My time in the jungle had come to a close. My growth had to occur elsewhere, and I knew that I needed to find new, raw experiences out of my comfort zone again.
But leaving was bittersweet. I now felt safe among the dense foliage that had first unsettled me. I felt embraced and lifted high by the shaman and jungle’s cocoon of energy that surrounded me in the tiny village I’d come to love. Leaving was like parting with a dear friend you know you won’t see again, but I was thankful to have spent time there.
I found myself, once again, climbing aboard a little bucket of a plane, rickety and small, and flew from Iquitos to Cuzco. From Cuzco to Machu Picchu, I watched the world pass in flurries of greens, browns, and blues aboard an old steam train. The two hour train ride was supposed to have been a two day walk along the Inca Trail, but a last minute decision was made to forgo the trail in favor of not being met with drug bandits recently terrorizing the area.
The steam train doesn’t climb the mountain where Machu Picchu resides. So, it came to a stop in Aguas Calientes, hissing as the engine seemed to release its last bit of energy. The town at the base of the mountain was a stark contrast to the huts in the jungle. The lovely eco-hotel I was staying at, Inkaterra, used to be an old tea plantation but now houses people AND 110 butterfly species in thanks to their famous orchid garden that has 372 native orchid species! There was a timeless beauty to the area, and the fragrance from the orchids that wafted on gentle breezes was something out of a fairy tale. Even now, I can remember the sights and smells, and in particular, an old Inca fable about the Hummingbird and the Orchid.
Many, many years ago, there lived an Inca King who loved his daughter, Wakanki, immensely. One day, his army returned from a war campaign bringing news of victory. In their honor, he threw an impressive awards ceremony to celebrate. The Inca Princess caught the eye of a common soldier, and he caught hers. Their love grew in secret over time, and they became closer and closer. The King found out about their love affair, though, and was enraged that a commoner would dare elicit the attention of a noble. Their love was forbidden and he was sentenced to death.
Wakanki pleaded with her father to spare his life. The King, in loving his daughter so much, spared her the broken heart death would cause and, instead, banished them both. He called on the power of Pachamama and Pacha Kamaq (Mother Earth and Father Sky) to transform them into symbols of eternal love—the princess to an orchid and the soldier to a hummingbird—so they could live together forever.
There was magic all around. In this ancient town, you could feel the power vibrate in the earth beneath your feet and buzzing in the air around you. I didn’t know it, but I was soon going to experience my personal history with the area.
(to be continued)