About Lainie Liberti
Lainie Liberti is a recovering branding expert, who’s career once focused on creating campaigns for green - eco business, non-profits and conscious business. Dazzling clients with her high-energy designs for over 18 years, Lainie lent her artistic talents to businesses that matter. But that was then.
In 2008, after the economy took a turn, Lainie decided to be the change (instead of a victim) and began the process of “lifestyle redesign,” a joint decision between both her and her 11-year-old son, Miro. They sold or gave away all of of their possessions in 2009 and began a life of travel, service, and exploration. Lainie and her son Miro began their open-ended adventure backpacking through Central and South America. They are slow traveling around the globe allowing inspiration to be their compass. The pair is most interested in exploring different cultures, contributing by serving, and connecting with humanity as ‘global citizens.’
Today Lainie considers herself a digital nomad who is living a location independent life. She and her son write and podcast their experiences from the road at Raising Miro on the Road of Life.
Latest Posts by Lainie Liberti
Words and symbols are all around us. Sometimes they are part the environment but they always part of the culture. Often times, we find the messages contained universal. Street art has always been my favorite way to get a sense of the local culture. I hope you enjoy this series of street shot around Lima, Peru.
Most travelers come to Cusco and the Sacred Valley for one reason and one reason only. Over 2 million tourists visited Cusco on route to the ancient ruins in 2013. Miro and I have been living in Cusco now for more than a year and the question we receive most often from friends, family, travelers alike is “how do I get to Macchu Pichhu?”
The ruins of Machu Picchu, (although not my favorite site here in the Sacred Valley) are quite impressive and indisputably Peru’s hottest tourist destination. Countless people flock there every day of the year, despite the fact that there are no roads that lead directly to Machu Picchu. The only way to reach the scenic beauty of Machu Picchu is by train, guided hiking tours, or trekking it up the mountainside trails. The question remains, “I want to go to Machu Picchu, but how do I get there?” So for you, my fellow traveler, I wrote this post.
Macchu Picchu or Aguas Calientes
First of all, some people call the town “Macchu Picchu” and others refer to it as “Aguas Calientes”, guess what? It’s the same thing. It’s confusing if you don’t know that, so that’s the first bit of information I’ll share with you. Aguas Calientes is a fairly small pueblo with no direct roads in or direct roads out. Over the years the peublo has been transformed primarily into an over saturated tourist trap.
The majority of travelers spend one night there, mainly since there is no reason to visit the town other than using it as a launching pad for your visit to the archeological ruins. Aguas Calientes is indeed the closest access point to the historical site, which is only 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) away.
The town itself is split in two by a river, and on both sides of the river, you will find hotels, restaurants and shops covering all price ranges, all to serve the traveler on their way up to the site.Most people arrive the day before they plan on visiting the ruins. They stay in one of the many hotels, hostels or resorts. Then, early the next morning they ascend up to the archeological site either on foot or by shuttle.
There a shuttle bus that zig-zags up the side of the mountain, cost is $9 each direction (tickets available at the bus stop just next to the river). Many budget conscious travelers opt to walk up the hill on the stair case designed especially for those who prefer this option. The hike up the hill takes the average person about an hour and a half.
Accommodations in Machu Picchu
Whoa. This is a big subject since there is no shortage of options once you get there. The good thing is, there is no shortage of options once you get there. The bad thing is there is no shortage of options once you get there. There are luxury hotels to dorm rooms in hostels, so it depends on your budget, needs and preferences. I personally cannot recommend a hotel since they are pretty much just designed to accommodate people for one night and one night only and many I’ve spoken too have felt there is no sense of service in a lot of these places. That’s not to say there aren’t some really nice hotels and accommodations, but I suspect they are at a different price point than Miro and I are accustomed to paying for. Overall, there really isn’t much of a reason to stay in Machu Picchu (Aguas Callientes) beyond a single night’s rest before you head up to the archeological site.
But still, the question remains, “how do I get to Machu Picchu?”
