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At times I feel like life consists of a series of ‘could-haves’. Keeping this blog updated and stoking the passion fire, being one.
I’ve been home six weeks and feel the stagnant air of complacency taking hold. I’ve seen it manifest itself in my body and mind. Complacency and a lack of passion tends to do that.
So tonight I decided to draw up my Vision List for the next three years. Top of the pops was living a life of passion and purpose. For the moment that may be expressing myself in words, but I am certain it will lead down the yellow brick road.
A Woofing World
Once upon a time, not so far away, a world of Woofing exists. Where Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WOOF) meet to share, live and work in a community focused on sustainable living.
Going against my initial plans to volunteer at an Ayahausca Centre in Iquitos, I decided to volunteer at the Eco Truly Park instead, an hour’s bus ride from Lima.
Five minutes after arriving, I was hell-bent on catching the next taxi out. The place seemed full of sand and swarming with Hari Krshna devotees. Had I mistaken the website promising art, drama & yoga classes for an ashram?
I reluctantly paid my $15 a day donation to be fed vegetarian food, housed and looked after. I was quite convinced I wouldn’t survive past Day 2, not instantaneously warming to the farmy, temple vibe.
How wrong I turned out to be!
24 hours and I was a changed person. The two weeks I spent there was one of the highlights of my Peruvian trip. This is where I met amazing people whom I laughed, shared stories, stole secret trips to the beach, and worked with.
A day in the life of a volunteer at Eco Truly starts with yoga at 7am, a huge brunch breakfast at 8.30 and then a casually arranged work (generally by the volunteers themselves), which may or may not commence at about 10am.
Jobs included cleaning the Eco Toilets (a bucket, saw dust – dumping human excrement onto the compost heap, washing and scrubbing the bins. Light breakfast recommended). More enjoyable jobs included working in the kitchen preparing lunch for the volunteers and devotees, which easily topped 50pax per day. The lunches were prepared in gigantic pots and served in small swimming pools to the hungry masses.
Other enjoyable jobs included planting and weeding. I partook in the Downward Facing Fresa (Spanish for Strawberry) for a few days when I planted row upon row of Strawberries.
The farm is self-sustainable and organic, and the food consumed is grown in the gardens. There is an old weather beaten horse which is used to plough the lands, and a few Quechan speaking Peruvians, that make it even harder to understand what had to be done – a matter which the volunteers happily took into their own hands.
My Hawaiian friend Meredith and I also had a field day(s) working in the bakery preparing cakes for visitors and his Royal Holiness of the Upper Krshna rankings. We ate far too many ‘flops’ – a day’s ration could easily have sufficed for a week (part of the reason we enjoyed our time there so much).
I learnt to knead bread, bake cakes – an entire lifetime’s worth of Finishing School gobbled up in a few days. Learning essential Spanish words like ‘cake flour’, ‘baking soda’ and ‘measuring cup’ significantly helped to cut down the number of flops.
After lunch we were FREE to do whatever we pleased. The languid afternoons were spent going into town, hanging around the Plaza de Armas, e-mailing, eating ice-cream and for the majority of volunteers, perfecting the art of rolling joints.
In the afternoon there were also times when the Peruvians managed to kick into a higher organisational gear, giving us the opportunity to attend Krshna Philosophy courses. Fascinating accounts of Krshna’s mind boggling reincarnations and mischievous tricks were told by Druva, the volunteer coordinator.
There was also temple worship at 7pm, which lasted about two hours. All volunteers were welcome, and the many curious amongst us trudged along to sing Krshna songs and hear the beautiful words of the Bhagavad Gita read to us. Philosophical debates on the readings were held after.
I was blessed to have been part of the big preparation and frenetic cleaning that commenced exactly 48hrs before the highest ranking holy Hari Krshna Swami honoured Eco Truly with his visit. There were songs, dancing, fire ceremonies and a thousand flowers to celebrate.
Unfortunately, I was only present for part of the celebrations, as I had come down with the rancid diarrhea which gripped all new comers on their 4th  or 5th day. I did not hear of anyone that had miraculously, escaped its onslaughts. The diarrhea came with fever and required a 24hr loo-gripping confinement to fully recover.
I was sad to leave Eco Truly, having made so many wonderful friends, coming from all walks of life. I myself became part of the hippie tree-hugging brigade and it took a number of weeks to reform to a more Western way of being.
Living on Light
So I left with Hawaiian Meredith in tow to embark on the last leg of my journey – a Fasting Retreat in the magical surrounds of the Sacred Valley near Cusco. This consisted of fasting for a week, liver cleanse (the Epsom salts nearly killed me), massages, steam rooms, another Ayahausca ceremony and a profound meeting with myself and other exceptional people that were there.
We all came for our own reasons, many on a quest for spiritual awakening, enlightenment, to heal their bodies and minds. To escape from life for a while and to reflect on our existence and purpose for being here.
Having been on the go for four solid months, I found it difficult to take time out for me, and to be quiet (without food) for such a prolonged period of time. The thought of subsiding on one glass of juice and one soup broth a day terrified most of us.
Having had the Ayahausca experience on an empty stomach and somewhat cleaner system, was completely different. Received more healing and messages, but decided that the 2nd journey two days later would be too intense, as I felt too weak to deal with another encounter.
Now in retrospect, I know that I was running away from myself, scared of what Mother A had in store for me. She can be pretty brutal in her teachings, however these are the very experiences which turn out to be most profound.
I learnt so much about myself during those seven days – and especially about dismantling ingrained belief systems. This is also where I learnt about Breatharianism.
Breatharianists are also known as Light Eaters, people who are able to tap into the finer powers of the cosmos, and survive solely on Prana (Life Energy).
To the Western world it sounds like a load of bull. It certainly sounded that way to me when I first heard about it. There are certain yogis who are known to practice this way of life and in the book Autobiography of a Yogi, 
Paramhansa Yogananda goes into detail about this. His case studies included the likes of highly evolved spiritual souls, having lived a life of quiet solitude and meditation.
For mere, earth-bound Westerners, living on Prana seems an impossible feat. Yet with the planetary consciousness shifting into the 6th Dimension, this realm of existence is becoming more accessible and spoken about.
I believe we have become enslaved by the doctrines of what cannot be done, especially when traditional science has no explanation for it. Being sustained by Life Energy seems like a crazy new-age cult, but there are very real people out there who tap into this.
When one begins dismantling these belief systems of what is possible, of the life we should lead, the commitments we should fulfill, we lose touch with Prana – Life Energy. We forget that we came here on a very Sacred Mission. A mission to fulfill our purpose.
Becoming a Breathanarian is a process yes, and certainly won’t come around when the body is toxic, full of animal products and toxic thoughts. However, should the student be pure of heart and intent, and willing to do the preparation required, they should be granted the gift of living on light.
Seven Days and many belief-shattering experiences later, I realised that perhaps the conditioned systems we buy into, aren’t always built on the cornerstone of Truth, but rather of a collective agreement that has been sustained throughout the ages.
Peru was a life changing experience. It caused me to question many things I had always simply accepted or taken for granted. It caused me to question my beliefs, comfort zone, but above all, my reason for being here.
Peru taught me that being alive on this planet is a miracle. That we are, in essence, spiritual beings having a human experience. And that our life would be utterly wasted if we did not give serious attention to our purpose for being here.
I do believe every one of us knows our heart’s calling, but that it takes unprecedented courage to act on it.
With love and light
x-x-x
The Trulys
 

