Travel Blog 2015/2016. Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, South Africa, England,Thailand, Cambodia
Minca, Magdalena Department, Colombia Thursday, May 21, 2015
Never before have i felt such anguish in leaving a place. I had been experiencing pre-partum depression for some time, and on my last full day in San Marcos I was on the brink of tears, and shed a few when saying good bye to people who had become a part of my life, my experience. I had indeed found a home in a picture-perfect world and a community of like minded souls. Why was I leaving? People had been asking me this, and I'd answered: "To find out if this is a home or a trap." Not only had I heard too many stories by locals that they had been on their way to South America 15 years ago, but had not left the lake since arriving there. I could see they were trapped. This is what happens in a vortex. It traps you. It sucks you in. Escaping a vortex is not a simple matter. Even leaving the lake for a weekend at the nearby hot springs in Xela seemed a feat, a task. I had a lot of fear. Is it safe out there? Would I survive outside of the San Marcos bubble? The friendly, kind and supportive environment that had been nurturing my being, my work, my growth, my creativity, my musical expression, my songs and laughter. Yes, I was being called to "the next level", but I was more fearful than ever before. The comfort zone was super comfortable. I knew, and I know, San Marcos is not going anywhere. I can return to the lake when I have answered this call from the high Andes. This call I have been hearing for almost 30 years. I was 23 when I had made the decision that I wanted to visit the Andes region that was purported to be the focus for the new planetary consciousness. 2000 years ago it moved from Jerusalem to Glastonbury. Now it was moving to South America. I was also feeling that my present cycle at the lake was complete, and that what awaited me in Peru was a cycle of personal healing and activation, in effect the next evolutionary step to higher consciousness. Lake Atitlan and San Marcos had been a place of tremendous consolidation for me. I had felt that my whole life had been a preparation for my time there. I was uniquely qualified to start teaching and sharing after half a life-time spent in persuing self knowledge and gaining skills in the healing arts. Learning to teach, and teaching to learn, I was surrounded by students of life who were eager to learn what I had to teach. For the 11 months that I was there, I hardly had a week free inbetween offering courses in Thai Massage, Chinese Abodominal Massage, Reiki and Energy Medicine. I was teaching 2 or 3 yoga classes a week, and regularly gave one day or half day workshops in tantra or holotropic breahtwork, and hosting monthly full moon ecstatic dances. The Lake afforded me amazing amounts of energy, and was a hub, a meeting place for students and teachers, yogis, healers, psychics and side-kicks, gurus, masters and shamans, psuedo and authentic, seekers and finders of every kind. I left the lake with a gang. There were seven of us, and we walked the earth with the powers that Atitlan had vested in us. We had love, light and laughter as our constant companions. We brought it with us and spread it gently over the land. First stop was Semuc Champey. Coming from Africa, I am used to the beauty of nature; mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and forests surround my home in the Garden Route, on the Southern Coast of South Africa. I am not one of those travellers that seek out the stunning nature spots that so many travelers and tourists are focused on. I am more interested in people and consciousness, places of learning and knowledge, putting together the pieces of the puzzle held by the different cultures of the world. However, over the next two weeks, i was awed and humbled by the beauty and ambience of the pools and waterfalls at Semuc Champey, the natural hot spring waterfall at Rio Dulce, and the natural hot spring pools near the ancient Mayan ruins at Copan in Honduras. The pyramid complexes at Tikal and Copan afforded further insight into the ancient Mayas. Tikal was especially powerful. We held ceremonies and activations and received and downloaded those ancient alignments and harmonies. Slowly our group started to disintegrate. Meggie, the French Canadien, Charita's friend who had been living with us at Ananda for a month, lost her heart to the magic of Tikal, and stayed there when the rest of us left for Rio Dulce. At Rio Dulce our little group split into two; Sparrow, Hannah and Charita went back to the lake, and Cody, Priscilla and I went on to Honduras and Copan. Another magical being, Adriana, our Rio Dulce connection, whom I had met at the lake a few moths earlier, joined us, and later also drove us back to Guatemala City for us to catch the bus south to Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. THE PLAN: Ometepe Island, Costa Rica, Panama, boat to Colombia. The final cruel ripping apart of the remaining gang, and the plan, happened at the San Salvador border, where they wouldn't let me in due to irregularities in my Guatemala visa renewals. The firsr renewal was done, via an agency in Panajachel, at the immigration office in the city, but the following renewals are supposed to happen my leaving the country, and getting a new visa on re-entry. The agency I'd been using had only been getting the Guatemalan border stamps and not the Mexican stamps. My passport showed that I had not acctually left the country. As I was unceremoniously ejected from the bus with my luggage, under instruction to go to Mexico, then return, I had the distinct feeling of higher forces intervening in my destiny. Even the higher forces of my own intent. For a few days I had been voicing my feeling of wanting to fly straight to Peru. My body seemed to register this voiced intent as I spoke them. I remember thinking and feeling the power of those words. Waiting for the bus back to Guate City, I realized that I should probably just fly directly to South America. Here I am now in Colombia. I had a look at tickets to Peru as well, but still kept to some of the original plan, which was to travel through Colombia and Ecuador before reaching Peru. I also knew I had some friends from San Marcos here in Colombian, so that helped me make up my mind. After two days in Bogota, I spent a week on the coast near the city of Santa Marta, in a little seaside village called Palomino. There I met up with Dharana, Francisco, Sophia, Ben, Stephan and Pascale, all people I had met in San Marcos. Met some of the local indigenous Kogis and lived in a very cool hostel, Casa Simon, with mostly South American travelers. Then for the last 10 days I've been in Minca, another small town, up in the deeply forested hills above Santa Marta. These few weeks of resting, relaxing, being at the beach and walking in the forest, have afforded me time to sit back and ponder and feel my way into a deeper understanding of this process called intuition. Listening to the inner voice, as apposed to the left brain rational planning. My great powerful and analytical mind, and determination to forge ahead with good ideas, tempered and enhanced by my intuitive "following my bliss", has served me well, I believe. However I feel that it is time to rely more on the inner voice as we head into further uncharted territories of the soul. After 3 weeks in Colombia, I have just booked my ticket to Peru for next week. (Wow, cheap tickets in and around and out of Colombia). Of course there is magic and miracles here in Colombia, and a vast country and culture that needs to be explored. Changing my plans, I am following my inner voice, my heart. My goal is Peru. Le's go straight there. The other part of Colombia I want to visit, San Augustine, is in the southern jungles and I could return there via the Amazon region of Peru and Ecuador. I have seen the relaxed carefree attitude of the Colombians, and although I have not been salsa and cumbia dancing with the Colombian women, which was my plan, I know my path is leading me away from these distractions. There is some work ahead for me. Some soul searching, some soul retrieval. Everywhere I go, there I am. There God is. If God is the light in which I see, if God is the mind with which I think, why am I still pursuing the next destination? Why do I believe that there is something out there for me to gain, to achieve? When will I find the extra-ordinary in the ordinary? I suppose in this journey of healing, of the self and the planet - the human condition, seeking out the pressure points, the meridians, the trigger points on the planetary grid is part of the process. As I have been teaching my students, good health is when energy is flowing. For our own healing we need to be in areas where the energy flows. When our own energy is flowing, we can seek out the areas where we can help, where we can facilitate the release of old stuck patterns. Everywhere we go, wherever we travel, we are tapping into this planetary grid. Without being aware of it we might be facilitating changes purely by being present, being and having new information that changes old systems. Carrying the new frequencies, holding the new vibration, resonance and harmonics of the next evolutionary leap. Aho
