Saying Goodby to Machu Picchu

Julian Sasari is a 23-year-old Quechan. He has also been one of our guides in the spiritual journey that five members of the Northeast San Fernando Valley Sweat Lodge Circle -- including yours truly and my companion, Trini -- have taken to Peru. He is wise for his age. Most of us in the group are in our 50s. Still Julian is a worthy and profound teacher.

Today, led by Julian, Aeli and Dona, we revisited Machu Picchu, doing a ceremony with song and offerings at the Temple of Pacha Mama, the embracing mother earth that holds us all. We were given more lessons about the Quechua culture, cosmology, and values. At one point, we sat down inside one of Machu Picchu´s structures, talked, and shared songs -- Quechan songs, Lakota songs, Mexika-Nahuatl songs, Cherokee songs, and even West African songs.

The day opened up for us after two days and nights of heavy rains. It was warm and the clouds cleared enough to offer us a breathtaking view of the green and magestic mountains surrounding the Machu Picchu sacred site.

Later in the day, it was hard to say goodby. I felt so connected to this land and to these structures. There is a 400-meter winding road that buses use to carry people to the entrance of Machu Picchu and back down to the village. Today and yesterday, we had a boy dressed in bright Incan garb come onto the bus, chant a "despedida" in Quechua with his arms in motion (he said it translates into "Go with God"), then run down the old Inka stairway to the community of Machu Picchu.

Each time the bus turned we saw the boy running down the steep steps carved into the earth, doing his chant and moving his arms. He ended up at the bottom at the same time as the bus. He then gets on the bus and redoes his goodby. Apparently, local indigenous boys from ages 8 until 14 end up doing this to the delight of the tourists. I was moved, at his spirit, his stamina, his face with deep contortions as he offered his blessings. The boys, both were around 10 years old, were then allowed to go among the bus passengers for coins and currency, which most people were willing to give.

Tomorrow morning we get up early to take another trainride to Qosqo. Julian, who is patient and knowledgeable and even humorous, will be with us as we continue on our way to more experiences, teachings, and healing.

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