Journey In Peru

Soul Town Woman – Journey In Peru

From here-on-in it was becoming apparent that a town was trying to claim me. Some people are lucky to find a soul mate. I unearthed a soul-town. The folk I had befriended were intent on my remaining amongst them. For the rest of my allotted time in Peru, they tried every angle they could think of to persuade me that my life was intended to be played out amongst them.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

My first suspicion was aroused following the conversation about the car parked outside the door of my hosts hotel. It was the car of the Peruvian gentleman whom I had accompanied to Casa De Anna the evening before. My friend Henry repeated, a number of times, the fact that it was good to have a car. I should take advantage of the man with the car it seemed. You can go far with a car for sure.

Nazca Lines Peru - Wild Star Landing

At first, I could be fooled to thinking that he had my touristic interests at heart. But he was whispering the words to me in such a way, as to convey, that there was a real opportunity to be made here. I began to wonder if the visit to Casa De Anna had in fact been a set up.

The car was much nicer than this one (o'

The car was much nicer than this one (o’

I was out of there on foot without the car. Perhaps I was imagining things but soon their plans for me were less disguised. Henry’s wife was certain that I should meet her brother, a solicitor. They had both already told me several times that I was family, so it would be fitting that I think about this proposal. I was reminded regularly until the day I left them. I had not revealed too much about my heart missions to Cuzco but they knew enough to draw conclusions that I was on the wrong track.

Highway In Peru Wild Star Landing

Highway In Peru Wild Star Landing

I wished there had been heart school instead of college. There was nowhere on this earth I could escape to make my dreadful mistakes without being noticed, particularly by women who had succeeded in earning respect of the men whose hearts they had secured.

Apples from the Garden Of Eden

Apples from the Garden Of Eden

I never knew how to win so I never played the heart game. For too long a time I persisted with this craziness, thinking I was sparing myself of torture. But there comes a time when you have to admit you might be wrong. Realising you are wrong on a grand scale is not a pretty party to attend. The torture was waiting for me, all lined up with its dickey-bow on and I wasn’t drinking cocktails by any means.

I didn’t argue with any ones suggestions even the woman who dared to cross the line to tell me I was asking for a lot of trouble if proceeded with my current quest. I just quietly accepted that she was more knowledgeable, having entered heart school much earlier in life and had succeeded well.

I listened to everyone’s suggestions but I certainly felt no magic for men with cars or ironed creases in their pants. I would hold out for another while and I would listen. Perhaps the wind of this Sacred Valley would provide the education that I sought. Perhaps it too would sail above me. Nonetheless, I would listen.

Journey In Peru Wild Star Landing

Journey In Peru Wild Star Landing

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

 

Through The Sacred Valley Cuzco Peru

Going Home – Journey In Peru

As the mini-bus (taxi) commenced its journey through the Sacred Valley the spirits of the mountains were wrapping their reassuring arms around me. I was going home to my little story book town of Ollantaytambo. I belonged there.

I looked forward to seeing those smiling faces that greeted me all those days of the last seven weeks or so. I was glad to be leaving the city of Cuzco. I had battled there, lost, just like the Incas to the Spanish, torn apart, quartered and reassembled in a more simplified version of myself. But I had a ticket to Machu Picchu, something real to look forward to. And friends were eager to see me.

Journey In Peru - Through The Sacred Valley

Journey In Peru – Through The Sacred Valley

Through The Sacred Valley Cuzco Peru

Through The Sacred Valley Cuzco Peru

As soon as I set foot inside the door of my lodgings I was introduced to a newcomer to the town. A Peruvian gentleman who had recently moved to the area and had already become acquainted with my pals. He was on his way to Casa De Anna. I was encouraged to go along. It was only two minutes walk away.

When we arrived at Casa De Anna a science experiment was already underway. The Peruvian gentleman, an educated fellow by University degrees, explained to me what was happening here. Anna, the lady of the house provided science classes for some primary school children after school. Travelling visitors to the area were welcome to volunteer their knowledge to engage the children in fun and challenging ways to encourage creative scientific thinking. I recognised some of the visitors as they were not only skilled in other fields of education but also talented musicians who sometimes provided concerts at Misha Wasi.

