It was Sunday, my second day, I took my sketch book and pencils to the streets of my new home town of Ollantaytambo, Peru’s ‘Living Inca Museum’.
I started in the square. Folk sat about in quiet rest, absorbing sunshine. The old and twisted tree in the centre of the plaza caught my eye. I began to sketch. Not long before some young girls came to examine my efforts. I was a little conscious of my rusty impression of their town but they didn’t seem to mind and continued to observe my movements on the paper. I decided it was best to train my pencil away from their gaze until I had practiced some more.
I walked out the road through which I first entered the town, back as far as the ‘Inca Doorway’. Beyond the trapezoidal doorway was a trail which led through the Sacred Valley. I walked part
of the way, seeing evidence of small farms of goats and pigs. A little further however, I halted in my tracks with the pimples and hair on the back of my neck standing to the height of attention and alert. Three dogs from a wall above, barked to high heaven and low hell to let me know that it might not be a good idea to step further in their direction. I didn’t dare disagree with their objection. I ‘legged it’ back to the Inca Doorway.
I found a perch and despite the dust from the road with the mini-buses of full of locals and tourists wheeling by, I sketched the cobbled-stoned road leading to the town, with its majestic mountains set in the background.
I walked back towards the town and stood on a corner before the entrance to the square, with the water gushing beneath my feet, via an aqua-duct, quickly sketching the scene. A group of very young school boys descended upon me. I could barely move as they jostled around me. I had to show my work, they smiled and nodded to each other. Time for me to move before the next wave of children arrived.
I climbed a rough path in the direction of Pinkuylluna, the store house which the Inca’s set in
stone over five hundred years ago in order to store their grain. I never made it to the store house as I am a nervous kitten on loose, steep terrain. I made a nest for myself on a level piece of rock, looking out over the town, taking in the breadth of it. The sun was burning down now so it was necessary to pile on more sun-screen. I sketched some more whilst now and then some tourists passed me by on their way to the store house.
Feeling braver, I made my way back to the square, intent on sketching some of the people. I young girl dressed in traditional colourful clothing stood proudly for all to see. She was clearly not keen to be my model but I sketched her from a little further away.
My real joy came when I discovered Nancy. It was her brother David whom I first spied. He was happy for me to draw him as he posed near the doorway of his family shop.
His aunt, Marianne sat alongside the aqua-duct near the shop door. The water emptied to a lower duct an energetic resonance. Nancy was waiting patiently for me to draw her. She was so pretty. A little girl, perhaps eight years of age, she posed with grace and stillness that affected me with much calm, instilling confidence in my ability to draw her. After a windy session with her hair blowing all about I reached into my satchel. It was time to use my oil pastels for the very first time. It was not so perfect an outcome but I was really pleased with my efforts. A local police man came to have a look and introduced himself to me.
Through this art I had made my way a little further into the heart of my new home and its people. Always there was a smile and a friendly gesture when I met my new friends whom I had sketched. And when making my goodbyes it was with much fondness that I left my crayons to Nancy.
These are the travel tales of an Irish woman living in a Peruvian town. If you like this article please consider following my blog by clicking the ‘follow’ button at the bottom right of your screen. I love when people share my work (via the share buttons) and it is especially nice to know if you have been to Ollantaytambo and have found it to be a special place also.
©Caroline Cunningham Author and Photographer of Wild Star Landing Blog.