Early morning beach walk with a few of the volunteers
One of the Trulys
View from outside the centre, going in
Fire ceremony in the temple – with fruit & flower offerings
Dancing to the Krshna beat
A few of the awesome volunteers

The Carribean Coast

I woke up early this morning, sleepily tugged on my bikini and headed off into the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea for a swim. This is life:-)

For the first time since my arrival in South America I really feel I am on holiday. Bizarre and ridiculous, but true. It took our group of six friends just over three days to make our way down here. We headed out from Iquitos on a speedboat (Peruvian version of speed) which took us to Laticia – situated on the Columbian, Peruvian and Brazilian border. The boat dumped us there 12 agonizingly slow hours later. We slept in Laticia that night at a really nice hotel complete with swimming pool. 
As backpackers we are always looking for the best deal, but at 20 000 Columbian Pesos that could not be beat. The price may make it seem like a five star hotel, but with the FARQ guerilla warfare that has crippled the country for years, the Columbian currency had a few zeros added. To put it into perspective – 1800 Pesos = 1US Dollar. So 20 000 Pesos rougly equates to 11Dollars. R77 for a hotel with swimming pool, clean toilet and no bed bugs – bring it on.

The next day we caught a taxi to the tiniest airport ever and boarded an aeroplane to Bogota. At the airport we got our passports stamped with a 60Day visa. Once we landed in Bogota we hung around the airport for a few hours, very happy to find food and something to drink, and then flew into Catagena.
Catagena is a beautiful city that is situated in the fort walls of the old city. The streets consist of colourful rustic houses, with elegant wooden balconies and roman style arches inbetween the houses. For the first time I felt I was in Columbia – a country vastly different from its neighbour, Peru.

We arrived late in Catagena, and after two solid days of travelling, we decided to celebrate our arrival with mojitos at bar across the road from our AWESOME hostal, called Media Luna (half moon). The hostal also had a swimming pool, courtyard with palm trees surrounding the pool, white washed walls – big open-spaced kitchen, clean bathrooms and a six bed dorm (perfect for our group) which was really clean and had a fan pumping throughout the night.

The fan by the by, is an abslote essential to enduring the hot, sweaty nights. Here perspiration is a constant. This morning I headed out in only a sarong with bikini, so I can go have a pretend cool-down in the lukewarm bathwater of the Caribbean.

Back to Catagena, we spent the following day exploring the old city, going to a local market (which was dirty and crazy) and sorting out bank issues. I realised after wasting many an hour spent panicking, that my cash passport card would only function at the blue ATM. This was realised after trying various green ATMs (which are abundant throughout, the blue incidentally, not) and nearly cried when I had money again. For three days I had borrowed off various friends to make ends meet.

This trip incidentally, was taken on a total whim. When I left the Hummingbird Centre at the end of April, three of the volunteers there and decided to head this way, after speaking to a local the night we slept on the floating restaurant in Iquitos.

I got cold feet just before coming and felt that the time was ripe to bail on the whole Columbia idea. My travel savings also depleted, which made me feel that I should spend the rest of my time in one place and volunteer. But at 5.30pm the night before I bought my ticket online, and then there was no turning back. The next morning we woke up at 4am to make it to the boat by 5. And here I am.

