Friday, June 6, 2014

Snapshots de Peru

1.     The usual chaos – checklist gone through– (check),.. house sitter in place – (check)… what did we forget? – (check) … the realization that if we forgot something we would survive without it – (check)… the early morning trip to the airport - thanks to friends, Kris and Jonathan Sandoe”…we are on our way to Peru for 3 weeks!
2.     My motto for this trip – “Savor each moment even the ones that ‘suck’”…It is true you know… savoring beauty and moments of joy are easy … but 3 AM waiting in the Lima airport for our connecting flight – no sleep – cold – hungry… people snoring close around us… that is a little harder to savor… but I think I get it… even those times have a quality to remember and in a way something to relish. (Although it’s easier to relish those moments after the fact).
3.     Sunrise in Cusco – 24 hours without sleep – but doing amazingly well…we got a ride to our destination - a Hacienda in the highlands above Cusco. First we ate a Peruvian breakfast of yogurt- honey- and fruit. Good coffee… and then to bed for a 2 hour nap.  Then a 2-hour walk through the pueblito.  It felt good to be here!
4.     The small village lies in a wide valley between two mountain ranges. Farmers do not live near their land, but cluster together in the town. Houses are made of adobe blocks, red tile roofs, some thatched roofs, streets are generally clean of trash and graffiti…Rooftops have the season’s corn drying for use in making winter tortillas.  Healthy looking dogs everywhere – also cows, pigs, and cats. We are objects of curiosity in the town and are greeted by many people. One woman invited us to sit on her bench and eat tiny finger bananas with her– she was gracious and very kind! We chat with several people along our way and are reminded to use coca leaves to help adjust to the very high altitude.  We see several shops in the town advertising folk healers “ Curanderos”. Returning to the Hacienda we boldly took a different route - going up a footpath and climbing to a path going in the general direction of our Hacienda… more friendly people and drying corn.  We returned without getting lost.
5.     I recently read that if you live a productive busy life the only way to add quality to your life is to remove something.  I understand.  As I write this I am sitting with a magnificent view of towering mountains– we are enjoying birds and horses – no Internet – no telephone – very little English spoken – surrounded by “muy agradable gente” (very agreeable people).  I think of the saying  “ Don't just do something – stand there!”
1.   As I write, a small brown Andean pony is grazing in front of our casita. We just rode on him and his friends to visit one of the great Incan ruin …This location is high in the mountains – 3 days walk on the Inca trail from Machu Picchu).  And by horseback gave great views of the valley and the many small fields farmed by the people. 
Now 6 hours later – we returned to an incredible meal, and are now relaxed and sitting at our ease, sharing this place with our horsey friends.
2.   There is a mystique – a timelessness to this place. Each day the sun passes overhead.  This is a land where sunlight, coming through mottled clouds forming patches of intense bright sunlight on the mountainsides.  Each day, springs of water flow from the mountainside to give water to the people and their crops; today many farmers are collecting corn from their milpas (small corn fields planted in any patch of the mountain that will hold them…). Each night the stars return to their rightful places in the sky.  And here we sit.  In this moment it is silent except for the munching of grass, birds in the trees (a flock of parrots flew noisily up the canyon a few minutes ago), and kids making the universal sounds of kids. The only intrusion of 20-21st century technology that I hear is the distant soft playing of the local radio station playing Quechua language music. Here for us, “less is more”. It is a place to be mindful. A place to ‘be’.

3.   “Tipon”, the site we visited today, was the center of agricultural research in the year 1400 (at a time when Europe was barely out of the Dark Ages). It is a vast area of carefully constructed stone wall reinforced terraces with an amazing hydrological system for delivering water from high mountain springs through stone channels to all the different experimental areas. The ancient ones understood the importance of microclimates and finding plant varieties that did best in each set of conditions. They studied 100s of known varieties of potatoes, quinoa, medicinal herbs, grain, corn, and many other crops.. The effects of sunlight requirements, water needs, ability to withstand cold, and winds, all could be studied here. The results of their research led to dispersal of seeds and rootstocks throughout the vast Incan world.  The stonework was so meticulously done that it exists today intact; also the water system is working still as it was intended. Also of interest is the fact that even today the farmers use their knowledge of varieties and microclimates when planting their crops.  The goal of the ancient ones was to live in harmony with the earth, with the rainfall that was available, the seasons, and the stars. And this is the world that the Spanish plundered and destroyed.   It has been said that their success depended on three things that they brought with them – knowledge of making steel and gunpowder.  That and the diseases that they brought with them…all that loss in the name of greed and imperialism.