Sacsayhuman, Cusco Travel Stories - Spiritual Initiations in Bolivia

The following story is an exerpt from "Mystically Mundane" written by my wife Ro during our trip to Bolivia and Peru in 200? with our friend Alan Leon. For more stories read Machu Picchu.


We are Alan’s second tour through Peru. We are the guinea pigs, which by the way they serve for dinner here in the Andes. Alan, a man who for years wintered in ice caves in Montana and British Columbia, is easily amused. Much of our job is to convince Alan just what creature comforts are non-negotiable to the average tourist. He really doesn’t want us to miss the train ride to Lake Titicaca It is eleven hours long, so we compromise and go tourist - meaning we will actually have our very own seats!

It starts off nicely enough. We not only have seats but a table as well. A man serves us tea and lunch. The scenery is very beautiful. We eat, we play cards, watch the wide Andean plains and peaks roll by. By the end of, say the fourth hour, it’s getting a bit old. Unlike us, who sit like stumps in our seats, Alan makes rounds. He somehow makes life long friends with everyone on the train, he visits other train cars. There are no doors connecting cars you have to swing from car to car on the outside of the train.

At each stop Alan would jump off take a quick stroll, then hop back on. Eileen, Gideon, Ron and I stay in our seats. At one stop just before the train starts, Alan rushes on, rummages through his pack, grabs his thermal mug and jumps back off the train. He is intending to purchase chicha, a traditional fermented corn beverage, sort of an Andean corn beer. The story I heard, is that to get the fermentation started, they spit into the chicha. Yum! The train starts off. People are looking out the windows. Alan! Alan! They call. We are surprised, the whole train is familiar with him on a first name basis. If we got lef, of course no one would notice. Hence, we are sitting in our seats.

Alan is nowhere to be seen. We are now about eight hours into this trip with no end in sight. We are probably less concerned than perhaps we should be, but we are having trouble remembering why we are not taking an airplane. The only answer is: Alan. As much as I might have begun to wish Alan a night in nowhere land, it’s pretty amusing when he swings aboard our car Indiana Jones style. The whole car cheers. I can only assume that my shy quiet friend of many years, has been possessed by the Andean spirit. Out of breath and disheveled, without missing a beet, Alan moves to the window, pours a few drops of chicha to ground, with the blessing, “ Pachamama!” Again the passengers cheer! Pachumama, I believe means, “To you cosmic mother,” this part the tradition of drinking chicha to give some back to the earth along with a thank you.

The last two or three hours on the train are unexpected but familiar. At the millionth or so stop in the middle of nowhere another fifty people are ushered into our car. Of course there are no seats so the isles are packed. The nice man who brought us tea and tasties has vanished without a trace. The baby hovering over us in it’s mothers arms crying I’m tied of this ride. I’m nauseous from inhaling diesel engine fumes which bow in from the engine for the past ten hours. I’m feeling close to joining the baby in it’s wails. We give the little one a banana. That makes her happy for five minutes. We give her bread, that's amusing for three minutes. Now she just cries. Eventually she falls asleep, I wish I could. 


We finally get to Puno, it’s dark, we are exhausted. I have the worst meal of our collective lives. We go to bed in a cold soulless hotel room. I dream; my dad is dead. My sister has lost the will to live. The Mafia are after us, they want information but I won’t talk. Somewhere in all of this I’m told Puno is “bad Bardo.” Get out.

I begged Alan in the morning to please, please get us out of Puno. He says that tomorrow we’ll go to Copacabana, but today we can get outside of town and visit a ruin. Alan hooks us up with a guide and stays behind in town to take care of some business.

We travel away from the beautiful lake and higher into the Andeas it’s a dirt road with desolate Mars like views. It is really hot out, there are no clouds and little atmosphere. To make matters worse, our driver does not want dust in his vehicle and he has no air conditioning. He wants the windows rolled up. We beg him at intervals to give us air. It is allocated like fresh water on a desert island. There is never enough.

