Jan 14

Paul G in Pasto: Chatting to Ghosts, Lagoons, and Islands in La Cocha.

On a boat!! The lagoon, La Cocha.

Even though – for me at least – that would be sufficient in itself, Narino isn’t just about guinea pigs and street battles. The landscape around Pasto is rugged, verdant, and stunning. And although I’m not the world´s most “spiritual” guy, I am definitely a sucker for the sublime; and there´s plenty of such sublimity around the traps down that way. My three pagan buddies went positively loopy about it.

This loopiness may have had something to do with starvation. Resolving to finally get this indigenous yage business out of the way, the plan was to head to a maloca (ceremonial house) around the lagoon, La Cocha, and get it done. That meant we weren’t going to eat all day. Thus, as we got out of the taxi from town, and saw these little, voluble apparitions; it took me a while to realise they were flesh and bone, and not just cute bundles of ectoplasm.

The smaller of these chures’ names was Kevin.

These little ghouls were taking part in the age-old tradition of chures, which today consists of dressing up in nylon sackcloth, scaring the wits out of food-deprived gringos, and asking for small change. However, they were being cute like it was their job – and they were professionals – so we had a chat with them and gave them a few well-deserved coins. Finding the maloca shut, we decided to head to the lagoon; the ethereal cry of “churrrrrrrrres” trailing behind us.

After scoping out the sweet little town (spending what seemed to me an interminable time at a souvenir shop looking at instruments and charms for the pagans) and gazing wistfully at the restaurants, I hopped on a boat with my three spirited companions, slid through the mist, and headed for the island of Corota.

A restaurant?? Sooooo hungry! Surely one little entree wouldn’t hurt?

The path to the mirador on the lagoon’s island was hushed, winding, and beautiful. When I declined the invitation to hug one of the moss-shrouded trees out of a sense of risking cliche; I lost the pagans to their divine communions with Mama Cocha, the goddess of the lagoon; and was left to contemplate the immensity of La Cocha. The wreaths of mist, although limiting photo-ops, lent the deep waters of the lagoon that sublime quality I’m such a sucker for.

Hola, Mama Cocha.

Upon reuniting, taking the boat back to town and finding the maloca still unattended, we succumbed to our more earthly appetites and stuffed ourselves stupid with the local delicacy, trout – plus one or two steaming mugs of hervidos. Divine.

Paul G

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