Cocalmayo Santa Teresa, Peru

Why Go To Santa Teresa – Journey In Peru

Why would you go all the way to Santa Teresa along a treacherous road in Peru? For some reason it called to me and I subconsciously ignored the part about the treacherous road. In this seemingly sleepy jungle town, nature’s wonders were alive and busy. The hummingbird (Picaflor/Colibri) certainly was the most stunning of these. My encounter with this ‘flying jewel’ was fresh in my mind.

Humming Bird copyright Johnlric dreamtime.com

Humming Bird copyright Johnlric dreamtime.com

Walking along the narrow sandy paths to my left and right I set my eyes for the first time upon coffee beans growing in their perfectly natural source. Further along near the small town itself a large area of bare ground had been set aside for the drying of the beans. There they lay, roasting in the midday sun oblivious to cities and cafes and paper cups.

Santa Teresa Peru

Santa Teresa Peru

If you follow the river you will eventually discover the main attraction. At least for Peruvian people this is so. Cocalmayo is the name given to the outdoor hot bath known locally as ‘Aguas Calientes’. It is idyllic in its surrounds and clearly a hit with Peruvian people continuing their Independence Day celebrations.

Hot Bath Cocalmayo Santa Teresa Peru

Hot Bath Cocalmayo Santa Teresa Peru

I got there early in the morning as the sun appeared across the lid of the mountain and infused the air with it warming rays. I waded in the warm blue green waters staying close to rocky perimeter gazing at the waterfall which provided a natural shower for the bathers.

Even at this hour there were many people, despite this a hushed quiet prevailed. No rush, until however, sounds of splashing followed by some shrieks broke the silence. Many people, mostly young girls were scrambling to exit the bath. An attendant appeared with a large hooped net. It took some time to capture the creature as it managed to hop itself free from the net many times. It had fallen from the rock face at the far side of the pool. I understood that they believed it to be poisonous frog. I watched from a safe distance. Eventually calm was restored and the basking resumed.

Cocalmayo Santa Teresa, Peru

Cocalmayo Santa Teresa, Peru

Later, I sat in a village market watching a local woman making the most amazing concoction using only a liquidiser (batidora). She piled everything into it. Peppers, soft cheese, crackers and spices, I lost track of the variety. It was explained to me that she was making a sauce to accompany a potato dish for the workers in her community.

Many people visit this town in order to start their trek to Machu Picchu. It can be reached in a matter of hours on foot in the direction of Hidro-Electria power plant. They call it the low-budget route and back door to Machu Picchu. I had already arrived there through its front door the year before. It is splendid. My trip to Santa Teresa was a spur of the moment plan. I didn’t want any of my visits to Machu Picchu to be so haphazardly arranged. Going there was something I wanted to have the opportunity to look forward to, no matter if it would be my hundredth time to visit.

Urubamba River (Vilcanota) Peru

Urubamba River (Vilcanota) Peru

Have you been to Santa Teresa and what were the highlights of your visit? If you enjoyed my story please share and I invite you to follow my journey in Peru.

The reference to the ‘flying jewel’ is credited to artist and blogger Janet Weight Reed for this beautiful metaphor of the Humming Bird which features in her art.

©Caroline Cunningham – Author of Wild Star Landing

Humming Bird copyright Johnlric dreamtime.com

Visitation of Beauty – An Irish Womans Journey In Peru

I have been at a loss for words to describe this following encounter I had whilst visiting Santa Teresa in Peru’s cloud forest jungle. I have been conflicted by the beauty of it because I cannot proceed with the remainder of my Peruvian tale until I have attempted to relay this part.

I awoke that first morning in my tree-house style room (Eco Quechua Lodge) with the warm breeze gently swaying the light-filled drapes that hung inside the wooden rails, where fell the jungles feet along the Urubamba (Vilcanota) River.

