Where in the World is Jillo


By Jill Swenson

My friend, Troy, who was the instrument that got me to Ireland last year, was interested in tours and so I introduced he and Finbarr last fall.  Troy wanted to go to Peru. When they agreed on it he asked me, “You’re going, aren’t you?!”  What could I say. I hadn’t planned on going to Peru, I was going to France. The gods were in my favor and I got to do both trips. I met Troy in the Cities and we were off to Atlanta, the same city I flew out of for Ireland! (And if you read my blog, there is another facet to the name Atlanta.)
As we crossed the threshold into the walkway to the plane, Troy said, “Did you feel that?”  I had, but wasn’t sure it was what I thought. It was the first sign we were on our spiritual journey. We met Brad (he’d been in one of Troy’s classes with me) in Atlanta and we all flew out to Lima. None of us could believe we were actually going. Troy took a picture of the sign behind the flight desk saying Peru.  It was surreal.
Arriving in Peru late, we checked into our hotel which was only yards from the terminal. There we met up with another of the tour group and retired for the few hours we had before meeting the group at 7:30 a.m. in the lobby. We were introduced to our Peruvian guide, Romulo. Then we boarded another plane to our destination of Cuzco where we boarded a bus for an hour and a half ride up into the mountains and to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The ride through Cuzco showed the extreme poverty. We saw farmland that was little more than scratches in the dirt compared to here. Romulo told us that there are 2,000 varieties of potatoes grown in Peru. We tasted many of them in one form or another while we were there. To get to the hotel we drove through very poor sections and ended up in a hotel in a walled area in the country. It was absolutely beautiful with flowers and gardens and beauty.
That night we had a ceremony with a local shaman outside in the garden area. We were each blessed and given three cocoa leaves to put our intentions into and give them back to the shaman who put them all together as an offering to the Earth mother. The shaman and his wife conducted the ceremony and sang. It was very beautiful and showed us  a cultural side of Peru that was very interesting.  The people are so very connected to the earth.
Day 2
Today we explored the original town of Ollantaytambo (City of Dawn). We visited a home where there was a dirt floor and it was quite small. There were different statues and a shelf with a couple of skulls that were their ancestors. Romulo explained the traditions of what was displayed on the little table. There were also about 30 guinea pigs that shared the home. It is on the menu in Peru, so I don’t know if they were raising them to sell or eat themselves.
Romulo led us down the winding, steep streets and showed us parts of original Incan buildings. Considering the way the buildings were built with the stones so close together, there was quite a knowledge of craftsmanship and design. Farther out he showed us the natural stone Temple of the Condor. He talked about the outcroppings of rock on the sides of the walls and explained that they had been animals, power animals, and that when the Spaniards invaded they chopped off the heads of the animals and destroyed much of the culture and beliefs of the Incas. Romulo commented that when the large stones were moved, one weighing about 90 tons, there was no way that pulleys and such could have done that and besides, they were from about four miles away across the river.  We all agreed it was similar to the story of the pyramids and we believed differently than how the story had been told.
As we tried to return to our hotel, there was a traffic jam in the tiny streets due to a festival going on and huge amounts of traffic. We sat stopped in the bus for about an hour until our driver got perturbed and walked up to a bus stopped ahead of us to see what was up. He ended up telling that driver to get out and he backed the other driver’s bus back up the hill and parked it so we could proceed. The police were doing nothing, so Emelio finally told them they better get something done. They did.  We loved our driver, he took no garbage!
Day 3
We went to the ruins of Chinchero today. We were driven to a small compound where we were shown how they spin, dye and weave the many things they have for sale in Peru. They use alpaca wool and it is all very primitively woven. The ladies doing the work sang and gave us tea and were very happy to show us how it all worked. So primitive are the conditions in which they live and work and yet they are so happy. We were all taken with a lovely little girl named Camilla who was about three. She was so loving and hugged us and wanted us to hold her.  We took her picture and it is the custom to give them coins if you take their photo. We all bought some of the things they had for sale and some of us had brought little things to give to the children. As we left they came down to the bus to sing to us and thank us.
The most beautiful site awaited us. We drove to Moray, an Inca site back up in the hills. It was concentric circles of terracing held up by rock walls in the shape of a bowl. It was fabulous and the temperature was 18˚ cooler on the bottom than at the top.  It took a long time to climb down to the bottom and a long time to climb back out. We really had a workout that day. Finbarr said that there were ceremonies done in the bottom by the Inca people in the ancient past. Some of the pilgrims had visions of things like that while at the bottom. I did not, however I felt it to  be a very spiritual place and one of great peace.

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