Sunday, 24 June 2007

Welcome to Peru! June 23rd, 2007

Hola amigos y amigas!

I hope you're well and happy. I'm writing from Cusco, Peru, where I arrived last Tuesday after a fantastic exit to Mexico. It's only been a few days but they've been so packed it feels like a lifetime!

I love Cusco! I'm having the most incredible experiences here. I'm particularly enjoying the veggie restaurants - hurrah for tofu! I've not had any problems with the altitude but then again I drink mate de coca like it's going out of fashion. I'm staying in San Blas, a dodgy area at night, in a fairly nice (and warm, hallelujah!) room. I've befriended my guide who I met at the airport (has amazing parallels with my book, strangely enough) and Cusco has opened up to me. I've done all the tours already, and am now starting to really explore and get to know Cusco and the other sites of the Sacred Valley. Two days ago for the Winter Solstice I went to Saqsayhuaman and its caves, followed by Q'enko, with a local shaman and had my aura cleansed. He looked like a down-and-out but had incredible energy, and wow what an experience. I was doing my first exercise, whole body against a huge stone which is supposedly a portal, and drumming began (practising for Inti Raymi, the Sun Festival, on Sunday). I felt every beat, and the whole thing was magical, intense. I felt and still feel great, peaceful, light, connected, relaxed, home. I'm going to do some more work with him (all research of course!)

Two nights ago we went to a sauna, and the people there thought I was Cameron Diaz (!) and so there was a lot of commotion and I had an audience the whole night in my (tight, borrowed) bathing suit! It was very comical. Yesterday we visited the Sun Gate, the door to Cusco and I climbed right up to the top on some dubious rocks and it was amazing. I was out in the Valley all day soaking up the ruins, the mountain air, the sunshine, the Pisco Sour too, it's so beautiful. Today we went swimming in thermal waters and I got to cuddle lots of baby llamas and alpacas, it was divine. Tomorrow I'm going to get my (still bad) cough cured by a curandera (medicine woman), who lives in a little village of curanderos. I'm going to be having some kind of bath. I went yesterday but the line was immense, which I take as a good sign. Later I'm going dancing (as luck would have it my guide is a salsero!), and will hopefully be home not too long after pumpkin hour to enjoy Inti Raymi on Sunday. I'm going to be sitting with the locals, and did all my tours in Spanish too without thinking, and have met lots of Peruvians and not a single tourist (well, one!)

In a week's time I'm planning to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I'm getting mentally psyched up for it, and physically used to the often bitter cold. So many experiences for my book, it's really coming alive!

Be well and happy, I send you mucho love!!

Sandra xx

You're Welcome to the Jungle! May 31st, 2007

Hola amigos y amigas!

I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer! I just wanted to write a few lines as it's been a while. I'm writing from Playa (again), and apart from a cough I'm feeling great. The sun is out again, the sea is an incredible blue, and life is good!

I have been having a testing time over the last week living in a jungle palapa (hut) near the ocean at a work-in-progress retreat centre in Puerto Morelos, a fishing village near Cancun. It's been bucketing down with rain every day so haven't enjoyed it as much as I would have liked - ocean, cenotes, sweatlodge, forest and birds all around - but have done some great writing so all is not lost! I've been living there for free, and I'm helping my good friend Goyo, who I met in the jungles of Palenque, set up a healing and retreat centre. He's a real character, and is turning into an unlikely muse as my writing goes from strength to strength.

Several nights ago we did a temescal or Mayan sweat lodge. It was great to sing and howl in the womb of the earth! I banged my drum so hard it is now consigned to the graveyard of instruments! The mosquitos were out in force, and the rain torrential, and afterwards I stood in the rain for ages just feeling the purity of it. We had another temescal last night for the (late) full moon which was magical, and I had the strange sensation of waking up today feeling like I'm in love. The rain has gone now. I had been talking to Chac-xhel, the Mayan rain goddess, to hold off for a couple of weeks before I go insane, and thankfully so far she has been complying! It rained constantly for nearly a week and severly tested my desire to live in the jungle. I've been covered in bites, constantly damp, dirty, tired of squatting in the bushes and being confined to my room. I asked for this test and it will be interesting to see how it turns out! I'm adapting and also seeing where I don't want to budge. All part of the experiment. So after nearly 4 months life is telling me to move on from Mexico, at least for a little while! Next week I'm off to Mexico City, then I'm planning to go to Costa Rica, Peru and Boliva. I'm planning to return to the Mexican Caribbean in August to work for a while, and then will do Guatemala, Oaxaca, all these joys are still to come! I'm planning to be in London late Sept. I'm getting v excited about leaving here, but nervous at the same time.So I'm an offical failure! I just traded my backpack for a suitcase with wheels and handle - it was a nice dream but I guess it's just not my destiny! It was really heavy - I don't know people manage to lug them around, especially in the heat.

Been having a romantic time of late. In Merida I had a holiday romance with a guy from Mexico City, Hugo, and we've met up 3 times now in various exotic locations. We recently spent a week in the paradise that is Sian Ka'an reserve which was blissful. He's very nice, despite his carnivorous ways, ha ha! I'm going to visit him in his home town to get to know him a bit better and make a decision as to whether to continue or move on. I want somebody on the same path and somebody who can be with me, among many many other things - no more long distance relationships!

I've been experiencing some animal welfare nightmares of late that have had me mroe than queasy. The other day we were driving to a cenote for a swim and watched helplessly as the guys in front deliberately ran over a small snake. Its guts were hanging out and the poor thing was going round in circles, from pain or hopefully from shock. I didn't want to run it over again to add insult to injury, but upon reflection I should have put it out of its misery. The other day I went to meet a friend of a friend whose husband was in a fishing tournament - I was talking to her and watching them bring past huge dead swordfish, marlin, all sorts of beautiful creatures. On the positive front, when I was in Sian Ka'an a turtle nested in front of my cabana, and for days after the shape remained in the sand. I'm hoping to be there in August when the little wigglers make their run for it! I'll be there beating off the birds!

Anyway, lots of love to you, enjoy your day!

Sandra xx

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The Mayan Spirit, April 26th 2007

Hello again friends,

A good friend pointed out to me that I haven't shared too much regarding my spiritual experiences here in Mayaland and my thoughts about how to satisfy my 'save the world' inclinations, so this is my attempt to do justice to that, which upon reading this I don't think I have, but oh well! Anyway, I hope this makes some kind of sense and that you don't think I've completely lost the plot!

In Merida, the shaman Hunbatz Men taught me a lot about the Mayan prophecy and sacred geometry. Right now he's working collaboratively with other American indigenous cultures and tribes along the magnetic line through the Amercias, from Eskimos down to the peoples of the forest, to share effects of global warming, determine when the prophecy may be realised (as 2012 is just a rough guess by a scholar, it could happen anytime) and to plan what to do. He showed me a lot of places around Merida and we talked about how modern-day Mayans are rejecting their culture for 'gringoism'. He is busy creating a sustainable bolthole called LolBe designed to survive 2012, including its own pyramid for rituals. He's invited me to go and live there!

To be honest, when I found him he was quite angry at the world and depressed, ie disconnected. At first he was going through the motions with me and said he was too busy to see me, but then kept inviting me to more things, finally giving me the huge compliment that I was a rare angel in his life who has inspired him with what he calls my 'happiness'. Well, thank God I am happy and able to connect with people trying to do such good work. I hope to learn more from him in future. I hear he does a mean sacred ceremony.

In San Cristobal de las Casa my friend and I went to see an old Mayan healer, Don Javier and his wife Maria de los Angeles who did a free treatment for us and agreed to work with us in the future. It was very nice but not earth shattering. They were gorgeous people, full of love. They asked me what I wanted, and I had to answer honestly that I couldn't want for anything. I feel very connected and have all that I need. More powerful was the temescal (sweat lodge) we did on the way to San Cris at an ecovillage where we spent a couple of nights- I've still got the sore throat and mouth ulcers to prove it! I've been healing both with medicinal plants and they're superb. Another thing I want to learn a lot more about!

Yesterday my friend Alan and I had the opportunity to help someone in a lot of pain. He survived a car accident a month ago, they turned off his life support and he came to life! He is connected together by pins, and was in a lot of pain, slightly brain traumatised, confused and panicking as to why he is still here. We treated him for a couple of hours and he got to rest a little. It was lovely to be able to soothe him just a little.