Below are the three options to get there. The best option to get to Machu Picchu will depend on your desired experience, allotted time, destination, budget, endurance, and personal preference.
1. The Train Route to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is to take the “train option”. Many travel agents in Cusco offer this option as a complete package. Packages usually include transport from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Callients, 1 night in a hostel (1-2 star rating), entrance into the archeological site, a guide and back to Cusco. These packages are sold in any of Cusco’s hundreds of travel agents for $210 – $250 USD.
But let’s break down these costs individually in case you’d like to book everything yourself.
Cusco to Ollantaytambo
There are basically two options to get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco.
Option 1.) take the public collectivo, located just off Avenida Grau. The fare is 10 soles per person and you will be transported in a shared van. The trip is about one and half hours and Miro and I recommend trying to sit up front. The roads are windy and if you are prone to car sickness, the front seats are the least traumatic.
Option 2.) take a private taxi to Ollantaytambo from anywhere in Cusco. You will need to negotiate with your driver but rates can cost you anywhere from 70 soles to 150 soles. But make sure you negotiate the price first with your driver before getting into the cab.
Train to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
96% of the trains to Machu Picchu are operated by the company PeruRail . PeruRail offers trains throughout the early morning to the mid afternoon. The travel time to Machu Picchu is approximately 1.5 hours. If you opt for an early morning train, it is possible to arrive in Aguas Calientes and explore the ruins the same day. Many, however, seem to book the later afternoon train, arrive around mid day, explore the town a little then retire early to visit the archeological site early the next morning.
View from the train
Perurail offers 3 levels of services you can purchase for your train ride; Expedition, Vistadome, and Hiram Bingham. Expedition is the starting class and costs approximately $115+ U.S round trip. The view is nice, the seats are comfortable, but there are no perks involved. The mid-range option, Vistadome, costs approximately $140+ and includes non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
The most expensive option is the *Hiram Bingham, first class, which includes a gourmet brunch on the way there, bus connections, guided tour at Machu Picchu, plus dinner and cocktails on the way back to Cuzco. This luxury options costs approximately $800 USD round trip.
*Note: The first class Hiram Bingham option is the only train leaving directly from Cusco (Poroy). Other options that leave from Cusco (Poroy) are really bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, then you board the train at Ollantaytambo. On the PeruRail site, the “Sacred Valley” starting off point is Ollantaytambo to avoid any further confusion. If you are interested in taking any train other than the Hiram Bingham and want to save a little money, get yourself to Ollantaytambo and leave from there.
2. The Backpacker Hiking Route to Machu Picchu
(Note: During the rainy season, this route is considered extremely dangerous due to slippery windy roads)
If you are looking for a less expensive and more adventurous option, you can take the budget- backpacker hiking route. Many travel agents in Cusco have put together packages for this route and usually run between $100 – $125 USD including the transportation, 1 night in a cheap hostel in Aguas Calientes, entrance to the archeological site and a guide. But like the option above, it’s possible to arrange this route yourself. Here’s what you will need to consider when arranging the trip yourself:
1.) You can do one of two things, either take the bus or collectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (aprox 1.5 hours). See above, and as listed you can arrange your own transportation to Ollantaytambo. There is is even the option to take the public bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo if you want to save 3 soles (aprox $1.15) Then you will have to wait for a local bus in Ollantaytambo to Santa Maria. Local buses are often crowded and don’t have a reliable schedule. But it’s the cheapest way to get there. This is a great option if you want to visit the ruins at Ollantaytambo first, spend the night there and get up early to catch the first bus to Santa Maria.
2.) Another options is to catch a collectivo (aprox 4 hours) in Cusco directly to Santa Maria from Cusco (30-40 soles) next to the Qillabamba bound buses at the Santiago bus depot.
3.) Even cheaper, from Cusco take public bus (aprox 6.5 – 7 hours) from Cusco, towards Quillabamba and get out at Santa Maria (25 soles). The public bus departs at 8:00am daily and passes through Ollantaytambo, Urubumba and Santa Maria. t´s an 7 hour journey from Cusco to Santa Maria.