Yesterday we left Catagena after a long taxi journey to the bus station, only to be totally confused as to which bus to take. It is of utmost importance to take a direct bus, as the other buses are quite often hijacked and foreigners ofcourse, are stripped off all they are worth. One has to be very very careful on bus journeys in Columbia and only work with the ones that seem more official and reputable. Infact on our way in, in the taxi, some random blokes stopped our taxi and started screaming at us to get out. We thought our friends (in the other taxi) had gotten out on the bus they were pointing towards (we lost sight of their taxi amidst the chaotic traffic) and got out too. The aggressors grabbed our luggage from us and started throwing it into the bus, without even asking us where we were headed.

That was a rough lesson and a narrow hit-and-miss. If we had gotten onto that bus something bad would have happened. The guys trying to force us were aggressive and the bus, well – a hijackers paradise.

But we have arrived safe and sound. I am supposed to head back to Iquitos on the 24th (only 4 measly days away) and will have to spend nearly four days heading back – alone. So thinking of extending my ticket, to have time to find someone to travel back with as the bus trip from here to Catagena is 6hrs, plus I will have to spend the night in both Bogota and Laticia to catch the ferry out from Laticia at 2am the morning of my departure. 
So quite the journey back…Hopefully by extending my ticket I will get better connections, or even better yet, find someone to travel back with. Probably not wise to tackle that stretch of journey on my own, especially not on a bus. So will have to give that some thought.

Today and tomorrow I will be in Taganga – which is a dusty little oasis town, with a Caribbean beach and port with heaps of boats close to the shore. I have organised to go snorkeling with a local guide at 12.30, but his price is pretty steep (25 000 with gear included), so want to go and do some bargain shopping after this entry is done. The rest of the gang are going diving – pity that I dont have my licence. And in a few days time we will be going to the National Park (forgot name) which is reputed to be very beautiful and perhaps an excursion to the lost city (Cuidad Perdido) – which is a five day trek in total.

Those are the plans for now, but as I have realised, there is no use to planning here, one has to take each day as it comes, for each day, every moment changes your reality. That is my biggest lesson for South America – to learn to let go, to let be, and to let live.

The Night Before

It´s shortly after 9.30pm and I should be heading off to bed, with a 4.30 wake-up call for my trek up to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is incidentally, the last item on my vision list which I created during my second year of varsity. I used to joke saying that I could quite happily leave this plant after seeing M.P. – as it always remained no.1 on my bucket list.

However, since I´ve been in Peru, I´ve realised just how much of life there still is to be discovered – not just of the world outside, but of the world inside too. I believe that our existance centres around finding and staying true to ourselves. A simple, yet ever challenging concept. As we explore the essence of who are, we will come closer to realising that we are, infact, God.

That is nothing that seperates God from us, or us from God. I know this may be a shocking concept to most fervent church goers, but it is something that needs to be said, because it is the truth. Our society, upbringing and domestication process has left us disconnected with ourselves, the rest of humanity, and with nature. We have forgotten that we are Divine, that we are Spirit having a human experience.

We spend so much of our time in a self created and self imposed hell – which is commandeered by two personalities – the Judge and the Victim.
The Judge – constantly judging ourselves and in turn, the rest of the world and the Victim – that revels in the ´poor me´ syndrome.
If only one human being could transcend the Judge and Victim, and love themselves unconditionally, then the rest of humanity would be loved unconditionally as well. And that friends, is the biggest challenge – an unconditional love of self. 

The only reason we judge others so harshly is because we judge ourselves so harshly. Without the Judge, we would love and accept everyone else exactly as they are – without expectations and without attachments. It would be a perfect world.

I´ve always underestimated the power of one vibrational frequency on the rest of the world. It is like throwing a stone into water – the ripple effects stretch far and wide. The poison of anger, jealousy, depression and guilt that we hold inside, ripples off far wider and further than we are even capable of imagining.

We are composed of energy and every thought, spoken word and deed has ripple repurcussions that affects the dream of the planet. Each and every one of us has the potential to change the dream of the planet.
We are living in exponential times and change is happening faster than ever. There is a shift in consciousness which I anticipate is going to divide those that are consciously evolving and those that choose to remain behind.
These statements may sound radical and outlandish to some, but it is the truth.

On a lighter note 🙂
I never really wrote about the rest of my trip with my mom in South Peru and left off my last blog entry in Arequippa. The day after we visited the Colca Canyons (the deepest canyons in the world), we saw condors sweeping down into the canyons depths and up again. It was truly magnificent and magestic. We also visited the natural hot water baths in Colca and saw a number of pre Incan archeological sites. Colca Canyon was followed by a bus trip to Puno, where we visited the floating islands of Uros and spent the night with a local family on an island on the Lake of Titicaca – the longest navigational lake in the world.

Spending the night with a rural family, that had so few material posessions was an eye opening experience. Sabastiana, the mother of the family, cooked us up a storm in her kitchen full of old potjie cast iron pots – devoid of electricity and running water. Her husband has to walk up a huge mountain every day (to the next water source), to collect water for the family and then bring it down the mountain again. This process takes the entire day and is repeated every single day.

The following day we visited another island by boat, where we were told the island´s fascinating cultural history and courtship rules. On this island, the normal age for choosing a life partner happens between the ages of 15 to 16. Courtship is initiated by the boy who will throw stones at the girl he likes. If she finds him attractive, she will stop in her tracks and things will develop from there. If she does not find him attractive, she will carry on walking. If you were a clever little boy, you would find a stone big enough to stop the girl dead in her tracks (no pun intended).

