tipon

Is it habit or ritual that has me hiking up to Mt. Orient again early on a Saturday morning? The beginning of the weekend sigh is a palpable feeling, and even though I have a home office and a completely flexible schedule, I can sense the difference in energy from a typical work week day.

There is the ritual feeling of being out in such a solitary way in an expanse of quiet and peace. Yes, Nora is with me and she is even staying closer than usual, not running back and forth and in and out in the frenzy I have typically witnessed when we first get out on the trail. I noticed her being more on the trail than not yesterday too. Something has shifted. I wonder if she is feeling the vastness too.

I remember the birdsong being so strong yesterday. It wasn’t so much about walking with the sound of the birds in the background as much as walking into the music of birds; aware of how the call and response would intensify and fade depending where I was on the trail. This morning however it is almost completely silent. I hear the call of just one bird, and no one seems to be answering. Again and again, the bird calls out. It is a chilling realization, feeling the temporary aloneness of the moment, wondering what the bird is calling out to. For all intents and purpose it is just me, Nora, and the bird in the world right now and I feel the aloneness of this bird.  It brings up the memory of Tipon….

One of the highlights when visiting Molly in Peru two summers ago was taking a day to explore on my own. She was living in the gorgeous city of Cusco and took me everywhere with her. We were having a wonderful time seeing sites, sharing daily meals and having new experiences together but it was time for a little break and I was feeling the urge to spread my wings a bit. I remembered the young woman sitting next to me on the bus to the open market with Molly and her teacher. She was only about eighteen and excited to practice her English with me. I asked her about sites close by Cusco I could visit myself. When she heard I was an architect she exclaimed, “You have to go to Tipon!” She managed to convey that it is a famous ‘hydrological’ site east of Cusco but that was all I got as the we approached our stop. Molly and I asked around and got a little more information and determined which bus I needed to take to get there. It was an adventure. Not speaking any Spanish, I was at the kind mercy of strangers every step on the way. After being dropped of literally at the side of the road with no indication at all of how to get to Tipon, kind strangers also on a day trip to visit this sacred site gave me a ride to the entrance of the trail that led to the entrance. Hiking this steep and challenging trail, passing and greeting the others working their way up, I determined I was the only American there. Unlike the more famous sites to the west along the sacred valley that were heavily visited by tourists from all over the world, today I was amongst a small group of Peruvians spending a day at one of their own national treasures.

From Wikepedia, “Tipón, located east of Cusco, are Inca ruins which may have been a park for the upper class or an agricultural centrum. Even today water rushes through the channels, and the wide terraces are in perfect condition.”

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It’s an amazing place and I spent hours meandering around by myself taking in the scale and ingenuity of this engineering feat, huge wide green terraces framed on either side with stone channels and steps, one of which still carried water from somewhere up the mountain to the town below. It was just as I was leaving that I saw the map at the exit indicating that there was another ruins up above the terraces. It was already early afternoon and I thought it time to head back to Cusco, but as if propelled by some force beyond my control, I headed back up into the terraces to find the beginning of the trail to these ruins just barely discernible as a stone path along one edge…

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The stone path leading from up from the terraces was man-made and open compared to the naturally found path of stone and trees I am following right now.   In the end, there is no difference in the feeling of anticipation except today, I think I know the view that awaits me once around this gauntlet of stone.

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Climbing the trail up the mountain at Tipon I had no idea what I’d find. I passed several groups on their way down. I’d periodically turn around and see the huge terraces diminishing in size, still dotted with tourists moving about…

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By the time I arrived at the modest ruins of what was once a home it was clear I was quite alone at the peak of this particular place. After walking the site that included a sacred stone circle that felt like a place of ritual and an elaborate beginning of the stone canal that would channel the water to the terraces below, I stood where I could command an almost perfect 360 degree view…

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I love the perspective of the terraces coming back into view as I descended. However as I got closer and closer I could feel that something was very different from the scene I had left behind. There wasn’t a soul in sight. Not one single person. Not even a dog, and dogs roam freely everywhere in Peru. I was completely alone. I walked down to stand at the top ledge of the uppermost terrace and stood in reverence. I knew I was having this moment for a reason that I couldn’t fathom. Filled with awe, I walked around to the sacred water altar constructed just below this uppermost terrace…

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paid my respects, and continued on down the mountain to find a ride back to Cusco.

I’ve arrived at this morning’s destination of Mt. Orient. It is an overcast morning and the view is very different today, the hills of the Holyoke range beyond feel much closer and the vastness of the view feels more intimate, including me and where I stand too…

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On the way down is awareness of all the places I encounter water. There are the natural channels formed in valleys that carry bubbling brooks, small streams that seem to traverse everywhere, and even some spots of still water formed from naturally occurring stone dams.

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I’m filled with the awe of Tipon again, considering how much I have been like this still water, resting, or the bird casting its call this morning, in a place that was not quite ready to receive a response. Now, I am filled with my answer as I walk into the very lively birdsong! I look into the vastness of the forest and even feel all the trees come alive around me. The music is always there, and all I have to do is flow back toward the waters of human life and become part of it…

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