Arrived in Lima after the orange sun transformed to blood red and disappeared over the horizon behind bands of charcoal grey clouds. Then Lima airport in the dark and a taxi driver who didn’t feel like the safest bet on the road, but then again his gleaming white car had no noticeable scrapes or dents. The hacienda style hotel had open walkways through an outside cafe and past cars which could have been used by gangsters in days gone by – like the 1930’s Buick in The Untouchables but which I discovered was an old and very beautiful Ford. Slept really well waking to the soft and dulcet tones of a Peruvian pigeon which has obviously been to better singing classes than any UK based pigeon. It just had so much more musical creativity in its song. So much more class!
Breakfast was delightful. It started with Andy and myself, chatting about the tour ahead over omelettes and gorgeous fruit salad. Then we were joined by Iysha from the UK but born in Canada. Loved her died white hair cropped short, fantastic white teeth and bright eyes, a great big smile and lots of mid-20’s enthusiasm for life. Then along came our young Dutch man and after Andy left he was replaced by another, bigger brawnier Andy from Idaho. Conversations roamed through the Amazon jungle and her unusual offerings. Discussing the psychedelic journeys of Ayahuasca are becoming almost commonplace. Very amusing, and slightly discomfiting to discuss the greatest fears of taking it being the idea of shitting oneself in public having been unable to move from the place we’re sitting!
Our young Dutchman told us his mushroom tales – of taking large doses at night and on his own. Not a reckless decision as it was based on testing his mettle. He said that he felt like an alien when taking it, rather than meeting one, and because of that it was impossible to be frightened by human fears!
I heard for the first time about frog venom from the Kambo frog. Apparently you can harvest this stuff by tickling the frogs belly, which it loves, then you inject it under your skin and it detoxifies you to a very powerful degree. I imagine these little frogs clambering out of the Amazon to lie on the beach with all their limbs akimbo waiting for their tummies to be tickled by toxic humans. Then I heard about another frog which carries a little sack of DMT on its neck and all we have to do to get a hit is lick it.
‘Maybe that’s what’s behind the story of kissing a frog,’ suggests Iysha wisely.
Andy No 2 is a Chef. Over lunch at an Arabic cafe which served the best drink I’ve had in years – Arabic Lemonade, he discussed how he’d cook guinea pig so it was not only delicious but easier to eat than on the little body. I may decline the offer. I’m not vegetarian but I can’t eat anything I’ve once owned as a pet.
The afternoon was a jaunt to the movies to watch the latest Avengers film. I was expecting John Steed swirling his cane but it was a group of Marvel superhero’s fighting to save the world. An amusing choice of film to start a sacred journey with. Lots of fun followed by savouring the Peruvian national drink of Pisco Sour – a foamy concoction with a serious bite. So happy I didn’t accept the third as instead of the early start of 6am, I had to get up at 4am!
This phenomenally early start the next day was to get to the airport, meet up with another of the group flying in from Alaska, and fly up to Lake Titicaca ahead of the others so the two of us could have an extra day at altitude to acclimatise. I felt I’d known Tracey for years after the one and a half hour flight which descended so rapidly I wondered if the pilot had forgotten where we were landing. I imagined him in the cockpit saying, ‘Oh-oh we’re supposed to land at Juliaca, whoops here we go,’ and hurtling us downwards.
An hours cab ride to our destination at Puno and we passed more half built buildings than I have ever seen. I haven’t decided yet if this is a good sign that the region is thriving, or a bad sign that they’ve had to stop work. Out of several hundred semi-completed buildings I saw a maximum of three actually being worked on. It wasn’t an inspiring journey, the land was bleak and flat and then all of a sudden we came upon an extraordinary University Campus with multi-coloured ultra-modern designed buildings. It was quite magical and looked totally out of place.
An hour or so later we descended down through a huddle of a town with crosses and statues of saints and condors adorning the hillsides. Once again much of the town seems to be in a state of becoming. But once we found the oasis of our hotel near the central square we felt right at peace. In fact even though I started to feel the light headedness of altitude sickness as we stood at the hotel reception I have felt wonderfully content and safe here.
Altitude sickness is a strange bird. I weaved my way down the street as if I was on the deck of a rolling ship. Going up and down stairs not only exhausted me but made me feel greatly at risk. Even stepping up on to the curb could accelerate my pulse. All the sensations I felt were akin to the sensations I’ve had when in the grip of a panic attack, which makes sense as the body, with much less oxygen in the air its used to, feels under threat. You can tell the tourists new to the area as they walk very slowly, holding on to each other, and occasionally putting a finger on the pulse in their neck! This is now my third day in Puno and although I still feel a bit shaky and breathy I am far more grounded and have had minimal symptoms. Some people can get excruciating headaches and nausea but I’ve just had a couple of headaches which weren’t anything in the scheme of things. Funnily enough I found the best way to alleviate my symptoms was to go shopping and buy things. I am now the proud owner of one very cool Peruvian sun hat, a very colourful jacket and a stunning silver necklace.
The people are very friendly and smile at us a lot. Most of the older women wear the national dress – a very full tiered skirt in vibrant colours falling down to mid calf, topped with an old cardigan and a tiny bowler hat perched raunchily on their heads, their long black plaits hanging down their backs as far as their knees. Their faces are deeply lined and must hold a multitude of stories and hardships. Shopping in the daytime is a delight and the prices in many of the narrow little shops are good. At night, after dark, things ramp up a bit and hawkers bother you at every step, but on the whole they are graceful when you are clearly saying ‘No’.
Last night the rest of the group arrived and we had a very enjoyable meal in our favourite restaurant overlooking the main square. Sixteen of us have converged on Puno from all over the world – from Australia, Canada, Alaska and other US states, Holland, Denmark and UK. It’s exciting to meet everyone and get to know what’s compelled us all to come to Peru, to this tour in particular and to try ayahuasca during our last week together. It’s already clear how the group is bonding. Many of us have been tentative about joining a group to do anything but this one is proving to be one which works. All of us have an interest in the sacred places of this extraordinary country and have explored spirituality in whatever way makes sense to us as individuals.
One of the group kindly gave me a Reiki healing session for the altitude sickness and immediately her hands touched my shoulders I had wild visions of UFO’s flying in to a city of tunnels underneath Lake Titicaca itself. I saw a bright green crystal too. As soon as she finished the healing session the visions disappeared. I since found out that this area is known as a UFO hotspot and that some people believe there is a city of aliens underneath the lake! Spooky.
Today we meet our guide and discover what our first full tour day will entail. It’s going to be an amazing ride!
If you want to find out more about this Peru Odyssey adventure I’m on with Outer Travels Inner Journeys, click here.
(Excellent Kambo Blog here and where I borrowed the frog photo from Teals Blog