Monthly Archives: December 2013

Chapter 21.

The flight from Cusco to Manu.

They took the plane back to Cusco, waited and then embarked for another plane for their destination, Manu. The flight took half an hour followed by a boat ride that would lead them to the gateway of the park near a town called Boca Manu. As independent travellers they were not permitted to enter the restricted zones but the map indicated precisely that it was there they had to go.

They entered the jungle, a place of high heat and humidity where danger lurks at every corner. All sorts of animals were ready to devour them, from jaguars to ants. Yet the map was clear; it was in the reserved zone that they must go for there was the gold. Or so they were led to believe.

They entered the reserved zone by the Manu River as it meanders through it but it had to be done at night as the entry was controlled by guards. Their destination was the oxbow lake called Cocha Salvador, a body of water that has been cut-off from the main river. The map clearly indicated that the gold was near that lake. They were following a jungle trail and mosquitoes were a constant nuisance. They had brought food and water plus a few tents and of course some shovels. Walking in the early morning as they were they had to be careful about encountering large animals along the way. The stars were shining brightly and only a quarter of the moon was present. The jungle was alive with layers of noise. Cicadas were croaking while large aquatic animals such as caimans were splashing around. They walked past gigantic trees called plywood trees as well as palm trees called Moriches. They cross paths with leaf cutter ants busy transporting small bits of leafs on their back that were well guarded by soldier ants who were five times the size of the other ants. The jungle was active day and night.

“All right, let’s hurry up and get to the lake.” said Maria. She was wearing a small backpack. The shovels were on the back of Jorge, while Pedro was in front leading the way while Jake Pierce was closing the group. “Make sure we are on the right trail Pedro,” she asked.

“Don’t worry Maria, we are. Look at the map, it shows only a main trail going straight to the lake. And there, under that palm tree the gold should be located.”

Of course, all of them expected to find a lot of gold. But Sara had done a good job; the map was clear for anyone to see, but the gold they would obtain would be very modest. Just enough to content them but not enough for them to justify another expedition. And the result of this was that they were led away from the main area, the Machu Pichu area where the sacred stream was. And that was all that was wanted by Sara and the Nine, to protect the sacred stream. They were walking slowly in a single file, with Pedro leading. And suddenly they saw the lake, shimmering in the first light of dawn. The screams of howler monkeys were deafening.

“Look, here it is.” said Pedro as he was advancing towards the body of water, map in hand. “The tree is on the far right, near some rock formations.” Sure enough there was a rather large tree near some rocks. There was a mad rush by the others as all were stricken by the gold bug and shovels began to appear in hands.

“Wait, let’s be careful as all this could be a trap and it might appear more dangerous than we think. Let’s exercise caution,” Maria said, always the voice of reason.

“She’s right, better be careful and advance slowly towards the tree, one at a time.” Pedro said, looking at the others.

They advanced cautiously and finally arrived at the tree and encircled it. Jorge produced a shovel and began slowly to dig around the base. Suddenly their shovels made a dull sound as it hit a metallic object.

“We hit something. Quick, let’s dig it out.” cried Jorge. Pedro looked avidly at the scene, with his hand on his revolver and ready to pounce.

They dug around the object and finally found that it was a small metal box and not heavy as Jorge alone was able to lift it up for all to see. A few knocks on the front of the box and it sprang open. Dismay and disappointment was on everyone’s faces at what was seen inside; only one small brown cloth bag the size of a child’s fist. Pierce took it in his hand and opened the bag for all to see.

“What only that?” exclaimed Pedro. Jorge was too shocked to talk. Pierce looked dismayed as well while Maria had an expression of surprise on her face.

“Well Mr. Pierce, this seems to be a pitiful amount to hide considering the time we spent trying to locate it. Why didn’t your grandfather take it with him when he left? It doesn’t make sense to me.” Maria was shaking her head.