Humming Bird copyright Johnlric dreamtime.com

Humming Bird copyright Johnlric dreamtime.com

Birds were chirping and most likely there was a nest of them in the highest eaves of my room. I had packed sparingly and since I had chosen a room with the greatest view, forsaking the favour of an en-suite version, I had a little distance to travel to the nearest shower. The towels provided gave scant coverage so I wrapped myself in a sheet and waddled to the nearest cubicle crossing the stepping stone path. Showering whilst looking out across the tree tops was bliss but nothing like the experience that was yet to come.

Sitting at the breakfast table on the platform overlooking the cloud forest on a balmy sunny morning, sipping papaya juice, I gazed beyond the flowering plants that popped their heads idly along the balcony. I had not yet deciphered the static chirps that hinted at the spectacle that was about to transfix my senses.

Along the Vilcanota / Urubamba River Author

Along the Vilcanota / Urubamba River Author

In nano-seconds my eyes were deceived by objects beyond the flowering plants. They appeared and disappeared so fast I had not time to ascertain what flickered there. And then it did appear. One single of the flickering bodies presented itself swiftly before my eyes. For this brief moment I held myself on the border of my emotions unsure which was the most appropriate. I wasn’t breathing at this point. The story of Peter Pan tickles my imagination and something of this creature, fanning its wings so fast they could barely be perceived as wings, beheld the magic of a visitation by Tinkerbell.

A joyous feeling began to overflow my heart at last deciding this was a most special experience a beautiful encounter with a humming bird ‘Colibrí’. It hovered mid-air for those brief moments only two arm lengths from my side and some seconds later flew out into the trees as swiftly as it had appeared.

Tree Top Paradise Peru - Wild Star Landing

Tree Top Paradise Peru – Wild Star Landing

I sat there mesmerised. This smallest of birds with the fastest of beating wings, with versatility of movement in any direction even upside down or backwards, had chosen to present itself before me. I later discovered that some Peruvians believe it to be a messenger. The ‘Colibrí’ (Humming Bird) was certainly significant to the ancient Nazca civilisation as they featured this creature centrally in their mysterious Nazca lines. The meaning has been lost to present culture however but it wasn’t lost to me. A humbling grace fell upon me upon me. I felt immense gratitude. This encounter with beauty is held high amongst my most special experiences ever in my life.

That night I slept with my curtains parted so as to entice another visitation of this magical creature in my waking hours. I was being quite wishful but realised even more that I had been blessed just once and once was more than I could be hopeful for.

Andean Slopes of Peru's Santa Teresa near Machu Picchu

Andean Slopes of Peru’s Santa Teresa near Machu Picchu

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing Blog

Eco Quechua Lodge Peru - Wild Star Landing

Tree Top Getaway – Cloud Forest Jungle Peru

Santa Teresa beguiled my senses of the risky road that delivered me to its leafy sleepy tropical surrounds. I welcomed the melting temperatures that embraced my body parts inside and out. According to my booking details Eco Quechua Lodge was not far from the centre of the village. I was at a loss as to which road to take however, so a taxi was required. Another traveler had prompted me to stay here. ‘A tree house in the tree tops,’ was how she described it. It sounded heavenly.

Eco Quechua Lodge Peru - Wild Star Landing

Eco Quechua Lodge Peru – Wild Star Landing

Heaven was well disguised. A narrow sandy path lined with coffee trees led the taxi car to a simple hut proposing to be a shop, one that was quite bare and lacking in change (coins). To the left, a series of stepping stones led steeply to a wooden terrace amongst the tree tops. Like a curious child I hopped giddily from stone to stone arriving at the wooden sheltered platform. Bowls of ripe avocados and bananas greeted me. From the balcony I absorbed the beauty of the tree top canopy of the jungle cloud forest. Exotic flowers bloomed effortlessly from pots and transported earth. The air was sweet and exotic with so many new scents. The sun beamed serenely for this time of afternoon. I was at once at ease and surrendering to a blissful feeling.

Tree Top Paradise Peru - Wild Star Landing

Tree Top Paradise Peru – Wild Star Landing

The owner ‘Kiki’ appeared and gave me a warm welcome. He had a few rooms available and offered me a choice. I was sold on the first he presented, a makeshift space of almost three surrounding walls consisting of thin branches, loosely bound planks and a roof of matted twigs and nest-like vegetation with an open balcony providing glimpses of the Urubamba (Vilcanota) river below. A simple mesh net proposed to protect the sleeper from the jungles tiny creatures in the twilight hours. I was not leaving this room. It was mine for the next two nights.