After a two week courtship period (no more we were assured), the boy will ask the parents of the girl he fancies whether he may co-habit (i.e. live with her). The couple are then given exactly three years in which to produce a child (or two). After these three years the couple are married in an extravagent ceremony, which lasts three days. The entire island´s villagers will be invited and will in most likelihood, translate into atleast five years of savings.

Should the aforementiond couple not produce a child during their three years of cohabitation, they will be asked to leave the island and will have to seek refuge on the mainland (that is if they wish to remain together). If not, they are permitted to seek other (probably more fertile), partners.
The islanders also have very specific dress which donates whether they are single or married. Single men will wear a white and red hat, worn tilted to the right, with a specific belt and a little man-bag stuffed with coca leaves. Married men on the other hand wear a red hat, tilted to the left, without man-bag.
Both single and married women wear a black head dress (looks more like a big blanket) which hangs down to the back of their knees. At the end of this head dress contraption, are brightly coloured baubles. The single women´s baubles being bigger than the married women´s baubles.
One just hopes that the stone throwing bachelor has good eye sight and is infact able to discern whether the baubles are big or small.

I am just glad that I grew up where I did and did not have to be part of the stone throwing brigade. Or that I had to choose a husband at the age of 15. Blessed are we to be of Western heritage. And there the Judge in me runs rampant again:-D

Best be off to bed. Tomorrow is a very early start and Day 1 of the four day Inca Trek which will take me to the top of Machu Picchu on Thursday. I return back to Cusco late on Thursday night and depart again for Iquitos on Friday morning.
I have been blessed to have found volunteering space at Hummingbird Centre and will spend the next four weeks there. Again out of touch with technology and internet. Will be writing about Machu Picchu before I head off into the Amazon again.

With love from Cusco
xxx

So much has happened the last few days, I feel like life has shifted permanently.
Traveling is fun, adventurous and a great school of learning. However, it does not come without its dangers…
Let me start with the bad and the ugly.
Just two days ago, two of my friends were walking back from Temple of la Luna – one of the major archeological sites a few hundred metres outside of Cusco. As they were returning, they were attacked from behind by five Peruvians, and tackled to the ground.
Both of them were strangled – to such an extend that they lost consciousness. They were told `You are going to die`. The severity of the attack led them to believe as much. Infact, when Nick stopped breathing Johanna was convinced he had. Shortly after, she lost consciousness.

When they came to, they saw they had been robbed of everything, including cameras, wallets, credit cards and phones.
The ordeal happened at 2 o`clock in the afternoon – on an open green path that leads down towards the city. The main road was visible from where they were, so close, but yet too far. The predators obviously watched them from some vantage point and pounced on them when there was no-one else around.

The incident was obviously extremely traumatizing, especially when you are told that death is imminent. What makes it worse, is that both these people had experienced snatch and grab during their trip to Bolivia week before last. Nick had to buy his second camera after it was stolen in San Pedro market in Cusco, Johanna on the other hand, had all her valuables stolen in a market place in La Paz, Bolivia. When she collapsed in despair in the middle of the plaza, realising her stolen passports meant a lengthy stay in Bolivia, some woman took pity on her and threw her passports back at her.

Peru is a fantastic place, but crime is a reality and you have to be on your guard. The strangling incident is not something that happens every day. Infact the police officers interrogated my two friends for hours, because it was (quote unquote) `one of the most serious and violent incidents of crime in a long time`.

My mom and I were planning to walk to Christo Blanco (white Christ) that very afternoon, but my mom was still feeling a bit strange because of the altitude adjustment, so we left it. We could very well have experienced exactly the same trauma. 
I still feel that I am Divinely guided and protected. The same day they broke into the apartment I was staying in in San Blas, some weeks ago, I happened to have been away for the weekend. I could very well have been in my room at the time of the break-in. Again, in broad daylight.

Something else happened yesterday which has sent my travel plans into a tail-spin. When I tried to draw money, I got the heart-stopping message `Insufficient Funds`. With a few days to go until I meet up with my friends in Iquitos, to embark on our Columbia travels, this feeling is something akin to despair.

Luckily my mom was still here yesterday and was able to loan me some money, after I established that I did, infact, only have $160 left in my account. Somehow, I thought my travel savings would last me longer. The reality of of my money well running dry hit hard.

Feeling a bit lost and desperate, as I don`t exactly feel ready to go back to SA yet – still too much to do and see. Will try to find a volunteering spot in Iquitos.

I do feel that the fund depletion, is a way of the Universe telling me quite explicitly that Columbia is not to be, for whatever reason. So that also gives the Bolivia plans a boot, which I was hoping would materialize at a later stage. 
Perhaps I do, after all, have more work to do in the jungle. A thought which is strangely exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Let`s see how everything unfolds in the next few days. On Monday I will be realizing a life-long dream of doing the Inca Trail trek up to Machu Picchu. The experience will be magical, everyone I have spoken to says as much.

Yesterday my mom and I spent a few frustrating hours trying to get her money back for the additional return ticket she had to buy from Cusco to Buenos Aires, all because she missed one leg of her flight, on her way in. This set her back an additional $650 and we desperately tried to get some sort of letter from LAN yesterday, so that she can try to claim something back in SA – as part of her travel insurance.

But LAN were of no help, and after explaining numerous times, they still failed to understand what it is we required. A letter. LAN is an absolute rip-off. Their tickets are totally overpriced and if you miss one leg of your flight, you have to purchase the ENTIRE ticket again. So if you ever come to South America, be forewarned. LAN is NOT the way forward.

