He leads us into a maze of rocks and caves scattered on an open hill overlooking Cusco. His name is Kush, a shaman by trade and a mysterious man overall. He doesn´t dress or look particularly traditional. But as he beats the drum, shakes the rattle, and chants the prayers to begin the ceremony, everything becomes a little surreal. And this is before we even take the San Pedro cactus juice, a drink intended to heal you by putting you in closer touch with nature (i.e. talking to plants and flowers). When in Peru..., right?
A half hour after chugging two glasses of the green crap, the urge not to puke is strong. Kitty and I have practically passed out and Andrew has climbed some massive rock to take the following picture. Have we in reality taken part in some suicide ritual? It certainly crossed my mind given our current conditions.
Soon Kush begins his march through the valley. Crap, we have to move. I can barely feel my legs. Never been this fatigued before. We start losing sight of him and are practically wandering on our own. Um, is it really a good idea to feed us magic cactus potions and leave us unattended to play around on cliff faces and sharp rocks while we´re tripping out and half-sick? Just thought I´d ask.
We catch up to the shaman who is walking in a wooded area along a stream. At least I think it´s him. But all I see is a horse. WTF?
Oh ok, he´s sitting down twiddling a yellow flower and softly laughing demonically to himself. Relieving. I sit down beside him and kinda drift off to sleep, now more exhausted than sick. Eyes closed, I see a ton of white rabbits emerging from a flat background into three dimensional forms. Hrm, this would prolly be a good time to ponder some of my questions. (Note: we were supposed to think of a few goals/questions about ourselves beforehand that we´d like to tackle with the San Pedro). I think hard about my particular ones and await some answers. All I see is a moose. Super. What a rip-off. And the flowers aren´t even talking to me. The shaman starts moving again. I almost spew before getting up to follow him.
Now the chase really begins. He is flying through the valley, perhaps floating. At the top of every mound we catch a brief glimpse of Kush on the edge of some new cliff face. And as quickly as we see him, he disappears around the corner. It´s like the naked Indian in Wayne´s World. We just can´t reach him and start to wonder if he´s actually there or if we´re hallucinating.
We soon figure out we are just moving very very slow. And laughing very very uncontrollably. Andrew discovers a broken magic frying pan. We should ride it to catch up with Kush. Or at least use it to descend the steep hill (see picture - we were convinced this gradient of maybe 5 degrees was the most treacherous cliff ever). We mistake rocks for waterfalls. We take photos of my green booger. We find a horse´s ass sticking out of the bush and label it my inner soul. And we inexplicably find immense humour in the following story: ¨There were these 2 dogs...barking...loudly.¨ Will we ever catch this shaman?
Eventually we draw even at the entrance of a large cave/tunnel where we have to wade through the passing stream in bare feet. The water both numbs and refreshes me. When putting my beautiful yellow socks back on, I am convinced my feet have grown 10 sizes. As I stare in awe at my own flesh, the others laugh their asses off. Bastards.
During the two hour walk back to the city, we once again trail Kush by miles, mostly due to our awe with the surrounding landscape. I´ve never enjoyed a short trek so much. Amongst other marvels, we stroll past a small village and some ancient ruins. All the while, the city´s brown roofs gleam from below and a mountain in the distance proclaims "Viva El Peru, Gloriosa." Many donkeys but few cars pass by.
Cusco is just moments away but we savour the moment a bit longer from above...away from all the tourist haggling that poisons the incredible city and which we have no desire to reimmerse ourselves into just yet. Kush has long given up on us and is probably asleep in his bed by now. We can´t see it but the sun is setting. And we reflect on an unreal day. I can´t say my questions were really answered but there was at least some clarity and tranquility reached by the end. I think the true San Pedro effects might take a few tries to get it right and maybe you need to be away from the hilarity of your friends. Or perhaps I´m just not the kind of guy who needs to talk to flowers right now.
A few days, a bout of diarrhea, and a visit to Machu Picchu later, I now find myself venturing solo. The Aussies have continued their goals via Argentina and Brazil and I am about to embark on volunteer work in the Central Highlands of Peru. Bittersweet times for sure. Best of luck guys...keep an eye out for loud barking dogs and stay clear of horses.
Random dinner shot...is that roasted guinea pig I accidentally ordered? Tasty!