By Leaps and Bounds

Dates with destiny can get squirrelly. We know the only way through a predicament is forward, con brio, avec courage. We know, too, that time itself is the nut driving the squirrel, just like it drives us to nutty actions we know we’ll take anyway, committed to seeing ourselves through to the other side of some destiny declared. Our face to the dilemma, we call our heroic selves into action.

“Good morning.” I say to the rafters above me.

It’s Day 2 of my Paqo Wachu, the day I embark on an overnight into wilderness. It’s been raining all night and well into morning. I sleep in. More than a bit. I run through the inventory for tonight, again.

I’m grateful that, many moons ago, when I chose twelve stones to embody the sacred Apus of Peru, they tended to be small, none larger than a ping-pong ball. Nonetheless, my Tawantin Mesa bundle’s got weight to it.

I’ve got dry clothes, a sleeping bag and pad, a small tarp and a wool blanket. Food seems to be the least of it yet preoccupies me the most. How will I store it safe from marauders? I’ve got a peach, mixed nuts, some chocolate, two hardboiled eggs and a mini-shaker of Himalayan salt. A paqo’s pantry. My water bottles are filled, but I’ll drink from the brook. These waters have been hydrating me for decades.

I’ve got a knife, my machete, a flashlight and walkie-talkie, plus spare batteries. Matches, too. Significantly, I have the Star Relative poncho worn by Red Bear Who Sees All Worlds, recently gifted to me. I have my wits, too. I am, in short, protected and prepared with nothing to fear but fear itself. The greatest risk, I assess, is to fall. My mantra becomes, “Step wisely. Step well.”

Breakfast done, I’m packed and ready to secure camp. Despite my efforts to pack lightly, my backpack is a bear to heft. I load it into the boat and row to the lower end of the lake. I stow the boat in the reeds and set off on foot. I cross Shanty Brook, like I did yesterday, only today, I’m using my vara curandero, Tethys, as a third leg. Tethys, goddess of freshwater streams and underground aquifers, empowers the vara serving my campo medio, the middle field of the mesa. She divines the flow of the Kaypacha, this middle world through which I slog. When I peeled and polished this piece of cedar, Tethys revealed her name to me. She’s a good choice to have with me, she tells me, and I agree. Across the brook, I turn away from yesterday’s trail. I head up an obscure path that leads to the best swimming hole around. The bear scat I meet is as fresh as the day and impressively larger than any I’ve seen this trip. I laugh at the absurdity of it all; enormous bear shit, my cumbersome pack, dense woods, the paqo in me.

By design, the Paqo Wachu is self-sacrificing and involves hardship. It’s the paqo’s pago, or payment, to Pachamama, while striving to return to Source as life’s soul purpose. I give myself the proverbial pat on the shoulder for being here, despite the challenges. Actually, it’s because of the challenges that I’m here. That’s the beauty of it.

The trail to the swimming hole is difficult; crawling under logs is the worst of it. My shifting backpack wants to pin me to the ground. I make it to the pool and press on. I hop the bedrock slabs upstream. I’m done with trails.

I favor the brook when I can, but most of the time I’m pushing through thickets of spruce, crunching sticks underfoot. Stealth is not my way, not today. But stepping forward is, and I see that there’s always a way forward. Whether it’s five minutes or twenty, I’m in no hurry. I’ll reach my next bearing. I move from the brook to the hardwoods, hoping for better passage, a less dense woods. When I get beyond earshot of the brook I feel the strength of our connection, the pull to be with her. I pause for a drink from my water bottle. Flies haven’t been bad.

Much of the time the brook is inaccessible, below a cliff embankment. When I can, I drop to the stream bed. I’ve been scoping out potential for an encampment along the way. It’s not looking good. I may huddle in a ball for the night after all. The day wears on. It’s late afternoon, I can tell by the diminishing light. No rain so far, that’s good. I hike up a side wash to the main run of the brook. An island in the stream separates me from the fastest waters. I hop to its tip, to where the stream splits. I meet with a pile of boulders bordering a washout. Whole logs, stripped of their bark, are pinned against standing trees, formed by conditions that would sweep me away. The way forward is up the middle of the brook. I step onto progressively larger boulders until I reach the end of the log jam. I rehearse my movements to keep my balance as I wrap myself around the last log end. To my surprise I step into a natural alcove made by the brook at its wildest. Yes, it’s a washout, but the brook’s flow is several feet lower than the beautiful sand and grass I’m standing on. It would take a hurricane to flood this spot. It’s fairly level, too. The debris pile is a natural barrier from the downstream approach. The embankment is a natural wall. The only access into this Shangri-La is from the brook. There’s room for my bedding plus my manta for ceremony. It’s perfect. I am blessed! I plant my vara in the sand and set my pack against a boulder. I remove the Khuyay Tawantin Mesa bundle. The ritual work begins.

About the Author

 Pieter Lefferts

Pieter Lefferts

Featured Contributor

Painter. Writer. Musician. Teacher. Healer. Artist. Pieter is on a path to fulfill his soul’s puppeteering of his Earth walk. His mission is to enhance the beauty of this world through his creative endeavors. He’s been an initiate of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition since 2014, having completed many advanced trainings. He has received numerous awards for his art and work as an educator.