The rest of the day was spent sorting out my passport at the immigration office. I realised my 60 day visa is coming to a rapid close, and the only way to get an additional 60 would be to cross the border. And I neither have the time nor cash to do that. So I was told that for every additional day spent in Peru I would have to pay $1. Another 30 days would thus equate to $30, which is cheaper than having to buy a ticket to cross the border, accommodation and the like.

I was also not told upon entering the country, that the little white piece of paper you receive is absolutely essential to exit. It is a form that enables you to leave the country without having to pay excessive tax. So I managed to buy another one for $8, which is not bad. Was worried that I may get locked up in Peruvian jail, because a) My visa had expired and b) I`d disposed of that precious little paper.

All good again, taking each day as it comes. The trick is to NOT get despondent when the going gets tough, even when the money well dries up. Something else will come along, of that I`m sure. And as mentioned before EVERYTHING happens for a reason. This is no cliche. With traveling I have realised that the people you meet, weave in and out of your life for VERY specific reasons and bring great realisations to the fore.

This is a fact. Life somehow becomes crystal clear through these meetings of people and places. 
Will write again a little later about the second leg of our trip in South Peru – which was magnificent! Just needed to moan a bit to get the happenings of the last few days out of my system.

With love and light from Cusco,
Janine

When my mom arrived in Lima on Wednesday morning, we set the hostel alight with our screams and caused a mini earthquake through our enthusiastic jumping. Was great to see her and have talked non-stop since her arrival.

Our two day stay in Lima was absolutely fantastic! We visited two famous museums, which my mom was dead keen on with her textile history. The one was the Largo Museum, one of the biggest collection of Pre Columbian Ceramics in South America, as well as the Gold Museum, which also contained Pre Columbian and Incan sculptures and jewellery made of solid gold. We also saw the sacrificial pieces used to offer humans to placate the gods. I found it morbidly fascinating.

On our last night in Lima we went to the fountain park, which is the most impressive array of water features I have ever seen. It boggled my mind how fountains could skyrocket several storeys into the air and dance to Tchaikovsky and Mozart. Each fountain danced amidst a plethora of colours and the biggest fountain (+-15metres long and 3 storeys high) had images superimposed on the water, with a scene out of swan lake to give you an idea. I stood there as a gobsmacked 5 year old, not being able to move from the spot. Of all the things I`ve seen so far, the fountain park really stands out in my mind. Perhaps it has something to do with me being such a water lover.

The following day we left home at 3am, to catch our bus to Paracas. Here we visited the Paracas Islands, which is untouched by humanity. We boarded a speed boat with other locals, and saw thousands of seagulls, seals and other sea mammals conglomerated on the massive boulders of rock. It was magnificent, but also because humans are not allowed to go onto the island, so there is something sacred and prehistoric about the place.
After Paracas, we visited the dusty desert town of Ica, and onto a Pisco vineyard, where we had a tour on how Pisco Sour is made. The national drink of Peru. Also tasted samples of the different Piscos, the best part of the tour 🙂 Then we headed to a local restaurant and had the region´s traditional dish of green beans with a milky spicy sauce, rice & fish. It was divine! Ofcourse we had some more pisco sour 🙂

We boarded another bus in the afternoon, which took us to Nazca. Arrived there in the evening in checked into a beautiful colonial style hotel, complete with swimming pool. Just a pity our time there was so short and we couldn`t enjoy it much. Yesterday we were collected bright & early for our tour over the Nazca lines. We boarded a small aeroplane and were able to see the 13 sand etches made by the Nazcan civilization 1000 years ago. Some of the drawings stretch to 50metres in length and can ofcourse, only be appreciated from the air. There are lines which run in perfect symmetry for 300km. There are many theories surrounding the desert drawings, the most popular being that they were created by aliens.

The most scientific explanation is that these lines and drawings were used by the ancient Nazcan civilization for agricultural and religious purposes. Felt honoured to have seen it all. Unfortunately my camera did not take the best photos and the trip we were supposed to make to the metallic tower didn`t happen.  As a result, we couldn`t get proper pictures. One of those memories that will have to stay in our photographic memory.

After the Nazca lines tour we headed into the scorching heat of the desert to see the Nazca mummies which also date back to 1000A.D. They still had their hair fully intact, which was incredibly long and swept past their feet. Their garments and textiles were also intact, and we could see the intricate designs on their hand woven cloth, which was dyed bright red, by crushing a female insect which lived on the cactii in the area. These people were so innovative, it boggles the mind.

The graves were only discovered in the latter part of the 30`s, but unfortunately grave robbers had discovered it much earlier on and looted the beautiful pottery, clothing and other pieces of historical value. The mummies were dug up from their metre deep graves and scattered across the dessert sands. Luckily some of these remained intact and one is perfectly preserved, due to the extreme climates. The graves they were buried in (metres deep) also helped to protect the mummies from the onslaught of 1000years.

After our mummy tour we headed to town, had lunch, bought some essentials for the bus and got underway on our 8hour bus journey to Arequippa, the city which is lined with white houses. We only got to bed after 1am and after the non-stop tours and buses of the past four days, we were pretty pooped. It is now close to 10am, and we still feel like death warmed up. My 2nd cup of coffee has hardly boosted my sluggish body and brain. Hopefully, after a walk around the beautiful neighbourhood we are staying, I will feel slightly more alive.