Science Experiment In The Sacred Valley Peru

Science Experiment In The Sacred Valley Peru

I quickly got an idea and ran back to my hotel room to get my laptop. A few years previous I had been a presenter for Astronomy Ireland had developed a programme for introducing young children to the planets of our Solar System, the history of Astronomy and life on the International Space Station. Apart from English language I had only ever attempted to present the course in my own native Irish language on a few occasions and never expected to have the opportunity to present it in Spanish. Using my laptop presentation, I did my best to explain to the musician guys in Spanish, as this was their first language, being from various other parts of South America. They seemed to grasp my meaning and I realised that I was in fact teaching them some things they were learning for the first time.

Volunteer Science Class - - Journey In Peru

Volunteer Science Class – – Journey In Peru

My mind was so distracted by this activity it was the perfect remedy for me. I also recalled an experiment which had been imparted to me by a N.A.S.A. engineer who I had met in the Coffee Tree Cafe. It was designed to explain to children, the basis for verifying the shape and existence of quarks (sub-atomic particles). It involved the use of ball-bearings, a board and some cut out blocks of various shapes such as circle, square and triangle. The board sits above the shape so as to hide which one is underneath. By rolling the ball bearings under the board and observing the angle of their rebound it could eventually be determined which shaped block was underneath the board. This was a simplified version of a more sophisticated experiment used by nuclear scientists, so I was told by the man from NASA.

Soon the lessons were over and the children were leaving for their homes. Anna produced a bottle of red wine and everyone was invited to stay a while. I was conscious however of the smoky atmosphere as cigarettes were lighting up. I had cultivated a respect for an art of mine that required a clean instrument so I declined the offer in favour of an early night.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Night Time Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Time Ollantaytambo Peru

I had discovered what lay behind yet another door in this magical town. There was so much more to be discovered but I was running out of time. Now I needed to make the most of it. Absolutely!

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Carefree By Degrees – Journey In Peru

Oh to live this life completely carefree. That would be a joy. In this world however, caution is required and my experience as a woman has taught me to be especially cautious. But I am always curious as to what I am missing out on and so there are times when it is necessary to dare to discover the extra spaces that are available for my adventurous soul.

Oh To Be Completely Carefree As A Woman

Oh To Be Completely Carefree As A Woman

That first evening in Ollantaytambo, as the son of my host accommodation accompanied me to a local shop to buy batteries for my torch, I heard a whistle as I passed. My young friend explained to me, ‘that’s what the men here do when they see a beautiful woman’. I uttered not a word at that time. I was concentrating on the wide cobbles of stones beneath my feet as we crossed the square of Plaza De Armas in that Sacred Valley town of Peru.

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

I don’t think it was the normal behaviour however, I’d say the whistle was more intended to alert my new friend that he had been spotted with ‘stranger’.

It only happened one other time. I had spent almost six weeks in the town at this point. I was once again crossing the square. It was early afternoon with the sun blazing. That ‘wolfish’ whistle was loud and obvious. I was not being presumptuous it was clearly aimed at me.

Journey In Peru - Ollantaytambo

Journey In Peru – Ollantaytambo

I had passed three men at the corner of the square and whilst I didn’t look their way it seemed to me that I was being spied upon. The hair upon my neck stood erect and my footing was halted mid-air. I was momentarily displaced but quickly alerted my senses. I was not going to let this pass!

I stopped in my tracks. I felt like Clint Eastwood in one of those old westerns as I slowly and deliberately turned to face the culprits. There they stood, two dodging my eyes and their companion peering out between them. I recognised this one. He saluted me slowly in military style with a sheepish smile. I responded with a slight tilt of my brow, eyeing him all the while.

Ollantaytambo's Inca Heritage - Peru

Ollantaytambo’s Inca Heritage – Peru

We had met within my first few days in this story book place. I was grappling with the newness of everything at the time and he almost cajoled me into meeting him in the moonlight at the Fortalezza. He didn’t understand much English and I hadn’t learned yet how to politely decline in Spanish so I had alluded him into thinking I would go. But I had stood him up and later tried to figure out a way to explain. For a while thereafter I avoided his quarter out of embarrassment.

Whist I operated mostly with caution amongst strangers there was only one other time when I almost got sucked in by a fascinating man. There are people out there who are capable of captivating you in an eye blink. When you are travelling in an adventure you attract the most intriguing characters. Thus, there was one other stranger who spoke of The Universe, Love, and a Quest to save everyone. I cringe now when I think how I gave him my contact details so easily but I do believe his intentions to share his ideas were not malevolent.

