I went to Santa Teresa. I planned it myself. Lis and Nabila said it was fabulous. I thought I should go. Just a few days, that’s all I could afford. My big expensive holiday had been the year before, travelling the length and breadth of Peru. This year I had a different plan. I wanted to experience being a part of this culture to know if this was where I could belong. It had already given me a novel. Peru was luring me to discover my greatest joy and my deepest fear and it now pointed me surreptitiously in the direction of Santa Teresa.
Sunday morning bright and early I waited for the bus. Ollantaytambo had a lazy feel to it unlike other weekdays. When the multi-coloured bus swung into the Plaza De Armas it was already full. Two passengers got off, at least five more waiting to get on. Somehow we fitted. The driver said I could sit up front alongside the second driver and another passenger. We set off, bound for Santa Maria in the blazing sunshine.
I had not travelled this road previously. It was uphill for the first half of the journey almost two hours, winding and winding around the sharpest bends. I wasn’t so sure if being up front with this greatest view of the road ahead was the best idea. The driver often had to swing wide to take the bends. At least the road was paved. The views were jaw-dropping.
Mount Veronica (Wakay Willca) sacred glacier grew mightier as we drove nearer. Its snow-capped peak formed the most dazzling head piece the bravest Inca Warrior could desire. Against the sheer blue of the sky it triumphed. I had observed this mountain in the distance during my walks in Ollantaytambo. It held some kind of promise in its store. It prompted some kind of extra effort to be made to in order to attain a prize. What kind of prize, I could not say.
Now, so close before my very eyes, I felt I could reach out and touch it. The bus kept on moving around the bends which were developing an orientation that would take Veronica from my sight.
The air was certainly thinner as the bus climbed towards Abra Malaga. When we reached the highest point (4,350m.a.s.l.) the driver blessed himself a customary tradition that wards off the evil spirits that are thought to hang about in these parts and be the cause of accidents. This driver showed no other spark of personality unlike the one waiting to take his place who smiled happily at my reactions to the views of winding roads miles below.
The bus stopped a little lower down the other side of the mountain pass. I raced across the road to be the first to use the toilet housed in the little wooden shack. Another wooden shack provided a small eating room and a shop. The bus got a complimentary hose down and the drivers got fed.
The rest of the journey was downhill with the other driver at the wheel. He had some negotiating to do as there was evidence of minor landslides along the way and also some streams had overflowed their gutters and made their way across the road. I saw a family with a truck pulled up at a roadside waterfall. They were washing their cloths.
The air became warmer and sweeter. Banana Trees lined the road. Happiness melted my previously cool body and warmed my lungs with wider molecules of air. I had the holiday feeling now and was more in line with the constant jingle of the waino music which the Peruvians seemed so addicted to.
Santa Maria was not far. This bus was heading to Quillabamba further into the jungle. When the bus stopped in Santa Maria I got off and made my way towards the waiting cars. I had already travelled three and a half hours from Ollantaytambo. Santa Teresa was another hour away.
© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing blog