THE MAJESTIC CULTURE BETWEEN CONDORS, PUMAS AND SERPENTS
“Peru, Peru. My Heart´s Lighthouse.”
-Steven Patrick Morrissey
I remember I was 10 years old when I first heard the Peruvian traditional music. The group of Peruvians in national and colourful clothes visited Belgrade and made a show during the Book Exhibition. My parents took me to the performance and I really enjoyed. Even now, I think of all of those questions that I inquired since I was fascinated with the melody and the whole mystic feeling behind. Those people were magical, in the eyes of child that loved fairy tales. My dad narrated about Incas civilisation and their influence of the world`s know and how, mentioned Macchu Picchu and the heritage of the lost folk. After that moment, I decided that Peru must be on my must seen list. No matter when or how, I knew that I will be there.
Almost 30 years later, here I am, on the top of my own mountains of dreams and wishes, kissing the ground of Macchu Picchu and being proud of myself that I did it. Peru is not just my life mission and soul journey but one of the most important destination that I ever experienced. It is not just about travels and adventure but more about being able to work for your own wishes and knowing you realise that for yourself. Peru is a confirmation that if you want something really and deep from your being, the whole universe is holding your back.
I knew that there are some highlights in the country that I want to see. I am glad I had them all and even more collected from this beautiful land in South America. One travel tip that will help the future travellers to Peru is to keep in mind that the country is too big to be seen all what must be seen, but there is always a reason to come back to Peru, once again. When I arrived in Lima, I still didn’t know if I want to go to the south or rather to reserach undiscovered Northern Peru. According to many reports, if you want nice beaches, lovely national parks and coastal atmosphere with closeness to the rain forests, you must go to the direction of Máncora and Chachapoyas. As you can guess, I was headed into the opposite direction, following the Southern Peru sightseeings, because Machu Picchu was calling me.
What can I say after Peru chapter ? Nothing will be ever the same because I touched the Spirit myself. It is thrilling to describe the mood after landing in Lima and knowing that all roads lead to the Sacred Valley, to the Incas lost kingdom. Nevertheless, Peru is more than Macchu Picchu and the relicts of the brave and intelligent culture. This country has all you need. The wild mountains that hide the secrets mantra of happiness, the passionate ocean that kiss the white beaches and greets the cloud forests. Then, there are crystal blue lakes, cold rivers and marvellous jungles, full of different animals and exotic plants. If you add to it the urban zones and gastronomy surprises, followed by clubbing, the laughing of young people on the streets and tranquility of the society, you must be in love with Peru.
Cusco, the imperial city has something that has no any other city in this world, the ancient soul and the modern spirit. When I was there, I felt all energy of the old world and I wanted never to leave this cute town, that has been merged in Spanish colonial architecture but still all over crafted with the relicts of the Incas and their mythology. What I noted is the glorified portray of 3 specific animals, that have important meaning for Incas. That is the so called Inca Trilogy: the condor, the pumps and the snake. These 3 creatures are actually the messengers of the heaven, earth and the world of the dead. This culture is so rich in every segment and its philosophy is grounded on pantheistic conception of the world:”The world was divided into 3 planes: the world above or the gods (Hanan Pacha), the earthly or living world (Kay Pacha) and the world below or the dead (Uku Pacha).The Incas believed that men come from the earth or from the world of the dead. Then they travel through the world of the living. Finally, they rise to the world of the gods.The Inca was the ‘son of the sun’, mediator between the world of the living and the world of the gods. His power was infinite and could not be discussed.“
If you dig into the the historical facts, you will understand that Incas people adored the mountains (Apus) because they gave the protection. The core of their mythology is linked to the worshipping of the highest peaks and keeping them hidden and sacred, like Salkantay and the Ausangate. It doesn’t surprise that Macchu Picchu wonder is exactly so high and not easy to be reached. Beside Apus, there have been Sun(Inti), that gave life and the light to the things, then the Earth ( Pachamama)or the goddess of fertility, the Moon ( Keel), the ruler of winds, and many other that created the authentic picture of Incas ancient religion. The Inca Trilogy is just the main concept that is adopted and adapted even in the modern Peru. The condors, as the animals of paradise, are widely beloved in this land. They represent the freedom, divine and the heaven. I visited them in the Colca Canyon, a canyon twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Their dance is unforgettable but according to the honest locals I talked to, the reason why those birds are there is not really mystical. They have been fed by the community since they are the tourist attraction and brings money to the province. The best way to get to them is to catch up the domestic taxi driver that will bring you from Chivay to the Cruz del Condor viewpoint. Of course, you need t get there by bus, from the white city of Arequipa. I find this city friendly, beautiful and inviting. It make an easy start up point, especially if you fly from Lima.
The pumas have been seen around the Sacred Valley as well as the snakes but I have seen none of them, unfortunately. The Sacred Valley was my favourite part of the travel book. I knew that Macchu Picchu is the jewel of this area and I also knew that Urubamba River has its own tales to share with us. Visiting one of the Seven World´s Wonders is just one thing but managing the complete trekking, closing with final Macchu Picchu day is completely another thing. The daily visit is just a typical tourist highlight while serious Inca or Salkantay trekking is a challenge itself. You follow the traces of ancient Incas, learning about their life and beliefs, catching up the words of their language, mostly from super friendly guides that have blood of Incas. My friend Carlos didn’t miss the opportunity to show me the wild nature , great Peruvian gastronomy and to come up with cool campfire stories about Incas warriors. Maybe I was cold on the 4600 m above sea level, maybe I was annoyed with mosquitoes in the cloudy forests but I will never regret each second of my Salkantay trip and mountain adventures.
The Peru is not only raw in adventure but also soft in unique local cultures that make perfect diversity. If you are in Puno, just be careful since this folklore capital on the Lake of Titicaca is not so safe for travellers, during the night. Anyway, I cant report any bad vibes there but mesmerising music, parade and hospitality. This was just a station between since I wanted to be the part of Uros Island life, for a day. These are special floating Totora reed islands of Uros people that built their homes and existence, thanks to this plant. They form three main groups: the Uru-Chipaya, Uru-Murato, and Uru-Iruito. Each family has its own island, built from reed.The Totora plant is almost the sacred plant and could be used for building material, food or medicine. They must renovate their island, now and then, but they live still peacefully and with basic needs. You can book your accommodation at one of those floating islands, encountering with locals that can show you how they work with reed, how they fish or make their handcrafts. The lake could be really cold so if you get up in the morning, early, you would think it is the coldest winter. Don’t forget that lake itself is pretty much high. Once when you are done here, you can take awesome PeruRail train to Cusco, enjoying in luxury train service, decorated with dancers, music and delicious food ideas. Andean train has offered more than fun, since you can relax watching the great landscapes from Puno to Cusco.
After all natural and cultural colours, you may end up in the coastal town of Paracas, hoping to see Ballestas Islands, with sea lions and penguins. This is wildlife sanctuary and the Peruvian version of famous Galapagos. From Lima to Paracas, you need few hours with bus and the little town is cute, offering relaxing, buggy desert Mad Max drive and ticket for boat trip to Ballestas Islands, if you have luck and there is no fog.
Before you fly back to home, do not forget to explore Miraflores in Lima, because it is urban, chic, cosmopolitan and with lots of amazing restaurants and surfing places. No need to escape it and the pleasures it gives. Peru is one of a kind, with many exciting faces and personalities, dressed in attractive colours of Incas culture. The part of my heart, soul and spirit is still there, flying with condors, over the Andean Mountains.
Haykuykuy – as they say always in friendly Quechua language- welcome!