“I understand your surprise. I am astonished. This can’t be, there has to be more hidden somewhere. This can’t be all there is.” Jake Pierce looked like a wounded bear, clutching his head in his hands while he walked away from the scene. Pedro still had his hand on his revolver but at the sight of the gold he loosened his grip and tried to recompose himself. This was not the great treasure that he had expected and he would not kill anyone for a few gold nuggets worth 1000 dollars perhaps. Jorge looked at him, waiting for a signal but he could see that plan B would not be implemented.

They thought that no one had seen them approach the lake but it was not so, the eyes of the Nine were everywhere. Soon, one of the spies reported back the good news.

 

 

I want to wish a Happy New Year to all my subscribers and let’s write!

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Chapter 20.

The Guardian’s helpers.

Gwen Hmong was not alone in wanting to protect the secret as her people in every area of Peru were looking and listening. In every district and in every city, people were on the lookout for these explorers, these looters of gold. Now that she was in Peru, she had decided to summon those in charge in every district. They were called the Nine. She had other reasons to summon them; it was the June solstice, the 24th day of June when they had to bathe in the secret stream to rejuvenate themselves. Only by that action could they stay young and beautiful.

The sacred stream was located underneath the main river, but near the town of Tambomachay which is located 8km from Cusco or about 6 miles. The complex is inside a hill and has three levels and like other Inca buildings it was built with perfect fitting bricks without using mortar. The structure was on top of an underground spring water and at the bottom of the complex were the famous Inca baths. The stream was near this spring but was not part of it. In fact, the Nine guardians would go to the stream through an opening, with stairs leading directly to it from this complex through a series of underground tunnels.

Gwen was always the first to arrive so that she could officially greet the other eight members. Down the stairway she went, holding a torch in her left hand. The stairs were cut directly into the stone and after walking a few feet down she arrived at the entrance of a cave. Inside this cave the sacred waters were flowing just beside it. The whole cave was rather small and seemed illuminated with a supernatural glow, a mix of light blue and a tinge of green. It was millions of years old as stalagmites were hanging from the roof, looking like swords ready to fall down from the skies.

Gwen disrobed herself quickly and revealed her nudity. She advanced in the stream slowly until she disappeared completely under the water. After a few seconds she reappeared, skin glistening and looking as young as ever. She looked the picture of health, even if she really was several hundred years old. After a few more minutes in the water, Gwen began to walk out slowly, picked up her clothes and changed. The others were beginning to arrive.

First Eliza arrived, going slowly down the stairs, followed by Joanna and then Sara. The others followed in silence. All were greeted silently by Gwen and one by one, all entered the sacred waters. When they emerged from the waters all of them looked noticeably younger than their real age as the waters had rejuvenated them. Soon all of them had done what they had to do and all left in the direction of Cusco. The meeting was to take place there at an expensive hotel called Libertador and Gwen intended to have the meeting in the restaurant of the hotel.

The Nine were an interesting lot with one peculiarity; all were women. Most of them were leaders in their community such as business leaders and in some cases much better educated than the average Peruvian. All had a stake in protecting the secret as they all benefited from it. These Nine were old, very old. By rejuvenating themselves in the sacred stream, they kept their youthfulness, just like Gwen Hmong. Most of them were more than 100 years old but all looked very young. They still aged, but very slowly and not in a way that was perceptible to the eye. But there is always a price to pay for such advantages and that price was sterility. They periodically married, divorced and then left their spouses in order to protect the secret. Now for the first time in years they assembled around the table, able to speak freely to all the other members something not permitted at the stream.

These Nine women represented the major areas of Peru. One was from Cusco, one from the area around Machu Pichu, another one from Lima, the capital. They all controlled other people below them whose job was to be on the lookout, but none of them knew the real secret. All thought that the secret was the gold, hidden and forgotten by the Incas so long ago. In fact, the stream was the secret, the Fountain of Youth. Searched by Ponce de Leon, it had been found but not where it was supposed to be. Gwen opened the informal meeting by a simple explanation of why they were there.

“Greetings to all,” she said. “You must wonder why you were summoned. The threat is great to our secret. We are here to discuss the measures to be taken and how far we must go.” The head guardian looked around her, seeing the women looking at her in an interested way. Then one of them spoke. She was the woman in charge of Cusco.