Standing in line with mostly Peruvians at the low cost airline Viva Colombia's check in counter, I started feeling it. There was something different about these people, there was going to be something different about Peru. Not having seen that much of Colombia, I took full advantage of my window seat on the flight, and feasted my eyes over the lush green mountain ridges and rural valleys south of Bogota, truly a beautiful country, and already I am planning my route back to Guatemala via Ecuador through the Putumayo jungles of South Western Colombia, and the 3000 year old ruins near the town of San Augustine, also known to have a small conscious community, apparently all living by the Mayan calendar. Indeed, I am choosing my routes according to ancient sites, power points and conscious communities - communities living by new standards of awareness, openess, shared spiritual values, and the goal of higher consciousness. I am seeking out places of healing and creativity, and energetic vortices. My first site of the High Andes, and specifically the snow capped Apus, the highest peaks, known by name, as gods, entities divine, guardians of Pachamama, brought tears to my eyes, my heart leaping out over the serene, remote and virtually inaccessable landscape. Then amazed by the small villages dotted around the valleys and ridges of the mountains surrounding the apus. How do these people live, so high, in such seeming barren surroundings? Having spent a sleepless night at the airport in Bogota to catch these really cheap flights from Santa Marta and on to Lima, and not wanting to spend the next 22 hours in a bus, I have already booked my flight from Lima to Cusco, and after wondering around the airport and catching up on some audio lectures by Caroline Myss (Anatomy of Spirit), my awed wonder at the Peruvian mountainous landscapes continue, my face glued to the plane's window, eventually arriving in the basin that is Cusco, the erstwhile capitol of the Inca kingdom. The fresh mountain air and slightly closed in chest and shortness of breath of high altitude are immediately apparent on leaving the airplane cabin. After a bit of haggling I get a taxi to the bus terminal that serves the Sacred Valley, and I'm off, packed in with Quecha speaking locals, climbing first even higher out of the valley of Cusco, past visible Inca ruins, and then about 40 minutes later, down into Pisac, one of the towns at the higher end of the Sacred Valley, known for it's congregation of mystic shaman wannabees, medicine masters, ayuasca tourists, and travellers seeking the paths of awakening, some just passing through, and some who end up staying for months, or years. Like San Marcos La Laguna in Guatemala, this is a town on the circuit of the spiritual traveller, and a community of healers and those seeking healing. The focus here is largely work with the soul plants, the medicines of ayuasca (a brew containing DMT, made of a jungle vine and leaves from a shrub), and huachuma (San Pedro cactus containing mescaline and many other alchaloids), mixed in with some adventure tourism, hiking and of course the Inka Trail that leads to the Shangri La of the Andes, Macchu Picchu. They are both ancient folk medicines, used ceremonially to align your spirit and soul, and divine causes of illnesses. Additionally they are both purgatives and known to eliminate parasites and intestinal worms, common in especially the jungle regions. I had joined two facebook pages that serve the gringo community and travelers to Pisac, and had been directed to Hospedaje Inti, two blocks from the central plaza and market, convenient, cheap, clean and well equipped and very well managed by a wonderful Peruvian man called Andres and his family, and home to the expected set of intrepid travellers. The next day I seek out my friend Drew, who I had met in San Marcos, or actually at the Cosmic Convergence festival at the lake, where he had pushed me over the edge into a deep release of surrendered tears with his golden voice, singing medicine songs around the fire after the opening ceremony by the Tatas of Atitlan. Drew was my connection to the scene in Pisac, and I very soon met lots of persons of interest. I also went with him to the full moon ayuasca ceremony led by Diego, one of the leading ayuascueras in Pisac, in a large temple, with 60 participants. Music plays a central part to most ayuasca ceremonies. My first was back in South Africa, at the Blue Hippo farm/sanctuary, with a young shaman from the jungles of Brazil, and guided by his incredible songs, many in his indigenous forest language, in strange little melodies that have stayed with me for years. Diego's ceremony is also guided and accompanied by the most wonderful group of musicians, and is opened up later to contributions by participants, who share their own songs and music. I had set my intention for the ceremony. Apart from personal healing, specifically my heart, I wanted to get some insight into how I might be of use to this community and how it may be of use to me. What am i here for? Within 15 minutes of ingesting the potion, I was experiencing the effects, and gradually the need to purge became stronger,(everyone has a small bucket), but apart from a small amount of mucousy saliva, nothing much came out, (I had fasted since breakfast). Then a trip to the bathroom for a liquidy bowel evacuation, during which the full extent of the psychedelic visual special effects came on. Everything I could see in the stall, including my incredibly beautiful hands and clothing was shining in geometrically patterned colours. Tripping balls, I made my way back to my place in the temple hall, a round space in three tiers with a lowered central circle, Diego, his wife Milagros and the main musicians surrounding him, and other people who have journeyed before, in the central tier. The ceremony, taking place in darkness and noble silence when not interspersed with music, was dimly lit by some ambient moonlight coming through the windows and the skylight in the high crown of the temple roof. I found my way to my spot really not sure what I was seeing in front of me. I then went through probably 15 minutes of pretty intense physical discomfort, skin itching, and strong visual hallucinations, mostly moving geometric designs. I had to lie down, even though Diego had warned that lying down makes it stronger! The initial discomfort of a strong medicine making it's transformative and cleansing way through all the doorways of the bodymind passed, and I sat up into the cross-legged position in which I spent the rest of the night. Another urge to purge came up, but after a dry heave I knew there was nothing more going to come out and settled into the journey, opening my heart and mind to receive and transmit that which was flowing through me, the messages and meaning of the entangled universe, the interconnected luminous filaments of consciousness, thought, spirit, emotion and feeling, the subtle and profound essence of existence in this multi-dimensional, layer cake of a calm but intense party, a participation, and a celebration of our blissful joys, and the opening of doorways into our deepest fears and highest hopes. And the plant spirit, as Diego said, like a loving grandmother, that guides, informs, teaches, and occasionally might spank us. The mind of Gaia, the matrix of the planet, the mental universe, the mind of God - as Einstein called it, the quantum field, the very essence of life, in direct communication with us, our brains designed to receive these plant alkaloids and compounds, these links, these messages, this oneness, this Holy Spirit that is in All. A trigger, a catylist, a healer, a helper, a doorway into the divine, into the Self. That was on the full moon 2 weeks ago. I have been settling in, getting used to the cold nights, mostly hot and bright sunshine by day, and high altitude. Went on a hike a week ago with Drew and Amandine, above the Inca ruins at Tipon. At the top of our climb we were overlooking Cusco in the distance, so we must have been nearly 4000m up. I sensed the beginnings of a headache and nousea that is altitude sickess, and we stayed at that elevation for a while, the symptoms departed as soon as we dropped 30 meters on our way down. I have also been looking for a home, knowing that I will be here for a month or three. During the ayuasca ceremony I had received some insight into my potential role in the Pisac community - helping people to integrate and assimilate their experiences with the medicine plants and sharing my own knowledge and experience of altered states and hightened awareness. For the last week I have been having the most intense dreams, consistently experiencing moments of being aware of dreaming. Few goals I have, this being one of them - waking up in the dream. Every night as I put my head on the pillow I am exited to see what will happen next. Even this by itself, indicates that these mountains, this place, is opening up new doorways into my own consciousness. Yesterday morning I set off at 4.15 to climb the mountain behind Pisac to the Inka ruins that overlooks this part of the valley. Arriving at sunrise, I had the entire complex all to myself, except for a wonderful being in a dog body who showed up and met me outside the temple doorway. He seemed to be his own boss and had taken himself for a walk up the mountain. Probably an incarnation of one of the Incas. He jumped on me when we met, embracing me,(he might have been the "stray" who sneaked into Ulrike's restaurant last night and lay by my feet), he then followed me around the ruins, and was totally all over me when I started playing my flute, making sounds, licking and nibbling me. Wondering about the passages of homes and temples, so harmoniously designed, and along the mountain ridges, gazing out over the nearby valleys and far-away peaks of the high Andes, I felt totally at home. Wherever I go there God is, there I AM. The Divine is merely waiting for us to turn towards it, to change our minds from separation to unity. Feeling blessed with health, freedom, abundance and infinite possibilities. Love created me like Itself. I am the way, and the light. We are the way, and the light. Your burden is light. Let is shine, brightly scintillating colors of chakra light, blending down to the core and into the spiral galaxies.
