the hikes led me up high above Banos to Casa del Arbol,from where I had a clear view of Tungurahua. That day, the volcano seemed to breath very deeply, which sounded like a gas camping stove turned on high. Each time, the earth shook, then large glowing rocks spilled high in the air with the release of ash.
It was a bit unnerving to be so close to the Volcano, yet at the same time fascinating to hear and feel the amazing power of the fire deep within the mountain. All this energy messed with my sleep cycle, that I could only manage to sleep a couple of hours at a time and at the most got 5 to 6 hours of sleep, which lasted for another week after leaving the area behind. While I was there, I was convinced, the Volcano would erupt more seriously within days. I thought it best to be on my way out of there. Later on I heard the news, that Banos indeed had to be evacuated due to pyroclastic gases released 2km down the mountain.
Sky and I had reached the highlands by then turning south to Riobamba and on to Alausi, near the famous Nariz del Diablo. The weather had been changing quickly from nice sunny days to more frequent rain and thick fog. I had to scratch the Devil´s nose. It was just too foggy. The trainline is being repaired and will not operate again until February. The next adventure led to Chunchi and Santa Rosa. Although the fog continued to be thick in the region, I needed to climb up to Punay Hill.
The mountain is covered, but Archiologists have confirmed the existence of 3 pyramidic structures. The shape of the mountain is that of a Guacamaya (Scarlet Macaw). The 3 platforms are frequently used for sacred traditional ceremonies. Until very recent, local farmers have found vases, shards, gold and jewelry, while cutting grass for their animals. Now, the locals are fiercely protective of this mountain and will watch anyone visiting closely, to be sure they have no digging devices with them to unearth ancient goods.
Danita, a local girl, came with me up the mountain. Her parents felt, I should not go alone in the fog. It was a 2hour hard hike up and well worth the pain, but the sun only cleared the clouds partially, for a quick peek of the whole terrain.
I sat down for a meditation, intending to speak with the Ancient Ones. Instead I was given a crown of feathers, that was being adjusted and decorated to my head. In the front it had a gold triangle, covering my forehead. On each side feathers extended reaching to the back, where the largest feathers reached a height of almost a meter above my head. I also was given large gold bracelets for each wrist and something around my knees and ankles. The beings that were helping me with the crown seemed to be of a pre-Incan civilisation. Even today, I can still feel the crown of feathers on my head. I kept thinking, that I must have had a previous life in that civilisation, but can not recall anything specific of it.
When we returned to Danita´s house, a lunch was waiting for us, prepared by her mother. I was plenty hungry and gratefully accepted the invitation, since I still had a 3 km hike back up the dirt road to the Pan American Highway.
Next stop: Cuenca, probably the most beautiful colonial city in all of Ecuador. Each house seemed to tell a story, beautifully crafted and with ornate decorations. And the best of all, I found brown rice to eat. Something unheard of in Ecuador. From Cuenca, a 7 hour bus ride south, took us to Vilcabamba. A lush, pleasant valley at about 1.500 meters above sea level. There are plenty of expats living in the region. Some had some interesting phylosophies to share, like do not own a cell phone, or you are being watched....etc. It was fun, maybe even true, who knows. On the bus I had met Kent from Homer, Alaska. We spent 4 days together hiking around Vilcabamba, laughing a lot and trying out the different restaurants in town. One day, all the planets seemed to have lined up correctly and I decided to take the long trek south to the most remote border crossing of Peru...Balza. Sky needed a new health certificate to enter Peru and I sort of had dropped the ball on that, as there were no Veterinarians in Vilcabamba. It is a very small town. My hope was, that either they would be happy with the paperwork I have for him, or Sky would have to kind of walk himself accross the border.