Friday, April 15, 2011

Pachatata temple

Pachatata temple
Amaru, Cosmic Serpent,
hails the rising sun

When I wake up in the middle of the night, it is raining. My first thought is one of relief. Rain means we won't be getting up at 4:00 to climb five hundred feet in the dark to Pachatata temple at the top of the island in order to witness sunrise. My clock battery died so I have no idea what time it is, but I need to make a necessary visit to one of the two toilets that serve the entire hostel. I grope for my headlamp and pull on my alpaca sweater, cross the courtyard, climb several slick stone steps and pass the communal sink. The toilets are lit by one candle placed on the divider between the two. The hospedaje perches halfway up Amantani Island, which rises a thousand feet above the lake. At 12,500 feet, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. It seems like only moments after I crawl back in bed before I hear a knock at the door. It has stopped raining and Amaru and Qoa, our Inka guides and medicine men, are ready to lead the way to the temple. I think about sleeping in, but when will I ever get a chance like this again? Fortunately, the path to the peak is paved with large flagstones. Last night we watched the locals, women and men, hauling these forty pound stones carried in bright square cloths on their backs up to the top in order to extend the path. The rest of the group takes off, leaving me alone with Qoa, who stays behind me, patiently waiting while I stop every few paces to catch my breath. We pass through several stone archways, each portal representing a chakra and a stage of initiation. When we finally reach the summit, we walk around a large square stone wall set with simple wooden gates. Pachatata, Earth Father, presides over this temple, while Pachamama, Earth Mother, has her own temple on an adjoining peak. Qoa asks us to stop, close our eyes and then walk forward, without fear, then stop again while he does a ceremony to allow us to enter the sacred space. At the eastern gate Amaru ties on his beaded yachac headdress, then sets about creating a beautiful mandala with red flowers forming a double heart and a solid circle of yellow flowers in the center for the sun. He leads us in several ceremonies, ending by playing his flute as the sun rises. Amaru means Cosmic Serpent and Qoa means Cosmic Puma. Malku, another of our Inka yachac friends, is named for the Cosmic Condor. These three animals form the triumvirate in the Inka spiritual realm. Their forms appear to me as I sit in meditation. Amaru says they are the guardians of these sacred sites.

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