4.) Once in Santa Maria take a connecting bus (aprox 6 soles) to Santa Teresa (1.5 hours) or a taxi (10-30 soles) and about a 1 hour drive.
5.) Once you’ve reached Santa Teresa, you will need to get to hydro electric plant (planta hidroeléctrica) which you can do by either walking for 2 more hours, take a taxi or local bus.
6.) From Hidroeléctrica you will walk for 1.5 to 2 hours along the railroad tracks until you reach Machu Picchu (Aguas Callientes).
It’s not really that complicated and many tourists / backpackers are following this route. When we had the group of unschooling teens here they opted for this route, and had no problems at all. Anywhere along this route, people will recognize you as a traveler who is trying to get to Machu Picchu and will assist you along your way.
3. Trekking the Trails to Machu Picchu
There are two main scenic trekking routes that will take you to Machu Picchu if you are up for the challenge.
1.) Inca trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 treks in the world. With a reputation like that, as you might have guessed, it’s in demand and expensive. The only way you can do the Inca trail is with a tour company on a guided trek. The trail itself is just 26 miles (43km)and combines a beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The path of course ends at the archeological site, Machu Picchu. The cost for this trek will set you back anywhere from $450-$650 USD.
2. ) The Salkantay Trek is quickly gaining in popularity as an alternative to the Inca trail. Both trails bring your through an impressive mix of lush vegetation, subtropical jungle, and stunning landscape that can only be seen in the region of Machu Picchu. However, the Salkantay trek allows you to see the snow-covered Salkantay mountain range and the impressive Andean jungle. There are guided treks available on the Salkantay trek being offered from anywhere from $325 – 550 USD.
If you are planning an upcoming trip to Machu Picchu, make sure to evaluate the three options above carefully before making your decision. The train ride may seem like the ideal choice but, it is a little expensive for the budget traveler. On the other hand, you will certainly arrive there quickly. On the other side of the coin, the backpack hiking route might fit better for your budget, but it will take a significant amount of time and possible discomfort. Trekking the trails to Machu Picchu allows you to soak in all the scenic beauty, but it may be costly to with a tour, and definitely physically challenging.
You travel option choice will ultimately depend on what you want to get out of the trip, how much you can afford, and your personal endurance level. Regardless of which way you take to get to Machu Picchu, it will be worth it once you arrive.
Those were the last words I heard my father speak. Now, at 53, those two words are etched deeply into my consciousness. Even though it’s been over 40 years and the quality and tone of his voice have faded in my mind, the combination of those two words produce a distinct sensation in my body, able to rattle the depths of my soul.
I have total recall of the weeks leading up to our escape.
Over the years, I have watched the scenes play the over and over in my mind’s eye, have added different melodies creating a soundtrack to my early memories.
Often times the movie-memories play in excruciating slow motion, seemingly my mind’s way to not forget a single detail of my mother and father and a link to my own humanity. And this memory has the power to evoke inside of me, the most intense olfactory sensations, releasing burned memories of wet concrete combined with the smell of fear and blood, from the neighboring slaughterhouse.
I was only eleven years old then, but for all the boys in East Berlin, our childhood did not include laughing or lighthearted playfulness. We were under socialist rule and still hadn’t recovered from World War II. All we knew were the realities of the Cold War.
I was born the year the wall was constructed, whose threaded barbed wire and cold concrete barracks had been designed to keep our city separated in two. It was also the same year of the famous American- Soviet standoff at one of the walls borders, affectionately called Checkpoint Charlie. But in 1951, all I was solely concerned with suckling on my mother’s breast for comfort and warmth.
My dad always said, “This great wall must serve as a symbol for your life, son. You were born the same year and you must live up to it’s greatness.” For many years, I believed I was connected to that wall, but always feared I could never be that strong.
The official purpose of the Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and prevent them from undermining our great socialist state. And this rhetoric, the same rhetoric was repeated over and over in our classrooms and for most of my “schoolmate comrades” it was all we knew.
