Tieton Eddy Repose

Tieton Eddy Repose
"So, this is the river." said the Rat.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Recollections of Lava Falls - Part 2

The majority of my memories of Lava revolve around the aftermath.  

The decompression.  

The catharsis.  

The blowing off steam on one of the beaches within easy rowing distance.  Or the first beach you wash up on.  Or a midstream boulder, a stone’s throw from the maelstrom, imbibing a post-Lava beer with my boat crew gayly snapping selfies.  Ecstatic having the whitewater turmoil harmlessly upstream of us. 

I prefer to camp far enough away Lava is not audible or visible but close enough to have plenty of time to clean up and still allow a large, lazy portion of the day for a party.  By ‘clean up’ I mean retrieving items and rafts and swimmers and other detritus following any potential mishap.  

Not a shave and shower.

It was on the beach at the bottom of Lava I learned of Lewis Carroll’s poem  “Jabberwocky”.  When I first heard it recited I was too much in the party mood to focus but I distinctly recall being enraptured by the gibberish which sounded grammatically correct and certainly teased the imagination.  I vowed to memorize it - and I have.

“Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe, all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome’s wrath outgrabe. . . “

On the same occasion we shared the beach with another party - a party of twelve men and one woman.  They were short on coffee.  We were flush with coffee.  Their female was exasperated at dealing with the twelve males lack of decorum and sophomoric humor.  

Such as setting up the groover, aka ‘the toilet’, right on the boat exposed for all the world to witness everyone’s scatological habits.  The female hinted she would consider swapping teams and finishing her trip with us.

A short time later, both groups met on a wide spot of the beach, like teams arranged for a raucous game of Red Rover.  Spontaneously one of us galumphed between the opposing parties on all knuckles as a great silverback ape might, set down a sacred can of Folger’s, soaked the sand with lighter fluid and set it afire.  The instigator bounded back to his tribe as everyone, on cue and without forethought, began to reenact the apocryphal scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey where the apes come upon a cold, black, completely out-of-place obelisk. 

A ring of fire engulfed the red tin can while a herd of homo sapiens did their finest impressions of excited hominids.  By hand gestures and grunts, we tried to make it clear we were trading the coffee for the female member of their party.  We were not all stone, cold sober, but we weren’t intoxicated at this stage either.  It was improvisation at its finest.  

Whether or not anyone was clothed, I can’t recall.

In the end, they commandeered the Folger’s and I believe we settled for some other insignificant processed product and not the damsel in psychological distress.

On my most recent foray through the Canyon and past Lava Falls, we pulled in at Tequila Beach just as a research group being escorted by a commercial outfitting group was finishing their lunch.  It didn’t take long for us to strike up some meaningful, impromptu conversations, empathize with their loss of a valued team member - one of the ten humpback chubs being ferried by helicopter into the gorge - and realize they were considerably more lax than your typical commercial crew.  Meaning they had a decadent sense of humor and were likely not easily offended.

Due to that knowledge, a couple of us, who will remain unnamed, serenaded the last two of their oarsmen, as they pulled away from the beach, with a rousing imitation of orangutans on drugs who had somehow learned the words to an enthusiastic Maori war chant.  

In hindsight,  I’m sure they were bemused, envious and concerned they might be reading about us later in the news.  Our celebratory party continued into the early evening aboard my raft beneath a multi-colored beach umbrella and bottomless shot glasses of Banderas - three separate shots with Spicy V-8, lime juice and Don Patron tequila.  Red, green and white.  The colors of the Mexican flag.  ‘Bandera’ being Spanish for ‘flag’. 

A few nights later we caught up to the commercial crew and their merry band of fish biologists and partied like it was 1999 and Lava Falls all over again.

My final Lava Falls recollection was in Chile on the Rio Bio Bio at an ominous rapid named in honor of Lava Falls - Lava Falls South.  On our treacherous, bone-jarring shuttle to the launch for the upper canyons of the Rio Bio Bio, I remember staring into the canyon from an extremely long perspective and seeing the part of the river including Lost Yak and Lava Falls South and thinking, “If it looks this fearsome from a quarter mile, what’s it going to look like when we reach river level?”

It was scary enough knowing that an oarsman on a first descent was impaled by an oar rammed through his thigh.  Between that uplifting anecdote and this intimidating preview, we started down the soon-to-be-dammed river.

