FROM URUBAMBA, PERU
(click on images to enlarge)
Day 12: Receiving Rites of Passage
MT. AUSANGATE, Peru, July 9, 2008 - Finally, our "graduation day" had arrived. Today, we are supposed to climb up to Kolka Cruz pass where we are to receive the Rites of Passage from the mountain spirits as the newly minted shamans. But first, we had to go to the two Jaguar lagoons, dump our negative emotions into the male lagoon, and have a baptismal (cleansing) swim and lashing in the female one. At these sub-zero temperature, prospects of swimming in icy lagoons seemed rather daunting.
But first, we had to warm up a bit in the morning sunlight at the base camp. I walked over some small streams in search of sunlight only to find some local Inkas drying out peat or bog-like bricks on the banks of the creek (left). When I came back, my roommate (now tentmate) Jeff was all smiles and raring to go. On our hike to the lagoons, we passed some pretty llama and alpaca.
As for the lagoons, they were spectacularly beautiful, as you can see from the above female Jaguar lagoon.
The male Jaguar lagoon was a little bigger and much deeper. This is where we were supposed to dump all our negative emotions and let the lagoon mulch them over. Here's a short clip from the release ceremony...
I have personally found very little left over that I needed to release. I have been dumping negative emotions for months, and had released some more yesterday during the Celestial Despacho. Still, there was one little thing that was still stuck in my soul from 37 years ago. I tearfully dumped it into the lagoon with a stone and let the male Jaguar mulch it. After all, I looked around the hills and saw a llama eating something on a very steep slope (middle right), probably at about a 50-degree or steeper angle. And then it was time for us guys to go back to the female Jaguar lagoon for our icy swim and baptism (right), while the girls remained at the female lagoon awaiting their turn. As usual, the actual swim was not as bad as it seemed in anticipation. I did a couple of laps - across the lagoon and back - probably the fastest I have swum in years! :-) After a cleansing baptism by two Inka shamans who whipped us front and back using lashes made of grass that grows high up on Mt Ausengate, we returned to the base camp while the girls had their turn at the lagoon.
By early afternoon, the weather had started to change. A cold blustery wind brought some snow flurries from the west. That's the kind of a weather we faced when we started our climb to the Kolka Cruz pass.
Jose Luis and I were the first clilbers to reach the apucheto (mini mountain stone structure) at Kolka Cruz where the Rites of Passage were to be administered. I looked at my altimeter. We were at 16,300 ft. "You're quite a mountain goat," Jose Luis said with a smile. "So are you," I replied. "It takes one to know one," he added. Later on, he proposed that we take next year an eight-day hike "to the toughest peak in the Andes." Even some Inka shamans don't know about it, he explained. I told him to call me next fall when he is back in the States so we can plan it out.
Our apucheto had to be rebuilt twice as some of the stones collapsed initially under pressure. Eventually, it stood tall and proud (two left photos). Looking around I noticed that we would have quite a few furry witnesses to our Rite of Passage ceremony (two right pics). :-)
The ceremony was beautiful. And then, just as it ended, the sun came out. It seemed as if it wanted to congratulate us, too. Meanwhile, we all embraced and kissed each other in congratulatory hugs, back around the apucheto (two right photos).
Soon, patches of blue sky also appeared on the horizon.
The sun and the mountains that looked so dark and foreboding only a few minutes ago, seem to me smiling at us and putting on quite a light show.
This continued as we started to descend back toward the base camp.
Along the way, we shared the mountain slope and a part of the trail with soma llamas. Notice how they seem to be aglow in the setting sun? Some of them have pink ribbons tied to their ears. I was told that that's to mark the ones who were pregnant. Can't vouch for it for sure, as they did not talk to me much about their romantic endeavors. :-)
Here are a few more spectacular sunset shots before the sun dropped the curtain on our Rites of Passage ceremony.
And that's all she wrote from this Day 12 of our Peru adventure.