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Peaceful Sacred Valley


After the Cusco debacle, it was nice to enter into serenity by way of The Sacred Valley.


Among other things, the Sacred Valley is a place of transformation. It knits the deserts of Lima and Cusco to the forests that preview the Amazon Rainforest. It embraces Christianity while holding fast to ancient Inca ways in equal measure. It is the path to the most scared of Inca sites, Machu Picchu. The Scared Valley has a code of living that is simple, sacred and embedded in community. But it can also be a place for transformation of perspective if allowed to occur. Where I saw poverty, they saw simplicity. Where I saw hardship, they saw opportunity to live closer to Pachamama or Mother Earth. A number of thoughts I had about the area were less than accurate.


 Example. Much to my dismay…there are no wild llamas and alpacas bounding among the spire-like peaks that bordered the valley as I expected. There was lots of whitewater, some forests but nothing running through the woods- though we saw a really cool Motmot (a colorful bird with a long tail) that I spotted. Well. Ok. I didn’t spot it, my sister did but I am still claiming a percentage of the find because I asked her if she could see anything out the train window.


It’s a slow train. One hour and forty-five minutes to travel 53 kilometers. Not that we were in a hurry. And it had complimentary snacks! I’m all about snacks. Coffee, ‘coca’ tea, pound cake! (It does beg the question of why one can get really nice snacks on a train whose ride is less than two hours and the ticket costs roughly $110.00 and one can spend $650.00 on a four hour plane ride and they can’t seem to pry a bag of pretzels out of the galley. And don’t even bother asking for a ‘bottle’ of water. They can’t do that, ‘then everyone would want one.’ And wouldn’t THAT be a disaster?)  I digress. Back to the valley of happier thoughts.


Carlos was our guide and he was raised in the town of Ollantaytambo and he famously said to our group when asked about the little town, ‘We don’t need money so much. We barter with potatoes and corn for other things someone else might have like meat from a cow. A little money is needed is true for maybe sugar, things like that. But mostly bartering. It is a good way. It is a way to make sure everyone in the community has what they need.”


Simplicity. Keeping your hands in and on the Earth.  Supporting your community.


The Scared Valley was designed, by way of the Inca Trail, to allow one to meet hardship and beauty in preparation of the mind, body and spirit for the deservedness to enter Machu Picchu.


Well, we took the train, the shortcut. Typical. Hopefully we will have been purified enough not to turn to ash once we get there.


I guess we will find out.   


A Guy Named Paul in Cusco


It was a wonderful night in Cusco, Peru. Nice dinner. Nice Wine. Good Hotel. Soft beds.


I was having a wonderful dream which I can’t remember except that someone was calling to me. Gently. Softly. Then suddenly with more urgency. I was thinking, in my dream, ‘Why are you so upset? Relax…’




I got annoyed with this person in my dream until I discovered I was awake and it was my sister Laureen calling me out of a blissful sleep.


“My heart rate is 138.”


“No it isn’t, it can’t be…you’re resting in bed. Your Fitbit is nuts…”


So she tells me how it has been going steadily up every time she lies down and she feels ‘funny’.  Ok. That was wrong, I admit it. She didn’t look good either so maybe she was right, Fitbit or not.


We tried the usual array of cures, including calling the desk for oxygen. They brought it up (they seemed like this was pretty much standard procedure), showed us how to work it, told her to use it for 5 minutes, then call them to pick it up and left.


And then we ran out of O² after three breaths.


Yup. The tank was empty so we called for another. They brought a new tank, equally short lived and now it is 1:00am and she is not doing any better so I quite screwing around and called the front desk to send a doctor. The desk guy called back, said he found a doctor but –


‘Do you have money?’ What? OK. Everybody has to make a living.


Yes I say, I have a card too but he says ‘No-no! Must be cash’ and I tell him I have cash, cards, passports…Just send the DOCTOR! (Apparently I become irritable in the middle of the night.)


An hour later there is a knock on the door (now it is 2:30am).


‘Hi, I’m Paul.’ Well who the hell is ‘Paul’? I don’t want Paul! I want a DOCTOR. I want Dr. Somebody! I don’t need a Paul! I can find a Paul anywhere! (I did not say this out loud, because, you know, he might be the only Paul available in the middle of the night in Cusco.)


Despite my misgivings as to his alleged medical license, I let him in the room. After a quick exam, Paul wrote some prescriptions, collected his 200 soles in cash and left. I called the front desk once again to find a 24 hour pharmacy and they said they would look and call when they found one. In the meantime, Laureen propped herself up in bed in the sitting position, sucking on O² and looking pretty miserable with her heart rate dancing all over. So, no, I’m not sleeping either but I am getting greatly annoyed and vexed, which gathered in clouds as the minutes ticked by until they reached hurricane proportions by 4:00am when I marched down to the desk to find out what was taking so long.


Magically, they found a 24 hour pharmacy while I was standing there sucking on my fourth cup of coffee from the breakfast buffet (opens early) because what you want to do in times of stress is slam down so much caffeine you are practically slobbering when you speak to the front desk people who do not really, REALLY understand how close you are to jumping over the desk and committing hari-kari upon them.


I slurped more coffee as I waited while they drew me a map and I went in search of the all night pharmacy on foot.


 But it was closed.


I know! I couldn’t believe it either! I muttered something unsavory concerning the staff of the hotel – and the pharmacy –while I  walked back to the hotel, deciding how I should inflict some pain on the desk people when our very lovely tour guide showed up (called by Laureen). She calmed the waters a bit and then took me to the REAL 24 hour drugstore.  


Several hours and three drugs later Laureen felt a lot better, so we took the train to the Sacred Valley (which is next up time in the my blog) and beat a hasty retreat out of the nutsy altitude of Cusco. We only had to return one more time to make our connection to the Amazon Rainforest near the end of our trip. But, we had drugs from ‘Paul’ and would only be staying there a few hours overnight so a week later upon our return, we had expectations of a good night’s sleep, the former altitude problem erased from our minds when I heard a tiny whisper from the bed next to me, just as I was going to drift off.


‘I have some bad news for you….’ 


I knew there was something off about that darn ‘Paul’!