My father was born in East Berlin, not far from where I spent the first 11 years of my life. He served in the Third Reich under the Nazi regime during WWII before he met my mother. Berlin was almost completely destroyed during the last year of the war, under siege by constant bombing. It was there, my father sustained an injury to his right leg, in which shrapnel filled up his side causing him to almost bleed out. Miraculously, he was pulled out of the rubble and brought to the unscathed nurse station, just a few hundred feet from the bomb site. Most of the shrapnel from his leg was successfully removed, however it did not prevent the injuries from shaping the rest of his life. The profound limp was my father’s most defining trait, which unfortunately served as a constant reminder of those wartime years.
I had many years to reflect on my father and dredge up the lost memories of our time together. But never once, do I recall my father speaking of the war.
My mother was from Dresden. She was a small, soft spoken fair haired woman. Her spirt was shattered at 16, when her entire family was killed during an ally bombing. Some say she roamed war torn streets in a psychotic state for months, not able to consolidate the reality of her world. Not knowing how, my mother surfaced in Berlin just as the war ended.
My mother and father met just two months after the war was officially over, and married just a few weeks later. I never knew the reason they married so quickly, but I suspect it was a deep need that each one of them felt, two half people coming together to make a whole person. My mother was just 17 years old then married to a man 11 years her senior.
Six years later I was born.
I can still taste the stale grayness of East Berlin during the Cold War.
Because Berlin was almost completely destroyed during the war, my father’s focus was on the rebuilding of a stronger, more capable Berlin. He was firm in his purpose. A purpose that was provided by the promise of the socialist government knows as German Democratic Republic.
My father worked every night, proudly guarding the border from infiltration of Western fascists into our midst and preventing the shame of East Berlin defectors from escaping. It was an honorable job.
My memory echoes the sounds of rhetoric repeated over the loud speakers anchored to the street corners. Daily messages reminded us of responsibility to the republic, working for the republic, serving the republic. Each day of my childhood, my day started with the same rhetoric repeated at the breakfast table, words mechanically articulated from my Father’s lips. My mother never spoke a word at the table, her eyes often glazed as she attempted to swallow her morning gruel.
The only warmth I recall from my early years were the cold nights spent tightly wrapped in my mothers thin arms. We slept in the same small bed, and I looked forward to her embrace.
Throughout my life, I never saw my mother’s smile and she remained defeated to her own memories until the end of her life. My mother never showed any expression on her face but at night, I could feel her heart beat against my back and that’s how I knew her humanity. I didn’t mind the scratchy wool from the blanket or the musty smell of the house. It is all stored safely in my memories for safe keeping, my connection back to those days.
About a week before our escape, I recall the unusually cold night. I remember my mother holding me tighter than usual. She whisper into my ear, “Glen, don’t speak, just listen to me.” My eyes widened and I felt my mother’s thin body stiffen. “We are leaving here Glen. I have arranged it. We are leaving here in 1 week.”
“Where, Momma?” I asked in a soft whisper.
“Hush boy!” my mother whispered harshly. “You must not speak of this to anyone. You classmates or your father. We are seeking…..” her voice trailed off.
An entire week passed and my mother never spoke of that conversation again. I didn’t dare to bring it up again, in fear that I had dreamt the whole thing. Then, early Friday morning, just before dawn, my mother shook me out of a sound sleep. “It is time, my son,” she spoke quietly. “Get dressed now quickly and don’t say a word.”
I was only eleven years old, but I knew this was to be the most defining moment in my life. We exited our small apartment and walked downstairs to the street below. There was a truck parked out side of our building with the motor running. It was a truck from the slaughterhouse, and from the smell of it, cargo contained freshly slaughtered pigs. The driver cleared the fog from his window and pointed to the back of the truck where the “cargo” was stored. I looked at my mother, but her eyes would not meet mine. Instead, she wrapped the scratchy blanket from our bed around me and told me not to say a word. I remained silent.
