An interview with Rafael Vereau Gutierrez, a tour guide in the Sacred Valley of Peru, about his thoughts on life, reincarnation and walking on the path of ancient wisdom:
– I believe more in transformation than reincarnation. Life is an eternal flow that has several states. If you look closely at life, you will realize that all the cycles of life are about transformation of something that is in process. Sometimes, I think life is like water with different shapes, passing through everything. Our human body is made of water, so is most of our planet and all the living beings on it. I think life is like that, a kind of consciousness that runs through the universe and is in an eternal flow, taking shape in different forms. By being present in this eternal flow, we can keep our sense of surprise alive, which is very important for human beings and our learning.
For Rafael, what I call ancient wisdom is what he calls our relationship with nature, so he prefers to not call it ancient wisdom.
– This wisdom is everywhere at all times; it surrounds us. By being present we can see that we are part of this wisdom all around us. When I try to understand something about ancient cultures, the best teacher for understanding those is nature. Ancient civilizations might have left some cultural elements that we can study, but what we have in common with them is nature; it was with them then and is still with us now.
They understood how nature´s energy flows and solved their challenges by understanding nature and translating its meanings to a lot of different elements in life. This is what I call the ‘complementary science of life, the lessons of nature.´ “Nature is alive and so are we,” says Rafael.
Rafael lives and works in Calca, a small village in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I heard about him through a girl I met during my travel in Bali during the summer of 2017. After studying literature in one of the politically engaged universities in Lima, Rafael worked as an investigative journalist. At the university, he observed the gap between theories and implementing those theories into the world. As he says it; “it is always much easier to talk than putting talk into action.”
One day, he found out that he was not happy with his life any more, so he decided to finish his job and spend his time on his own private project. He started travelling around Peru, gathered information about the scissors dancers and turned it into a book. The dance is an Andean ritual that is practised in different cities in Peru, mainly in the Departments of Huancavelica and Ayacucho. The dancers use their bodies as a vehicle to connect with the father sky and mother earth. Rafael explains that the earth is the materialized dimension of life, and the sky is rooming the unseen world. The spiritual aspect of this dance is to connect with the mystery of life by using the body as a bridge between the heaven and earth.
The language of nature is connected to spirituality for Rafael. I guess that´s why he is working as a guide to share the power and wisdom hidden in this enormous mountain range by walking with people through and on them.
Ankasmarka, the blue tower
The day I met him, he was going to take me to a pre-Inca archaeological site, Anksamarka, which means “the blue tower.”
Located 19 km from Calca with an elevation of 4,198, Ankasmarka is located upon a hill in the middle of all the directions: east, west, south and north. This mystical stone city is almost invisible from the road since the colour of the buildings blends in with the mountain.
Arriving at the entrance of the site, Rafael makes a KINTU (a shamrock made by three coca leaves). The coca leaves ritual is to honour and show respect to heaven, earth and the underworld. The coca leaves represent the Uku Pacha (underworld) Kay Pacha (this world) and Hanan Pacha (upper world).
– Humans make paths and they are the carrier of energy. Every human step is an exchange of energy with earth, and that is why paths are the transporter of that intelligence, says Rafael.
We blow on the KINTU and place the three coca leaves under a stone before we enter the path to Ankasmarka.
Being in this ancient city (nobody knows exactly how old it is, or who made it) is almost like a time travel, and Rafael´s knowledge makes the journey so vivid.
– “My curiosity has been one of my most important skills in the job as a guide,” he says and he tells me how he gathers information about places by reading and talking to different people. While visiting these ancient sites, he has often encountered archaeologists or historians at work. He asks them questions and little by little he creates a whole picture by putting different pieces of the puzzle together.
He tells me that there are only two building in Ankasmarka with four squares, one by the entrance of the city, and the other one where the city ends.
– Apparently, the round shape contributes to a more free-flowing energy that created a healthier and warmer inner climate in the high altitude. The city also had a highly developed hydraulic system, which must have been necessary due to the heavy rainy seasons in this high attitude, Rafael said.
The size of the buildings makes me wonder who could have lived here? It could definitely not have been enough space for big families. According to what has been found in this area and remains of some instruments, there are some thoughts that this place could have been a village for the elders or maybe even a cultural centre, nicely located between all the directions.
Rafael is sure that those who lived in Ankasmarka knew well how to live with the rhythm of nature. By observing cycles and having good communication within communities in that area, they knew how to live in harmony with nature.
– For example, they knew what kinds of plants could be sown around their gardens to prevent attacks from insects, he says, and shows me a beautiful blue plant.