I BELIEVE WE ARE ALL SEEKERS, each in our own way.
But I would venture to guess that if you’re reading this article you and I are seekers in some very similar ways. We seek to expand our world through the direct personal experience. We seek to see more, understand more, to experience more. We seek not because we are sure the answers are out there hiding but rather because that’s all we can do when the beautiful mysteries of life beckon. We seek.
This summer my seeking has led me to Cusco and the million possibilities that ambulate around the UNESCO world heritage city. To Francis Casapino and the patronage of JW Marriott El Convento.
MY GUIDE: Francis Casapino of Explorandes
I have been on a lot of PR trips and I have had a lot of guides but I’ve never met a man like Francis Casapino – our narrator of this video and my guide for 3 days. When I initially met Francis in the vaulted stone the vaulted stone lobby of the Marriott and I dismissed the diminutive man in the blue blazer as another smiling obstacle to what I really wanted – time alone to explore Cusco. But I misjudged Francis. He dwells in same curiosity that compels seekers to Cusco in the first place.
In Cusco he led us through the cobbled layer cake of culture.
In the Sacred Valley he pulled our tour van over and picked up a young mother and her snot nosed kid and we diverted to drop them off at the local school.
At Machu Picchu he coaxes a llama over for selfies with a banana between bouts of orating on archeological lore.
At the salt mines of Maras he led our troupe through matrix of trickling irrigation streams and ancient salt beds. As a self proclaimed fellow seeker, Francis knows what we seek and why and he makes it his mission to lead seekers through the mysteries of Cusco, Machu Picchu and Peruvian culture so that they might find something of their own, some moment to hold on to.
Did I find what I was seeking? I did. And then some.
I found a place that delivers on the promises of this traveler’s imagination. I found a culture so compelling it survived the brutalities of Spanish conquest and a people more warm and welcoming than I feel I deserve. I found friends I didn’t know I had.
I found Cusco.
31 THINGS I FOUND IN CUSCO
00:00:01 Francis Casapino, guide for Explorandes and Cusco local.
00:00:07 Ingacio Rodriguez, musician and healer. Ignacio led the music in two ayahuasca ceremonies that I participated in. The music in this video was recorded in an impromptu alleyway jam session.
00:00:08 The train to Machu Piccu (MP) winding through the Sacred Valley.
00:00:09 A woman I bought 5 bracelets from, a man tending an earthen oven, a man I bought a serpentine orb from. I swear I purchased my weight in trinkets and gifts in markets!
00:00:10 A first glimpse of MP from the trail…
00:00:11 Catching the train with my PR trip group at Aguas Calientes, the tiny town that’s essentially used as basecamp for MP.
00:00:12 Descending into the main MP site step by careful step…
00:00:14 Two shamans from the Sacred Valley in prayer before our ‘pachamanca’ or ‘earth pot’ meal of meat and veggies wrapped in leaves and buried in a fire pit.
00:00:17 A portal into MP – was this a window or a murder hole?
00:00:18 the Incan walls of Cusco were used by the Spanish as foundation for their later structures. Each stone piece in these Incan walls was hand shaped to fit a particular niche.
00:00:21 Dancers performing during Inti Raymi, the ‘Festival of the Sun’, in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.
00:00:22 The ancient salt mines of Maras have been in use since Incan times. For a small fee you wander through them!
00:00:32 Inti Raymi festival participants parade through the streets of Cusco during one of the many nights of the June festival.
00:00:32 A traditional pachamanca ‘earthpot’ meal served in a luxurious setting, another type of travel coincidentia oppositorum.
00:00:33 A neighborhood dance group practicing for the Inti Raymi parades held at the end of June.
00:00:35 Vendor selling bread at the San Pedro Market in Cusco.
00:00:36 The Cathedral del Cusco in the Plaza de Armas. The flag of Cusco, a rainbow that resembles a ‘pride’ flag, can be seen flapping in the breeze.
00:00:38 Just some cute little girl, of which there were plenty available for the camera, probably holding a baby goat…
00:00:39 A roving marching band accompanied by a gaggle of jubilant day drinking celebrants.
00:00:41 When the marching bands were marching and drinking and causing a jolly ruckus at night a man with exploding rockets is not far away…
00:00:49 Tasting and buying fruit with Chef Thais Rodrigues in the San Pedro Market.
00:01:03 Avenida de Ruinas – a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas.
00:01:11 An indigenous woman, whom I paid to smile for my camera…
00:01:13 The lobby of El Convento which is restored from the ruins of a convent, which was built on the ruins of an Incan tempe…epic. And a very nice hotel.
00:01:18 Each neighborhood church has a dozen or so teenage boys hoist a giant wooden platform that holds an elaborately decorated saint during the weeks of Inti Raymi. The boys stagger under the weight of the platform while above mentioned marching bands follow behind providing bombast and moral support. Fireworks and day drinking crowds are sure to be nearby.
00:01:27 Machu Picchu was more impressive (yet smaller) than I expected. Half of the enchantment is being perched on top of a mist shrouded mountain. The crowds were mercifully small and didn’t bother me at all. Easily one of the coolest places I’ve ever been.
00:01:33 Not alpacas, but close. The llamas of MP stole the show with everybody and their mother trying to snag a llama selfie.
00:01:41 a woman weaves bracelets and other crafts in the nearby town of Pisac, about 40 minutes by bus from Cusco. I spent the better part of a week in Pisac.
00:01:48 Learning to make pisco sours at a cocktail class at El Convento’s bar tenders and chef Rodriguez..
00:01:52 A man in an awesome hat uses herbs and water to prepare the hot rocks for the pachamanca cooking technique of burying food wrapped in leaves.
00:01:55 An adorable girl shows me the the vibrant colors of a woven belt that I probably didn’t need but bought anyway.
00:01:58 Blessings. Before we ate the pachamanca two local shamans performed a prayer and a blessing that we were invited to participate in.
00:02:00 The ridiculously colorful (and dare I say charming!) open air craft and produce market of Pisac draws visitors from around the region to shop and wander the labyrinth of vendor stalls.
Special thanks to JW Marriott El Convento Cusco for sponsoring Josh’s travels to Peru.