The driver got out of the truck and started raising the pig carcases and motioned for us to crawl underneath. We did as we were told, wiggling and writhing to situate ourselves under the dead pigs. We felt the dead weight of the cargo adjust on top of us, it becoming harder to breathe. My mother curled up next to me and managed to pull the blanket over our heads. My heart was racing. Cold tears stained my cheeks. We both knew defectors were shot or jailed, and sometimes both.
The smell of smoky diesel and dead pig was overwhelming. I felt as if I was going to gag, but my mother held me so tight trying to comfort me. This was my only connection to sanity. I swallowed hard every few moments and choked down the urge to vomit.
Finally the grumbling of the truck motor came to a timid roar and the motion stopped. We were at the border. My heart raced so fast I thought for sure the guards would hear the sounds of “thump, thump, thump” played by the deepest drum. I swallowed again.
Guards poked their guns into the pile of dead pigs. We felt the pressure of their bodies adjusting around us. We heard the muffled sound of conversation between our driver and the guards. Then we heard the sound of boots walk to the back of the truck once again. Then the world stopped. All sounds ceased. Just he smell of cigarette smoke filled the air.
After an eternity, we heard the words, “Geh fort.”
Those were the last words I ever heard my father speak.
Edvard Munch and archaeology aren’t two names you’d normally find side-by-side in an article. Right now, the art world is abuzz combining the two, re-examining the origins of inspiration behind Edvard Munch’s iconic piece ‘The Scream’. Apparently the inspiration leads straight here to Peru, a place Miro and I find highly inspiring. It is believed ‘The Scream’ was inspired by a mummified Chachapoyas warrior, frozen in time with a look of terror.
Writer Arthur Lubow, in an article for the Smithsonian, describes Munch’s iconic piece ‘The Scream’:
“Munch defined how we see our own age — wracked with anxiety and uncertainty. His painting of a sexless, twisted, fetal-faced creature, with mouth and eyes open wide in a shriek of horror, re-created a vision that had seized him as he walked one evening in his youth with two friends at sunset.”
(Photo: Alessandro Currarino/ El Comercio)
Is is possible ‘The Scream’ is indeed inspired by Peru’s archeology?
In college, I studied the art of many contemporary masters including the works of Picasso, Munch, Kandinsky, Klee and of course Miro. Many artists drew inspiration from the naïve art of the past including African sculptures, native textiles, and indigenous ceramics to create many of the world’s top modern sculptures and paintings known today. But I had never read of any significant works being directly influenced through archeology. Once again, I am reminded how the world isn’t broken into subjects and through exposure to the richness of life, inspiration can come from anywhere.
One of the reasons I’m such a supporter of natural learning (unschooling or worldschooling) through travel, is the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of stimulations including environmental, cultural and traditional nuances that become life-long inspirations. You just never know what will inspire. Who would of thought that an ancient Peruvian warrior would become the inspiration for a popular seminal art piece?
A Popular Mummy
‘The Scream’ is now one of the most reproduced and most iconic pieces of art in the world, and art historians believe it was based on the mummy of this warrior which was discovered 130 years ago. The mummy was found near the Utcubamba River and then taken to Paris where it was displayed at the Ethnographic Exchange Museum in a popular exhibit.
Wayne V. Anderson, a renowned art historian, declared that the mummy had inspired the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, which was later confirmed by Stefan Ziemendorff, an investigator who discovered a number of sketches of the mummy. Robert Rosenblum, also a respected art historian, then suggested that Munch’s famous artwork was also inspired by the mummy.
So there you have it.
Edvard Munch was born in Norway in December 1863 and was the son of a doctor who served in the military. He is known for his disturbing Expressionist paintings, and an artist who incorporates bold colors and brush strokes into his work. Munch revealed that the inspiration behind ‘The Scream’ was based on a past event in his life when he was walking with friends. The piece of art is based on the anxiety he felt this day when he saw that the sky had become engulfed in fiery red flames, which triggered feelings of panic and despair in him. Astronomers now believe that the red sky was the result of a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world. Debris thrown into the atmosphere from an eruption in Indonesia caused the sky to turn angry and red throughout Europe in late 1883 and early 1884.
