Labyrinths in the Peruvian Andes
During the lunar eclipse of March 1997 with comet Hale-Bopp overhead, we traveled to Urubamba by way of Pacha Tusan Mountain. I was prepared to dowse and erect a garden labyrinth for Chaska Sanctuary. That night, while camping at the base of the holy pilgrimage site of the Lord of Huanca directly on the cliffs above, a dream beckoned me to return to a nearby resort I had glimpsed earlier in the day. The next morning I acted upon the dream and returned to Urubamba.
The hotel owners welcomed me with a private tour of their newly acquired property. Beautiful gardens with rows of bungalows lined the 33-acre property. After winning the property in a government sponsored auction the previous year, the couple had returned to Peru to renovate and manage the property that also included a defunct railroad station with a line to Machu Picchu. A lively discussion ensued.
They expressed interest in having not one but two labyrinth built on the sprawling property, an opportunity not to be missed. I said, yes! Since I was due back home that week I made plans to return the next month, to begin the work.
Earlier in the week while exploring Machu Picchu with friends, I’d discovered an obscure rock carving that intrigued me. The petroglyph was incised starburst-style in 16 radiating lines, slightly hidden just off-the-beaten-path in an area known as the “old pyramid”; the revelation of an ancient carved marker embedded in stone would play an important role in my studies over the next decade. Ultimately, the discovery culminated in a journey to an astonishing site hundred’s of miles away, towering high on the western slopes above Lima.
As descendants of the Inca, the Quechua laborers were enthusiastic to build earth temples in the Sacred Valley of their ancestors.
The village of Urubamba sits along the old pilgrim’s route to Machu Picchu, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. During the 1990’s this was home to the Incaland Hotel located adjacent to the base of the burial site, Yawar Maki, a low-rising hillside, across the river from the hotel that climbs dramatically from the river’s edge. It forms a perfect peak becoming the high plateau, facing the breathtaking, El Chicon glacier, immediately to the east. It was here on the hotel grounds, that the smaller of the two labyrinths was constructed, formed entirely of river rock, measuring 45 feet in diameter. The magnificent El Chicon glacier meets your gaze as you enter the path facing the rising sun.
The installation of the second labyrinth, designated “Grande Laberinto”–a massive structure 90 feet diameter, was placed within yards of the river’s edge amidst wooded groves. It too faces east aligned with the rising sun. The locations for both labyrinths were established by dowsing the land for optimum placement. The Quechua crew began the process of clearing the land in the traditional manner with hand plows, and tools. Truck loads of river rock were brought up from the rivers’ edge to create the pathways, completing the installation in three weeks.
A massive stone oddly sandwiched high in-between two large Eucalyptus limbs with the appearance of falling from the sky, was painted with a finger labyrinth. At the base of the tree a platform where guests could stand and finger-walk the labyrinth was erected, a perfect respite for afternoon meditations.
The “finger labyrinth” in the Inkaland gardens.
A workshop and evening walking meditation were offered, accompanied by a local folklorist group in traditional costume who performed for the 100+ guests. The grand affair included a traditional walk through each labyrinth to the sound of flutes concluding with offerings to the Pachamama, the Earth Mother, in thanks for her many gifts of abundance.
At the completion of the two projects, the hotel owners, along with a Japanese hotel guest, joined me for a short offering that the labyrinths would serve the many spiritual pilgrims on their sacred journey. The night was clear, emblazoned with stars, as we gazed upward toward the summit of Yawar Maki where a newly-risen Southern Cross appeared as if resting on the very crest of the mountain itself. The stunning constellation was soon accompanied by another celestial body–an immense, brilliantly-lit white body of light, the size of two soccer fields. The phenomenal light appeared suddenly, momentarily obscuring the constellation, before shooting skyward at tremendous velocity and disappearing into the upper stratosphere. The unexpected appearance confirmed our intent. Soon afterward an introduction was made leading to an invitation to sojourn hundreds of miles away to an obscure ancient stone forest above Lima, Markawasi recounted in my book of the same name.
The Incaland Resort Labyrinths
In the late 1990’s near the bustling village of Urubamba, located in the very heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Incaland Resort had become a tribute to the Labyrinth. Spiritually oriented groups stopped in frequently to walk the meditation gardens on their way to Machu Picchu. Located an hour from Cusco in the Andean sub-tropics of the Urubamba Valley, the resort was a peaceful base for one of the most important travel adventures in the world. For the Incas, the Sacred Valley was the reflection of the Milky Way and literally meant “heaven on Earth”. Travelers seeking something new found no better place anywhere to ponder the past and to forget the future than among the great temple-universities of Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. Each of these marvels a short distance from the resort, and from Machu Picchu an hour and a half by train. Visitors here join the Apus, the Gods of the Andes, watching their Quechua neighbors till their fields with ox-drawn wooden ploughs. This has, after all, for thousands of years been one of the most fertile valleys in the Americas. Daily fiestas, processions and markets enliven the snow-peaks and ancient terraces of this Andean Shangri-La. A magical labyrinth by the river was a restful stop on the way through this natural, gentle power center. In the Sacred Valley the mystical and exotic are everyday.
The Incaland Hotel was sold in 2008 and demolished, on its grounds now stands the luxurious 5-Star resort, Tambo del Inka. The original rock labyrinth near the pool became the foundation for the new resort. If you stand in the lobby you can still feel its energy. The stone finger labyrinth that was sandwiched high in-between the limbs of the Eucalyptus tree, continues to adorn the gardens.
The Magic of Labyrinths examines the phenomena of mazes and labyrinths, looking at their historical, cultural, and spiritual significance and profiles several pioneers of the modern labyrinth genre, including Kathy Doore’s story entitled, The Hero’s Journey.