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A Crazy Cooking Class and Purification

August 2, 2023

Claudia is an energetic and talkative chef who split us into three groups to make lunch. The menu included quinoa pancakes, roasted chicken, salad, roasted vegetables and sweet tortillas, washed down with a local beer. Those of us lucky enough to be in the kitchen working on the pancakes avoided smoke inhalation in the outdoor shed where Claudia’s husband was tending a fire to cook the chicken and other dishes requiring a lot of heat. Disturbingly, fluffy little guinea pigs were scampering around behind the fire; I wonder if they sensed they were destined to be someone’s dinner (guinea pigs are widely eaten in Ecuador and Peru). The pig below was not included in our lunch, but rather one Lori had ordered from the hotel so everyone could try it.

We met up with our shaman, Julio, for a walk to the sacred mountain for a purification ceremony. After about a mile and a quarter walk we ended up at a small pool fed by a waterfall. On the hillside above, Julio created a circle of rose petals, divided it into quadrants for earth, wind, water and air and laid bunches of herbs and grasses on each point. After a long prayer (in Kichwa, more or less translated by our guide, Mauricio) all who were going to participate went down to the pool and entered the water (less than knee-deep). The ritual started with Julio pouring water from the fall onto a person’s head, then the person would dump a bowl of water onto his/her own head. Using a long spear, Julio then touched different parts of the person’s body; and, after taking a big swig from a plastic bottle of what looked like plain water, he artfully spat on the person. To finish, he announced what parts of the person’s body might be in distress. Back on the hillside, he used two polished stones to knock on people’s heads. After another long prayer, we hiked back to the top of the hill.

Near sunset we spent a little time overlooking this mountain lake.

Some people we met on our walk through Mauricio’s village.

And the resident llama at our hotel.

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