It is now believed that Munch was inspired by a mummy that he had seen at an exhibition in Paris. The artist used the mummy as a way to recreate the feelings of fear and dread that he felt when the sky turned red. Since his death, ‘The Scream’ has become one of the most famous paintings in art history, and one that still triggers debate today. This piece of art has also influenced Western popular culture, most notably in the movie Scream, where the mask of the killer is based on the frightening image in Munch’s work. Other works painted by Munch include ‘The Dead Mother’, ‘The Dance of Life’, ‘Self-portrait with Burning Cigarette’, and ‘Ashes’. ‘The Scream’ was on display at the New Year Museum of Modern Art until April 2013.
Chachapoyas in located in Peru, near the Amazon river, and is famous for its ruins of the Kuelap Fortress and several mummies of powerful warriors. Miro and I have not visited the site yet, but it’s on our must-see list for 2014. Now, we have another reason to visit the Chachapoyas region, to see one of the warriors that is now thought to be the inspiration behind ‘The Scream’, the painting that continues to fascinate and frighten people from all over the world.
Translated as the Star Snow Festival, Qoyllur Rit’i is a spiritual and religious event, held annually in June, in the Sinakara Valley in the Cusco Region of Peru. Every year, more than 10,000 participants attend the festival strengthening their ties to their ancestors, ancient traditions and cultural connections.
Attending the festival is not for the faint of heart. There are no roads or vehicles to transport you to the festival site. Along with thousands of other committed pilgrims, I walked for six hours, in the high Andes altitude. We kept a steady pace, traversing up and down the sides of mountains and walking through the valley passes.
It wasn’t easy. Passing me on the narrow paths were entire families, children, old men and young mothers carrying babies tied in bundles on their backs. Dozens and dozens of horses, laden with contents to construct temporary villages made the trek as well. Dance troupes in full costumes playing instruments and singing effortlessly breezed up the mountain side, elated in spirit.
The festival site is at 4,600 meters or just over 15 thousand feet, & the glacier above, where many of the ceremonies take place, measures almost a full 500 meters higher.
The majestic glacier becomes the crossroads between the earth and the stars, the water and the spirit.
The valley below, stages all other festivities, bustling dance performances, processions, effigies, alters and numerous other ceremonies.
The Qoyllur Rit’i festival has ancient and Colonial roots combined, equally honored in today’s modern festival.
The ancient roots stem from a time before the Incas, where the sacred mountain, Apu Ausungate, was revered as containing the spirit of Viracocha. Legend tells the tale of a white-skinned boy with blond hair resembling the god Viracocha who would frequently appear to the surrounding villagers. Additionally, early pan-Andean traditions focus on the Pleiades constellation, which is also directly related to the wanderings of the mythical god Viracocha.
Later, the Incas who also honored the Pleiades constellation (or the Seven Sisters) noticed the constellation disappears sometime in April or May and reappears in June. The Inca associated the disappearance and the reappearance of this constellation to agricultural abundance, thus the Qoyllur Rit’i festival happens in June, signaling the time of the coming harvest.
Catholic Church Origins
The Colonial version appears to be an adaptation of ancient lore. According to the Church, sometime in 1780, a young indigenous shepherd named Mariano Mayta had a chance meeting with a fair-haired boy called Manuel in the snow-covered Sinakara Valley. The fair-haired boy, dressed in white and shined as a brilliant light.
Mariano Mayta, who looked after his father’s herd on the slopes of Qullqipunku was mistreated by his brother at home, so he often wandered off the snow fields to meet his friend Mario. Manuel would often give Mariano food so he could spend more time with him on the snowy slopes. One day, Mariano’s father was worried about his son and went out to look for the boy. He had found that his heard had increased. As a reward, he gave Mariano some money to buy some new clothes.
Mariano felt guilty his best friend Manuel always wore the same clothes, so he asked his father if he could buy some new clothes for him as well. Mariano’s father approved since he was grateful for the increased number of his heard.