Isla del Sol, Bolivia Sunday, June 28, 2015
For several days, we'd been entertained by playful pigs and cows, donkeys and sheep that occasionally amble down the hill to drink from the lake, to wallow or graze the weeds in the shallows. On the fourth day of our stay in La Casa de la Sirena, (House of the Mermaid), I was overjoyed to see first one, then a few more llamas making their way down to the water. Life on the north side of the Island of the Sun was serene. The landscape barren, rocky, but the expanse of water and the unforgettable light in the open blue sky was loaded with an ineffable charge. The energy and atmosphere incomparable to anything I have experienced before. Certainly one of the best locations for BEING I had ever been to. Contentment. Lightness. Angela, my companion for this little excursion, a pilgrimage, from the Sacred Valley to Lake Titikaka, and I, had stumbled upon this amazing house on this incredible beach on the north side of the Island of the Sun, on the Bolivian side of the lake. Owned by a local family, and rented out to travelers, it had no electricity, but it's own spring, and the best hot shower I'd had for months - solar powered, and the best view one could imagine of the lake from both the loft bedroom and the downstairs living/bedroom. We'd taken the ferry from the south side of the island after being there for two days for the new year celebrations. In Bolivia, they celebrate new year on the winter solstice, and on the morning of the 21st of June, we'd made our way in pitch darkness to the highest point on the southern end of the island to be blessed by the first rays of the sun as it rose in it's new lengthening cycle. Us and the entire indigenous population of the island and visiting shamans and musicians and dancers. They know how to party, it was indeed a celebration. A sacred fire was lit at the very first lightening on the eastern horizon by a small group of medicine men and woman, and fed by offerings of flowers, herbs and other gifts from many assembled devotees. As the sky lightened one of them started speaking to the entire gathering in the local Aymara language, and some Spanish, welcoming the new year, asking for blessings from the Divine Sun, and as the light was about to break over the distant high snowy peaks of the Bolivian Andes, he invited everybody to stretch out their hands to receive the first rays. Once the sun had cleared the skyline, everyone turned to their neighbours and hugs and well wishes were exchanged. What followed was a joyful exuberance of traditional Andean music and dance. Many groups of drummers and flute players, and singers and dancers were all breaking out into their own unique and distinct styles, and spread out over the summit of the hill, celebrating the passage of the sun towards the summer months. A warm delicious sweet fruity drink and sweet breads were available from women, all dressed traditionally, and with the ubiquitous bowler or top hats. Men, of course, in macho cowboy style hats. That entire day one could hear the flutes, drums and singing in the distance from almost anywhere. We made our way down to a quiet little rocky beach to meditate and perform our own private ceremonies, and I had a cleansing dip in the icy waters. All the restaurants were closed, the entire local population spent the whole day on the hillside celebrating, tourists and travellers left to their own devices. After the busy, more touristy and developed south of the island, we spent four nights in the quiet paradise of the north. I had what felt like the first true, deep, rest, after my busy year of teaching and hosting workshops in Guatemala. I entered into a deeper understanding of my past, present and future, to my extended family, still living and passed, and to my fellow beings, children of God, all and one. Further insights into the collective overcoming of old grievances - my continued journey into the human condition once again pursuing answers to the questions: how do we forgive and move forward. How can we placate the spirits of the past. How can we bring forgiveness and light into the present, when so much injustice was committed? The teachings of the Heart - believing in a new and sublime higher order of justice - not a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, but knowledge of divine perfection, knowing that all that comes to pass, leads us towards this place. Awakening to inherent perfection of creation. No guilt, no blame, no loss or gain. Beyond this seeming separation, all is one. We took a tour bus back to Cusco from Puno, the Peruvian city on the lake, stopping at several Inca and pre-Inca sites. Ancient ways, not so wholesome, some of them, statues of human sacrifice and men devouring infants! So many cultures and civilizations preceded the Incas, who only had a short, but very successful consolidation of their empire, which encompassed a vast area from Chile to Ecuador, before the Spanish arrived. The Incas seemed to be great administrators and agriculturists. Their Inca trail zig-zagged across the territory with approximately 30 to 40 thousand miles of paved road. And everywhere you look, up on the mountain slopes, one sees agricultural terraces, some ancient and out of use, but many still tilled and productive. Bountiful harvests, storage and trade, and a big army, was the power behind the Incas. We stopped at the remains of a large temple complex, with a deluxe housing estate for the upper class, and vast extensive round storage spaces, where produce of the lower elevation climates, maize and coca, was traded for potatoes and grains from the higher regions. Feeling inspired and rejuvenated, I am now back in my old room at Hospedaje Inti in Pisac. I feel at home in Pisac for now. The altitude is less of a problem, having spent 10 days in a much higher area. Lake Titikaka is about 4000m above sea level. The Sacred Valley only about 3000. I will probably be here for another month or so. Possibly rent a little house and offer some courses and therapies and attend a few more ceremonies. My intuitive feeling is that I will not stay very long in the high Andes. My heart is also tugging me back towards my beloved Guatemala and Lake Atitlan. Ecuador? Amazon jungle? There are a few other places that I have to visit. Let's see where the wind blows.
Macchu Picchu, Cusco Region, Peru Saturday, July 11, 2015
As "luck" would have it, the day we arrive in Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Macchu Picchu, and essentially the jump-off point for hordes of tourists for the last stage steep mountain hike or comfy bus ride to Peru's most popular attraction, the town is packed with Peruvians in traditional costumes, parading and performing traditional dances in an annual celebration of this world heritage site. What a treat! Even tiny tots dressed up as Incas and priests, and a feast of dance in the evening. I have to say these traditional dances, performed by many different cultural groupings, probably gave me a deeper insight into the nature of the Peruvian soul than what I had been able to learn from books and stories and meetings with these fiercely strong and resilient people in the hostels, streets and markets. The variety of costumes and dance styles portray the amazing diversity of the nation's regions and histories. Finding our way to Macchu Picchu was an interesting process. There are many ways to get there. Years ago I had thought that it could only be done by hiking the Inca Trail, a week long trek in the high mountains. However, it is one of the most visited sites on the planet, and can be accessed by anybody that can walk a few steps from the train station at Aguas Calientes to the bus that goes all the way up to the site. Cusco is packed with travel agents advertising trips to Machu Picchu – by train, hiking, bicycles or car. The final approach to Aguas Calientes is only by train or foot. No roads lead all the way there. Upon arriving in Pisac I had been enquiring as to which is the best way, and some had told me it just is an expensive trip. The most common and easiest way to get there is by train from Cusco, and it seemed, upon further enquiry, the cheapest is to take local transport from town to town through the Sacred Valley to Ollyantaytambo, then other buses and collectivos (mini buses) to the town of Santa Teresa, from where it is a small jump by mini bus to the hydro electric plant from where you can walk along the rail way line to Aguas Calientes. I have subsequently discovered that one can also hike along the railway line all the way from Ollyantaytambo to Aguas Calientes – a nine hour hike. The original Inca Trail can be followed over the mountains all the way from Cusco to Macchu Picchu. These organized treks, and the train ride, is pricey. Of course, upon finding out that there are two great hot springs more or less on the way, our custom made route went through the nearest hot springs to Pisac, called Lares, and another hot spring near the town of Santa Teresa. The narrow single lane road to Lares leaves Calca, a town in the Sacred Valley, and heads off into the mountains for two hours, over snowy passes. Llamas and alpacas, both cameloids indigenous to Peru, and an intrinsic feature of both the landscape and the present and past Inca economy, are plentiful in the farming regions of the high mountains, where they freely roam about. The alpacas are highly prized for the quality and quantity of their wool, and the llamas, as pack animals, were hugely responsible for the success of the Inca's trading economy. Along the way we stop and get out of the van to allow the driver to reverse up the snow covered hill into a space that will allow an approaching vehicle to pass. Snow balls and a little snow man happen spontaneously in a total white-out scenery, all the passengers enjoying the winter wonderland despite the freezing temperature, before we hurry back into the van and onwards down the mountain into the valleys and eventually arriving at the remote little town of Lares. We spend the evening in the hot water pools with a few international trekkers on group hiking tours, but also with a Peruvian biker gang, and many local families with children. I left Pisac with four companions, one of which was to finish the journey to Macchu Picchu with me, Adriana, from Mexico. Two others, Kimberley