Sun Salutation at the Sun Gate
by Penny Meaux Edwards (a.k.a. pennimo)
Yoga unblocks the seven chakras or the seven energy centers of the human body. A dedicated practice of yoga opens the unblocked chakras to higher planetary frequencies. My yoga practice heightens reception of universal transmissions. Intuitively, my meridians align like a needle in a compass attracted by an unknown energy field. An internal alarm resonates and I am off into the wild blue yonder.
One amazing wake-up call transcended the Andes through haunting Peruvian flutes. Years of global trekking had not fulfilled my desire to see the “lost city of the Inca,” Machu Picchu, Peru. Through clair audience, I heeded the melodious flutes that beckoned my internal alarm.
South American Explorers, a club headquartered in Ithaca, New York that I promptly joined, proved invaluable. After careful consideration, I chose Peru Chasquitur tour operators. In less than two months, I was Miami bound with inoculations in place and family worries subdued. I connected with an American Airlines five and a half hour non-stop flight to Lima, Peru. (Economy round trip cost $379 round trip. All prices are current.) Peru Chasquitur made late night arrival and clearing customs at Jorge Chavez International Airport easy. A 30-minute transfer with a few city highlights gave the tour guide time to review my itinerary before checking me into the cozy two-star Hotel Ariosto. (Double Room costs $90 USD plus 19% tax.) Sleep came quickly that night but not as quickly as a 7 a.m. wake-up call.
It wasn't until the next morning that I
appreciated the sunny yellow exterior of the 23-room hotel in the
upscale location of Miraflores, a lovely seaside suburb of Peru's
modern capital city. A 30-minute drive north to the airport revealed
a flat city except for the narrow Pacific coast where the barren
Andean piedmont juts spiky hills into the sky. (Economy round trip
cost $262 USD.)
As the Boeing 737 lifted me into the clouds, I experienced an adrenaline rush. All I could think of was that somewhere behind those distant billowing clouds was the magnificent spine of Peru, the Andes. Deep in the Andes lay Machu Picchu, the religious center and royal estate of the Inca Empire that had mysteriously summoned my soul. From my window seat, I became entranced by golden sunbeams breaking through white clouds. I dreamed of the Sun Gate (Intipunku in the Inca tongue of Quechua). A hike to this famous gateway of the Inca Trail to greet the sunrise with a reverent Sun Salutation awaited me.
At 11,444 feet above sea level, Cuzco (Tawantinsuyo) was the southern capital of the highly-developed and ancient Inca civilization. I chose to visit during rainy season when the Andean mountain forest are most verdant.
Never could I have imagined the daunting majesty that unfolded when we began our descent.
Deep emerald valleys blanketed mountains that pierced the heavens with snow-capped peaks. Cuzco’s renowned terra-cotta roofs and cobblestone streets appeared neatly laid out. The nine-hundred year old mestizo (a mix of Inca and Spanish) city that combined sophisticated Inca and colonial Spanish architecture crowned the Andes.
In spite of treacherous terrain, the Lan Peru flight went smoothly. A pretty guia (guide) from Peru Chasquitur welcomed me at the gate. In the land of dark-haired mestizos, my long red hair and fair skin easily identified me. Within 30 minutes, our driver delivered us to the city’s colonial main square, Plaza de Armas. My guide checked me into the three-story Plaza de Armas Hotel. (Double Room costs $73 USD plus 19% tax.) Before leaving she warned that the extreme elevation often caused altitude sickness. Rest and drinking mate de coca (tea of the coca leaf) to acclimate slowly was advised. She explained that cocaine is a derivative of the coca plant whose leaves the locals chew. I was told not to take taxis due to common kidnapping of foreigners. My desire to see the land of the Inca had outweighed these dangers prior to leaving home.
A quick retreat led to a quiet evening. Room service delivered possibly the most delicious chicken soup I have ever tasted. I sipped the uniquely flavored mate de coca. Cocooned in mist of a hot shower, I practiced pranayama (breath control) to increase my somewhat jet-lagged prana (life force). I recalled a favorite quote from the Bhagavad Gita (a Sanskrit text of 700 verses): “The soul that moves in the world of the senses and keeps the senses in harmony...finds rest in the quiet.” I glided into the quiet of a small bed smelling of open-air freshness and drifted into shanti (peace).
This valley of pleasant climate, fertile soil and proximity to Cuzco was understandably a favorite
of Inca nobles. I feasted on a lunch of freshly
picked vegetables at an outdoor buffet in Olly (as the locals call
Ollantaytambo). Pisac’s lively Sunday market, Ollantaytambo’s
amazingly preserved Inca structures still in use today and
Chinchero’s immense agricultural terraces are a complete story unto
themselves. With senses and intellect saturated, I became very quiet
on the long drive back to the hotel.
I said good night and promised to be in the lobby by 5:30 a.m. Hot chicken soup, followed by an equally hot shower and a phone call to my husband, finished a perfect day. As I lay falling asleep, I was aware of a spiritual shift in my meridians. I was awakened by an internal alarm of haunting flute melodies. I rolled out of bed and gingerly dressed in layered clothing. Boots tied and pant legs tucked, I grabbed a walking stick and backpack then loped out of the door. Destination: Machu Picchu.