Pleased for himself and his friend, Mariano set out to Cusco to buy a new set of clothes in Cusco. Before leaving, Mariano took a sample of the material from the white garment Manuel always wore with him to Cusco so he could have his new garment sewn with the same fabric
In Cusco, Mariano searched for the matching cloth. To Mariano’s surprise, the fabric that matched his friends garment was a unique cloth and at this time, only used by the Bishop. Mariano approached the Bishop with hopes he could buy more of the material. The surprised Bishop ordered an inquiry on this strange boy in the mountains to find out how he could have possibly acquired the holy material. Manuel became investigation under the direction of the priest of Ocongate.
On June 12, 1783, together the Bishop and his commission went to find Manuel in the mountains. Along with Mariano and his father, the Bishop’s people found Manual in he mountains dressed in his battered white clothes. Only this time, the boy was shining with a bright light. More and more people gathered to so this brilliant light that had become Manual.
Manual’s friend was bewildered too. In the witness of his family and the Bishop, Mariano approached Manuel. Mariano touched his friend and suddenly Manuel was transformed into a tayanka bush with an apparition of Christ.
According to the legend, the event was too much to bear for Mariano, who was feeling anguish that his friend was harmed. Mariano, dropped dead on the spot from grief. The villagers a buried Mariano under rock near the bush where Mariano was last seen.
Word got out about this great transformation. The rock attracted a great deal of devotees who started to light candles before it in honor of Mariano, the shepherd boy. The Church then ordered the image of the crucified Christ to be painted on the rock and this has become known as the Lord of the Qoyllur Rit’i.
This trend has continued through the efforts of the church-sanctioned Roman Catholic brotherhood who, as the shrine’s custodians, dominate the cult, chapel, and processions of sacred images, and who strive to impart an ever stronger Christian appearance to all the proceedings. This ancient and multi-cultural use of the sacred site of Qoyllur Rit’i is a clear example of a pattern found throughout Latin America (and indeed the world): the usurpation of one culture’s sacred spaces by a conquering culture.
Today the festival is participated by “nations”, defined by their geographical regions.Each nation has its own unique ritual costume and dance routine. Also each nation appoints their most honored men to be “Ukukus”, mythical half-man, half-bear creatures. Dressed in black masks and black costumes covered in fringes, they carry whips and act as intermediaries between the people and the gods.
At 3 a.m. before the principal day of the festival, the Ukukus scale the peak of the mountain in the light of the full moon, dancing on glaciers, hoping to bring blessings to their villages for the coming year. Then early the next day marks the main event, where the Ukukus, climb up the glaciers carrying crosses and bringing back blocks of ice that are said to have medicinal properties. This is followed by a Catholic mass in the valley with processions and sermons.
I have been touched by the spirit of Qoyllur Rit’i, its deep ties to this place of power, ancient traditions and meaningful customs.
I am forever changed.
Our last excursion in the US was to see our new geodesic dome house in the desert, located just outside the little town of Joshua Tree. Along with Romeo, the lovable Bull Terrier, Miro and I piled into Heather’s car and headed east of Los Angeles, towards the desert. Growing up in California, I spent the majority of my time in Los Angeles. Surprisingly, I had never visited California’s Mojave Desert, not even once.
Joshua Tree National Park
After a peaceful night at the dome we woke early the head into the national park for some exploring. The Joshua Tree National Park, located in the Mojave features over 800,000 acres of beautiful wilderness, natural reserves, and as the name suggests, gorgeous groves of Joshua Trees, reminiscent of Dr. Suess characters and Star Trek landscapes. The unique scenery challenged my senses, offering multi-colored irregular peaks, lined with granite hills and enormous boulders which invited the thrill seeker in the three of us to climb some rocks and explore.
Two Ecosystems – One Park
I learned that two, very large desert ecosystems converge inside this remarkable park. The eastern part of Joshua Tree National Park is encompassed by the Colorado Desert and sits at three thousand feet below sea level. This portion of the park showcases many different types of cacti, a wonderful assortment of palm trees, and multiple species of wild flowers.
The western end of the park features the Mojave Desert. Much closer to sea level than the Colorado Desert, the Mojave Desert portion of the park is where the world-famous and ancient Joshua Trees live.
The Extraordinary Joshua Tree
As the name suggests, the park is full of Joshua Trees. The best way to describe a Joshua Tree is to think of a tree in a Dr. Seuss illustration. These trees are spiky and twisted and blooming with personality. With a dagger-like spine, a hiker who gets to close can find themselves painfully pricked by these diverse trees. I never get tired of looking at them, as each one is so unique in nature and shape.
In the past, Native Americans in Southern California, heralded these trees for the useful properties. For example, these trees were used to create baskets and sandals, while the tree’s flower buds proved to be a healthy addition to their diets.
Miro, Heather and I spent the day hiking through the National Park, exploring the natural structures, climbing rocks and being silly. The scenery was breathtaking and there was never a moment of boredom for any of us. If you are in the Southern California area, then you should definitely take some time to visit the Joshua Tree National Park. It is a great natural resource, and it is a great way to slow down and escape the buzz of city life.
When most people think of vacation destinations, they immediately jump to places that are considered the most fun or relaxing. This is why Disney World is internationally known, Las Vegas attracts millions of visitors every year, and Italian islands are considered paradise! But if you’re traveling with your children, you can take your destination research a step further: try to focus on places that can teach your children something about the world while also showing them a good time! The world has much to offer, and exposing your children to it is one of the healthiest things you can possibly do for them. So here are a few destinations to consider.
Crater Lake National Park – Oregon, USA
The U.S. has many gorgeous national parks that make for excellent vacation destinations, but few are as pure and natural in appearance as Crater Lake National Park. If you’re looking for a nature getaway with your children, this is a perfect destination, not just because it’s picturesque and enjoyable, but because it can give your children an appreciation for the preservation of nature. Environmental issues will be some of the heaviest burdens on our children’s generation, and an early appreciation in this regard is valuable.
Much of the South Pacific region has been transformed into a thoroughly populated, “touristy” area for travel. The Solomon Islands, however, are hailed as a remnant of a more natural, genuine South Pacific, and can offer a valuable experience for children. The beach lifestyle is as appealing as anywhere you’ll find, and you’ll get the chance to show your kids what remote beach culture looks like without all the focus on tourism.
Many see Montenegro as a luxurious and somewhat exclusive destination. However, a lot more goes on in this beautiful country than casino playing, fine dining, and Betfair gambling. Montenegro is actually an ideal location for a vacation that focuses on the outdoors. Here, you can show your children that even in a glamorous European hotspot with renowned architecture and luxury, nature is the most spectacular feature.
Crete – Greece
Crete is a wonderful destination if you’d like to give your children a taste of world history during vacation. Once the crater of early European civilization, Crete is still home to ruins and remnants of the earliest Greeks (and Minoans), and seeing this area can be both humbling and educational. Not to mention the beaches – at least on the south side of the island – are breathtaking!
Parts of northern Uganda remain largely unsafe for visitors due to conflict on the border. However, in the south, and in the capital city of Kampala, travel is generally safe, and the culture is worth the experience. You and your family can enjoy a beautiful African vacation, including a safari and a drive to Lake Victoria, but you can also gain an understanding of how continual conflict has impacted the region and its people. This is a healthy and meaningful experience for your kids.
If you happen to be in Cusco in Peru, and you happen upon Inti Raymi, The Peruvian Festival Of The Sun, it will in all probability be among the most defining and memorable moments of your journey through Peru. Inti Raymi is celebrated to some extent by indigenous communities in many parts of what was once the Inca Empire but it is around Cusco, the ancient Incan capital, where the tradition has best survived and indeed thrived.
This year I was priveleged to see Inti Raymi in person, up close, here in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. I was taken by the colors, energy, traditions and sounds. I hope you get lost in the images: