A dear friend is preparing for a pilgrimage to the spiritual sites of South America. Knowing that I’d visited Machu Picchu in Peru, she contacted me, asking for tips that would enhance her soul journey to the powerful site.
I was happy to share my experiences with her, but as I told her, it wasn’t Machu Picchu itself that moved my soul; it was what happened after I left the majestic enclave that powerfully enriched my life.
I gratefully relived my glorious experience as I responded to her e-mail request with this retelling of one of my favorite life adventures:
One of the magical places on my “must experience” list was Peru’s wonderfully preserved Incan Empire city, Machu Picchu. Built around 1450, it was both a royal enclave and a spiritual center whose activities revolved around the cycles of the Sun. On my visit to this fascinating site, I could feel the powerful energy of the sacred city and the ancient mountain peaks that surround it. My gifts on that journey were many, including a life-path confirming message from the mountain and a vision of the infinite in which I was escorted by God, Bade Baba and Padre Pio. My most prized gift, though– the joy and memory of which will remain in my heart forever– was “the runner.”
At the end of my visit to this sacred city, I boarded one of the site’s buses for the thirty-minute ride down the mountain on the muddy, narrow switchback road that would take me back to the town of Aquas Caliente at the base of the mountain. I sat in the front row because I wanted to continue to take in as much of this land’s majestic beauty as I could.
We had barely started down the mountain when the driver stopped to pick up a nine or ten year old boy dressed in a green tunic with multicolor trim. He wore a headband and a red pouch hung diagonally from his left shoulder. His feet were shod in simple black sandals.
The boy stood in the stairwell and it was obvious the driver and the boy knew and liked each other as they conversed on the downhill drive. I noticed two or three other young boys in similar garb waiting across the road.
About five minutes after the boy boarded the bus, the driver stopped and the boy stepped up to the center of the aisle at the front of the bus, turned to us and wailed an ancient chant as he waved his right arm above his head.
The sound of his voice was as old as time and sent a shiver through my soul. The boy got off the bus and ran across the road and disappeared into the wild mountain foliage.
We continued on the narrow, muddy, switchback road, sometimes pulling over to let the busses coming up the mountain go past.
We heard the ancient chant again and there was the boy on the side of the road ahead of us, waving us on as we passed the spot where he stood.
A few minutes and a few more dangerous twists and turns later, we were farther down the mountain and who do we see standing there, waiting for us, waving and chanting– the boy!
A simultaneous gasp escaped from all of us passengers.
A few more twists and turns farther down the mountain and there he was again– hailing us and waving us on!
Time and time again, he’d be there on the road, waiting for us with his ancient chant and his bright, beautiful spirit.
We began to applaud when he appeared– some even laughed nervously, “How did he beat us here?” they whispered.
Once we saw him sprint out of the foliage to our right, dart diagonally across the road in front of the bus, reach his spot on the other side and wave us on as we approached him.
The ride down the mountain became about the boy. “Where will he appear next?” “How is he doing it?” “When, how will we be able to tell him what he means to us?”
I had to hold back tears and remember to breathe as I waited for his next appearance.
He was the infinite symbol of life and spirit and we were the blessed recipients of his limitless, magical energy.
As we neared the town at the foot of the mountain, we saw him running ahead of us, waving us on. He led us across the bridge into town and he stood on a rise as he waited for us to reach him.
The driver stopped the bus and the boy got on again– this time to cheers and applause. He had won our hearts and we were grateful.
Continuing his chant, and with a grin as big as life, he opened the red pouch he wore and we gratefully stuffed money into it. As he went up and down the aisle, we hugged him and took his picture and thanked him. The old woman sitting next to me grabbed his little face in both her hands and kissed him hard on the cheek.
We loved that little boy. He was the affirmation of life itself. The joy he exuded as he ran and as he interacted with us re-kindled something vital in all of us. He gave us hope.
And he proved to all of us that Pizarro and the other Conquistadors had not won in their attempts to annihilate the Incan people and the Incan spirit. As long as that little boy and the other little boys run– the Incan spirit will always live.
That little boy loved running and he loved winning. He loved his life and he powerfully radiated that joy with heart and spirit.
When the bus reached the end of the line, the boy got off first and bade each of us farewell as we left the bus. We couldn’t leave him, though. Some of us went back two and three times to thank him, to bask in his infinite and innocent radiance.
In a very big way, Machu Picchu and the mountain were the set-up, the backdrop for the real eighth wonder of the world– that little boy leading us down the mountain, leading us back to ourselves.
Almost every aspect of this Peru trip had been trying, always testing and at times, almost besting me in some very intense manner. That little boy and the gift he gave me made everything I’d gone through worth it. I’m so grateful to him and I’m so grateful to God for the experience.