Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Healing in Cusco

Cusco, Peru
Land of sacred sites, wonderful energy, incessant horn honking, and healing of every sort.  
A spiritual mecca for people from all over the world all at around 11,200 ft.

What do yogis do on a 22hr bus ride-
Bus Yoga of course!
We left Eco Truly Park, took an hour and a half bus back to Lima, waited about 4 hours, then boarded our 22 hour bus ride to Cusco. Caleb and I opted for the 180 degree, fully reclining seats, fully worth the extra soles. If you've never bus travelled through South America, it can actually be quite nice (even though my father would highly disagree- we travelled through parts of Argentina on bus and he calls the cama, or bed, seats the coma seats).  On a typical bus like this you have your own screens for viewing movies, games, etc, a stewardess, and meals served throughout your travels.  Granted they're not always like this, but often they can be and on 22 hour bus journeys it's worth it to make sure you do.

Grounding headstands in front of the Cusco Cathedral...
until we found out we weren't aloud on the grass...
Arriving in Cusco was a blessing. The fresh, clean, Andean mountain air. The sparkling nature of the city.  My roommate at the eco village recommended we stay in San Blas, a neighborhood situated a bit further up in the hills, but with yoga and healing houses all around, the more laid back artesenal part of Cusco. We followed our intuition as to where to take us and ended up at La Casa de la Gringa, a beautiful and very comfortable hostel owned by a South African women who has been living here for quite some time.  A much healthier, more laid back atmosphere than a lot of the party and hustle and bustle hostels that can be found nearer the main square.

At El Templo del Sol, the Temple of the Sun,
the central Incan temple and center of all their holy sites.
It connected all other temples through lines of energy
and the use of astrology.
It is rainy season here but it never lasts all day. We walked around getting to know the city, visiting some of its historic sites, heading to the wonderful San Pedro market to stock up on eats and loot, and just started to take it all in.  I got to enjoy some wonderful yoga at Yoga Inbound Cusco and had one of the most powerful practices of my life. I swear sometimes yoga never feels better than when you're travelling. We also checked out the Healing House and their wonderful endeavors and missions.

Shortly after arriving I headed to Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. I have to say Ollantaytambo is probably my favorite place I've visited thus far in Peru. It was built as an estate and ceremonial land for an Incan emperor. It is the best surviving example of Inca city planning and its narrow cobblestone streets have been continuously inhabited for over 700 years. I found it extremely peaceful, clean, serene, calm, and pleasing.

The quaint streets of Ollantaytambo.
And I've already written about how amazing Machu Picchu was for me as well. But I'll also admit that the day after I could hardly walk! I guess that's what you get when you climb over 1,400 ft in less than 40 minutes, and then continue to climb and descend a total of about 3,000 feet in less than 3 hours and all on huge stone steps. And proceed to hike around more then sit completely motionless for about 6 hours afterwards. It was worth every step but I don't know if I've ever been so sore! Yoga definitely helped, if not a bit painful.  But along with this exhaustion came an off and on fever and an accumulation of my stomach upset.

It was OK, manageable at the least.  But then one night in particular, about 2 days ago, it all took a turn for the worse. I was on the toilet for a good part of the night and my fever accumulated, I couldn't keep any liquids in. I woke up super dehydrated and feeling incredibly weak. When the hostel lady asked how I was doing I just broke down crying, I felt like I could barely walk! But I managed to make it to the market to get more water and gatorades and later in the day, after more sleep, I got to the pharmacist and things turned up from there.  Luckily in South America pharmacists act almost more like doctors and she was able to prescribe me an antibiotic for whatever bacteria was wreaking havoc on my stomach and another medicine for helping with my bathroom issues so that I could begin the process of re-hydrating. As most all of you know, I tend to always treat myself with herbs, rest, and self-care, but I didn't hesitate for one second to take her up on what she suggested. Within several hours I was already beginning to feel much better, more solid (pun intended?) then I had in quite some time. Gratitude.

Vegetarian Soup, much needed!
Mercado San Blas
I'm still recovering, eating white rice and soups. But seriously I've been trying to ignore my stomach upset since Mexico and had been quite successful.  The damage that had been done in Mexico though meant that I wasn't quite ready to handle the harshness of Peru and some of the worst water in the world. But now, I realize, feeling better than I have in quite some time, how much things will only go up from here! And just how careful I will be. (Did you know that at such high altitudes you have to boil any water you cook with for at least 10-15 min. in order for it to actually kill the bacteria? I didn't... and apparently a lot of Andean Peruvians don't either.)

I feel almost a little guilty for not going out and about, adventuring every day to new ruins, trying new yoga. I missed out on volunteering for kids yoga, but when you have a fever and nothing to give, what's the point! I am however grateful to be in a place where I can take proper care of myself and have access to everything I need.  There's nothing more important than your health. Nothing. So I will spend the next several days gaining my strength back, perhaps going to a yoga class or 2, and just enjoying the fact that I get to spend my time recuperating and resting in one of the most healing cities in the world. Coincidence, I think not!

The beauty and light of
La Casa de La Gringa.
So after a few more days in this sacred and spiritual place, I will head towards Bolivia, starting with Lago Titicaca! Caleb and I will be heading to Isla del Sol, where the Incans believe the Sun God lived and came from, and which is also the sacral chakra point of the earth. Healing waters and adventures indeed. And an increase in altitude to 12,507 ft, the highest navigable lake in the world. After that I'll part ways with my travel buddy and venture into the rest of Bolivia on my own, towards La Paz, salt flats, and perhaps another eco village or two.  I am very excited about the adventures that lie ahead.

El Mercado San Pedro,
you can find most anything here!
I'd love to hear any comments from y'all about anything else you'd like to see here- any topics you'd like me to discuss, any yoga, any issues, any places, etc. And in the mean time I ask for you to find gratitude in your lives! For living in a place that has fresh, healthy water, for your health, for whatever it is you are grateful for. And especially the parts of yourSELF that seem to ail you, because really they are just their to teach you the lessons you need to learn and show you the way to change, progress, healing, self-knowledge, and self-love.

You could do as Thich Nhat Hanh taught me and thank all parts of yourself- thank your organs, thank your heart, thank your breath.  All of these things deserve attention and love for the hard and wonderful work they are constantly doing, and deserve attention outside of when they seem to be failing you.  Happiness comes from being thankful and appreciating what you have, no matter 'good' or 'bad'. Just be grateful!

Overlooking Cusco & Plaza San Blas.

A special thank you to Brittany for being my long time dear friend and now MD advisor.  
Thank you Papa Joe for ensuring that I am comfortable, safe, and taken care of in my ability to recuperate. And thank you Alex for your never-ending spot on advice and energies and for rejuvenating my mind and spirits more than you could know!

Not a bad view!
Also, a happy and wonderful marriage to my dear friends Emily and Brandon.

I love you all!


  1. Aw thanks for the shout out! I'm just glad the pharmacist gave you exactly what you needed. And just as an FYI to all of you out there planning a trip to S. America or Asia, you can treat yourself when you have bad diarrhea with ciprofloxacin and lopermide. The great thing is that drug names are consistent across borders, so you can always be sure you will get the correct medications. As always, be careful because Sometimes you come across some of the bad apples in the bunch (pharmacist wise) and they will give you the wrong type of antibiotic for the problem and make it worse! SO glad you are feeling much better!

  2. Hey Jess! Since I'm reading your blog updates (yay for FB), and you asked for it, thought I'd chime in and say hi! Love reading about your amazing adventures, and kudos to you for being so dedicated to writing! I can't imagine backpacking for so long by myself - you ROCK! take care and much love, jo