Glimpsing the Urubamba River beneath the trees

Glimpsing the Urubamba River beneath the trees

A romantic location it surely was and it was especially the place for lovers. Beneath the eaves of the main reception platform I savoured a simple meal of rice and chicken and sampled a Pisco Sour. Couples quietly ate their meals before retiring to their tree top quarters which were intimately spaced together.

Tree House Style - Peru Cloud Forest

Tree House Style – Peru Cloud Forest

This would certainly be the place that my novel heroine Kitty Clinch would have chosen to bring her Peruvian lover. What of this Kitty Clinch of my creation? Would she really go through with her plans to settle and end her days hitched in Peru? What would it take to make such a move? I had to find out so as to write more authentically about this woman who was compelled to radically change her life.

Eco Quechua Lodge Peru

Eco Quechua Lodge Peru

In the night time bodies enveloped each other, some more noisily than others. The Urubamba sighed heavily at the feet of the trees that jostled at the edge of my open balcony. Water cleaved the rocks below at a steady breathy pace. An outrageous giggle from the other side of the partition to my left gave an uncanny feeling of being part of some voyeuristic party. It was not the place for loneliness but I considered it momentarily. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be in this special place. To come alone or with another, did it really matter? Yes it mattered entirely. I would rather be alone than to have a watered down memory of a touch that was not filled with the heart-depth of another.

I could take the river and the trees and the jungle night time air in this paradise destination and they could take all of me. A soul filled with beauty eventually tires itself to sleep. I slept soundly.

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Rio Urubamba in Santa Teresa Peru

Riding Along The High Ledge Of A Canyon – In Peru

‘Riding along the high ledge of a canyon’, wasn’t too unlike how my American traveller friends had described it in a text a few weeks earlier. I did not consider this news when I made my decision to travel to Santa Teresa. The bus journey from Ollantaytambo (Peru) to Santa Maria had taken me three and a half hours over and beyond the Abra Malaga Pass. The views were stunning and the roads extremely windy as I travelled almost an extra 1,500m.a.s.l. into the atmosphere from the Sacred Valley.

 
It’s an hour by car from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. In that hour I contemplated the possibilities of life and death. I observed the faces of the other passengers either side of me. They had the usual expressions of everyday acceptance of the familiar. The car rocked from side to side as it grappled with the rough terrain of this dusty, un-tarmacked road. The driver drove steadily, negotiating bends and occasional oncoming traffic which threw up blinding screens of dust. I had become more accustomed to the bends but what bothered me most was the fact that to my left I could see right down into the depths of a canyon where the Urubamba River snaked its path with greater speed towards its Amazonian counterparts.

Rio Urubamba in Santa Teresa Peru

Rio Urubamba in Santa Teresa Peru

I observed the driver and his co-pilot. They did not look like fellows who were set to die on this particular day. Logic butted in. An unexpected necessary swerve could send us off this narrow ledge to a certain death. Could I handle it? I had no choice right now. I was certainly not offering to walk or turn back alone. I could handle death if I knew it could be swift. Looking over the edge of this cliff-road it would surely be swift.

 
What were my alternatives? I could have stayed at home in my safe environment where life threatened to tick itself away minute by minute repeating the same un-holistic patterns until I died tediously and tragically without much sympathy. My logic drove me to dramatic lengths to justify the fact that I was now sitting in this car on a treacherous route to Santa Teresa’s cloud forest.

 
Slowly I allowed the thrill of this high risk situation to take me over. I had passed the pinnacle of Veronica en route, the glacial mountain which stood adamant in its promise that dreams can be made real as long as we do not give up. Perhaps it was more risky to believe in the dream that I had beset myself and kept within my heart. Risks have to be taken in such pursuits. This was practice.

