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Astronomy in Ireland and Peru

Originally posted on Wild Star Landing:

This has to be my best summer of astronomy ever. Shaking hands with the inimitable Dr Rolf-Dieter Heuer (DG of Cern) on his visit to Dublin was magic. Inspired by the cartoon analogy used to convey the new particle discovery (famous person passing through a room of journalists at speed of light), I flew to Dr. Heuer and exclaimed: ‘Dr. Heuer, Tá meas agam duit, this in Irish means I respect you. The Irish word for respect is meas’ (pronounced Mass). Thanks to Astronomy Ireland for providing this rare opportunity at Trinity College.
In August I visited Peru and witnessed the genius of ancient Nazca and Inca civilisations. Their enduring designs incorporate art, engineering skill and spiritual belief with precise astronomical measurements. The Nazca lines (UNESCO site), marvellous etchings stretching over 450km2 of a rocky plateau in south Peru, created over a period of 800…

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Veronica Apu Mountain Spirit from Ollantaytambo, Peru

The Things You Do When You Get There – Journey In Peru

Traveling 10,000 miles to a far-away land with a very loose plan of action could lead to chaos or cool strategy. I fell somewhere between these two stools. I was heading into my third week in Ollantaytambo town in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley, not so far from glorious Machu Picchu. Learning a new language, the forging of new friendships, adjustments to higher altitude and a different society, were coming gradually but with good grounding.

I knew I was getting better at the Spanish when I was hanging out the clothes one morning on the roof top and heard my landlady calling up to me from the quarter below. ‘Did I hear her right?’ I thought at first. ‘Domingo!’ I shouted back letting her know that today was Sunday. So even my new friends were now putting more faith in my understanding of their lingo.

People live in very close quarters in this town and as soon as I went to that highest part of the roof to hang my washed clothing i heard, ‘Hola Carolina!’ from two different directions. My friends from Coffee Tree (Cafe, Restaurant) were living beside and behind me and it seemed to be a day for doing the washing by the looks of it.

Ollantaytambo - Journey In Peru

Ollantaytambo – Journey In Peru

All around the view was breath-taking from that roof top. A ring of tall mountainous rock enclosed the immediate area, with the sacred tears of glacial Veronica at the farthest end of the valley adding a stimulus to the scene. ‘That’s the way to Machu Picchu’, I reminded myself at the time. I had already been there once the year before on a previous trip. This was different. I was on a solo journey now. I anticipated my second visit with much thought of visiting a ‘Greatness’, One all-knowing of how much I would be needing to prepare myself for the privilege of a second visit.

Slowly I would get there. For now I finished hanging out the clothes and backed down the tiny ladder so as not to give the impression I was spying on my neighbours.

Outside of work hours (I had a part-time voluntary job in a cafe) I created an exercise routine of a walk about the area and an evening visit to a Peruvian shop-keeper with whom I had the most interesting language exchanges. The plans were still a little loose and sometimes felt like ‘nothing doing’ but it was all a preparation because the greatest moments were yet to come….if only I could always remember this.

Dear Reader: From time to time I have had a comment from one’s of you who have visited Ollantaytambo and you have let me know that you were also touched by how magical this place is and the friends you made there. Keep posting such comments. I welcome this connection. Muchos gracias amigos! (o;