This afternoon we go on a four hour excursion to the town, visiting monasteries, churches and a museum in which the body of a little girl named Juanita is perfectly preserved. She was found in the ice and as a result all her features are still intact. If I understood correctly, this 10year old girl was sacrificed to the Gods, but will find out more later.

If I have time, will try to upload my Amazonian pics later. Only one computer with internet in the hotel, and people are impatiently queing up already.

So with that, I`ll say goodbye for now
With love from Arequippa,
Janine

The experience that changed my life
I pray that my hands are guided to write about this as clearly as possible. I went to the Hummingbird Centre (just outside Iquitos) for a 10 Day retreat, to participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies. Just to give you some background – Ayahuasca is a traditional medicine that has been used by the indigenious people of Peru for the past 3000 years. It is a visionary plant, and a purgative one at that. It is used to remove negative energies, which includes attachments to painful memories, clears cancer, depresssion and addiction (amongst others). An insightful article was published in National Geographic, which you can read about here:  National Geographic article on Ayahuasca
When I say visionary, you may think that this is some wild drug trip, where you space out and see all sorts of drug induced images. This is exactly what Ayahuasca is not. It is one of the oldest forms of physical, emotional and spiritual healing which can occur in the space of a few hours. During this time you are taken within, and this by far the most frightful thing I have ever done. Infact before each ceremony I announced loud & proud that I would be leaving the Centre and that this method of healing was just not for me.

As much as I fancied the idea of being ready for change, when it came to it, all I wanted to do was run a hundred miles per hour, in the opposite direction. Upon reflection, I feel foolish having felt this way, but when you are in the midst of it, it truly is a paralyzing fear. Now that I have overcome it, I feel I can do anything with my life.

Ayahuasca takes you to the depths of your soul, and forces you to visit your deepest fears. Once she has taken you there, you are miraculously relieved of that very issue that was blocking you in life and preventing you from moving forward. Ayahuasca strips you bare of all the negativety that keeps you trapped and connects you to a power far greater than yourself.

When I arrived at the centre, I thought the people there were a bit strange, away with the fairies. I ofcourse, was blessed to be the only `sane` one. Listening to their experiences totally blew my Western concept of God and the afterlife out of the water and I just couldn´t wrap my peanut brain around their stories. This all changed RADICALLY once my veil between the reality of this life and life on `the other side` was lifted. 
In my first ceremony I was taken to a parallel universe. I`ve subsequently heard there are many such places. 
I was surrounded by a love that stretched the corners of the universe, and filled my soul to bursting. I was part of God, and God was flowing through every part of my body. I was part of all the other souls in this place, and they were part of me.

I now realise that this construct of `seperateness` is but that, a construct. The reality is that we are all connected. God is not a being that sits on a thrown and is unreachable. He LIVES in us, he IS us. We are, in essence, spiritual beings, having a human experience. No explanation could do justice to the intensity and beauty experienced, but it is a knowing that I will carry in my heart forever.
I am not scared of dying anymore, and I am becoming aware of how important it is to live a life that aligns perfectly to who you are. There is nothing more expected of us. We are to live in perfect harmony with our truth and when we do that, our existance will be nothing short of magical.

In this universe I saw a myriad of exploding colour and sound. Sounds that are not of this world – something powerfully pure. It was during this experience that I realised that my feeling of seperateness and isolation I had felt my entire life had been an illusion. A big fat lie. Never again will I feel desperation creeping into the silence of the night. I also saw my guides hovering over my body and mattress, protecting me.
Before a ceremony one is intended to reflect on your intention. For my first ceremony I asked Ayahausca to clear me of all my blocks. When in this `other place` I physically felt streams of gunk leaving my body in long lengthy trails – from all orifices in my body. I was convinced when I´d `come to`, I would never be able to face people again, because I would be lying in a pool of my own gunk. But when I came too that wasn´t the case, and I realised this purging had taken place in the other reality.
Many people experience severe physical purging, and I was blessed that this did not pay a visit this time round. I had a serious block against it, and I think Ayahuasca was helping me to work through my other, more pressing issues.
The purging is not pleasant, nor is visiting those dark places, but when you come back you are finally free of the very things that kept you prisoner. 
I went into the second ceremony totally freaked out because of the intensity experienced in the first and the hours of agony I had to endure. So the 2nd was caught fighting my fears and despite receiving a few poignant messages, the experience was not as strong as the 1st.

My last ceremony was by far the highlight and turning point. I went in with the intention to `Show me what it is I need to know`. I woke up on a beach, at the age of 5, feeling alone and desolated. I remember calling for my dad, desperate. Night descended and still he wasn`t there. A vision that reflects the reality of my life and helped me to understand why I had always felt so insular and desolated.
Then something miraculous happened. My dad and I met in spirit form. I experienced INTENSE love and felt the tears streaming down my face. I was sending him (in energy form) the love I felt, a love that was tainted with pain. Infact it was so painful, that I begged it to stop. This feeling carried on for what felt like an eternity (but was probably a few minutes in reality), and just as soon as our bond was established, just so it was cut.

I felt Ayahausca tell me that I needed to tell him how I felt, and to show him this pain-love that had resided in the dark shadows of my soul for 27years. This was a one-way exchange from me to him. When that bond of energy between us was cut I felt him drift away and literally sighed a collapsive sigh of relief. I saw his energy drift away, and he was free. I was also free for the first time in my life.
As I was explaining after the ceremony, for 27yrs I felt that I was dragging around an invisible mammoth behind me, and the pain of this effort became so part of my psyche that it became comfortable. Breaking away from this pain was frightening, because it meant adopting a new way of being.

The shamans that perform the ceremonies are incredibly insightful and are able to read people without you having to say a word. Jungle (one of the shamans) told Tracy after my first ceremony that I was carrying around a lot of heavy, negative family energy. Shamans are able to ´see` things like this. Don`t ask me to explain, because even they are not able to.

After the experience with my dad, I was taken to my mom and felt the infinite expanse of her love for me. It was all consuming and so powerful it felt as if I could illuminate the universe with it. In return I felt my love for her, and this experience opened up my heart. I suddenly felt and realised how big my heart was, and that at my essence, I  was love. Nothing more, nothing less.
I felt the magnificence and beauty of my being. Once again it was all consuming and washed over me in waves. I wish that I was able to see myself in much the same way in real life. In the spirit world it seemed so natural and normal, it was simply part of who I was.

I am not going into the depths of all the experiences or messages, but I do hope that this gives some sort of idea of the magnitude of healing that occured. I have been told I look different. I do. I can feel it in my heart. I am free, liberated and ready to live the life I was intended to live. Free of pain, of negative self-talk, of a restrictive mind-set. Free of the prison that I had constructed around myself.

20 years of psychotherapy could not possibly equate to this experience. It totally nullifies conventional Western medicine and couch sessions. I am convinced that this is the answer. No wonder the church burned medicinal healers during the middle ages. They were trying to burn this sacred knowledge so that they could gain control of people through fear.
Our society is ruled by fear, as are we. But there is the alternative, and a totally natural one at that.

Should you be ready for change and to reach the full potential of your magnificent self, I believe this is the answer. You can read more about the centre I visited by clicking here: 
If you are serious about this you need to follow an Ayahausca diet for atleast one week before you go – which includes no oil, salt, refined sugar, meat, alcohol or sex. The longer you can maintain this prior to your experience, the better. 
I can promise you the following – the life changing results you experience will be worth every penny. If you suffer from depression, addiction or any other issue that restricts you, it can and will be lifted.

To personal freedom and unlimited potential.
It is time to set yourself free 🙂
Just a little bit about my night on the Amazon
And so it was that I found myself on the Amazon river night before last, having returned from my Ayahuasca retreat, thinking that it would be romantic to sleep in the floating restaurant´s swinging hammocks. After a night spent dancing and singing on the unsteady wooden deck with my new-found friends from the Centre, night descended, as did the onslaught of mosquitos.
We were attacked from all angles and Tabbard didn`t seem to help at all. The owner of the restaurant organised mattresses and mosquito nets for us, so that we would still resemble human beings come morning. We were full of reckless abandon, swam in the river, ate fantastic Amazonian fish and just felt high on life after our life changing Ayahauscan experience.
At 1am the  heavens opened up and torrential rains and wind ensued. The boys came up with the clever idea of using the restaurant tables as roofs. We carefully wiped the underside of the table clean of spiders and then slept happily (although cramped for style) underneath. Even though I felt disappointed in myself for having considered a night on the Amazon a romantic idea, the memory of sleeping under tables will bring a smile to my face for the rest of my days.
Moray – the circular maize which was used by the Incas to grow crops at different micro climatic temperatures (each consecutive line increases by 5 degrees)
The Girl Gang (L2R): Maja, moi, Esther and Christina

 The Salinas – Salt Flats

Hairpin bend of a road ungraciously winding it´s way down

Hillbilly poser making a comeback. Before the hike down the Sal inas

The river & bridge which led to salvation aka Ollayantambo

 Tolkien´s Ollayantambo village – in the Sacred Valley

Unfortunately these photos do not do the magnificence or size of the mountains justice
Inca ruins situated high up on the mountains
Maja eating cow´s heart on a stick. A delicatessen for 1Sole (R2.70)
Woman carrying food used to fatten up the guinea pigs (see previous entry)

 And the hike up to the Pisac Ruins

During your walk up you hear pan flutes. This was one of the pan flute playing villagers who told us about the area and ruins.

 Fluit fluit my storie is uit 🙂

Every day Peru teaches me something. For the most part it is a mixture of gratitutude and humility. Gratitude for the enormous expanse of my blessings. Humillity in terms of the stark reality of abject poverty that forms part of everyday life here.

We have it good in South Africa, we really do. Don´t let people try to convince you otherwise. We have cosy homes, where everything functions. We have food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in. We are loved by family and friends. We are abundantly blessed.

Towards the end of last year I went through a severe sorry-for-myself period. Feeling that life was unfair, that I had been dealt a raw deal at work. I was so caught up in my fantastical web of misery that I ceased to exist.
I have learnt (through the error of my ways), that we never have to feel that there is no way out. When one door closes a passage of a thousand windows open. I need to tatoo that on my forehead. It is too easy to forget when that one door slams shut.

Just a note on my posts. I have not managed to write about my last weekend, because the week was gobbled up skyping in the afternoons and organising my tour to the Amazon. A dream come true. For 12 glorious days I will be soaking up the best of Iquitos and the surrounds, at a retreat known as the Hummingbird Centre. During this time I will have no access to any electronic devices or electricity. It will be me, myself and I facing herself.

My retreat is a bit ´out there´ and on the spiritual side. Perhaps best to leave the explanation at that. Without getting into too much detail, the retreat where I will be staying specialises in Ayahausca ceremonies, which are conscious altering experiences. I don´t know how to describe it, but you basically come face-to-face with your ego, your fears, and anything in your life you may have suppressed. It is also a visionary experience, one whereby you gain insight into your life and yourself.

You come back a changed person. I have heard and read enough testimonies to nullify any lingering doubt I may have had. One of my Australian friends at the Spanish School, Nick, told me about this centre and about the Ayahausca ceremonies. I have wanted to participate in one, but was hesitant as one really needs to find the RIGHT place. The Amazon seemed like the perfect setting. I will have the honour of working with some of the best shamans in the area. The experience will not be entirely euphoric (to say the least). However it is my calling and regret will stay with me for the rest of my days if I don´t do this.

When I look back, I thought I deserved a medal for folding away all my security blankets back home. But nothing has prepared me for this life altering experience I´m about to embark on. It may sound melodramtic. It is not. There are certain things we just can´t explain in the physical world. The ayahausca experience is one of them. I need clarity in my life, about what was and well, about myself. I believe this experience will turn all those questions into statements, so that I may pursue a life of purpose and meaning.

Back home I felt like I was chasing my tail, achieving, but not the type of achievement that rings true with meaning. I hope to find it here, but I already know that just by being true to yourself, a plethora of experiences open up which bring you closer to where you need to be.

Weekend in Ollayantambo
But enough with the philosophical musings. There was a weekend past that was incredible. With three German friends we boarded the local dodgy-end of town bus and headed down to Moraz, which was the beginning of our adventure. After a bus journey spent standing the majority of the way, inbetween local Peruvian villagers, of all shapes and sizes, we arrived in one piece.

Once in Moraz, Esther (who speaks fluent Spanish) managed to organise a taxi to our two touristy stops for the day. The first being Moray, which consists of circular rings, each seperated by 5 degrees. The Incas built the Moray about 500 years ago, to experiment with growing crops at different microclimatic levels. To be honest, I did not understand the ecological geometrics behind it all, but it was a complicated and highly intelligent system that farmers today would struggle to implement.

After that walk, we headed off with the taxi to the Salinas, which are an impressive mass of salt flats, lined up for kilometers like a massacre of fallen dominos. The salt flats were created as a result of the salt found in the mountains, which were (as my friend Maja explained), created millenia ago, by ocean water that had flowed at that level.

We walked down the Salinas until we found a bridge and then a road. It started pelting down as we were heading down. Clever me had nada raincoat or cap and was saved from influenza by the generosity of my friends who loaned me all they had spare to save me from getting drenced. Once we hit the road we successfully flagged down a van that looked like it could (potentially) double up as a taxi and headed to Ollayantambo.

This little village looks like it jumped out of J.R. Tolkien´s Lord of the Rings. Ollayantambo lies in the centre of GIGANTIC mountains, which tower up into the heavens. I have never seen anything quite so spectacular.

We found a quaint little hostel and I had the first warm night´s sleep since my arrival in Peru. The next morning we woke up at the crack and took another dodgy taxi and then bus to the village of Pisac. Pisac is another tourist mecca, renowned for it´s incredible market. Here you will find garments, alpaca blankets, leather handbags, scarves, sockes and ponchos of every discribable colour. You will also find really good choclo, which is steamed corn served with feta-like cheese and a herby green sauce.

After a quick walk around the market, we headed up to the ruins in the mountain behind Pisac which Lonely Planet refers to as ´training for Machu Picchu´. That is a gross understatement. For two solid hours we climbed a 90 degrees skyward, panting for oxygen along the way. The effort was well worthwhile, having an INCREDIBLE view of Pisac and the other mountains as we crescended our way up.

Along the walk there were Inca ruins, jutting out of the unforgiving mountain. Carrying my water bottle and tiny backpack seemed like torture up that steep incline, so how exactly did the Incas manage to create temples and outposts all the way up?

We were blessed with good weather for most of the journey. Just as we rounded the last bend and ruin, the heavens opened up again. We got to the end of the hike, drenced but happy. We flagged down a taxi and made our way back to the market, where we sat down with the local villagers to a wholesome meal of lentils, veg, rice and broiled chicken. It was warm and filled all the right holes. We all suffered from troublesome tummies for 48hrs after that, but the experience was well worth it.

Maya, Ester, Christina and I felt it was an incredible weekend. Totally unplanned, winging it all the way, and somehow everything just worked out. I know I have a guardian angel that helped us to flag down the right taxi, find a great hostel and kept the rain at bay for the majority of our hike.
It is the same guardian angel that saved me from having everything stolen when our apartment was broken into last weekend. Both my flatmates were robbed of their cameras, cellphones, ipods, hundreds of soles each (Celene 400Soles, Jonas 800). My room was somehow left intact. Luckily a little voice told me to lock away my passports and credit cards in the bottom of my big hiking bag. The keys I took with me. The robber obviously did not want to draw attention to himself by making his way out with a huge padlocked hiking bag.

So I continue to keep my faith in my Guardian and Maker who is continuing to bless and look after me every step of the way. This weekend will be spent packing up my life here in Cusco (for the time being) and getting ready for my Amazonian adventure which kicks off on Wednesday night. After a 21hr bus journey to Lima, I fly out to Iquitos early Friday morning. Just hoping the past three weeks of Spanish pays off, so that I end up on the right side of town when I have to flag down a taxi to the hostel in Miraflores.

But as mentioned, I feel that I am divinely guided and protected and have faith that this journey continues in much the same vein.

From an ever colder Cusco,
xxx

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