from the US, and Daniel from Germany returned to Pisac after the night at Lares, and Matthis, also from Germany, joined Adriana and myself for the next stage to Ollyantaytambo, an amazing little town, flanked by high mountains with ancient Inca sites on both sides, and seemingly entirely built on ancient stone foundations laid by Inca hands. There are an astounding amount of Inca sites in the Sacred Valley. Many official ones one can visit on tours and marked on maps, but many more dotted around wherever you go. The Inca civilization was indeed prolific. After an early morning hike by myself up the mountain at Ollyantaytambo, past the ruins and up to a peak from where I could see the glorious snow capped Apus and a great view back into the valley that has been my home for two months now, Adriana and I took another mini bus over some very high snowy mountains to the town of Santa Teresa where we spent one more night, and the late afternoon and evening in the most wonderful hot spring pools. By now, approaching the fabled Shangri La of Peru, we were joined in the pools by the proverbial hordes of trekkers, most of whom were in hiking parties on parts of the Inca Trail. The next morning saw us making the last little jump from Santa Teresa to the hydro-electric plant by mini bus, then the easy and beautiful two to three hour hike along the railway line and river gorge that leads up to Aguas Calientes. This town is only accessible by rail, or foot, and is entirely surrounded by really high mountain peaks. As mentioned, packed, on this day, not just with the normal crowds of tourists and travelers from every part of the world, but also by throngs and parades of magnificently dressed Peruvians in Inca and other traditional costumes. I line up early the next morning at the gate by the bridge that crosses the gorge. There is a long queue already. The gate opens at 5 am, but it takes a while for ticket and passport cross-checking, and it is another 40 minutes before I can start the ascent. It is a 90 minute climb up a steep path, certainly a good level of fitness required to keep up with the mostly young and fit bunch. There is a rush to get there early. The first buses arrive before me. Adriana is on one of them, and I only see her much later in the day. There is no anti climax, despite the decades of anticipation, and the increasing crowds as the day progresses, there is nothing to compare this place with. The surrounding mountains and cliff faces provide the most incredible backdrop to an incredible city. Wondering around all the buildings and passages I can only imagine what it must have been like to live here, a holy sanctuary, every stone aligned perfectly, the whole city an astronomical and spiritually significant monument to the profound cosmological knowledge of the Incas. The rise and zenith and setting of the southern cross, the equinoxes, solstices, etc, etc, all marked with absolute precision. Giant blocks of white granite, carved and placed together in perfect joins. All mind blowing. I wonder around, listening in on various guides explaining to their groups the whats the whys and whos, many of them with conflicting information. There is very little known about Macchu Pichhu. A royal retreat, sure. A remote sanctuary, certainly. An astrological marvel, probably the highest achievement of the Inca architects and their cosmological knowledge. Certainly the place has a powerful feel to it. The high percentage of quartz in the granite mountain and building blocks lends a highly energized quality to the atmosphere. For those who can feel energy it is just the most wonderful place to meditate and recharge. Location, location, location. The views from every part of the little city are incomparable. Of course that photo op I was looking for, me and a llama, happened twice. There is a group of llamas hanging around the ruins, and twice they happened to walk past me. They seem to be a little perturbed by the crowds, but still bustle their way through them. Coming around a corner I bumped into Linda, the young women from Australia I had met in the hot spring pools two days earlier. She had studied at the University of Cape Town, and had also spent time in San Marcos in Guatemala, and we had a pleasant time exploring the ruins together, taking photos for each other, and hiking up to the Sun Gate, the original point of entry from where one caught the first glance of the white city upon approaching along the ancient Inca Trail, the only way in, before the tourists routes were created. Adriana and I had decided that we deserved a treat after our journey of many days, including the fairly grueling 5 hour winding high mountain route between Ollyantaytambo and Santa Teresa, and we jumped on the 4.10 train leaving Aguas Calientes with all the other “normal” tourists - $45. Arriving at Ollyantaytambo at around 6, we manage to make our way back home in three stages, taking a mini van to Urubamba, then another to Calca, then another to Pisac, arriving at around 8 pm. There and back again. What an epic expedition! A real mission, an adventure. We took the road towards our destination with only a vague idea of what to expect, and made our way without any mishaps, enjoying hot springs and snowy mountain passes, incredible views, and for me, the realization of a fantasy of many many years. Machu Picchu! I have to add that after experiencing the warmer climate of the high jungle, I am looking forward to the next leg of my journey. On the Amazon to Ecuador. The cold temperatures in the valley is not my cup of tea, and the high altitudes. Great for hiking and views, meditation, energetic recharging and downloading those high frequency messages from Spirit, but not for living. A bit harsh for me. Bring on the tropical beaches, and the temperate climate of the Guatemalan highlands.
Cali, Colombia Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Leaving Pisac was hard and easy at the same time. I had known it was time to leave for a while. There was something calling me onto the road again. Not just a warm beach (The high Andes and upper part of the Sacred Valley is cold to my African blood), but the road onwards, and also the road back to the lake. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and San Marcos, the place I had left to see if it was in fact home or just an elaborate trap, a little haven from the real world, or an imaginary spaceship that could fly you wherever you wanted to be. When I was there I had heard too many stories of people who had stopped there on their way to Peru or somewhere, and had not left, 15 years later. There were also a few people who I could see were in fact trapped, and would not be able to function anywhere else in the world. But I was starting to get the feeling that I should not doubt my love and resonance with San Marcos. My heart was pulling me back to the place and the people. Also my work, always a calling for me, was so grounded and appreciated in that community. I did leave Pisac having trained a few people in Chi Nei Tsang, the abdominal massage technique I had learned in Thailand, and that I felt would be very beneficial in conjunction with the ayuasca medicine work that is the main focus of so many people who live in and travel to Pisac. My own personal work with Mother Ayuasca had shown me the path that lay ahead of me. I was ready to start the journey back north And so my journey back and northwards commenced with a 22 hour bus ride from Cusco to Lima. There were a few per-arranged stops on the way, my itinerary had some places listed - of course ancient sacred sites and conscious communities being the indicator, the criteria for being on the list of milestones. Arriving in Lima at 7 am, a big dirty noisy city, I was happy to get onto another bus to Huaraz within 20 minutes,once again securing the top floor front seat with panoramic views. Another 8 hours, now heading once again into the mountains, the last hour or so with spectacular scenery displaying peak after peak of snow capped Apus, deities of Peru. Huaraz is really just a stop-over or base camp for trekkers, and a stop-over for those of us traveling to Chavin, my next destination. A few hours behind me was Orla Quinn. Enchanted not just by this wonderful name and strong Irish accent, but by her intensity and serious demeanor - she is on a mission, I had formed a little mutual appreciation society with her after buddying-up at a electronic music festival near Cusco. I had given her some of my San Pedro juice and after we had both separately walked into the mountains away from the noise, we had met again later and walked and bused into a nearby town for lunch together. San Pedro/Huachuma is her favorite "medicine", and mine. We had a meeting of minds and souls. We then spent some time at an old deserted temple ruin on the hill behind the festival. She had already told me of her experience with a shaman in Chavin, and after also hearing about the place from my old time-space-and-sound traveling compadre Derrick, I was planning to visit this ancient site. We happened to both be traveling there on the same day, in different buses. We shared a room in Huaraz and left for Chavin the next day, another 4 hours by collectivo. Peru is vast. long journeys are however redeemed by incredible mountains, valleys and rock formations. The Shaman, Estevan, a native Peruvian, but in fact of African heritage, led us in a Huachuma ceremony in the grounds of the ancient temple complex of Chavin before gradually taking us into the complex itself. We spent many hours, mostly just being in this highly charged evocative environment. Starting at the square plaza, obviously a more public ceremonial space, followed by a journey into the rest of the complex, leading into more hidden dimensions, including the round plaza, where more private ceremonies were held and evidence of the use of hallucinogenic substances were found, and the inner passages and labyrinths inside the stone temple itself. One of them leading to a stone carving of an anthropomorphic being. This entire complex seemingly designed, as purportedly were the Egyptian temples and pyramids, as an initiation site. Dated to around 1000 or 700 years BCE, this was the earliest advanced complex civilization in the Americas. Still considered a powerful site and according to