He stops the van in the middle a couple of hours into the of nowhere. There are a few houses, and some tata-tatas, the terraced gardens on the steep slopes in the distance. The residents work to repair them or plant something I’m not sure. There are only the bleak high plains and some mountain peeks for as far as the eye can see. I don’t know the altitude here, I’m certain that we’re somewhere between thirteen and fourteen thousand feet. There are no trees, no bushes, but there are bits of wind blown stubby grassy things and rocks. There is seemingly no air either as our guide starts to lead us up the side of a steep incline. 

I’m guessing that part of the guide training school here is bold face lying. “It’s not far” and “ We’re almost there.” said with a straight face are obviously prerequisites to graduating. Ron and I are still sick. I’d tell you that it was a cold but the sticky green gunk oozing from my brain is more akin to alien spawn with a life of it’s own. I can’’t say that I’d ever seen anything like it or felt as horrible. Our friend Heather for some reason was worried about Ron’s health and heart before we left. Now as my lungs feel like they are going to burst, I keep looking back at Ron. Not good. He’s a creepy shade of shallow gray, but the guide says, “We’re almost there!”

We eventually arrive at the top of the mesa, the ruin here is reminiscent of a medieval castle. There are two castle like structures left standing, one square, one circular, mounds from fallen structures cover the mesa. It makes me wonder in what shapes the downed ruins were designed. Cutimbo, is the name of this place. No one tells us what that means. ( Alan later tells us it means something about "you will come back").

The structures are made of stone, rough and dark brown, I think they are volcanic. Ron walks directly over to the round castle and we all file in after him. It’s not very big but we all file in silently take a seat and drop into meditation. It’s a very cool power place. I am aware of a turquoise light flowing through, I make a note of it because most of the time energy shows up in primary colors, black or white, turquoise is not so common .

While in Meditation, Ron “sees” people over the castle doorway. A portal opens to another dimension. They invite Ron in. He must first push his hands, then his body through the stone above the doorway. As Ron begins to enter, a man appears on the right side of the doorway. This guy is sleazy. He is as dark as the others are light. He stands atop a shadowed stair case. The Seedy-One, wants Ron to first come with him. Ron is disinclined to recreate with the dark one, respectfully he asks the others if this is part of the process. They tell Ron yes and to go for it.

The dark one leads Ron down a narrow stairway descend into the earth. Part way down, Ron places his hands in hand holds. Large stones descend onto his hands flattening them into long frog like fingers. There is no pain, just curiosity. The Dark-One places Ron on a throne. He tells Ron it is all right to let go of his fear. As Ron releases his fear the throne begins to rise. It moves him out of the underworld and through the gateway.

Ron is given blue, yellow, and orange rings to wear on his right index finger. In the gateway place, his hands are once again normal. Ron is given a white ring to wear on his right thumb. These are his same two fingers that vibrated during the ceremony on Machu Picchu at the Temple of the Sun. The blue ring is for the third eye, the yellow is solar plexus, the orange he is told is to activate the second chakra.

Ron asks what his life’s purpose is. They tell Ron that he can now come and go through the stone doorway at will. That it is his job to make the hole larger, so the masses can pour through like water, without having to go through so many tedious processes.

After completing his initiation, Ron takes me to the underworld, thankfully, my hands are not smashed into frog hands, but we do sit in the thrones and in union are raised up to the gateway. While this is happening in non-liner time, back at the castle in linear land a hummingbird comes and hovers outside the doorway to check out our progress. The guide is blown away by the hummingbirds appearance. It seems that it is something of an anomaly up here. I’m a little surprised myself. We are at a fairly high altitude and there is almost nothing up here in the way of vegetation. We seem to be the main attraction. According to local shaman, the hummingbird can ascend and descend the stairways at will. Ron takes Gideon and Eileen successfully through the process. However when Ron tries to take the guide through, he’s terrified and hangs onto the side of the walls, frightened to go up or down.

The hovering hummingbird darts away and the process is done we exit the castle still in silence and start back to the trail. The guide assumes that we will want to check out the square structure but no one has any inclination, we walk passed it without interest and head back down the path. The poor guide for some reason is now afraid of us and keeps his distance. He is a friend of Alan’s and loves to read about shamanism and magic. He was enthusiastic on the way up. Now he’s currently anxious to be rid of us. It has been a long day.