“If the head guardian may permit me, I will expose the threat.” said a short woman with brown hair. Her name was Lia.

“You may do so,” said Gwen.

“We have an expedition whose attempt is clear; to find gold that was supposedly hidden by the Incas and never found by anyone, including all the archaeologists who have scoured the area. The expedition is financially backed by a certain Jake Pierce. This person is the nephew of Stephen Pierce, a man who explored the ruins of Machu Pichu with Bingham. This uncle of his must have found a map or maps that indicated where gold could be found. The risk is that the expedition stumbles on the secret, the sacred stream. Once that is discovered, we will have lost all control on the area, and we will be finished as an organization.”

Gwen looked around her to ascertain if everyone indeed had understood the magnitude of the threat. “Now that we understand what is going on, we have to decide what to do about it, and how far we must go to defend the secret.”

Another woman decided to speak. She was in charge in the immediate area of Machu Pichu and its ruins. “My people in the area have said to me that they indeed have a map and have used an artefact to discover another map. But what they do not know is that they are still far from discovering gold or the secret, even by accident.”

“What do you mean?” asked the head guardian.

“It is simple, I am pretty sure that the secret is safe, that only the gold is what is wanted by them. The risk of stumbling on the secret is low. What we should do is simple; redirect them to an area where the secret is nowhere to be found and let them find some gold. And this is what I did. My informer saw them when they found the second map, but he was quicker. He got there before them and found the second map. That map he took and substituted another map, drawn by me. And on it, I indicated where some gold would be found, far away from where the stream is located.”

Everyone around the table looked astonished, surprised and yet happy. Happy that the secret was safe once again and that the threat had been defused. But one person was unhappy, the head guardian. And she let loose her fury at the woman who had taken such a daring risk.

“Tell me, Sara, from whose authority did you decide on such a plan. Who gave you the green light, tell me.”

Sara squirmed on her seat. She was an intelligent woman but prone to take unwarranted risks and in taking these risks she could endanger the whole organization.

“Yes, well, no one knew about my plan. I, I …did it all on my own. I admit it. I broke the rules, yes.” Sara bowed her head in an effort to obtain some commiseration from her other sisters in the organization. But all of them knew the fury of the head guardian when she was provoked. It was finally Gwen who broke the silence.

“You knew that you were breaking the rules, and yet you went ahead. By your recklessness you endangered all of us. You will be punished for this after this meeting is adjourned. Let me re-assert to all of you the basic cardinal rule; I decide on what to do, not you. I am the head guardian, not you. Break the rules and you will be punished. Is this clear?” All the others bowed their heads and nodded silently.

“What you did Sara probably bought us time, but if you put some gold in the area of the map that you gave them this will only whet their appetite for more gold. They will now be even more frenzied about finding more of it. It’s a never-ending loop, and you provided positive feedback when none should have been provided. The others can leave the table but you, you will come upstairs to my room, now!”

Sara bent her head and lowered her eyes as the rest of the group disbanded and went their separate ways. Once the bill was paid, the head guardian got up and was quickly followed by Sara. Both went up the stairs silently. Sara knew she would be punished, but she did not know how.

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Chapter 19.

Pedro and the others.

When Pedro had looked at the map he immediately knew what it showed: the protected area in the Amazonian basin called Manu. Getting there was a difficult and expensive task and Mr. Pierce would be less than happy about the costs and the time delay in getting there, but they had no choice if they wanted the gold. He spoke up.

“Well my friends, our adventures are not over and our travel plans will have to expand.”

“What do you mean,” said Maria. “do you recognize the area in the map or not?”

“Of course I do,” replied Pedro. “it’s the Manu national park, a protected area. Digging there will be tricky as it is full of tourists enjoying the park. As for the travelling it is far and complicated to get there.”

“This is the Amazon right?” asked Pierce.

“Yes it is, and it is full of dangers,” replied Maria. “and we have to go back to Cusco to take a plane or go by car. It simply is more dangerous and will take more time.”

Everybody was looking at Pierce as it was his money that was being spent. They all knew that one word from him and this expedition was over. All waited for him to speak. “Well I guess we don’t have much of a choice. We have to go there and see what the map indicates. My attorney told me that it would not be easy. I always wanted to see the Amazonian basin anyways. Let’s go for it.” Pierce was grinning from ear to ear like a schoolboy.

Everyone was all smiles, especially Pedro. He knew about the area much more than he intended to say, and he knew that eventually that would work to his advantage. He didn’t have the time at the condor markings to dig quickly enough but now he was in control. He would have the time to find the gold.

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Chapter 18.

Drake.

Drake was released from jail after his bout of drunkenness, paid his fine and left straight for the hotel where Acton was staying. He entered the hotel in a foul mood and went to his room hoping to find Acton there. Instead of Acton he found a woman. He thought that his luck was about to change.

“You know who I am, of course?” asked the woman.

Drake studied her and knew who she was immediately, the head guardian. With the body of a gymnast and long brown hair, she was very attractive. “Yes of course I know you Miss Hmong. What a pleasant surprise. “replied Drake. Drake extended his hand towards her slowly. Gwen Hmong smiled and walked a few steps towards him and suddenly let the back of her right hand fly, striking Drake on the left side of his face. He did not have the time to react that another backhand caught him on the right side this time. Gwen was not smiling anymore and neither was he.

“How dare you get drunk and thrown in the slammer.” She continued to berate him. “You are lower than low, John Drake. Your wife has been notified of this, and you will have to answer to her as well.”

Drake was astonished at the fury that had been unleashed. He had heard rumors of the temper that the head guardian sometimes exhibited but had never experienced it himself. It was said that the she was tougher on the women under her orders than the men. He stepped back slightly, touched his nose and saw that he was bleeding. He look dismayed and unsure at what he should do. His anger was mounting but he knew that he had to appear contrite. “I am sorry, really truly sorry for what happened at the bar and my being put in jail. It was all a big mistake. I was going out of the bar when I accidentally collided with a table and everything went into the customers lap.”

“And you expect me to believe that crap that you are serving me? Well I’m not buying.” At those words she unleashed another volley of her right hand to his right temple followed by a kick to his stomach. Finally as he lay doubling over on the floor she put over her right hand a glove that was coated with metal studs. She put her left hand on his head, grabbed the hair, and punched him in the face repeatedly rendering him unconscious. He lay there like a sack of potatoes, with a bloody face and in a pool of blood. She thought that the message that she was delivering was very clear. But to make it clearer she wrote him a note, saying that he ought to think first and act afterwards. She then enjoined him to contact his wife for further instructions. She then exited the room and as she was about to leave she turned back towards him and smiled, happy at the work that she had accomplished. She knew that he would be more careful now and that fear had been hopefully instilled in him. He would not get drunk anymore she was sure of that.

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Chapter 17.

From Aguas Calientes to Machu Pichu

They awoke before the sun, rose ready to beat the crowds that were sure to be there once the sun was up. They had to be there before sunrise; those two sticks that Pierce preciously hid were the key to finding something of interest and hopefully it would be gold. Not a word was said about the events of the night before.

“Common Jorge. Wake up now and get started. We need to be quick.” said Maria. Pierce was already out of bed, checking over the bags and making sure there was water enough for the group. Pedro however was another story.

“Maria, you still have not explained why we need to be up at the ruins before the sun is up, why?” It was a fair question, but Maria did not want to explain. She was still very cautious about Pedro.

“Pedro, now is not the time for explanations. Once up at the ruins you will see and understand. Now let’s check if we have everything and let’s go, it’s 04:00 am and we must be on our way.”

Pedro grumbled and could see that Jorge was really of the same opinion; it was far too early for anything physical like walking and climbing. Only Pierce and Maria seemed excited and ready to climb.

As they checked out of the inn they began the slow ascent towards Machu Pichu. The climb was difficult because of the high altitude. It was only 5 miles to climb and some people are able to do it in 15 minutes yet despite the urgency they had no intention of beating records. They were still a sleepy bunch and walking up the steep path would take a little over an hour as they were encumbered with picks and shovels. And of course with a person less that meant more weight on their backs. Finally the summit was reached with a terrific view of the surroundings.

“So, now where do we go?” said Pedro. He was always the one questioning Maria and Pierce, always wanting to know more.

“Now we go straight to the Temple of the Sun.” Maria said.

The temple was a tapered tower and in it it had a window by which the sun’s rays came streaming through at dawn in the South American winter, the solstice in June. As the rays enter through the window it illuminates a stone in the center of the temple. The temple was part of what is called the sacred district that encompasses Intihuatana, also called the hitching post of the sun and the room of the three windows.

“Okay, Jorge with Pierce at the top of the temple, while I and Pedro will go to the Intihuatana.” She pulled Pierce aside and told him to get out his sticks. One would go with her atop the three windows and the other would go with Pierce to go to the temple. Hopefully when the sun strikes the small crystals inside the hollow sticks the crossing of the rays will indicate on the ground where the gold was. That was the theory at least. The Intihuatana was on the same side that the Temple of the Sun but further away. Maria and Pedro hurried towards the area. Pedro had to climb quickly on top of the small monument.

“Remember,” said Maria, “you must hold the sticks with the crystal at an angle of 45 degrees or else it will not work.”

“Don’t worry,” said Pedro. He was excited that he finally understood how everything was supposed to work.

Maria could see further away Pierce with the other stick on top of the wall of the temple high up. Suddenly, the sun appeared as a fiery globe and at the instant its rays illuminated the area they hit the crystals and two beautiful multicolored rays went forth from the sticks, one crossing the other with the result that the two rays merged and hit the ground in front of them but further away. Immediately Pedro located the exact area; it was at the temple of the condor. He ran towards the area where the rays intersected each other. No time could be lost as they did not want tourists and guards to see what was happening. Finally, after a few minutes of running he arrived there. The area was called the industrial area and it comprises the mortar district and at this place was a carving of a condor with at the base of it a cave. One can crawl through the cave and emerge on the other side. The rays crossed at that point, near the carving. Pedro knew that he had mere minutes before Maria and Jake Pierce would be on him and so he decided and acted quickly in accord with the plans made with Jorge. He began digging just underneath the carving. He thought that he had enough time to find whatever was there but soon he heard noises behind him. It was Maria and Pierce. He was still digging when they arrived, still trying to find something under the carving.

“Well, where is the spot,” asked Maria.

“It was directly below the carving,” replied Pedro, who was distressed that he did not have the time to find anything before the others arrived. Jorge and the others looked at Pedro and at the carving. Maria and Pierce kneeled down and began to examine it.

“Well, what next,” asked Maria. “Any ideas Jake?”

“Well, the map said nothing about the condor, so the condor has to be the beginning of something else, but what? I suppose that Pedro was right in beginning to excavate below the image.”

“Maybe it is something hidden beneath it. Let’s dig deeper underneath the image!” Maria said.

Jorge took out a shovel as well as Pedro and both began digging. Finally after a few minutes of digging something appeared underneath buried in a sort of cloth bag.

“What is this?” said Jorge. “It looks like another map or something.”

“Let me see more closely,” said Maria. She bent down and tried tugging at the object. It was inside a brownish cloth bag. She tugged at it and finally it came out, a small bundle the size of a handbag.

“Got it!” Maria exulted. Sheer happiness was on her face while the others looked on. “Quick now, lets put back all the soil underneath the stone and leave the area. We must not attract any suspicions on ourselves. Do it quickly.” They rapidly were able to put back the soil underneath the carving in record time, took their shovels and left to a more secluded part of the complex in the industrial area. There, they took the map out of the bag and began poring over it.

“Well, another map probably from my grandfather, don’t you think Maria?” Pierce said.

Maria was busy looking over the map and trying to identify features that could help locate the gold.

“It’s clear that it was left there by your grandfather, but once again the precise locations of things is not clear.”

“Let me take a look at it. I know the region quite well having spent my childhood years in the vicinity,” said Pedro. He took the map and began examining it closely. Suddenly he looked astonished and said in an excited voice, “I found it, I know where it is located!”

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