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shamans. The Ascent
Part 2 (back to Part 1)

The Curse of the Mummy
On our way back from the market, we run into twenty or more shamans, all congregating to head to Mt. Ampato where, just a year ago, Dr Reinhard found "Juanita," an Inca girl sacrificed 500 years ago. Rumour has it that the shamans are concerned about the removal of this sacred offering from the summit of Ampato. Some even go so far as to say that Ampato is angry. According to some locals, Ampato is a male mountain and his girlfriend, the mummy, has been wrested away from him.

Strangely enough, several freak accidents have befallen Arequipa lately. When fireworks hit an electrical wire, 36 people died on a bridge in the city. The live wire danced around, striking people at will, electrocuting them to death. Could this be a forboding sign from Ampato? Johan Reinhard reassures us this is not why the shamans are going to Ampato. He says they are performing an age-old ritual offering to the mountain gods. This revival of Inca tradition, he says, has been growing over the years. Shamanism is making a comeback, and people are reconnecting with the spiritualism in their mountain surroundings. We begin to wonder what might happen to us on Sara Sara.

reinhard. There is no doubt that the recent discoveries and scientific study of high Inca sacrificial mummies have revealed much about the Inca. The exhibition of Juanita, in a 16th-century monastery in Arequipa, has brought visitors from around the world. Jose Antonio Chavez, Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at Catholic University in Arequipa, is in charge of the exhibit. "We still have a lot to learn from Jaunita. When the exhibit is over, we'll use that time to do more in-depth tests on her." Jose Antonio and three of his students join us on the expedition. Jose further explains the impact Juanita has had on some of the local people: "We have found that some of the locals make offerings to Juanita. Some, when they see her, go down on their knees and begin to pray." Local pride over Juanita is mixed—some are in favour of the display of this historic find, and others are superstitious about the repercussions. But all would most likely agree on the unquenchable human fascination with mummies.

juanita. Seeing Juanita
She sits innocently in a reclined position, her eyes wide open and mouth revealing her teeth. A rare beauty emanates from her delicate features, strong arms, and her long and elegant neck. It is hard to imagine that such a young and fragile girl could have made it up Ampato. It is certain that she couldn't have lasted very long in her sacrificial tomb. Strangely, she looks both relaxed and tense at the same time, as if mentally she were prepared for death, while her physical body was bracing against the painful and bitter cold.


Photos: (2) courtesy The Mountain Institute.

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