many a hotbed of "Alien" activity. UFO's are seen often. The evening was spent at Estevan's fire, singing and making music, served the most delicious soup by his native Peruvian wife and two very handsome sons. The next day Orla took me up to the mountain peak overlooking the temple complex, one of three altars to the the condor, jaguar and snake deities. We parted the next day in Huaraz, she heading back to Ireland (for a meeting with the Prime Minister), and me to a meeting with the pacific ocean. The dual calling of a few days at the beach and the ancient site of the Moche civilization was met with a very pleasant stay in a great hostel in the little surf town of Juanchaco, on the outskirts of the city of Trujillo and close to the great adobe walled city of the Moches. The vastness of this complex is astounding. Mostly in ruins, only a few of the complexes remain, contained within the greatest walls I have ever seen. The Incas could only conquer these people by diverting the course of the river that supplied them with water, laying siege and eventually subjugating them to Inca rule and the tribute/tax and administrative system that was the great power of the Incas along with their military domination. Juanchaco is a charming little run down surf town and holiday resort town for ordinary Peruvians. The vibe is great. Chilled and friendly. The skies were overcast and not ideal beach weather, although the sun did make it's appearance as I did my first series of Surya Namaskar on the beach, and my first dip in the Pacific ever. After a few days of leisure it was time to continue, and another long bus ride towards Ecuador. One night in the dingy dirty northern city of Piura, and the next day a bus across the border to Loja, which was just one more hour away from Vilcabamba, the town I had been hearing about, knows as a conscious community, set in the "Valley of Longevity". Famous for many centenarians in the indigenous population, it has drawn a large immigrant community from especially the US. Definitely an older crowd, many retirees, probably looking for a bit of longevity themselves, but also lots of interesting characters, some just spending time doing nothing, drinking and smoking in the cafes, but many involved in spiritual and consciousness expanding work. After about 5 months of traveling without much working and income, in Vilcabamba I was inundated with people who wanted, almost exclusively, abdominal massage work done. I spent about 6 weeks there and was very busy with one or more clients every day. I also gave training in CNT to some local therapists and some travelers. Vilcabamba is great, the locals are very friendly and relaxed, and although I do prefer the international element to be more international and not so dominated by "Americans", the conscious community is strong and very welcoming. I met some truly wonderful people there and could easily have stayed and stayed. Being on my list of places to check out, partly to see if there were other places in the world like San Marcos, it does get the tick in the box as a good place to live. I felt supported and appreciated and respected.The force of nature is strong there and beautiful. The weather is great. Perfect climate, not too hot or cold, just like San Marcos. Ecuador itself is an easy place for foreigners to settle in. I visited two amazing communities there. One is called Shambalabamba, which is owned and run by an awesome guy called Maufoofoo, who claims to be an anarchist and loves the idea of his community being an anarchist community, but he is in fact that rare phenomena, a benevolent dictator. In a world of imperfect political systems, often the only or best option. It has lots of Argentinian artesenias, jugglers/circus folk living there. Half day work pays your way. A great atmosphere, lovely lake to swim in and concerts! Another awesome place is called Finca Sagrada, look it up if you want to go for a retreat or host one. Really magical little farm in sublime surroundings. My own healing also received a boost from visits to Susan and Sven, a couple who work with dowsing and clear old contracts, curses, vows and entities from your life. I also had two neural therapy sessions with a local woman. I had never heard of this treatment, but it is especially useful in working with scar tissue, and electrical function of the nerves and cells, my main health issue being the "electrical" problems caused by the scar tissue of my open heart surgeries I had as a child. If I hadn't made an arrangement to teach a seminar in Cuenca, an old patrimonial city further to the north, I could probably have spent another week or two in this lovely little town. I had a massage client from Cuenca, who had also come to my Tantra and Partner Yoga seminar, and subsequently asked me to host one in Cuenca. She is a gestalt therapist who also leads sweat lodges and San Pedro ceremonies, and had brought some of her clients to my seminar in Vilcabamba, and wanted more of them to experience this work. She also hosted me in a spare room in her practice. And so I spent a few days in Cuenca, a small city that is very easy to navigate and walk around. Driving past an old Catholic church building, Sophia, my host, pointed to a sculpture on a corner niche. Jesus Christ sitting on a flowering San Pedro cactus! It is an old colonial city with ruined Inca ceremonial palace grounds. This was the northern province of the Incas, and the site of the great fratricidal feud that razed the city and weakened the empire at the exact moment that the Spanish arrived to take advantage, off course also using great cunning and trickery to capture the last Inca himself and hold him hostage. After 4 days in Cuenca another long overnight bus ride brought me across Ecuador for my second entry to Colombia. Now I am sitting on my bed after an early morning cup of cacao, catching up on my blog after a long delay, and looking forward to a few weeks or maybe a month of salsa dancing and training. I arrived in Cali, the "world capitol of salsa" on the day of the blood moon eclipse after spending a few days in another very charming little town and on the list of not just supposedly conscious communities, but also sacred sites - San Agustin. Nestled in the region of the Colombian Massive, the high central mountains that give birth to the three great rivers of Colombia, it is remote and one has to travel many hours on some bad stretches of road to get there. For some time the local farmers had been unearthing stone carvings in their fields, often using them as corner stones in their homes, or as guardian deities. Serious excavations started in the 20th century and monumental carvings and tombs were discovered. These strange, mostly anthropomorphic carvings, many with strong modern abstract elements form a canon reminiscent of carvings from Chavin. For some reason this crowd didn't build temples and pyramids, but carved loads of sculptures, mostly guarding tombs and sarcophagi. Funny that, life after death seems important. Our relationship with our death is often a central theme. Are we now merely experiencing a dreamlike and sub conscious state that hides the real world form us? Death is a doorway to life. And here, once again, I had found a little town that could easily resonate as "home". The surrounding mountains hills, valleys, rivers and waterfalls totally reminiscent of my home in South Africa, the Knysna/Wilderness area. Many small-holdings with people living close to nature, and a small thriving community living off a tourist dollar, including many artists, artisans and musicians. But onwards the call, this time for a stop on beat 4 and 8. Salsa! Cali! I spent my first night in Cali with a great Couchsurfing host couple. They dropped me off the next morning at the house of Camillo, where I was to rent a room, in the barrio of San Antonio, the older and more bohemian district of Cali. I went down town to go look for a place to change the dollars I had earned in Ecuador, and to buy some new clothes. Started getting worn down by the big city noises and long tiring walk. It was my birthday, but not a soul knew it. I bought myself some gifts, awesome little Colombian percussion instruments, and a massage, but still felt lonely and depressed, and starting thinking about leaving, catching the next flight to Bogota and on to Panama or Costa Rica. Just get me to a beach!! In the evening I told my host-landlord it was my birthday and he was very gracious and made me dinner. I then set off to the local club where they have a language exchange thing on Mondays followed by salsa dancing. I was nominated for a dance competition by the people I was sharing a table with and paired with a Peruvian girl against two other random couples. Rock and Roll music, not salsa, and the screaming girls at my table, helped us to get the biggest applause and win a large shot of some local liquor. Along with the two beers I had, I let my hair down and tried out my old salsa moves, really only finding one partner that could read them well enough. The style in Cali and Colombia is quite different. Yesterday I walked around the block to the local dance school and started lessons. Feeling good. Speaking more Spanish here than anywhere else I've been and along with near daily dance classes and practice, I will have time to prepare for the next cycle of teaching and training in San Marcos. I need to work on my manuals and integrate some new aspects to my teaching. Techniques are one thing, and accuracy and experience and knowledge are important, but the touch or guidance of the healer or therapist (artist/musician/philosopher), is a function of their being in contact with the presence and sacred divine energy of life -"G-d the supreme". Of being present in the moment without the distraction of personal drama, stories or agenda. Going beyond the "dis-ease" and the need for healing and entering the acceptance, joy and enthusiasm for life as it is. We are all together in our aloneness my one friend replied to my lonely post on my birthday. Healing is overcoming that sense of being alone. Connect! Plug in! The Source is everywhere. Outside you and Inside. Above, below, Deep and High. In the middle and on the edge. In the sacred and the profane. In the finite and infinite. Inside and outside of time itself. Knock! And Ask!
Cali, Colombia Saturday, February 27, 2016
As luck would have it, my first week in Cali, the world Salsa Dance Championships were being held in this vibrant city. Every day there were free public classes and demonstrations, and several grand extravaganzas - feasts of salsa dance competitions in an open air amphitheater. I had joined the local dance school in my barrio and had accompanied the teacher and several students to some of these events, slowly absorbing the Caleño style of dancing. It took me ages to really be able to not make a total fool of myself, but by my last night out in Cali 6 weeks later, not only was I having the time of my life, dancing with several Cali locals freely and creatively, but also hearing from my German house mates that my dancing was being admired by the local guys who were serving the drinks at the roof top Halloween party. Ok, I am blowing my own horn here, but that is a big complement. Caleños grow up dancing. It is in their blood. Of course having the right partner is always going to be crucial. This Halloween night was my last night out before flying back to Guatemala, partying with all the guys from my house, two Colombians and two Germans, and all the girls from the another communal house, the "Casa de Princesas" , friends of my house mates, many of them worked together in an international research and development company. We:d all been out dancing together a few times. Everybody goes out dancing in Cali, all the time. Among the "princesas" was one Colombian girl and one Italian girl who were great dancers. But that night I met my ultimate dance partner. A very beautiful young Caleña who had spent the last 5 years studying with a Tango master, a world champion tango dancer in fact. She could read my signals and intentions and respond like no one I had ever danced with. We were inventing our own unique style, creatively weaving our way around the roof top in between other dancers, sometimes by ourselves. I was intoxicated by her, her beauty, her movements, the feel and touch of her body in my hands, her perfect responses. She was a divine instrument. She was music itself. I felt like a god, playing, and being played by the divine at the same time. Totally in control, and in complete surrender. Totally in the moment. The inner world and outer world in perfect harmony. We kept on dancing till about 3 am when they were closing the party. By this time I had immersed myself in the Cali culture, and had joined another dance academy and was going to 4 lessons a week and had been to quite a few clubs. Simple little things were starting to make a difference. In the beginning I couldn't properly dance with any local women. They just didn't know what I was doing. I will never forget the disgust on one woman's face at the end of a song. She walked away without even acknowledging me or thanking me - Rude! Fucking gringo, she must have been thinking. This was in a massive popular local club, no foreigners other than myself and the Spanish girl I was there with. At some of the other clubs there were some foreigners who knew the style I had trained in - LA style, or known in Cali as Salsa En Ligna, (In LIne), and could dance with me. The very basic and first step in Cali salsa is where both partners step back in what I knew as a back break step. The rest is based on that. By my third week I was managing, and by this last night I was in my element, and dancing with a dream partner. What a high note to leave on. My time in Cali had been my longest time spent in a big city for many many years. I had booked my flight some weeks earlier and was looking forward to being by the lake in Guatemala again, to being in my old home, and getting back to work again. My teaching work has become so meaningful to me. I had some new inspiration too and was looking forward to refining some of my courses.
Koh Phangan, Thailand Friday, September 9, 2016
Bless me reader, for I have sinned. It's been 6 months since my last confession. I have been meaning to write, and so much has happened, but sometimes life is for the living, and to step aside and write about it is a paralysis of analysis. You need the right perspective, the right moment to sit back and assess, to gather your wits and objectivity, to delve into the conversation - the chat with the transcendental other, the universal mind, the collective consciousness. Who are you, my reader? My perfect reflection. Zooting around Koh Phangan on a scooter seems to bring that point of view. I find myself helmet less, enjoying the cooling breeze in the hot climate, flying around like I was at the age of 16 on my dad’s Vespa, and then on a series of Vespas, till the last one died on the dusty corrugated back roads of Wilderness and The Lakes a few years before I left. Those early days there were two other Vespa riders in Cape Town, apart from my varsity prof Pappa, there was a bearded old fella I used to see zooting off in the opposite direction. Of course every pharmacy had a Vespa delivery bike too. We had three in the family at one stage. Today of course every self-respecting hipster in Cape Town is riding one. I’ve always liked being way ahead of the trend. Indulge my moment of conceit. For some reason I never liked following. In Zen they say: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him! My main guru, said it too, "You have to knock them off their pedestals." Later, after fawning over him for a year or two, I left his retreat without paying because he seemed to be just repeating himself. Where was the JUICE? It bugged me for a while cause he did say something amazing on that weekend that I’ve been using ever since. “There’s nothing wrong with you that can’t be fixed with what’s right with you.” Brilliant, hey? Thanks, Patrick. Being on a scooter is a part of life in Asia. You can’t even say, cool, there’s a girl on a bike. All the girls are on bikes, and whole families too, 4 even 5 people at a time, maybe 3 kids. I left off this narrative in the throws of a night of salsa dancing on a rooftop in Colombia. The following day I flew back to Guatemala and resumed my perfect life in San Marcos. More of the same, giving courses and hosting workshops, singing the holy names at Mahadeva Ashram with Paul and the Hanuman Project, drum circles with Tor at Del Lago, dance circles, sharing circles, cacao circles… There usually is a very busy part of the season immediately after the New Year’s Cosmic Convergence Music Festival that happens on the other side of the lake. There were even more people this year, and especially a large influx after and during the nearby Rainbow Gathering. After an apparently quiet few years recently, San Marcos had had some golden moments in time again, and the news was spreading. But, yes, there was trouble in paradise. There always were some fault lines, as mentioned earlier in this blog. Rich and poor, traditional and modern, locals and foreigners, noisy and quiet, and the balance was on a knife’s edge. That glorious little town with the big heart, was experiencing increasingly complicated rhythms lately, much like my own heart. Barriers and boundaries were blurring and solidifying, cutting off one group from another. I left in April after a slightly tumultuous time that was brought on by the election of not only a Conservative Christian, Gay-Hating, Military Loving Ex-Comedian as the president of Guatemala, but also of a new mayor in San Marcos, who seemed by all accounts a gringo hater, suddenly instigating raids and arrests and curfews targeting, admittedly, the more “dirty” hippy nudist weed smoking contingent of our international community, and purportedly having had his own heart broken by a gringa ex wife, bent on upsetting the apple cart in our little village. Different local factions emerged. Most locals seemed very happy with their amiable and prosperous relations with the gringos, but others were quite clearly antagonistic to the seemingly rich and arrogant invaders. Some long time foreigner residents are leaving now. Of course some are saying he’s just making a statement, stamping a political point of view. Power dynamics shift and it happens every now and then, then calms down. It seems an upgrade is on the cards with the new authorities. Get rid of the hippies and bring in more rich tourists. Of course the magic created by the gypsies, the troubadours, the footloose and fancy frees, the traders in the lost arts and the spirit doctors, can only exist in a certain kind of environment. Oh, San Marcos, what will happen to thee? I am a recent arrival. What do I know? The San Marcos Magic has been going on for decades, and of course long before that too, this ancient sacred crucible has held the balance between the lake and the volcanoes, the forces of light and darkness, tribal and modern, invaders and old timers – has held the honey in the heart. The town’s water supply also seemed to dwindle dramatically. Albeit due to a drought, but also, we heard, the previous mayor and his cronies had sabotaged the water pipes and infrastructure to derail the new mayor. Others were saying the new mayor was just cutting off the water to the gringo areas. Ay caramba!!! The absolute gem that is San Marcos La Laguna, the heart of the world for so many of us who have lived there, the little hub of international travelers, the intense vortex and spiritual university of teachers and students from every form and type of healing art, dance, music and song, this Golden Goose, is now being threatened with a cage, to lay a “better class” of egg. When will they ever learn? This sickness in the world -economic growth. Such a fine line between progress and destruction. Getting more personal… and this is something I never talk about…(skip next paragraph to avoid boring medical details). Wounded Healer reveals his dark secret wound. “My vulnerability is my greatest strength” – A Course in Miracles. I had had another occurrence of tachycardia in February. It used to happen to me about once a year, but recently it had been an average of twice a year, and three times in the last 6 months, that my heart, prompted by a combination of variables, namely stimulants such as cacao (in the past it used to be coffee and marijuana), emotionally charged and physically strained events, often in the bedroom, would go into giddy-up, and get stuck in a ventricular tachycardia of around 220 beats per minute. When this started happening the medical opinion was that the scar tissue of my original open-heart surgeries, which I had had at the age of 2 and 6, was causing a “short circuit” in the electrical functioning. When this happens, I have to get to a hospital and have electro cardio version. Clear! Shock him back into the right rhythm. They always put me under and I wake up and all is well again. This had been happening more regularly, possibly due to the high altitudes I’d been living at, and high doses of ceremonial grade cacao. It had happened in Peru and Ecuador It happened again in November in San Marcos, and now again in February. The tormenting 6-hour drive to Guatemala City through traffic to get to a hospital was the worst part. I eventually agreed to go for ablation surgery, a possible cure – using a catheter radio frequency ablation/burning device to enter the heart through the ephemeral artery via an insertion at the groin, and then to kill a part of the tissue that is causing the problem. As you can imagine I’d been putting that off for a while. And this was the less scary option, the other being an implanted defibrillator. After the February event I started making plans, eventually deciding to return to South Africa for the procedure at the end of April. And so, the not so triumphant return to the mother land. I had not planned to go back to SA for any reason in the near future. My travels and means of earning a living on the road and in foreign countries ware just going so well. I loved this life. Returning to SA was in many ways a confirmation of these feelings. Life seems to be a bit tough there at the moment for many people. There is economic and political uncertainty and even though the people are still awesome and the mountain and ocean and lakes, rivers and beaches are amazing, it is not a place that feeds my soul right now. The operation was deemed unsuccessful by the surgeon who immediately wanted to do another operation to implant the defibrillator device that shocks your heart into rhythm when it detects tachycardia. However, I hightailed it out of there and decided to do all I can to manage the situation with extra care in avoiding stimulants and other triggers and addressing the mental, emotional and spiritual causes of my “broken heart”. As my friend Cate, who visited me in the ward said, they couldn’t fix it because the problem isn’t physical. The doctor did say that he might have improved the situation marginally, so I am taking that to the bank. And I have spoken to a number of other health professionals, taking herbal and homeopathic remedies and receiving psychic surgery to cut off ties with ancestral heart disease genes and dna, and generally I plan to be less hard hearted and hard assed and allow myself to be more emotionally vulnerable and open and just take it easier and easier. I can still take the beta-blocker medication that prevents tachycardia, and increase the dose when I go dancing or mountain climbing. And so, during the retrograde movements of many planets in the sky, I had returned to my old stomping grounds, Cape Town and Wilderness, had visited my brother and his family, had revisited the hospital where my chest had been opened as a child to repair a karmic pattern hole, and then after spending a month recovering under the benevolent spell of one of my oldest friends, Zan, both of us supporting each other in our meditation practice, I got on a plane to England to visit not only my long lost sister I hadn’t seen for 14 years, and her lovely family, but also my long lost and somewhat estranged son, Luke., whom I hadn’t seen for about the same amount of time. This was such a wonderful visit. Luke being a “part of the family” at my sister’s house was there almost the entire three weeks, and we were able to get to know each other again. It was easy and casual and we both enjoyed the time and “liked” each other a lot. He is very cool, calm and collected, smart and funny and has great insight. I could get over some of my guilt and worry about not having been there for him as a dad. I am eternally grateful to my sister, Marieke, and her husband Breffni, and Fintan and Katrina, for being there for him, giving him some real family time. England was an essential part of my healing-the-heart journey. Seeing my sister and her family and getting to know my son was so necessary. Both my brother and sister are close to me in a kind of an abstract way. We don’t see each other much, but there remains such an unspoken harmony and empathy and mental affinity between us all. We don’t lean on each other, but there is so much unspoken support and love. I think we grew up in that kind of environment, quite free and unconditional. My brother’s sons Max and Jodi are the epitome of open minded, kind and gentle beings. I’m sure he must be The Coolest Dad in the world. We grew up with a pacifist dad, universally respected as a pioneer of conflict resolution, but he still had much of his Calvinist and Afrikaner roots showing and had spanked us at several occasions in our childhood, only for severe transgressions, and had a lack of compassion for himself, which he left my mother to instill in us. My brother, Hugo, as far as I know, never lifted a hand to his sons. It shows. Whoa. Is this a travel blog? Here I am in Oxford. My sister, and the rest of the O’Connors, lives in the same road that we lived in in 1977 when Pappa was on sabbatical leave from his UCT Center of Intergroup Studies, and was doing his thing at Oxford Uni. I was in my first year of high school then. It was the year of Punk, and Liverpool FC had won the triple. I tried the trumpet but couldn’t handle the pressure. My freaking libido was bursting my blood vessels too, and I’d masturbated in the toilets at school once, and I don’t know how they knew, or even if they did, but I was tormented by a nasty dark haired bully and his gang who called me Wanker. I didn’t even know what it meant at first. I kinda hated school. I kinda always have. I remember coming home from school to our old house in Rosebank near the common, and practically ripping my school uniform off life Clark Kent, and living again. My life was filled with adventures in our huge back yard, on the nearby Rondebosch Common, and in the neighborhood streets and the houses of our friends. My brother and I had a gang. This was when we were pre teens, mostly, but carried on for years. I was the eldest, and exercised my “leadership potential”. There were three Brummers, Nico, Stefaans, and Kerneels, great grandchildren of C.J.Langenhoven, a famous Afrikaner writer, and two Steins, Grové and Joubert. We played with catapults and bows and arrows, had sword fights with wooden blades. We patrolled the streets and the common on our bicycles. We had a gang HQ in our cellar, and battled the other gang in our street for a wooden clog that we had proclaimed the goal of all endeavor, to capture and protect from the other gang. They were older, had more sophisticated HQ’s and sometimes actually hurt us! My brother and I started having different friends in our mid teens. He went to a different school when he came back from a year away with my parents who had taken another sabbatical to the US. My sister and I had been left behind. She was at Uni, and I chose to stay under her care. OMG, that’s part of another story! Is it all one story, or am I going to have to divide it up, and get back to the travel blog? Oxford, June, 2016. What a civilized world. So quaint and ordered and polite. Lots of rules, of course. You can’t go into a kid’s playground area in a park unless you’re accompanied by a kid. We understand why. Oh, what has this world come to? And there is safety in the streets, in the homes. Security. And the old buildings! Amazing. Culture, history. Museums filled with artifacts stolen and pilfered from Greece, Egypt and the furthest reaches of the Empire. Shrunken heads, and spears and musical instruments form the deepest and darkest rain forests. All neatly laid out for the civilized man to purvey at his leisure. Hierarchy and class are very apparent. There is an ancient system in place here in England. It seems to be the capitol of capital. You could live here, but you’d have to work your ass off, or to the manor born. Expensive. And the weather! Mid summer. Bit of gloom, bit or rain, and every now and then a bit of sunshine. Let’s shift our perspective to the east, shall we? Bring me some heat! The tropics! On to Chiang Mai. I returned to Thailand to continue my training in Chi Nei Tsang, the Taoist Abdominal Massage that has become such a big part of my therapeutic work. It is the most popular course that I offer to students, and the most often requested therapy in my private practice. I am also seeing more transformative results, both physically and emotionally in my clients who receive this form of therapy. I have come to Chaing Mai in Northern Thailand to do further training with a different teacher and I also to take her course in therapeutic genital massage, Karsai Nei Tsang, also a Chinese/Taoist medical massage that addressed toxicity in the tissues of the reproductive organs and blocked energy flow and blood circulation to the sexual organs. This addresses illnesses of old age and benefits brain and memory function as well as general vitality. It also helps people with sexual problems such as impotence, infertility, frigidity and emotional and physical energy blockages due to sexual traumas. Always keen to learn new things I also took a course in Tok Sen, a folk/family traditional practice that uses a wooden mallet and a small rounded wooden staff to knock along the energy lines, muscles and ligaments of the body, in a rhythmic and hypnotizing pattern that vibrates and resonates deeply into the body. Traditionally used to heal mental problems, other benefits include healing the effects of strokes, helping with insomnia, pains in the muscles and ligaments, restless leg syndrome, frozen shoulder, and lots more. And so….My next plan was to get some ocean and island time in. I needed a holiday! Even in Cape Town awaiting surgery I had seen quite a few people for Chi Nei Tsang treatments, and even though my recovery from the op was now pretty much complete, my body had been yearning for the beach and sea for years. A few stolen hours on the beach on Wilderness or Sandy Bay on those intermittent warm days in a wintry South Africa was not enough. The need for island and beach life was guiding me now to visit the famed Koh Phangan, the island I had deliberately skipped on my previous visit to Thailand due to its notoriety as a party island. I had known about The Sanctuary then, a hidden cove and a yoga and healing center on the east coast, but had not heard about the other side of the island until recently. The west coast and especially the part known as Sritanu is home to many yoga centers and healing retreats, and a full time and part time international community. This is where I am now living. I rented a house for a month and am doing some freelance work at a local yoga/healing center. Okay, it’s a holiday, but I get bored after a while when I am not doing what I love doing, teaching and helping others feel great. Yes, I need to chill out. Just enjoy. Take care of myself. I’m trying. Reading on the balcony. Reestablishing my yoga and mediation practice. This is the life. Best bits by far so far: singing bhajans in a cave that a Buddhist monk used to live and meditate in, and Afro-Latin dancing classes with an amazing, super sexy chica from Chile. This is my kinda town. Of course I want to explore opportunities to work in beautiful parts of the world, and before coming to Koh Phangan, I spent a month on the neighboring island of Samui, working at a detox resort. A friend, Kara-Lee, who was a health manager at the resort, saw I was in Thailand and arranged for me to come for a work trial. It went very well and I was able to earn enough money in three weeks to cover my living expenses on Koh Phangan. Before leaving Samui, I discovered a small but vibrant salsa dance community that meets on Friday nights at a restaurant in the Fisherman’s Village. I have now tweaked my work and play life to a T, resting, living and playing and some working on Phangan, and dancing and working on Samui on the weekend. They call us Librans lazy! No way. We just know how to relax in-between intense activity. Koh Phangan is like San Marcos. It has everything my heart desires – a community of spiritual seekers and finders, kirtans and bhajans, yoga, meditation, healing, dancing, and lovely souls from all over the world. Plus! It has the ocean! I’m busy tracking down the owner of some sailing dinghies I saw in Choloklum Bay. Before there was spirituality, before there was the thing about girls, before there was music and dancing, my passion was sailing my little sailing boat at Lakeside. My life would be complete with a strong wind in my sails. I am now plotting to divide my time between these two powerful vortices, San Marcos and Koh Phangan, and travel along the songlines that crisscross the earth in-between them. I am returning to Guatemala at the end of October, after spending a few more precious weeks in England. I have more than a month left to enjoy myself on the island and have some rest and relaxation - reading, writing, dancing, singing, and loving it!
Siem Reap, Cambodia Thursday, October 13, 2016
Siem Riep, the city near Angkor Wat, was named to commemorate the victory of Cambodian forces over the Siamese/Thais in the 16thcentury. History is written by the victors of war, and so too many “great” civilizations and cultures are built on the ashes and bones of the defeated. As I gaze once again up at a bass relief freeze depicting one battle after another that surrounds one more great ancient temple, this time Angkor Wat, I start to feel a weariness of this human blood lust and need for power and dominion, - and revenge. Cities are burned in cycles of reprisal, and rebuilt. Civilizations rise and fall, usually becoming too big to support itself, a victim of it’s own success. This great culture and civilization, reached it’s pinnacle in the 13th century and the region of Angkor Wat was by far the largest metropolis in the world at that time. Wondering around the various temples on the outskirts of the city, some of them from the 10th century, it’s hard not to try and imagine what they must have looked like in all their glory. So much has been pillaged, gorgeous stucco paintings and endless base reliefs chiseled off. Countless precious stones pried loose from the inner sanctums. Stupas and temple recesses broken open by robbers. I overheard one guide telling of the massive theft, much of it just removing the heads from the statues, during the 70’s and 80’s by military personal from the Vietnamese and Cambodian armies. Sold in Thailand apparently. The temples themselves tell the story of religious epochs. Initially all Hindu temples, and later Buddhist. - Angkor Wat itself, originally dedicated to Vishnu, later became a Buddhist shrine. I see on the temple walls some of the most delicately carved and beautiful high relief sculpture I’ve ever seen. This is divine irony, that these hierarchical city states that generate massive agricultural surpluses and thus wealth, enabling the sciences and arts to flourish, are built on the backs of serfdom and inequalities. My admiration for the noble savage, the "undeveloped" indigenous nations, close to nature, small villages, and intimate egalitarian/democratic tribal ways, must make an allowance for the monumental works, including the fine art of architecture, made possible by great and visionary leaders, kings, emperors and pharaohs. This paradox confounds me. Do we need leaders? Is this the sickness of our human race, the need for and conversely the abuse of leadership? I am once again inspired by great art. I definitely need to start producing again. I need to carve, and mold and give shape to beautiful forms to sooth and caress the minds and souls of those around me, and my own. What other legacy can we leave? What better than a piece of carved stone, or a bronze, holding space, a frequency, a harmony, for millennia. Or a painting, a symphony, a song, a story. Siem Riep is unremarkable, and it’s raison d’etre clearly a market place and service station for tourists. The people are friendly, but there is not the self-confidence of the Thais. This land was soaked in blood, in ancient times and recently, like Guatemala, and I see a few limbless people making their way around., victims of the million landmines left by the wars. Roads are ill kept, and pavements often broken or absent. Downtown there are plenty of hotels, hostels, massage parlors, shops and restaurants. I am initially shocked by the prices of every souvenir or piece of clothing I try to buy, until I realize that the negotiated prize can drop to 25% at times, without a qualm. They seem to respect me when I walk away with a good deal. First sale of the day, as everywhere in the world, “good luck for you, and for me”. I am not returning to England empty handed. A little something for sister, brother in law, niece and nephew, and my son. So good to have family to treat. After being out of touch, or at least out of range of all of them for so long, it feels great to be seeing them again so soon. And I'm on my way back to the lake! Atitlan!