The Peru diary: The train to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

My memory of my first train journey to Machu Picchu came flooding in to my mind as we sat on a modern train. In the olden days you’d be sat with the locals, with their chickens, parrots, livestock, domestics carrying bundles, and the general hustle and bustle of people getting around in a small space. Back then the station at Machu Picchu was where all the hotels, shops and restaurants were. One of the hotels I stayed in in the past was in the station, and I remembered powercuts and no hot water. But at the time I felt ‘this is how it is, get on with it’. So to get on this smart train in a first class carriage, I felt worlds away.

Our hotel, the pueblo, was set in the mountains, with the most beautiful orchid collection, wild birds and the lovely sound of the river. We dropped off our luggage and took the first available bus up to Machu Picchu temple. It’s always exciting for me to hear the comments when people first see it, as we walk round a tiny blind bend and there it is in full view, just out of nowhere. Over the years I’ve got to know a little track that leads to the most spectacular vista. Once we got there, Pedro and the tour guide took everybody off and I went to my special little places just to reconnect with this ancient site.

The photos the girls took were stunning. And they had a fire ceremony with Pedro by the crystal cave. With that fire they gave the spirit of the mountain all the emotional baggage that they don’t want to take up to the Sun Gate the next day. One of the group, Nicky, had a big birthday on the day we arrived at Machu Picchu. So that evening we had dinner, and the chef made her a lovely cake. She was in awe of her surroundings and all the things we’d been able to offer her for her day.

Next morning we were up at 6 and on the first bus up to Machu Picchu at 6.30, to walk to the Sun Gate with Pedro, who took us to some major ceremonial places on the way up and on the way back down. He gave the group a sense of what Machu Picchu has to offer to every traveller if only they open their minds to it, and their hearts to it – it’s life changing, empowering and great fun.

Ever

Ever is an unusual character, with an amazing shop in Aguas Calientes. He travels the world with ancient instruments that produce the most incredible sounds, and we were invited to share an experience with him as he played them. This music refines you, it retunes you and rebalances you. It does that by connecting with every aspect of you. The ancient sounds are primal to every human being and they enable us to switch from that everyday rat race that we live in to a place of peace and calm within (and that can’t be a bad thing).

Vivien

The Peru diary: Cusco

This is why we had to get Pedro some proper shoes...

This is why we had to get Pedro some proper shoes…

So off with the shorts and sarongs, and off to Cusco with our hiking boots, ponchos and rucksacks, ready to visit the Sacred Valley and Pisac. Pedro the shaman told me he would be conducting the ceremony at the Pisac temple. But when I looked at his shoes I wondered how he was going to walk up the mountain without his normal walking boots. He said he’d left his boots by his bed, so there was nothing for it but to go to the market to get him some – and that was the start of the shopping. Everyone wants to shop in Peru, it’s the colours, the textiles – we all thought it would be nice to take something back to grey England that was warm and colourful.

We stayed in a different hotel in the Sacred Valley to the one I normally choose, and this one had the most incredible labyrinth and firepit for use in ceremonies. It made me very happy to see this incorporation of ancient culture into a modern day facility. We were the envy of other hotel guests as I had organised a fire ceremony for one of the nights. The indigenous staff that worked there made a point of placing offerings on the fire, which is traditional. This was the beginning of our Sacred Valley ceremonial journey to Machu Picchu.

By this time the girls had become good companions, supporting each other through their highs and lows. I lost track of the exclamations of delight as we visited temple complexes and ancient sacred sites that were off the beaten track, which always have something magical about them.

And there was so much laughter. For a change I asked the driver if he knew a different route back to the hotel and he said yes, over the mountain. Minutes later, having wound round and round in a spiral on this bumpy old mountain road I was beginning to think I’d done the wrong thing. And as we came round one very tight bend the bus stalled – right by the edge. A little voice in the back of the bus piped up, and my grandson said, ‘should we all move to the front of the bus at this point?’ At which we all absolutely cracked up laughing. The driver reassured us that it was OK, and sure enough off we went.

Vivien

The Peru diary: Lima

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Now the dust has settled, I’ve had time to get my thoughts together on my experience of taking a group on a healing journey to Peru recently. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing my Peru diary, kicking off with Lima…

Lima

Have you noticed that there’s a certain smell to certain countries? There was definitely a familiar aroma when we landed in Lima, bringing back lots of old memories to me of the time when the airport was little more than a small building with a control tower. The first thing I noticed on arriving at this swish international airport was how clean and tidy everything was, how smart the cars were, and how happy everybody looked. Over the years I’d seen this country move from the worst poverty that I had ever encountered to prosperity, and I was really happy to see this transition.

Our Peru team: Edith and Eric, and our drivers and staff, had been waiting in the heat and as we came through the gates they were as delighted to see me as I was delighted to see them. And of course we had six years of chatter to catch up on so we were straight into our normal routine.

Our first port of call was Iquitos – the jungle, the Amazon River, the sounds, the smells, the excitement of the travellers. So much to show them, so much to tell them, but I felt it was best just to leave them for a while to absorb it all. On the way the driver decided to park the bus in a small dip and as my little legs couldn’t reach up everyone had great fun trying to hoist me on the bus. And with shrieks of laughter, the fun began.