Lost Yak Rapid and Lava Falls South practically blended together.  After completing Lost Yak, Jerry Baird gave the guide paddle to me for the big one.  Of course, I wanted to scout.

Kent, Robert, Tricia and Jerry were my paddlers as we wended our way downstream, dodging sleepers and rocks.  Jerry was a veteran of the Bio Bio and I depended on his knowledge.  But he was also fearless, undaunted by the nastiest hydrologic features.

Every dozen yards or so, I’d ask, “Is this the scout?”

Jerry would respond with a laconic “No” and dismissive wave.

After a couple more nervous exchanges, we were bordering on the point of no return.  Kent, paddling in the bow like a good soldier, growled over his shoulder at me: 

“Does the word ‘sandbag’ mean anything to you?”

Indeed it did.  I pulled over posthaste.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Recollections of Lava Falls - Part 1

My relationship with Lava Falls on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon is relatively lengthy.  For an erstwhile Canyon boater, I have stood at the brink of this geologically cataclysmic, gnarly stretch of water quite a bit.  More than your average Grand Canyon duffer. 

And, in spite of its surly reputation, Lava Falls has only spanked me and my crew mates the very first time I encountered it.  Of course, I abide the hoary old adage, “There are those who have, there are those who will and there are those who will again.”  Consequently, I take nothing for granted when I reach River Mile 179.

In my original encounter, I couldn’t find the fucking bubbles.  But that is not the hoary river tale I am writing about on this go around.  

(As an aside, according to the author of The Emerald Mile, the route known as the “Bubble Run” no longer exists.  It’s magical period of existence, when those who found the bubbles slipped through Lava like greased pigs through the clutches of contestants at a county fair, ended some time in the early ‘90s.)

What I want to write about are my recollections relative to Lava.  Though no other encounter, other than the first, included flipped rafts - like the converted, monstrous Idaho sweep boat decked from bow to stern in a diamond plated frame with metal drop floors which required the teamwork of two entire parties to flip up right - I have numerous associated Lava Falls memories worth sharing.

If for no other reason, Lava Falls deserves reverence because it sits alone toward the tail end of a Canyon river trip.  The last rapid of unusual size after all the harrowing, significant whitewater upstream.  After all of the other garden variety boat eating holes.  After all of the other boat enveloping, asymmetrical breaking waves.  After all of the Colorado River’s deceptive currents lurking in some of the more insignificant drops, eddy lines and unexpected boils.

It’s an old business teasing those who are first time Canyon boaters about the significance of Lava.  My mentor on trip number one teased me mercilessly.  And, I will admit, it is a tradition I enjoy passing along.

The teasing goes something like this - after surviving any number of drops between river mile x and river mile y, you catch up to one of the greenhorn boaters in the downstream slack water, who are still wide-eyed from their most recent success, congratulate them, and then say, “Nicely done.  But it’s nothing like Lava. . . “

Or. . .  

“Do you hear that?”  Ideally, the teasing commences in Marble Canyon, days and hundreds of miles from Lava.


“That rumble,”  you respond.

“What is it?”

“If I am not mistaken, Lava Falls.”  

Depending on how much fun you are having with this, it can go on for days.  All the way to Lava Falls Eve where it is customary to compose and sing Lava Falls carols to the tune of Christmas songs.  As in John Cole and Linda Hedlund’s scintillating performance filmed and saved for posterity by Dane Doerflinger.  A Lava Falls carol to the tune of Jingle Bells.  They wrote the lyrics down so the group could follow and sing along.

“Lava Falls, Lava Falls, La-a-a-va Falls, 
Lava Falls, Lava Falls, La-a-a-va Falls. . . hey!”

Etcetera.  Ad infinitum.  As long as you can stand it.

Weather conditions on the day of a Lava scout are rarely notable and often pleasant enough in the fall and spring.  But, on one trip, as we rounded the last bend prior to Vulcan’s Anvil - a massive black volcanic plug squatting a quarter mile above Lava like the imposing obelisk it is - the cloudless skies at our backs came face-to-face with the blackest, most ominous skies I have ever seen.  

The diametrically opposed fronts collided on a line where lava flows surged across the river creating the Canyon’s most notorious whitewater.  Angry, roiling clouds and stiff upstream winds, followed by a torrential downpour halted our downstream approach and caused everyone to seek whatever shelter they could find amongst the skimpy tamarisk along the banks.

We hunkered down for an hour as the storm buffeted the Canyon.

Until recently, those clouds that swept over us, blackened the day and dumped buckets of chilling rain were my most ominous memories of arriving at the precipice of Lava.  However, on the latest trip, though the weather was blue skies from horizon to horizon, activity overhead once again gave us pause.  A Park Service rescue chopper buzzed  our party making a bee-line to the bottom of Lava Falls just as our party was pulling into the eddy to scout.

On the beach below the tumultuous rapid we could see a group gathered.  The helicopter landed nearby.  Through binoculars, it was obvious grief or anguish was one of the emotions coursing through the gathered party.  From the cliff above Lava, our group tried to stay focused on the task at hand - each of us seeking our own clear route past towering waves and hydraulics that may have only recently visited disaster on the crew below us.

Needless to say, it was a very sobering scout.

At the conclusion of our uneventful runs, we reached the beach known as Tequila Beach, or Recovery Beach, named for obvious reasons, and learned the reason for the ‘rescue’ helicopter and the glum body language we noted through our spy glasses.

It was a research group who had contracted a commercial rafting company to run the length of the Canyon so that they could remove non-native trout and restore the threatened and native humpback chub.  What we witnessed, spying on them from afar, was their reaction upon learning one of their prized chubs had not survived the helicopter ride from rim to canyon floor.

In other words, our morning of anxiety-laden thoughts had been triggered by the death of a single fish.

Perhaps river karma for my teasing was to blame.     

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Jesus Shaves

(The original working title for this story was 'California Dreamy'.  But I came across an ammo box sticker years ago at Bumbershoot that I couldn't pass up. And it has long been my favorite sticker - along with Porkins Lives, of course.  Due to the walking on water reference, I thought it just as fitting.  
Two things - when you become a river guide, bumper stickers are no longer bumper stickers but ammo box stickers, and because of the protagonist of this tale, Orion began using oarlocks versus whatever archaic contrivance we had been using previously.  Hallelujah!)

In the end, he wasn’t known as Randy “MacBackRub” for nothing.
But, in the beginning, a few of us swear we saw him walk on water.
It started on the Skykomish River on a dreary western Washington day early in the spring.  Temperatures hovered around nut-clenching and penis-shriveling

The good news was - it wasn’t raining.  At least not yet.

Our guests were a UW fraternity and, though the river was high and the weather was less than ideal, Scott, Mark and I figured the show must go on.  But, first, we needed to rendezvous with a Californian guide who called me out of the blue to see if he could tag along.

The three of us - all veteran guides - loitered in the company van at the launch site shooting the breeze in anticipation of meeting this guy from the ‘other’ sunshine state.  We heard a knock on the sliding door of the van and, upon opening it, we eyed a guy wearing a cowboy hat, plaid flannel shirt, canvas shorts and flip flops.  Of course, he also sported a mountain man beard.

Scott and Mark immediately suspected we were dealing with a yahoo.

If not a yahoo, a Californian too vain for his own good.

They refused to cut him slack.  While the three of us were dressed to make a run at the South Pole, Randy McChristian was dressed for warmer climes.  Luckily, he brought neoprene but it was a shorty wetsuit suitable for not-particularly-foul-weather conditions.

Needless to say, his lack of understanding of the appropriate gear both baffled us and made us dubious of his supposed skills and ballyhooed experience.

After he and I chatted one another up, he boldly asked if he could row the safety boat.  The Skykomish was running somewhere within the vicinity of burly and unpleasant.  Even under the best of circumstances, I rarely allow anyone to be in charge of my fate on - what I consider - serious white water.

But, for some inexplicable reason, I capitulated.  No doubt begrudgingly.
We launched on the South Fork of the Skykomish and after an uneventful, predominantly dry, definitely smooth ride, the four of us were standing on boulders on the right bank of an angry-looking section of river appropriately enough called Boulder Drop.

Three hundred yards or so of mesmerizing currents, exploding waves and intimidating hydraulics.  Three hundred yards requiring several decisions, a few maneuvers and poor odds that nothing will go awry.  Especially for non-self-bailing paddle rafts.

Especially at what, in the industry, we like to call “pushy” water levels.

Randy seemed undaunted.  He was eager to dip his oars in Boulder Drop’s waters and experience the chaos firsthand.

I don’t remember his exact demeanor as we looked down upon what was - at the time - the nastiest bit of white water any of us ever wanted to voluntarily boat, but I am guessing it fell within the range of giddy to sublime.  He reminded me of a determined rodeo cowboy preparing himself to take on the wildest stallion, or an ancient yoga master reciting the Bhagavad Gita while doing a headstand.  In other words, even though this was his first gander at Boulder Drop, his pulse rate was rock steady.
Meanwhile, Scott and Mark put on a their best swagger.  Beneath the bravado?  I could only hazard a guess.

I queried Randy about his markers and route, found his response to be reassuring and steeled myself for what was surely one of the first times I ever dropped into this stretch of hellish white water without being in control.

Long story short - he made it look effortless.

In two shakes of a lamb’s tail (okay - how about. . . faster than I could tie a double fisherman's knot?) he was tucking the raft into a bit of calm water on the left bank downstream of the cascade.  I couldn’t have been more impressed.  We bobbed in the river’s intermittent pulse awaiting two paddle rafts brimming with youthful college students’ vim and vigor.

Mark led.  We watched his raft plunge over a steep chute, get swallowed, recycled, flipped and then all we saw were seven bobbing hockey helmets.

Scott’s plunge produced the same result.

And - suddenly - we had, what we call in the industry, a “yard sale”.  Boats, paddles, water bottles, bobbing hockey helmets attached to flailing bodies - all choosing varying courses through the remainder of the rapid.  Needless to say, my adrenalin spiked.  I grabbed every throw bag available.
Randy, on the other hand, could have been standing in line at the bank.  He patiently waited as if he were at a stoplight.

As the first two swimmers approached, he rowed out, rescued them, then returned to the eddy.  He darted back out to grab the next several.  I threw throw bags to expedite the process.  On the next pass we scooped up a few of the stragglers, ferried to the opposite bank and collected the rest.

With fourteen of us in the safety boat, Randy rowed into the main current and we began retrieving the detritus of a double flip - paddles and boats in particular - en route to our scheduled lunch stop a quarter mile downstream.  Scott and Mark, like the good guides they were, swam to save themselves.
Somewhere, somehow in that quarter mile journey everyone was reunited with their crews and gear. 
When we landed for lunch, it was clear a few of our guests were a tad shell-shocked.  Most verged on hypothermia.

Once more, the white water cowboy from SoCal came to the rescue.  He built a campfire, acted like everyone had just won a huge payout at Vegas and made sure no one was left to brood about their circumstances.  It wasn’t genuine, but it was an Oscar performance, and it was precisely the response the frat boys required.

As time went by, Randy wore out his welcome, especially with the back rubs and all; however, on that day, he walked on water.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Trip of a Lifetime - Part 2

(In my last post, myself and fifteen intrepid adventurers found ourselves up to our armpits in darkest Peru lashing down gear on six rafts at the put-in for a 24-day expedition down the Grand Canyon of South America - the Rio Maranon.)

So there we were.  In a working gravel pit.  Sweltering under the relentless onslaught of the equatorial sun while lashing gear for the next three weeks, and then some, onto our Chinese-manufactured, inflatable aircraft carriers.

We were as excited and giddy as a bunch of pigs wallowing in a mud hole.  We were prepping to run a river in Peru!

Unfortunately, a slight hiccup in our river time bliss arose - nasty, ubiquitous, biting gnats.  Easy - at first - to ignore, but only at your peril.  Before long, we noticed our calves, ankles and hands were swollen, or in the process of swelling, from bites.  On the fortunate side, the learning curve was steep.  It did not take long for us to learn you had to wear protective clothing from dawn to dusk in combination with repellent.

Long sleeves, long pants.  Check.

Pants tucked into socks.  Check.

Socks whether you were wearing shoes or sandals.  Check.

Neck gaiter.  Check.

We further learned, when journeying to the latrine, you had to coat your backside with repellent, or pay the price in blood and bites.  

“Some camps MAY have biting insects.” the website read.  As the trip wore on (and never has ‘wore on’ been more apt), we decided that phrase should be amended to read, “Biting insects are ubiquitous, rapacious and incessant, especially in September and October.  Prepare accordingly.”

I itched so badly at night I was forced to pop Benadryl every evening before bed for two weeks straight. 

The website also forewarned about intestinal issues being likely to occur and sanitation was not to be taken lightly.  On a river trip, I have never taken sanitation issues lightly but - apparently - I had never encountered a river more likely to give you diarrhea.  

Bleach was mandatory in every dish washing basin.  In our hand washing station.  In our filtered water.  Vegetables needed a light bleach bath.  Ideally, a light bleach sauté nightly may have proved prophylactically beneficial.

Even so, most of our team members fell ill.  Some of us more than once over the course of three weeks.  It was not necessarily a debilitating illness, just local ‘bugs’ that caused many of us to stagger stoically to the bathroom a half dozen times in the morning only to emit stools the consistency of milkshakes.  Stools in vivid colors, ranging from your run-of-the-mill brown to exotic tinctures of orange and yellow.

I don’t know with certainty about everyone else, but I had what is known in impolite company as “Hershey squirts” for the entire journey.  And twice I felt nauseous for a substantial portion of a day.  One evening my nausea was so caustic I felt I was going to fart, shit and vomit simultaneously.  Acid reflux was thrown into the mix as well.

But in the end, the coup de grace was the towns and never feeling as if I was “getting away from it all.”

The trip’s midsection included a half dozen villages or towns.  With the towns - though seemingly necessary for resupply - you were capable of accessing the world wide web.  In fact, phone service, at least within the country’s limits, was available up and down the river corridor.  Though wonderful in many regards and circumstances, in my view it was anathema if you wanted to realize the full therapeutic benefit of river travel.  

An antiquated sentiment in a brave new world.

The illness, the bugs and the sneaking suspicion that no matter how much hand sanitizer, bleach water and caution you used you were going to ingest some type of water borne contaminant, made it impossible for me to ‘be in the moment’.  Made it impossible to forget the outside world.

My Peruvian adventure trip of a lifetime unraveled due to insatiable insects, rumbling bowels and a lack of a sense of being Out There.

The whitewater in the vernacular of our guide was ‘fun’ and ‘good’.  In rudimentary translation, ‘challenging’ and ‘recommended scout’. 

The scenic beauty was not epic, but it had its moments.  The cacti, flocks of parrots, the miniature Redwall Cavern, the mango and coconut trees all deserve a mention.

The Peruvian people were the most welcoming people I have ever encountered.  Their friendliness, openness and kindness can not be overstated.

The outfitter’s services - food, shuttles, accommodations, the gear and the guide were all top notch.  The fact everything came together was a testament of tenacity.

Of course, my fellow travelers made all the difference.  Even in my darkest hours in darkest Peru, I loved the fact I was with THIS group of people.  Their spirit was indefatigable.  Their spirit never broke.

No braying donkeys. . . no crowing roosters. . .no swarm of niggling gnats could destroy their spirit or dampen their enthusiasm to find the humor in episodic, nocturnal shit fits.  

Or canyon hikes stifled by the equatorial sun and ending boxed in with nothing but a trickle of orangish, mining contaminated water.  Or weak coffee, tasteless beer or tepid water.

As a rafting group, we set the time record for lining, portaging and running the notoriously dangerous Wasson’s Slide.  The cherry we placed on top was we also negotiated the fearsome boulder-choked gorge without losing anything of significance.  Apparently an uncommon occurrence for groups of clumsy rafters.  

Even though the most pollyannaish were acting like gloomy Guses, every once in a great while, we reveled in the occasional refreshingly clear stream, sometimes accompanied by a series of waterfalls or cleansing pools.  

A couple of end-of-the-day parties rivaled any blow out on any Grand Canyon trip.

In the end, the river trip of my lifetime failed my expectations, but it did leave me with an indelible impression and ample tales of my time in darkest Peru.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Trip of a Lifetime - Part 1

Two winters ago an article I read in American WhiteWater magazine struck a chord with my sense of adventure.  Resonated with my alter ego. 

The alter ego not married to the couch.  The alter ego which still has a hankering for a dosage of adrenaline.  (Though the dosage is - admittedly - getting smaller.)  The alter ego who imagines himself as one of the most interesting men in the world.  (“Whose passport requires no photograph.” “Who won a staring contest with his own reflection - Dos Equis.”  You need to know the commercial to appreciate the reference.)

The article was written about one of the major tributaries of the Amazon.  Possibly even the actual source tributary for the Amazon, according to the article’s author.  It was the Rio Marañon.  The Grand Canyon of South America was how the article touted it.  

And it was - in the immortal words of Paddington Bear - “in darkest Peru.”

How dark?  I couldn’t have guessed or imagined by reading the article.  But the story fired my imagination because it was a river that could be rafted for 24 days.  Even longer if you went into the jungle regions.  Even longer than that if you wanted to head down the Amazon.  However, for 500 kilometers, it was a river that meandered and dashed through canyons comparable to the grandest of all canyons. 

And - better still - it was a river that would not require a herculean effort because the author of the story about the Rio Marañon was also an outfitter who outfitted Marañon trips.  All I would need to do would be to rally enough boaters to fill out our exclusive ‘trip of a lifetime’.  The outfitter would provide the rest, including a Spanish-speaking, English-comprehending guide.  All for a price similar to a private Grand Canyon-outfitted river trip.

The rallying began in earnest and, before I learned too much to turn back, I found myself on an international flight to Lima, Peru, with three packed duffles of river gear and 15 party members to follow with their own small hills of gear in tow.

I get stoked about rafting and wilderness and the outdoors for all kinds of reasons.

Floating a river is the closest I ever get to being spiritual.  I get high from the  ‘flow experience’, and I am not referring to the river’s flow.  Flow is being so in tune with your surroundings that you lose yourself in the moment.  It is as if the molecules in your universe are in exquisite agreement, and you are dancing with those molecules in perfection.  You become the molecular equivalent of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.  

Seamless.  Synchronized.  Flawless.

The world you left behind is completely tuned out.  It’s just you, the river, the boat, the oars and the elements.  Everything that means anything is in your mind’s eye or, actually, in sight.  It is the ‘flow experience’ and every athlete knows of which I speak.  In fact, it happens with any activity with which you have become intimate.  Writing, pottery, oratory, horseshoes. . . 

Rhapsodic ‘flow experiences’ only happen periodically.  In my case, predominantly with whitewater, when my concentration is naturally at its peak.  

A lesser version of it, but still transcendental in nature, far broader in scope and the main reason I set off down rivers, is my overall experience of being detached from all the cares, responsibilities and worries that plague us all during our daily existence.  

To put it succinctly, I leave all the mental baggage - eventually - behind.  And this is every bit as magical as it sounds.

No rocket science degrees are required.  Take portrait pictures of all the participants of a 24 day river trip on every fourth day, and I guarantee you will see the weight of the world disappearing with each photographic session.  I live, breathe and sermonize about the wonders of a river trip for that particular reason, as well as the incredible feeling you get when you realize the group you are living with day in and day out has begun to coalesce.  

Esprit de corps is an equally potent elixir that doesn’t follow automatically with every raft trip, yet when it does, coupled with those other two experiences, feelings, transcendental planes of existence, however you want to refer to them, you have - as far as I am concerned - the closest thing to nirvana on earth.

Which brings me back to Peru.  And the Rio Marañon.

When dawn broke on the morning of our put-in, we awoke to another seductive river in another seductive canyon, but this time, we were in Peru! 

The sinuous river tumbled down from points unknown to us in the Andes hemmed in by imposing canyon walls.  What we heard was that, unlike our “mandatory portage” at Wasson’s Slide on Day 8, upstream there were dozens of mandatory portages.  Rio Maranon was, to date, a river untamed.  

Though sadly destined to be impounded and much of the adjoining countryside inundated with a series of hydroelectric dams.  Which was one reason we chose to come to one of the darkest corners of Peru.  We were to witness it first hand and then help spread the word back home.

Our launch site was near the confluence of two rivers.  On our journey from the town of Huaraz, a jump off point for international mountaineering expeditions, we stopped to tour the ruins of Chavin de Huantar.  Our passionate tour guide, Esteban, was also a shaman and was not unfamiliar with the medicinal and ceremonial values of San  Pedro cactus.  He told of us times he was transformed into a jaguar and wandered the grounds of the temple late at night.

But even more interesting was the significance of the Orion constellation to the Chavin culture.  On the temple’s grounds there were reflecting huacas, indentions scooped out of huge, stone slab, that mirrored the Orion constellation.  Our shaman guide, Esteban, blessed our trip.

All in all it felt like an auspicious beginning to our trip.

(To be continued.)