A two hour drive to San Francisco, a flight to Mexico City, a overnight flight to Lima and a morning flight to Cusco and an hour and half drive into the magic of the Sacred Valley—and we’re here!

Today is a day of rest and getting acquainted with this retreat center. Tomorrow Brenda, our True Nature Guide arrives so we can get to know each other and plan the next couple of weeks. Before she gets here, in the morning, Karyn and I are going to have a sound healing therapy session with Gonzalo, Go for short, one of the managers here, who gave us our initial tour of Sach’a Munay. Go just happens to also be a sound healing therapist and I’m such an auditory person I thought, why not?

My favorite masseuse at home, my friend Evelyn Hall, has gongs out in her yurt and at the end of her sessions, she often gongs me and I love it. A whole hour or that? Yummy.

Whatever I can do to get grounded and relaxed in the next few days is exactly what’s called for.

There’s a great walk up to a waterfall—maybe tomorrow—but today, the altitude has me out of breath just walking up five or six steps to our bedroom. Rest, not hiking, is on the agenda for today. Probably tomorrow too.

But I did I want to take a few minutes to backtrack and bring you with me on journey south to Peru and to share some highlights of our arrival today.

I love when you travel on ever smaller planes to go somewhere, how the final flight is often full of local people—and so it was today—on our flight from Lima to Cusco, lots of Peruvians out working or visiting relatives—their jet black hair and pecan colored skin. English was definitely the minority language on that flight—there was lots of Spanish and some of the local language, Quechua, too. In fact, the first time I really heard it was when they announced that our bags would be on carousel 3—in English, Spanish and Quechua.

I always travel with cards. And my favorite travel game is 500 Rummy. Though I have some great solitaire games when I’m alone.

First leg completed. Mexico City.

No toilet paper in the toilet anymore. Can only.

This is me sleeping all the way from Mexico City to Lima: travel pillow, warm socks, warm layers, .5 of Ativan, ear plugs and an eye shade. Works like a charm. It helped that Karyn gave me the window seat.

Yeah! We made it!

The rest of the world is so much more civilized than we are. This is a way station for nursing mothers.

My first meal in Peru. A yummy chicken soup at the Lima airport. Pure comfort.

But they were selling this crap to children and passing it off as a healthy yogurt parfait!


But before we hit the baggage claim, a whole series of ads hit us over the head, like this one for Sorojchi Pills, a medicine preventing altitude sickness See the guy in the red shirt throwing up in the bottom right corner? Don’t let it be you! Take Sorojchi Pills!

And here are models showing off the artistry of the local weavers. I kind of like the sweater on the woman squatting on the left.

There are guides available to take you everywhere. And from the luggage on the rack, it was obvious there were a lot of people here for adventure travel—people in hiking clothes and lots of high end labels on their jackets and backpacks.

But we had a driver picking us up. He didn’t speak English, more than a few words and we didn’t speak Spanish, so it was a pretty quiet journey, but a beautiful one. The road was windy and passed through many small towns. We were taking everyone’s advice—zipping from 11,000 feet at the airport to 8,000 feet at Sach’a Munay. We’ll all aclimate here before heading UP to Machu Picchu and eventually back to Cusco.

Cusco was full of the smell of diesel. There were red tile roofs everywhere. We drove right through the used car market and what must be the automotive section of town. There were car shops on either side of the street, young guys standing in doorways staring at their cell phone—now a ubiquitious world phenomenon. Some of the walls were covered with grafitti and the paint was peeling away, the adobe crumbling. Others had new coats of whitewash. Almost everything was made of homemade bricks and these bricks were piled up everywhere. Here and there, a madre would be selling sodas by the side of the road—brightly colored bottles in stacks. Walls were bright yellow, orange, adobe, brick and white. We drove up and down small streets filled with pizza shops, banks, an orthodontist, a bakery, internet cafes. Signs advertised “Jugo” for juice and Ceviche. The whole city felt like a blend of old world and new—modern new construction and buildings falling into ruin. Men at a construction site lifted huge rocks and set them in plce. A little girl wrapped in a striped cloth rested comfortably on her mother’s back. Large piles of sand and gravel and rock edged the road.

Finally, we left Cusco and drove past the ruins of Saksaywaman and headed out on a more open road that wound through the countryside, passing through many small towns along the way. Here’s what some of the buildings looked like. I’ve never seen so many kinds of brick in so many different states of evolution. The next pictures will show some samples of the brick work and architecture.

Houses perched high up on hillsides requiring very steep paths or rugged steps cut up to reach them. Piles of brown adobe bricks sat in pallets. One scrawny unkempt dog stood by the edge of the road. A woman and our daughter worked a field of corn to our right. An old woman tended her sheep. Keiko for President painted on a wall in bold block letters. A restaurant on our left sported two plastic llama lawn ornaments. Another advertised grilled fish and Pisco Sours, but mostly we drove past beautifully terraced mountains.

Our driver stopped at the viewpoint where we got our first good glance at the Sacred Valley. As we stood there, I said a little prayer to the mountains, “Please bless our journey and bless the journey of all the travelers coming our way. Bless our retreat and reveal your beauty and your wisdom to us.” Then we took a picture and were off again.

When we entered Pisac, we were greeted by a huge brown sign, VISA welcomes you to Pisac. Really, I’m not making this up. I wonder what they paid the local chamber of commerce for that large permanent advertisement. Sorry we were driving too fast for me to take a shot of it.

We crossed an orange bridge over the Willkanuta River and our driver put on music from the jungle of Peru. Flutes accompanied us through the small city. Soon we were passing fields of potato and corn. A cow grazed on garbage by the side of the road. 

Here’s some of what we drove by:

We passed Pisac and steadily wound downhill. At the entrance of the town of Lamay—and at several other points in town—were giant statues of guinea pigs, looking like something off a Disney lot. They’re considered a delicacy around here and I promise I’ll report back if I get brave enough to eat one.

But for now, it’s time to finish up this very long post and put on another layer. The temperature drops quickly in the mountains!

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