Copyright Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog

Veronica Apu Mountain Spirit from Ollantaytambo, Peru

Veronica Apu Mountain Spirit from Ollantaytambo, Peru

103 Reasons To Be Grateful

103 Reasons To Be Grateful – Wild Star Landing

1. Thank You so much to the 103 people who opted to ‘follow’ my blog, one year on at time of writing.
2. Thank You for the gift of writing, painting, singing
3. Thank You for the gift of healing, self and others.
4. Thank You for Imagination
5. Thank You for an abundance of Inspiration especially in this last year of writing
6. Thank You for my reasonably good health which has allowed me to function very well.
7. Thank You for my ability to travel in the last few years especially
8. Thank You for synchronicity which sparks my positivity.
9. Thank You for my very special friends who are my rocks in times of stormy weather.
10. Thank You for my wonderful family who are patient with me even when it looks like I don’t know what I’m doing or where I want to be.
11. Thank You for Nature which reminds me that I am not alone when I feel that nobody understands my longing.
12. Thank You especially for that beach – the one that saves me when I need to ‘get out of here’.
13. Thank You for stars and planets that are constant, ever present and a reminder of how small my problems really are.
14. Thank you for the memories of kisses, hugs, holding hands and romantic moments in my life
15. Thank You for the people who have taught me valuable lessons along my journey in life.
16. Thank You for the Masters who have inspired me to apply myself more in my endeavours.
17. Thank You for the music which has soothed my heart, made me dance or reminded me of the best of times.
18. Thank You for warm sunshine and long summer evenings
19. Thank You for the air I breath
20. Thank You for technology and the minds who create and invent new things.
21. Thank You for the philosophers of our time and time before who ask ‘why’ and make suggestions for a better way.
22. Thank You for the simple folk who show that life needs not to be complicated
23. Thank You for children who show me how to learn and play with joy
24. Thank You for poetry which is given to me from a silent source
25. Thank You for the friendships I have made while travelling
26. Thank You for Machu Picchu, the closest to heaven I have ever been.
27. Thank You for dreams, the night time ones of great variety and the day time ones that give me something to live for.
28. Thank You for my camera
29. Thank You for the friends who have needed me in their time of trouble
30. Thank You for the challenge of learning what it is to be a woman
31. Thank You for the freedom I am beginning to experience in a stronger way
32. Thank You for the brave people on this planet who constantly work for the restoration of peace.
33. Thank You for the people who are mindful of our planets environment and encourage us to look after it well
34. Thank You for the folk who are concerned about the welfare of animals and tiny creatures.
35. Thank You for Chocolate
36. Thank You for friends who live overseas and invite me to visit them
37. Thank You for keeping me safe in my solo travels to far away lands
38. Thank You for the inspiring experiences I have had in my life
39. Thank You for the everyday signs of the goodness of humanity
40. Thank You for gentle men
41. Thank You for Flowers
42. Thank You for my ability to pay my own way (so far).
43. Thank You for giving me sense and senses
44. Thank You for revealing the deeper parts of me
45. Thank You for the beauty that I see in this World
46. Thank You for Trees especially the ones that look like dancers
47. Thank You for fairy tales and the words ‘happily ever after’
48. Thank You for the times when I was cared for my family during illness
49. Thank You for the friends who encouraged me in my artistic journey
50. Thank You for those who said they were sorry – it really meant a lot
51. Thank You for those who listened
52. Thank You for those who forgave me too even if I didn’t say sorry
53. Thank You for the ability to start again and for the people who are noble enough to pretend that they have forgotten my mistakes.
54. Thank You for my ability to learn new things no matter what my age
55. Thank You for my eternal youth – learning keeps me young
56. Thank You for the Taj Mahal
57. Thank You for my friends and especially the ones who sometimes call me up to tell me that they really loved my latest article
58. Thank you for the friends who read my novel as I was writing on a wave of inspiration
59. Thank You for a particular person who has inspired the development of my artistic expression.
60. Thank You for constantly showing me something new
61. Thank You for every display of love and lovingness that I see in life
62. Thank You for woolly clothing which keeps me warm
63. Thank You for giving me two legs to stand on and hands to make and do and feel.
64. Thank You especially for my sight which has needed expert care of surgeons from time to time
65. Thank You for Water, Rivers, Oceans and Lakes
66. Thank You for Moon Light and its magical effects.
67. Thank You for sceptics who challenge my thinking even more
68. Thank You for the longest days of the year
69. Thank You for the abundance of elements in our Universe – Hydrogen and Oxygen can give us all the water we could ever need – we just need to find a way to put them together so that everyone can benefit
70. Thank You for Space Travel – it reminds us of how much is really possible if we try
71. Thank You for Colours and the feelings they inspire
72. Thank You for the creative people in my life
73. Thank You for the passion that I feel.
74. Thank You for butterflies
75. Thank You for all the spices of the earth
76. Thank You for the day I was born
77. Thank You for Silence
78. Thank You for Shantaram
79. Thank You for wide open spaces like the deserts of India and Australia and the Mountains of Peru
80. Thank You for that photo of the Earth from the Moon
81. Thank You for soppy movies
82. Thank You for chicken soup
83. Thank You for my adventures
84. Thank You for my fellow adventurers
85. Thank You for things which have been done for me that I didn’t even notice
86. Thank You for my grandparents who did their best to give me happy childhood memories
87. Thank You for showing me that beauty exists within me
88. Thank You for folk who inspire others just by being themselves.
89. Thank You for WordPress
90. Thank You for this little country called Ireland.
91. Thank You for Saturdays and Sundays
92. Thank You for my car
93. Thank You for Now
94. Thank You for the time that is to come
95. Thank You for laughter and reasons for laughing
96. Thank You for diversity of life
97. Thank You for new beginnings
98. Thank You for zippidee doo da zippideee day
99. Thank You for Einstein
100. Thank You for everything this wide world has to offer
101. Thank You for everyone who stops by to read my blog
102. Thank You for everyone who has clicked like and shared my work
103. Thank You for everyone who has left encouraging comments in the comments box.