Tropical Glacier as seen from Santa Teresa Peru

Tropical Glacier as seen from Santa Teresa Peru

The car trundled towards a break in the road. A cascading waterfall, which in another setting would warrant a day of natural observation, was in this instance presenting an obstacle as it flowed heavily across the dirt path. There were two apparent options. The first option was already being negotiated by another vehicle as it waded ever so slowly through the deep trough of the stream. The other option our driver took without much hesitation. We were driving across the fast flowing waterfall stream along a few planks of wood arranged to bridge the gap as the water beneath us took its magnificent plunge towards the Urubamba far below.

 
And in this fashion I eventually arrived with the dust of the earth in my mouth and matted to my skin and hair, into the tranquil surrounds of tropical Santa Teresa.

Andean Slopes of Peru's Santa Teresa near Machu Picchu

Andean Slopes of Peru’s Santa Teresa near Machu Picchu

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog

Veronica Glacier Peru - Wakay Willca

To The Mountain And The Jungle – Journey In Peru

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.

Ollantaytambo Peru - Quiet on a Sunday morning

Ollantaytambo Peru – Quiet on a Sunday morning

Bus arriving in Ollantaytambo

Bus arriving in Ollantaytambo

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.

Leaving Ollantaytambo in the direction of the Jungle

Leaving Ollantaytambo in the direction of the Jungle

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.

Journey to the mountain and the jungle - Peru

Journey to the mountain and the jungle – Peru

Driving towards Veronica - Apu Mountain Glacier Peru

Driving towards Veronica – Apu Mountain Glacier Peru

 

Veronica Glacier Peru - Wakay Willca

Veronica Glacier Peru – Wakay Willca

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.

Winding Roads leading to the Abra Malaga Pass - Peru

Winding Roads leading to the Abra Malaga Pass – Peru

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.

Approacing Abra Malaga Pass - Peru

Approacing Abra Malaga Pass – Peru

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.

Taking a break along the road to Santa Maria - Peru

Taking a break along the road to Santa Maria – Peru

Roadside Diner - Peru

Roadside Diner – Peru

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.

Hanging On For Dear Life - Road to Santa Maria Peru

Hanging On For Dear Life – Road to Santa Maria Peru

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

Temple Of The Sun - Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

A Special Energy in Ollantaytambo – Journey In Peru

‘There is a special energy here,’ this I heard said many times during my stay in Ollantaytambo in Cuzco’s Sacred Valley. Local Peruvians and visitors from far away were in agreement on this. I remembered my first visit the previous year. For sure it had struck me that of all the places in Peru I had visited, there was something in this place that had intrigued me to know it better.

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

 So I returned to find out what that something was. A month had passed. My own energies had fluctuated many times with adjustment to higher altitude, attempting to speak a new language and alignment with a new culture. Along with this, the flux of tourists and highway traffic trundling through the plaza contrasted with the quiet hollow hours of evening when all deserted it and locals sought the shelter of their concrete homes.

 

 

Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Photo by Caroline Cunningham

In my evening walk about the town it was more apparent, a special energy. Was it the cobbled stones that brought more awareness to my feet and the weight of my stepping? Was it the greater mass of rock that had been forced to surface and form on this southern earth-sphere, enticing elements of our galaxy more strongly to itself? Or was it the escaping ions from the water that lashed against the rocks as it plummeted from those high phalanges of the Andes? Was it contained within the granite stones that the Incas carried to this town to construct the Sun Temple now called the Fortaleza. Or was it something that was carried deep within a folk descended from Inca’s, such as a deep regard for mountains and rivers and condors?

 

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Temple Of The Sun - Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Temple Of The Sun – Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

I could not ascertain an answer to any of these questions except that I was glad I had returned to find out. Yes there was a special energy. It was already finding a resting place in my heart and it was set to travel with me on my return to Ireland. And when that time came I had a better inkling as to the answer.

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Have you been to Ollantaytambo (Cuzco, Peru)? Were you one of those who remarked about its special energy? I would love to know your thoughts on this, please leave a comment below.

© Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing

 

Patacancha River, Ollantaytambo, Peru Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Waino Dancing By The River – Story Of Peru

You seldom escape the gushing sounds of water in Ollantaytambo, in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Supplied by two rivers, racing from the towering Andean mountains, the Patacancha and Wilkanuta (Urubamba) rivers also deliver water to an abundance of stone cut aqua-ducts which serve the towns Inca stone buildings (Cancha) and the grounds of the Fortaleza.

Patacancha River, Ollantaytambo, Peru Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Patacancha River, Ollantaytambo, Peru Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Rivers and mountains are regarded as sacred to the Peruvian people. No wonder Inca Pachacuti selected this site for his residence. His reign is responsible for the splendid array of stones which form the terraces, buildings and temples which have earned this town its place as a world heritage UNESCO site. In later years it became the charge of Manco Inca Yupanqui to defend this town from the clutches of Hernando Pizarro (Spanish Conquistador). In his finest attempt he used his knowledge of the rivers and aqua-ducts to actually flood the plains, sabotaging his Spanish enemies attack.

Walking on Cobbled Stones - Life in a Peruvian Town - and the stones gave me lessons in adaptation

Walking on Cobbled Stones – Life in a Peruvian Town – and the stones gave me lessons in adaptation

I had established a routine of walking in the evening after helping out in the café. Off I set on my loop of the town, the sound of the water urging me to speed it up, or so I thought. Walking in the direction of the train station I noticed the road was busier. The season was picking up. There were as many Peruvian people as foreign tourists walking towards the train to Machu Picchu. I had noticed also in the hospedaje (hostel) that there were more families booking in.

Forteleza Photograph by Caroline Cunningham

Forteleza Photograph by Caroline Cunningham

Closer to the train station there was more commotion than usual. A large white tent was erected in the middle of the road, pumping loud music and above it I could hear a man’s voice interjecting with amplified announcements. Curious, thinking maybe it was some sort of commercial promotion, I peeped inside the tent. Next I felt an arm and a shoulder carry me a long like being caught in the current of the river that had overtaken me many times on my route. A sturdy Peruvian woman, with a smile that outstretched her ears, entered the tent along-side me. As if we were both expected, others were making space for us on a wooden bench at a long table running the length of the tent. I was handed a beer and folk saluted us.

Train to Machu Picchu - Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Train to Machu Picchu – Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Completely taken by surprise I found myself amidst party-goers with high energy. The music jingled like the rolling of the river turning over and over its rocks. A live band provided the music and the man with the announcements. On the wooden make-shift floor people of all ages were dancing vigorously. ‘Waino! Waino! Waino!’ squealed my friend who had carried me along. I knew then she was referring to the music. Waino is a traditional music of this part of Peru. It has an upbeat swinging rhythm and in the modern versions there seems to be a man shouting announcements throughout the tune. The other thing I discovered about Waino….it seems to be never-ending.

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

Up jumped this jolly woman pulling me along with her, and a few more besides. Now I was dancing the Waino….this is a good replacement for the gymnasium or any other fitness regime. Dancing at high altitude is a real test for your lungs and blood corpuscles. At approximately 2,800m.a.s.l, after three weeks, I was surprised at how there could still be times when I would gasp for air.
After twenty minutes I was truly whacked. The jolly dancing woman decided we should all have our photos taken together. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me. I soon realized why I was such an attraction for so many photographs to be taken with me. I was the only non-Peruvian person in the tent. I thanked the folk surrounding me for the fun I had with them and as I left the tent that great ‘current’ of a woman left alongside me. She had been a passer-by just like me but instead of peering in as I had done she plunged right in to the action and got involved.

Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Outside the tent the foreign tourists passed by on their way to the train unawares it seemed of the activities happening in their midst. I completed my walk more excitedly. I had a new story to tell the hosts of my lodging and I had to figure out how to tell them in Spanish. My landlady explained to me that the celebrations in the tent were a continuation of the religious festival of Carmen, the same festival I had attended a few days before in nearby Rumira.
Events such as these were the highlight of my journey living in this beautiful town.
What is your highlight of Ollantaytambo town? Are you planning to go there soon? If you have been following my blog you will know that I have many special friends there so please mention my blog to them and say Hi from Caroline (Ireland).

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

Peru Rail…train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing.