Today I ventured out solo on a day trip to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. I had been introduced to Caroline Putnam via a mutual friend on Facebook and wanted to hear about her experiences living and working with the Q’ero (an indigenous tribe living at over 15,000 and in one the most remote areas of the Andes) Since she is originally from Louisiana I was able to interview her without needing an interpretor.
As per the usual drill, I took a taxi from the house, it cost me more than usual since I got the tourist rate, then caught a van to valley. I sat beside the only other fair haired girl, Katrina from Germany. We instantly struck up a conversation, exchanged ideas and shared experiences on the hour long trip through the mountains. It’s always such a treat to connect with kindred spirits on my journeys and Katrine was no exception.
When we arrived in Urubamba about half the passengers got out while Katrine stayed to continue on to Ollantaytambo. I admire women who travel solo in foriegn lands, especially in countries where they don’t speak the language. I wished her well, paid the driver, then searched for a payphone to contact Caroline. The phone was out of service so I was directed to another, also not working. Three men had been watching me and when I walked toward them in hopes of being directed to a functional payphone one of them pulled a cell phone from his breast pocket and handed it to me.
Wow! I didn’t even have to struggle with trying to make myself understood in limited spanish. I made my call and minutes later Caroline pulled up on her motorcycle and handed me a helmet.
Her house was nearby and I saw my first glimpse of North and South American fusion.
Caroline has lived in Urubamba for 2 years with her partner who was from the Q’ero nation but whom she originally met in Lima. They have plans to marry soon and it will be the first mix of an outsider into the strictly closed Q’eros indigenous community. We spent several hours talking about our goals and priorities then moved from the kitchen/dining/living room to her meditation room (an outbuilding on the property) where she had invited me for a sonic healing session.
Using voice, drum, bells, rattle, smudge stick, insense and essential oils, Caroline called upon the sonic vibration and energy within and surrounding me to facilitate a healing and unification of my spirit. It was an enriching experience and I enjoyed the sensations created by her intentions. I recorded the session so will try to post a soundbite later.
When she was finished we sat quietly for a few minutes then talked about our experiences during the ceremony and gave thanks for the experience. We returned to the house where she shared a meal of vegetable soup plus avocado and salsa wrapped in seaweed with me. I gathered my notes from our earlier conversation, my camera and recording equipment then we chose the meditation room to film the interview. It was interesting to hear a North Americans’ perspective of the indeginous people of Peru, especially from someone so spiritually attuned and in a serious relationship with one of its natives.
I could easily understand her attraction to the people and the culture since I myself was falling under their spell. Her insights and perspective however, seemed to come more from a point of a local than that of a foriegner. After we finished her interview I had an opportunity to speak with her brother in law who was in the process of searching for land to relocate his family from their home in the hilltops down to the town of Urubamba. Ricardo is a Maestro (medicine man) 24 years old with 4 small children. He needed to find practical work to augment his earnings as a maestro (master)
He sat chewing coca leaves while Caroline interpreted for me.
I learned more about the coca leaves from Ricardo and Caroline. A vital part of the Indigenous culture, they help not only with problems associated with high altitude but a host of other health concerns. Plant based medicine is the primary basis of the Maestro’s arsenal of cures. The knowledge is passed down from generation to generation but there is danger in losing these traditional ways since the young people today are more interested in technologies and modern affairs.