Jeff Smith 9 a.m., June 28
- Community Blog
- From 4220 feet:
Cusco, Christ, And Coca Tea: Peru served up all three.
Up on the mountain at a distance, locals pointed when I asked if there were Christians here. I wanted to attend a church and asked some of the locals to direct me to their favorite place to worship. They pointed to a white statue and said it was Christ. Who am I to argue?
On every counter including the one at my hotel, there was a big bowl of leaves. Men put them in their front lip like snuff. Women didn't seem to indulge. They were from the coca plant which is processed to make cocaine.
But then, I had breakfast. I kept asking for coffee, caffeine, finally I asked for a Coca Lite which is Peruvian for Diet Coke. "No, only Coca Tea, which is leaves from that same mystical plant brewed into a kind of tea that tasted like grass boiled in water. After two cups, I was still fighting jetlag but the waiter said no more tea for me.
About half an hour later, I understood why. I could have led the town parade naked I felt so high. On the four hour train ride to the ruins of Machu Picchu, I asked everyone who would listen if they had experienced the peace that only Christ can bring. "Have you felt His power?," I asked.
" Let's pray," I chirped and two military policemen actually set down their weapons and we held hands and asked for guidance. Those men boarded the train in riot gear-replete with shields and tear gas rifles. They didn't speak English but still I persisted in trying to convince them of Christ's love for them.
"Donde esta mucho personas?," I asked in my ridiculous version of Spanish. They told me that citizens had been storming the trains and taking hostages and Americans were the target so the government asked them to ride along with tourists that included those of us from the States. The people were protesting the government's empty promises which left many of them poor and jobless.
Enter American professor from Yale Hiram Bingham in the early 1900s. He found Machu Picchu in the mountains of Peru by coming from the U.S. and offering a gold piece to anyone who could take him to the 'lost village.' When Spain took over the country, an edict was issued that banned any language except Spanish but news did not reach the residents of this incredible stone village built into the tiers of the mountain.
The people in the hills, called Highlanders, didn't know the country had been taken over and still came down to trade in the original language. After a few generations, no one could deal with them as no one spoke in the native tongue in the cities and hadn't for decades. This led to rumors of a lost city which reached the U.S. and got the attention of Bingham.
That gold piece led him to the people who spoke the old language. That is how Machu Picchu was discovered and it is an incredible place to visit. They worshipped the condor (bird) the same way the Masaii's in Africa pay tribute to the lion. It was their animal of devotion and even inspired someone to carve a huge condor in stone with an altar in the middle. An Alpaca would be killed on the altar and the blood would fill in the carving and create of picture of the revered bird.
Stonehenge, the Rosetta Stone and Machu Picchu have been my three favorites as I explored our globe. Nothing can touch the power and significance of each stony memorial. My next stop will be Easter Islands and the monoliths that exist there. They are all facing the same direction and the rumor is that the faces were created to show that something was worth seeing back then and the statues are all faced in that direction. Neat. Cool. Fun in a complex world that often produces more misery than mystery at times..
I like to explore the mystery of why our ancestors did what they did in such a big way, before tools, before technology. Their message is clearly attempted in these longstanding memorials to man's will and far-reaching ideas to still capture the attention of many all these years later.
More to come, I am SherryD