Now it’s your turn. What are you thankful for?

103 Reasons To Be Grateful

103 Reasons To Be Grateful

Caroline Cunningham – Author of Wild Star Landing

Excuse Me While I Touch The Google Sky – Journey in Peru

It was the end of another busy day at Coffee Tree Restaurant and I had surely earned my rest. The spiral stair case was no longer my bane. I had my balance sussed with coffees in both hands going up and a tip-toe run going down to place the orders in the kitchen. There were days I felt I was getting well-adjusted to the altitude (2850m.a.s.l) and yet there were days when I reached out for coca tea to revive my energy. I was free to go. My colleagues however, were still completing their working day.


Plaza De Armas, Ollantaytambo Peru - Sacred Valley Stories

Plaza De Armas, Ollantaytambo Peru – Sacred Valley Stories

One hour of daylight remained before the sun dipped below the curtain of rocky peaks encircling Ollantaytambo town in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Outside the door of The Coffee Tree was the perfect resting place. Some cushions spread across a stone bench against the wall. I sat not far from another man intent on silence. I recognised him. He was a regular in the first two weeks of my helping in the cafe. We had never spoken. He was one of those who spoke only Spanish and was interested in conversation with the owner and not with me.

At this moment especially, I welcomed silence. The sky was quickly changing its light and I wanted to watch the show of stars that would soon be turning up in the darkening canopy above and beyond the rocks.

WiFi was available here. Taking my mobile phone from my satchel I made my selection and pointed the phone to the sky. The extent of what lay above became apparent within seconds. Light years of information travelled from space to my phone to my eyes. I studied the content for a moment making comparisons with the shimmering objects that were appearing in the sky.


Peru's Story Book Town of Ollantaytambo in The Sacred Valley

Peru’s Story Book Town of Ollantaytambo in The Sacred Valley

There was a sudden movement from the man beside me as he leaned towards me gazing at my phone. ‘What’s that?’ he sounded curious, his voice belying the solitude that he had appeared to be cultivating. I looked at him, surprised that he spoke English and that he was also speaking to me. ‘It’s Google Sky,’ I replied. ‘See, there’s the constellation of Gemini, I touched the Google Sky on my phone, ‘ and up there,’ pointing at the sky itself, ‘you can see Castor and Pollux two of its brightest stars.’ I pointed to the oodles of green ‘M’ labelled items on the Google Sky app. ‘These are all galaxies, billions of light years away, you’d need a great big telescope to see them.’ I pointed my phone to the ground. ‘If we were on the opposite side of the Earth, we might see Saturn,’ I concluded.

The fellow seemed impressed. We got talking. He told me his name. He was a Spanish traveller. He planned to spend two years traveling in South America. He needed to understand something more about life. He did not appear to be in any rush to make this discovery. Nor did it seem necessary to have any occupation and he didn’t convey a pressure to justify any of this to any other person.


Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Our conversation drifted back to space and the technology of Google Sky. Aliens were next on the discussion list. I know so many people by now who hold store in the belief that aliens are out there, somewhere. My Spanish friend had his own story, one I’d heard rumoured before. ‘N.A.S.A. ….aliens…top secret…..its sounds like Independence Day,’ I mused. ‘I have a friend who works in N.A.S.A’ he confided, ‘it’s all true.’


I sat back against the wall, while my friend checked out the Google Sky for himself. Here in this little town, so far from cities and high tech living, I could find out about the most confidential secrets of our planet. All I had to do was sit here and wait. It would come to me, the answers to everything I needed to know.


© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Venus above the Fortaleza in Ollantaytambo, Peru

Venus above the Fortaleza in Ollantaytambo, Peru






Heart Moves The Body More

Moves the body on the floor,

Heart moves the body more;

The bell is touching its gong of absolute knowing,

Silence all around;

Mountains are listening,

Grasses and trees bending their leaves,

To hear the last sighs

Of a dancers trip to heavenly shores,

Heart moves the body more.


©Caroline Cunningham 2011

Heart Moves The Body More - Poem from Caroline Cunningham

Heart Moves The Body More – Poem from Caroline Cunningham

Train To Machu Picchu – An Irish Womans Journey In Peru

Imagine, I spent three whole days in Ollantaytambo, Peru, before I ventured in the direction of the train station. Why this is significant? Ollantaytambo lives forever in the shadow of its majestic neighbour Machu Picchu. This sacred and wonder-world attraction is often the only thing that outsiders know Peru to be famous for.

Train to Machu Picchu - Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Train to Machu Picchu – Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Ollantaytambo is really in the heart of the Sacred Valley of Cuzco. It is a World Heritage Site itself, having almost as many fantastic Inca ruins as Machu Picchu with an awesome setting but just not in that elevated peak setting in which Machu Picchu finds itself.




The most curious thing for me about Ollantaytambo was the fact that here you could meet people from the Nations of the Earth mingling with the people of an emerging modern Peru and the people of a more ancient Inca Peru. Peruvians and International travelers alike have one thing on their minds……get the train to Machu Picchu.

I knew all this of course, I had visited the year before and stayed only one night in this pretty town before taking that exciting train journey. Of course  I was filled with anticipation of the fact that I would most likely visit a second time, but for now I couldn’t say when that trip should be made. I was saving it for later.

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

So, having exhausted my wanderings around other parts of the town, I made my way down that road in the direction of the train station. It was a quiet time of the day. Most people get the train very early in the morning, as early as 4am…that way they get to see Machu Picchu in its dawning glory, spend the day there and get a late train home. Otherwise, people are going later in the evening, staying over night in Aguas Calientes (sometimes also called Machu Picchu Town) and getting up at the crack of dawn to visit the ruins.  Others are planning to get off the train at Kilometer 88 in order to start the Inca Trail.

It was 2pm or thereabouts so it was much quieter at that time. I tried to contain myself, so many memories came flooding back. I was filled with double feelings…my own and those of Kitty Clinch the character in my novel which was inspired by this very trip. As I stared at the tracks I envisaged Kitty queuing in the heat, both excited and nervous about her trip to this heavenly place. I remembered the anticipation I had myself….to see this magical place with my own two eyes…it was the thing on everyone’s mind that day.

Peru Rail...train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

Peru Rail…train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

And now….it was so quiet here…I could be fooling myself….I had no ticket to go there…I had no plan when to go…I sort of hoped I wouldn’t be going there alone. I guess I am romantic. It was so quiet, just the wind gathering some momento as it does here in the afternoons in July. A few independent travelers hanging about looking not half excited enough.

I sat for a while feeling a little empty, like I was missing something. Then when I had enough of that, I made my way back to the main thorough-fare of the town. No point reminiscing, a new tale was underway, a new adventure. It was still hard to believe that here I was …. I made this decision…I bought the ticket…I got on the plane. I made it happen. I needed to make the most of my time here.


If you like my story please consider following my blog I promise to share my travel tales with you. If you like to share your memories of getting the train to Machu Picchu, please leave your comments below.

Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog.