Sarita and Carlito accompany us through this experience, teaching the language of a world we didn’t know before, the keys in order to understand and respect the forest. They design in our minds the symbols of nature: the anaconda (amaru), the boa, the sangre de drago (dragon blood, a medicinal resin), the butterflies, the curative plants used by the community and the shamans. Ayahuasca (the word which means “vine of the spirits” in Quechua language) or yagé, is a traditional psychotropic infusion considered sacred by the indigenous peoples in all the river basin of the Amazonian forest. It comes prepared by the shamans or curanderos in infusion and it’s consumed by night, as an instrument to expand their own mind and perception of nature. In the Napo region, Equador, it’s known with three different names:
- Ayahuasca de las Mujeres, visions of flowers.
- Ayahuasca de los Hombres, visions of boas.
- Ayahuasca de los Fantasmas, visions of spirits.
The Andean landscape becomes extremely variable in the northern part of Ecuador: from semi-desertic valleys to impressive green hills. After hours of roller coaster we reach Otavalo, a village where one of the most important Ecuadorian indigenous markets takes place. We continue towards Quito, the capital, a gem suspended between the snowed peaks of the Andean volcanoes. We are literally conquered by the socio-cultural ferment which enlivens the city, in a few days we know many people, artesanos and people of the street, we talk with NGOs about cooperation, voluntary work and with cultural foundations. We enter in contact with new friends who hopefully will help us to trace a good itinerary towards the eastern Amazon region. We accidentally discover the ethnographic museum managed by the organization Mindalae, an interesting mosaic of the Ecuadorian cultures. From the African influence of the north-western region to the indigenous groups of the forest (Shuar, Siona and Secoya, Achuar, Huaorani), skillful craftsmen of the nature, without forgetting the Andean culture (Quechua).
Second part. Our incredible journey continues from Consata and the atmosphere around us becomes more and more friendly. We have built a friendship that can break down the wall of mutual diversity and sometimes mistrust. Admiring the wild beauty of the Yungas, we received some patient lessons of Quechua and Aymara (Inti and Lupi for the word sun), the languages spoken by the indigenous population. We focus on essential concepts such as friends, family, the forest, the mountains, the sky, the sun and the moon.
In the middle of the night, after warmly greeting our friends from Consata, we find a passage to Incachca, on the gold trail in the direction of Santa Rosa. A bumpy trail takes us in the heart of the jungle through a night landscape of incomparable charm. The forest is animated by the sounds of countless living beings, they breathe, sing and dance in unison. We perceive all the immense energy of the Pachamama. With our traveling companions, we reach Incachaca late in the night, where we camp under the stars, but we are so excited that we could not sleep. The jungle prepares us to a magnificient dawn with a crescendo of music tunes. We arrive in Santa Rosa.
Arequipa, a jewel set in the wide valleys of southern Peru Andean plateau, is known from the Peruvians as the white city. A quiet and hospitable city, where to acclimatize before the rise in remote parts of the Andes. The drown tops of three volcanoes brush the city, the misti (gentleman, with its perfectly conical shape), the Chachani (beloved) and Picchu Picchu (high high) in the Quechua language. In the basement at the Convent of Santa Catalina, in an eternal embrace, lies the mummy of a girl (nicknamed Juanita, or Inca ice maiden) sacrificed in a ritual at Mount Ampato by the Incas 500 years ago. The encounter with a “viejo loco”, as he introduced himself, gives us a glimpse of Latin America, sitting in a tiny square of Arequipa, under the shade of some orange trees in bloom, we begin a long conversation on the life and traditions of the Andes and Arequipa. He traveled widely as a young man, being a street artist, and his memories are still bright. We discussed the magical combination of moods, colors, flavors, music and experiences that brings the traveler in his pilgrimage. In Arequipa it’s easy to meet lots of people, also because the climate is very hospitable. We receive an invitation to the home of a boy, out of town. We get to know their grandparents, who take care of alfalfa and corn fields and prepare for us a rich and delicious lunch accompanied by abundant traditional chicha, a fermented drink produced from corn. Sitting around the fire we eat and listen with interest the story of their lives, amid joys and sacrifices. After lunch, we learn the basics needed to play the Quena, the typical flute used in Andean music.