We are returned without word to our dive Puno hotel. We have another awful meal. This time I order fettuccine“sin carne” without meat. The waiter brings me the fettuccine with meat. I let him know. He says it’s not meat, it is ham. I tell him that I am a vegetarian and I don’t eat ham , beef, fish or chicken. Sin Carne! No meat! He begrudgingly takes the plate away. Only to bring it back to me cold, after he has picked out the bigger chunks of meat. Very appetizing!

I make a ritual out of buying flowers. Puno should be such a beautiful city. It is on the sloping shores of Titicaca, a spectacular setting. Not surprisingly, I find the place to be as physically grim as it is energetically dense. We are a day away from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It is possible that Puno is a wonderful city and I’m just getting psychic bleed-through from the upcoming festivities. We wander the streets looking for flowers. I am as selective from whom I purchased the flowers, as which flowers I purchase. I buy calla lilies, stock, and other fragrant flowers. I purchase tons of them and a pretty glass blown vase to put them in. They make such a difference in our room and my mood. No bogeymen, no bad dreams this night. The next morning we set out for Copacabana, Mr. You-can’t-roll-down-the-windows is less than enthusiastic when I insist on traveling with my flowers.

Reed boat on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia


Copacabana is over the border in Bolivia, we get there at sunset, very beautiful. This hotel is the lightest and brightest we’ve seen. The soup at dinner is wonderful, everything is. It pours rain all night. Alan, Eileen, Ron and I have a sweet meditation in our room before they all retire to their own rooms for bed. It is the eve of Ron’s birthday. Gid takes the opportunity to spend some time alone. He’s such a good traveler, he’s energetically quantumed on this trip. It’s been such a delight to see!

Our guide says that if we dream tonight of gold it is a premonition of the island we will visit tomorrow. I have three dreams. The first, I find wonderful land that I want to buy. The land has gold which is just a further reflection of it’s beauty. I’m ready to purchase the land, when I find out that Magic Mountain is building an amusement park there. The cyclone will be on the back side of my hill. I sadly release the land.

Dream two; I have a young daughter, my sisters helped me birth her but the child is mine. My sisters ( not biological sisters) are getting possessive of the girl. They start to tell me when I should and shouldn’t have custody of her. I’m just about to tell them off when my daughter, who is maybe three, but very wise, comes to me. She tells me that she loves me and her aunts but she needs to be with other women as well. I tell her not to worry that I’ll take care of it. I know then that she is not my child even though I birthed her. I know that she belongs to all women. I hold a luncheon in her honor, I invite the aunts and women who are strangers to me, but are family to my daughter. I seat the aunts at tables away from the daughter. She is seated with the family to be welcomed at the head table. Among this group is a young girl. She and my daughter meet and become instant sisters. My sisters are not pleased.

Dream three; I plant Hopi corn in dark rich soil. I water. I am singing sweet and clear as tears of joy stream down my face.
“Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
how you suffered for your sanity,
how you tried to set them free.
But they were not listening there not listening still,
perhaps they never will...
(The words are from the song, Starry Starry Night) 

This is the sweetest most perfect dream of my life to date. The richness and fullness in my being are beyond description. I wake up more in love with Ron and our life than ever. The sun shines brilliantly through the eyelet curtains illuminating my flowers and our charming little room. The three dreams felt like an answer to Ron’s story of wanting to walk through worlds and me being attached to this dimension. It seemed like this time we will do it together.

Lake Titicaca

It’s Ron birthday, October thirty first. We take a two hour boat ride to the Island of the Sun. To do this, we have to file our itinerary with the Bolivian navy. It is all very official. 

We stop first at a beautiful spot. The three fountains. We hike up a long flight of stairs there's a light misty rain from the lake as we walk up the stairs. On either side of the stairs run small streams of water. Trees, flowers, butterflies, and beautiful birds compete for our attention. At the top, water comes out of three holes. We are told that the three fountains each have their own unique taste and that when tested were found to originate from three separate glacially fed springs. These would be from glacial peaks far, far away, as our little island is void of such things. The first fountain represents the lower world of shadow. The second represents the seen world. The third is the divine. We drink from each fountain, integrating the three as one.

