It started in the KLM flight when my neighbor, a woman my age and successful entrepreneur who runs a flying school in Iquitos, started telling me about her farm in the Upper Amazon and her love of medicinal plants and traditional foods. We exchanged recipes and made plans for reciprocal visits and swopping seeds between her coffee and avocado farm, the grandmothers’ garden in Lamas and the Yakumamay reserve near Iquitos (www.yakumamay.org). She had gone to the UK to visit one of her sons, who lives there and to meet her new baby-grandson.
I know this route well by now. The plane flies southwest over the Caribbean glittering sea and all of a sudden the Colombian coast appears. There is an instant South-American feel about the untamed rivers, red earth and a feeling of space between sparse settlements. Then we fly through the rain clouds over the high sierra with its desolate peaks, and soon on the other side it’s the endless dark green cover of the rainforest. Planes to Lima from the North fly over Iquitos. Spotting the buckles of the Amazon is a homecoming before the last hop over the Andes and landing from the ocean side in Lima.
Ines arrived as planned from Manila via Los Angeles and Mexico to Casa Guadalupe, a friendly small guesthouse not far from Lima airport,
The highlight of our Day 1 was our visit to the Larco Museum, (www.museolarco.org) that hosts a private collection of 45,000 treasure objects from the pre-inca civilisations of the Northern Peru coast found in layers since 3,500 bc. This collection is particularly special to me not just for the art, beauty and sophistication of the artifacts but also because there were exchanges between the desert coast cultures and the ancient people from the Upper Amazon. I am still an anthropologist at heart always gathering tidbits of information that add understanding to my data on plant domestication, long distance trade of obsidian and spondylus shells, and the continuity in people’s impersonations of jaguar, snake and harpy eagle in local religions through millennia across the Andes and the Amazon. The Mochica culture is famous for its erotic vases. We took some photos of the lovemaking and childbirth ones. Dating more or less from Roman times, they are exquisitely expressive and realistic. The angles of support for birth are those we teach in Birthlight.
The whole collection struck me as a celebration of fertility in all its aspects, even in the offerings of sacrificial blood to the gods. Then outside the museum there were children everywhere, little ones carried in their mothers’ backs with the simple colorful cloths, as a reminder that Peru is a young country, with more children than adults
For lunch we had olluco stew (Ullucus tuberosus) a nutritious small Peruvian native potato, in a small corner café.
We met Olga Verba at the airport to fly to the Upper Amazon town of Tarapoto on Saturday morning, as she arrived from Moscow on Friday night late. She went to see the ocean by bus without speaking English or Spanish! So now we are really on our way to a birthlight international adventure. As the lady on the KLM flight said, using a hunting image, ‘following the bird one gets to see the nest’. We’ll get there soon. Hasta pronto!