When we reached the lodge, comments from the girls were ‘this is paradise’, ‘heavenly’, ‘amazing’. So I knew that they would feel comfortable in my little domain. Ayahuasca ceremonies were part of the detox. The group were asked to detox at least four days before they took part, and the whole process when they were there was about eating lightly and drinking lots of liquid. The ceremony was conducted by a man who I trust implicitly and have done for 24 years. He arrived from deep in the jungle to meet us. (How do you get in touch with a person like that? Well, in this modern world he’s got an email address)! He was happy to see us, happy to reconnect with me, and he told me that he had occasionally sent out a thought that one day I would come back. And here I was.

Meeting the Bora Bora tribe

Meeting the Bora Bora tribe

We had four days doing things in the jungle – fishing, walking, dancing with the Bora Bora tribe, finding out about medicinal herbs and plants, lazing in hammocks, swimming in the most amazing jungle pool, and visiting schools, seeing what we started working on years ago that is now established. Our first supper was alligator, to my surprise. In all the years I’d been going to Iquitos I’d never heard of alligator in this part of the river, and as they had some kayaks for the use of guests I was alarmed. So I made sure none of my group got into the kayaks, and this story unfolded on the very last day… stay tuned to find out what happened.

Vivien

The Peruvian adventure begins…

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Am I packed? No chance. I still haven’t changed the habit of a lifetime, packing two hours before I am due to go. My daughter, who has spent 28 years dropping me off at airports, tells me nothing’s changed… we can still only find one hiking boot and most of my clothes are packed away at the back of the attic. There is a mini panic going on (not by me of course)!

As I find all the different equipment that I need the memories flood back of the amazing journeys I have been on in the past – particularly in Peru, where I am headed now. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder but I find it hard to throw away items that I have found to be of great service – boots, anoraks, ponchos and those jeans I can still squeeze into. So the suitcase is packed in preparation for every eventuality, from the heat of the jungle to freezing evenings in the Andes.

I feel so privileged to be about to take like-minded travellers on an amazing spiritual adventure and introduce them not only to the team that looks after us over there but the families who I have watched grow and develop with our support.

A person that is very close to my heart is Edith who lives between Cusco and Titicaca. In 2002 I decided to take a big busload from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. So that we could enjoy the landscapes of the Andes we pulled up into a small village. A beautiful girl with the most amazing smile and a baby in her arms (and one on her back) came running to meet us. I soon found out that this girl was in desperate need of help. She had created a small nursery for orphaned children in a cave. Having found out the full story of her vision we set about working to help her.

By my next visit I had raised funds to assist her in starting a small school, and to support the families who take these small orphans into their homes at night whilst Edith has them during the day. At the last count, when I left five years ago, there were 25 children from zero to eight years old. The families are paid to look after the children – so there are benefits on both sides.

I’m pleased to say that the project has grown and grown and the village is now prospering. Edith speaks English now and runs her school to help everyone in the village. I’ll report back when I get there to let you know what has changed – stay tuned!

cusco_at_night

Cusco at night…

Vivien

Retirement – what’s that?

It’s not a word I know. Having decided six years ago to hang up my walking boots and pack away my travelling clothes I have been persuaded to retrace my steps in Peru and take another group.

Those who know me will know that in 1990 I began to take small groups of like-minded travellers on an incredible journey from the Amazon jungle through the Andes of Peru to Lake Titicaca. I have enough material to write one or two books on my time in Peru – from the tears and the laughter, to commandeering an aircraft, trying to buy a boat to cross the lake, and taking a shortcut across the mountain with a very precarious drop. But whatever happened, we always managed to get to our destination in time for the ceremonies, and everyone admitted it was worth the trials.

ImageI was invited to dinner recently and around the table were 16 people who had made the journey with me in 2002. All evening the conversation revolved around the highlights of those two weeks of me pushing, pulling, cajoling and scolding (‘How many more hats do you want to buy?’ or ‘Don’t buy those Cocoa leaves, they’ve had it!’ ‘Listen to the Shaman, he knows best’). We spent an amazing evening reminiscing, and I realised that after all those years they had never forgotten their trip to Peru.

I am constantly asked about the Ayahusca ceremonies, as in the very early days I was privileged enough to be shown how to actually make Ayahusca tea and instructed over a period of three weeks on how to understand the power of this combination of plants. My personal views on Ayahusca is that it is a jungle plant and as such is much more potent when taken in a ceremonial way. Somehow the whole spirit of the jungle comes alive and your senses are heightened, and it makes you realise that you are part of this earth that we live in. In my experience, it has nothing but a positive outcome.

ImageWhat do we mean when we say something is ‘life changing’? That it gives us a better understanding of our position and an insight into all our possibilities. We must start by cleaning out the old with a light detox before leaving and gradually adjusting before the ceremony. I feel very privileged to still be able to work with my team, having found Mateo up in the Amazon in Brazil – he is one of the leading Ayahusca priests. This powerful trip takes in the jungle to Cuzco and goes on to Machu Picchu, offering you the chance to participate in ancient ceremonies and rituals that the Peruvian medicine men still practice on a daily level. This experience can help you discover how to create the future you want.

The adventure takes place from the 17th to 28th October, and there are still places available if you want to join me. Give us a call to find out more on 01403 822117.

Vivien

Just juice

ImageEarlier this week we suggested red plum and apple juice – it’s a great combination served chilled on a sweltering day. Why not try to blend your own flavours? Always use the fruits that catch your eye with their colour and freshness – and trust your body when it tells you what to eat.

But if you need a helping hand here’s another suggestion. Grab a few sun-ripened peaches and add a large fig. Push though the juicer for a fresh, smooth juice.

When you’ve drained the glass, dip your finger in and lick it clean!

From your juice alchemist,

Vivien