I'm learning a lot here and I'm not sure I can articulate it. I'm living day by day, moment by moment, with no real agenda except that which comes through my heart. As a result, things are manifesting instantly, and I'm having the chance to just look at them without getting attached. When I arrived here I was handed an instant life, and it's good to know that this land and these people welcome me with open arms. I am truly happy here and feel I might live here when my trip is complete. All the right people are showing up for me at the right time, which is a blessing. I'm also realising the assault of energy in the city, how so much of society is about control and a huge source of stress and energy sucking, and one thing I know for certain is that I can't imagine how I could ever go back to that life permanently - except to visit my lovely friends, of course! But who knows.

At the moment, I have a great teacher. Alan is a white blonde Mexican with dreads, and he's a ruthkess seeker of the truth. He has moved to Palenque in preparation for 2012 and to be on high ground (away from the effects of the tidal waves). Palenque and Machupicchu are believed by the Mayans and other indigenous peoples to be the new energy centres of the planet, Palenque surrounded by a triangle of three sacred places: Chichen Itza, Tres Zapotes in Veracruz, and somewhere with a very long name in Guatemala. I'm learning a lot from Alan about sacred geometry, how the temples are antennae that will connect us to the light when the polar shift happens. I'm learning about the solar explosions that are happening every two years instead of every 11, the impending earthquakes and tidal waves, how the magnetic shift will turn the energy of the world upside down. Alan believes that Palenque is the place of the gathering of the 144,000 Ascendent Masters who will help bring us all into the light. What we can do to prepare is educate, and train our bodies as the actual temples that they are to connect to the light when the shift happens. Only the people connected in some form are likely to survive. I've learnt that the Tsunami in Asia quickened our heartbeats and we are now vibrating at a much higher rate, and this will only get worse and we will only get more and more confused and the world will go crazy until the shift happens.

Whether you buy the alien theory or not (I'm not a huge alien theory lover), the end result for me is the same. I'm convinced that the shift will happen in the coming decade or two, and that our task is to connect to the light, to transcend. I knw this is what I came here to learn, and I'm sitting and watching to see what work I need to do to assist in this. I have a lot of patience! I believe somewhere in all of this lies my work. In a week or so I'm going to try mushrooms which are apparently great teachers. I'm also planning to do a solo retreat soon. Alan is also a great shaman who has a lot of healing power and experience with the chakras. I hope to learn a lot from him in that arena too.

I've also had some interesting experiences. At San Gervasio at the temple of Ixchel I had a vision and the world fell away into the light. In Calakmul we saw two deer, the sign of two shamans. At Misol-ha waterfall I saw my reflection surrounded by a perfect rainbow, my magnetic energy field. My shadow was radiating light from the bottom of the pool, like a halo. It was very interesting. Now my friend calls me bruja (witch!) I saw a rainbow around the sun, rain without clouds, and the wonderful good luck of a snake on my doorhandle which is apparently a sign of ascension!

I've got a lot of food for thought, and now on Friday I'm meeting up with the friend I met in Merida. It's perfect timing. It will be fantastic to just be and digest all this info to see where to go from here.

Anyway, I hope this makes some kind of sense!

Sending you lots of love,

Sandra xxx

Welcome to the Jungle! April 20th, 2007

Hola amigos y amigas,

I hope life is treating you fantastically!

I've been having an amazing time. I spent Semana Santa (Easter) in Merida, a thriving (and, I discovered, fun) Mayan town. They had many colourful processions, and there was live music and dancing in the streets every night. I thought how great that they celebrate in this way, only to be told by locals that this was normal. I visited many ruins (Uxmal, Chichen Itza), went snorkelling on the cenotes, made many friends and had a great time. I also had a little holiday romance which was very nice indeed! One of the highlights was meeting Humbatz Men, a ╢famous╢Mayan medicine man and holder of the prohecies. I was anticipating a really powerful spiritually elevated time with him. After a frosty start on his part, we got on famously, went out for dinner, and he took me to meet him 97-year-old mum who was an absolute gem. We sat in the street outside her house drinking beer and I was thinking that life doesn't get too much better than this. I think she wanted me to marry her (70 year old!) son, and like many people in Merida begged me not to leave! It's amazing that I did leave as I loved it but know I will be back many times.

I'm writing from the jungles of Palenque in Chiapas, in the south of Mexico near Guatemala, and about as far from the European Parliament as you can possibly be! After many adventures with low gas, camping with only ants for company, and one bird and several butterfly massacres later we arrived two days later from Playa where I've spent the last week, well, dancing and swimming really! It's incredibly beautiful, important ruins, great laid back music, waterfalls, sleeping to the sound of howler monkeys that sound like jaguars at your door, and being chased by turkeys who are very nosey I'm finding out! I think if I spend a few more days here my hair might form dreads from ambience alone so we (my crazy Mexican friend and I) are about to head out to the waterfalls and in the next couple of days arrive in the mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas.

I had a lovely experience on my last night in Playa. I got a call from a guy friend of mine to go outside on the balcony. I opened the door to find a whole band outside serenading me! At first I was horrified as I was trying to be incognito and it was midnight. But the music was intoxicating, it was Andean music with panpipes and after a couple of songs I got the guts to go outside so that my friend wouldn't be publicly humiliated! I ended up enjoying it, and it was one of the nicest ╢bon voyage╢presents I've ever had!

Bear with me if I'm not in contact too much over the next weeks as I never know where I'm going to end up. But please write as I love hearing all your news!

Anyway, time to hit the road again! Lots of love from Chiapas!

Sandra xxx

In the Land of the Living Maya March 23rd, 2007

Hola amigos,

I hope you╢re all living every moment to the full!

I╢m still in Mexico. At this rate I╢ll never leave! I spent a week in Sian Ka╢an Biosphere which is truly paradise, and there╢s practically nobody there. After a few days I was just wandering along the beach not caring about a thing, I was so relaxed. (Just don╢t ask me about the toilets!!) It was incredible to do the Lakota sweatlodge ceremony there. It opened up all my creativity channels and ever since I have writing furiously. Alas, where there are people there are always problems! There has been a very Native America struggle over ownership of the land, and the co-owner has been doing all sorts of weird things over the years to get my friend to leave. Last Thursday he went on the rampage, and the police arrested him and we had to vacate pretty fast to Tulum. There we spent the next 2 days in the police station. That was such an interesting experience! I wouldn╢t know where to start to describe it. Luckily, my friend has a miracle worker of a lawyer who I think has finally sorted out the problem. I was really glad I was there to support Anna.

Leaving Tulum (after visiting the magnificent ruins overlooking the most beautiful turquoise sea imaginable), our truck broke down, we dumped it with a potential buyer and we thumbed a bus ride on the dusty highway to Felipe Carillo Puerto, sitting on buckets the whole way. I╢ve never felt so glamourous. We╢ve been staying at Anna╢s friend╢s house, and have met some incredible people. Carillo Puerti is Pura Maya, as the Maya here were never enslaved by the Spanish. On Monday, I started Maya language classes in a small palapa down the street and have now had 4 or 5 so it╢s coming along! Everyone was telling me I╢d find it easy so I was in for quite a shock! Every sound sounds as though it was designed to whisper to somebody in the jungle. Every morning at the crack of dawn I wake up to the late roosters crowing, listen to the birdsong and smell the scent of a thousand flowers before walking past the workers in the field who all wave and say hello to the only ╢gringa╢ in the village (almost!). On the first day, half the police force ended up in the class with me, notebooks and all, they were so fascinated as to why I was there.

The teacher is an amazing man, Joachin Balam Che, a writer, poet and as everyone says ╢too pure for this earth╢. Today he took me to find a Mayan medicine woman or man. It was fascinating watching them cook up the herbal potions. I╢m going back later as there are far to many sick people in this town. Afterwards he took me see the Mayan radio station studios and meet everyone there. It╢s been a good day.

We also went ot stay on Lake Bacalar. The lake is incredibly beautiful, bright turquoise as it╢s freshwater. I was dying to jump in for a swim because it had been days, when the owner, another friend Gill, said that there were crocodiles there. They only come out at night apparently, but I didn╢t trust my croc radar enough to risk it!

I haven╢t decided where to go next. I have 3 places in mind: back to Playa, to Merida to meet a famous shaman there and friend of Lama, Humbatz Men, or to Palenque and the west of Mexico with an other friend. I╢m toying with the idea of returning to this place and writing, working and studying for a while. It really is peaceful here.

Lots of love, always,

Ma╢aloСb tuЗm,


Greetings from Treasure Island! March 11th, 2007

Hola a todos!

I hope you're well!!

I'm feeling fantastic after 3 weeks of sun and relaxation. I'm now on retreat in the Biosphere National Reserve and feeling a little like Robinson Crusoe. It's beautiful, basic and very quiet. I won't be able to call out for the next week most likely so apologies in advance. Right now I'm in the tiny fishing village of Punta Allen at the end of a long peninsula. We're so happy to have found a proper toilet here! I'm staying at the complex with four people from Santa Monica, 2 massage therapists and 2 Lakota Indian pipe carriers! They're nice and very lively. Tomorrow we're going to do a sweat lodge, and hopefully after that I'm going with Anna, the owner of the house, down south to a genuine Mayan town on the way to Belize to try to transcribe some of the verbal legends and healing techniques for my next book! Will write more thereafter.

Lots of love,Sandra xxxx

Hola de Mexico! Playa del Carmen, Feb 22nd, 2007

Hola amigos y amigas!

I hope you're well and missing me, ha ha!

Well, I arrived safely, and have just spent the afternoon passed out on an almost pristine beach and swimming in the turquoise if slightly polluted waters (damn those jet skis!) of the Caribbean and have just stopped to write a few words in an attempt at procrastination at having to de-sand myself!

I'm having a really interesting time here in Playa del Carmen. I feel like I've been here for ages as I've done so much in less than 4 days! I've done Kundalini yoga to the sound of the ocean waves, had a massage, made several flaky friends (I'm generally revied for not being a drinker) and a couple of real ones, spoken lots of Spanish, been to the beach many times (now the sun has finally come out - a freak cold spell welcomed me forcing me to sleep in all my trekking clothes), visited a timeshare place for free gifts and got thrown out, and eaten some amazing food, including a very tasty cactus for lunch!

On Tuesday night I thought I was going to listen to a boring talk and ended up at a fire puja ceremony conducted by my Tibetan friend, Lama, in an enchanted piece of jungle. It was a purification ceremony used to call the elemental spirits to help heal the earth - or something like that! It was quite magical to feel the warmth of the fire and watch it dancing and lighting up all the meditating faces in the dark. Truly amazing.

All sorts of interesting things came from that evening. One of Lama's friends is a lovely American woman, Anna, and I'm going to stay at her place in the Bioreserve about 100km south of here next week. Where she lives is an artist-spiritual retreat centre between the Caribbean and a lake, 5km from the nearest village and full of wildlife and no boozy idiots, carbon monoxide fumes, salespeople or surfy types - can't wait! She is a pipe carrier for the Navajo Indians, and interestingly enough has two more pipe carriers coming next week and they're going to do a sweat lodge for me. (A sweat lodge is a Native American ritual to connect with elementals and cast out demons. You build some kind of ceremonial hut and all sweat to death in it for many hours. All my demons are coming up right now, I guess that's why the universe has sent me two sweat lodges!!) Anna is also connecting me with all sorts of fascinating-sounding people on my onward journey. I also met two lovely Mexicans, Utama and Pedro. They are strangely enough also planning a sweat lodge for me, a Mayan one this time. Which is, of course, all fantastic material for my next book or three. As uncomfortable and lonely as I feel at times in this glitzy tourist trap, I know I must persevere as I'm in the right place.

Last night, Lama was sick and pure hunger drove me to take myself out. I went to listen to a Cuban band in a nearby restaurant and ended up dancing with the waiters!! Everyone was looking at me with curiosity as I was alone, and I was writing like a maniac. It was such a funny place, so much material - all the waiters were silly and carried the drinks on their heads, and the music was ou of this world. I imagined their thoughts ranged from 'what's she writing?' to 'how much?'!! It didn't help that they put me on a high stool near the bar!! Anyway, it was fun and a good lesson in not to take myself too seriously.

Lama has an art exhibition tonight in a fancy sand-floored Buddha bar on the beach, and on Friday I'm going to see me some ruins. Write soon with your news!

lots of love and blessings,

Sandra xxx