We walk back down to the boat. This is a cherished place. It is a touching ritual. The beauty walking down to the lake is even more perfect then walking up to the fountains. The sun is shinning and the lake glistens below. The softest fluffiest white baby alpaca is down by the boat with a kid who is almost as cute. He wants me to pay him a dollar to get my picture taken with his pet. Such a deal, this in a country where school teachers are lucky to make eighty dollars a month. I pay the kid and have Ron take my picture. It’s worth a dollar just to hug the cloud like, fluffy thing. I can’t take home the alpaca but his photo can live on my dresser.

We travel a bit further before we arrive at another beach. We disembark and travel through a small settlement, up a hill and out to a point. There are ruins here and stories that I like. There is a big red rock outcropping which is very Sedonaesque.

The story says that this outcropping was once covered in gold....that this island was a place of ceremony and initiation...that pumas lived here, and were the guardians of the isle. If one's intent was pure, they let you pass. It is also said that the puma would lay on the sun warmed gold plated rocks to get warm. I like the picture that that brings to mind. Every cat deserves a gold plated rock with a view to luxuriate and look out over the Lake. 
Island of the Sun

We wander the area, we sit on the big red rock; the Spaniards stole the gold. Bummer! We take Ron to do a birthday ceremony. Behind the natural rock outcropping, in an open space, is a white granite rock. It is square and has black veins running through it. It clearly came from someplace other than this island. Ron is placed on the rock. Gideon moves away. Gid has a natural inclination to avoid that which he is not ready for. Alan, Eileen, the guide and I form a medicine wheel around Ron. My place is clearly on a down slope between Ron and the lake. Although Alan officiated the ceremony, not far into it from my point of view, they all disappear. Ron and I go way out. I do not again became aware of them until sometime later when they become restless.

Lake Titicaca

Ron's Story

“That was a beautiful day. The Three Fountains stand out and petting the baby alpaca. Even in memory I hesitate to return to the ceremony at the rock. My mind would prefer the beauty of the Fountains and sweetness of the fluffy little alpaca.”

"Okay.... It is my birthday, this ceremony is for me. There is a reluctance to surrender to this space. An old fear lives here. I am angry that the masculine is not being held as it should. I’ve done this before. It’s my birthday in another time.... they come for me. They scare me. They are coarse and rough, I know that it doesn’t have to be like this. I don’t want to go with them. I don’t like how they use the energy. I don’t like how they use power. I look to my mother. She is a woman of power. She is a priestess, politically she does not compromise but neither does she fight. She does not need to. She is a gentle undeniable power. She allows the men to take me.”

“It is my destiny to hold the energy. They come for me, they take me to teach me to be a man, as is their destiny. Yet I already know more than they. They know that I know but they hope that I don’t know consciously what I know instinctively. They hope to be able to control me. The men, and their dark warrior mentality serve me well. They stand to one side, they protect me from the low realms. The women stand to the lake side, they open the doors.” 

“The politics of the times are sickening. My beloved and powerful young sister died early. I believe my older sister killed her. My mothers power would have gone to the younger girl child by right of consciousness. This is a transitional time, fewer and fewer can move through the doorways. Soon they will close completely. I will stay on this side.”

“Now a different time. The doorways are closed. Stupid stupid people. They use the rock to hurt others, children, sacrifice. Tears and sadness sweep through that corridor and hurt my heart. How can they be so stupid?”

"I leave that time as there is nothing for me there.”

“I see the Isle of the Sun, the rock on witch I sit. The past and present merge, then part. This island is a land between light and dark. When in balance, the doorway opens. Endlessly weary. Weary of the stupidity, weary of the sadness. On the other side of the doorway I hear laughter, light and clear. Someday, my time will come. Someday I’ll be on the other side; back to the sound of laughter. I open my eyes to see Ro, the lake, the Andean peaks.

More Stories: Machu Picchu

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