A scholar of archeology accompanied me. We took a three-hour train from San Pedro station. A Coche Inka-class seat provided a large window at a small table with fresh flowers and food service. My scholarly guia presented a wealth of knowledge about the ancient mysteries awaiting me in the cloud forest. Lively discourse with a nice Columbian couple established mutual eagerness to enter the Pre-Columbian time warp that laid ahead. The surrounding selva (jungle) was enchanting. My heart jumped when I saw a sign saying Machu Picchu. A few minutes later, we disembarked at Puente Ruinas bus station. A dizzying 30-minute bus ride into the Amazonian highland jungles had me repeating a mantra of “look at the mountain and keep your head on your shoulders.”
“Vengas!” called the tall Peruvian guide. “Hiram Bingham, the American explorer, visited the site and gave it importance in 1911.” He beckoned me to the clef of a huge stone that somewhat protected us from the soft rain and focused my attention on his lecture. I squatted and pulled my poncho around me while I listened intently.
Knowing of my desire to see Intipunku or Puerta del Sol (Spanish for Sun Gate), he pointed to a high emerald-green hill. He handed me binoculars so I could get my first glimpse of the massive stone portal. There were small agricultural terraces with stonewalls and winding steps leading up to this monumental gate. “Manana you shall have all day to walk these ruins alone. Let us take the easy walks so that you can acclimate. The Temple of the Sun and of the Three Windows and the magnificent masonry of the Principle Temple is what I shall show you. We shall stroll to the famous Inthuatana (Hitching Post of the Sun) which is a vertical stone column that every important Inca city had.” I learned of the Inca ruler, Pachacuti, who defeated regional tribes and began construction of this royal estate in 1438. His citadel was abandoned shortly after the Spanish invasion of Cuzco in 1532, being missed by the Conquistadores’ ravages.
I walked through the small touristy town to the bright orange Presidente Hotel. (Double Room costs $60 USD plus 19% tax.) The room was sufficient and clean. The hotel clerk suggested dining on a local fish delicacy. Enticing aromas led me to an outdoor restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River. I sat facing the thunderously raging river swollen with seasonal rainfall. It reminded me of flash floods in the rain forest of Irian Jaya, Indonesia during rainy season. Its’ might was mesmerizing. I sifted through thoughts and wrote in my journal. Trucho al harno, trout grilled in a clay oven like pizza, was delicious.
Early evenings are standard for me. After a quick shower, I lay in bed feeling completely rejuvenated. The pure oxygen of the jungle cleansed me. I slept like a baby. After the hotel wake- up call, I rolled over to stretch and give thanks for the glorious exhilaration. I leisurely dressed as though preparing for a grand entrance into the royal court of Intipunku.
I grabbed a cup of tea from the lobby and tucked a roll into my backpack. The damp dark of dawn felt cool on my face as I briskly walked to the bus station. A prompt 6 a.m. departure began my journey upward.
After a first day of tedious study, the ease of a quiet morning was relaxing. I headed southeast from the main complex and began hiking up the 400-year-old trail. During its golden era in the mid-fifteenth century, the Inca Trail was a network of 10,000 miles of stone roads. Chasquiturs (trained runners) relayed official messages up to 250 miles per day. All roads led to the sacred city through the Puerta del Sol.
Led by a higher power, I unknowingly took a wrong turn. A mysteriously peaceful trail made me wonder where all the sun seekers were. I found hiking alone inspiring and calming.
I briskly swung around a cave-like boulder and was surprised. A sign indicated that the trail ended. My eyes followed the larkspur-laden path to a fallen bridge whose ladder-weary crossing could no longer support humanity. This part of the mountain had returned to Mother Earth.
I layered down, snapped a few photos and headed back to the correct trail head. Led by good karma, I had been far from the maddening tourists who gathered early at the Sun Gate. Many were hiking down due to thick mist obscuring the sunrise. Incline sharply increased which necessitated hairpin turns along the trail. Stone steps carved by the Inca for tiny bare feet challenged the poise of my yoga toes embedded deeply into my hiking boots. A Beatles tune became the mantra that gave my heavy boots winged-victory’s light step- “Oh, my Lord.
Hallelujah. My sweet Lord. Hallelujah.”
The sol, the selva and myself became one. My meridians were perfectly aligned. The true reverence of the Sanskrit word namaste (I honor the light in you) was luminously clear. “There will always be another tomorrow, so do not fret about today.” The sol whispered this intuitive purpose of my journey to me. “Namaste,” I bowed.
I languidly stepped from the stone portal onto a nearby terrace. I seated myself into Baddha Konasana (Cobbler Pose), then took a small pen and paper out of my fanny pack. Perched high above the world, the Muse of Poetry touched my soul. She guided me in my second language of Spanish. For the first time in my life, I conceived a poem in Spanish. Perhaps it was this Muse who had summoned me to the “lost city of the Inca.”
La Puerta del Sol en la Madrugada
Llege a las siete y media
Primeramente, la joya del Sol se escondo en la
Me senti ahi, encima del mundo con el Sol.
La maravilla ya esta.
The Sun Gate at Dawn [English Translation]
I arrived at seven thirty.
At first, the jewel of the Sun hid in the mist
There I sat on top of the world with the Sun.
The wonder is still here.
by pennimo (copyright pending)
South American Explorers at www.saexplorers.org
Peru Chasquitur at www.peruchasquitur.com
PeruRail at www.perurail.com
Penny Meaux Edwards’ yoga studio of Yoga & Beyond by pennimo at www.pennimo.com