Cuzco At Night - Journey In Peru

Cuzco At Night – Journey In Peru

And now I was sitting in the travel office of an agent in Cuzco’s Avenido Del Sol. It had taken half an hour already to secure booking for my trip to Machu Picchu. I had been led to believe that availability at this time of year can be slim due to it being high season. The tricky part can be the alignment of the train tickets with the entry date.

I sat patiently in the luxury of being in no hurry. I was recovering from the shell-shock of rejection and contemplating redemption in the sight of the Inca sanctuary. Eventually the agent conversed with me in Spanish. There was a problem. The tickets which he had procured from his computer booking, required an additional authorisation from a regional office. I had already paid for everything so now I had a choice, to accompany him to the regional office or wait here in Avenido Del Sol until his return.

Temple Of The Sun - Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun – Cuzco Peru

It was safe. I had observed his company for quite a while, his interactions with his colleague, he was a good sort. We took a taxi, a five minute drive. It took no length to set things straight and we returned on foot to the centre of the city of Cuzco. It cheered me up to think that I was learning something brilliant. To be carefree, requires an element of risk but with risk comes information and knowledge that widens the capacity for reassurance and more freedom.

I had my tickets. Soon I would leave this proud Inca country to return to my home in Ireland but first I would journey to Machu Picchu.

Entrance To Machu Picchu - Journey In Peru

Entrance To Machu Picchu – Journey In Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Flowers at Machu Picchu

VSP – Journey In Peru

“Has nobody ever told you that you are a very special person?” His words seized my attention. This was not the man who had sought me as a cure for his lonely heart only to turn me away after travelling half way across the world to meet him.

Cuzco - Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco – Former Inca Capital Peru

I wasn’t expecting the knock on my bedroom door. I had tried to pass through the hotel reception unnoticed without the usual pleasantries. I’m useless at deception. I was breaking down and there was no way to disguise it. I just wanted to hide in my room until this torment passed.

Journey In Peru - Temple Of The Sun Cuzco

Journey In Peru – Temple Of The Sun Cuzco

He had asked if I was OK and seeing the obvious he stepped into my room and closed the door. His words at first caused me to be alarmed. What was he thinking? But he just stood there with this beautiful smile that he had and kindness beaming from his dark eyes.

This was an earth angel standing before me. They are rare but I have been fortunate to have met a few already in my lifetime.

Christ Statue - Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue – Cuzco Peru

From the moment I set foot inside the door of this hotel he had that same smile and the warmest welcome. We had chatted as I came and went and one night I brought him dinner when his colleague was late to relieve him from his duty. He didn’t like to ask but I was delighted to be able to assist, plus the takeaway was a good spot for tasty food.

He offered to make me tea. I agreed I would sit with him in the lobby in a while when he was free.

Journey In Peru - A flower Aguas Calientes

Journey In Peru – A flower Aguas Calientes

This gave me time to pull myself together. I phoned a special friend someone who I knew to be strong enough to hear my cry so far away from home. She had just the right words. In fact she ran to her bathroom to make sure as they were hanging in a frame on the wall. “He who risks nothing, has nothing, is nothing.” She assured me I had taken the greatest risk. It would take time for the words to resonate fully but I accepted her encouragement with gratitude.

Glimpsing Machu Picchu

Glimpsing Machu Picchu

Glimpsing Machu Picchu

Glimpsing Machu Picchu

I needed a new plan. I thought about Kitty Clinch in her ‘Temples Of The Sun’, my first and only novel. My attempt to expose a woman unwise to the game of love, trying to understand, catch up, repent, to do whatever it took to put things right, this was definitely her sister and certainly not much wiser. Kitty never wanted to go to Machu Picchu without her soul mate and neither did I but that is how the story ended. I had waited long enough. It was time to plan my trip to the heavenly mountain.

Machu Picchu - Mapi Peru

Machu Picchu – Mapi Peru

Windy Road To Machu Picchu

Windy Road To Machu Picchu

Flowers at Machu Picchu

Flowers at Machu Picchu

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog).

Temple Of The Moon Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Moon – Journey In Peru

Upwards the mini-bus spun in steep ascent along the spiralling road. After a thirty minute drive we reached the final stop. In early morning silence we crossed the largely isolated plateau.

A couple wearing traditional Andean costumes walked further ahead with some intent. Only horses in the distance and further away a row of modest houses towards the overhang of the flat terrain, no doubt, with awesome views of the city. Despite this, it didn’t strike me as a place sought after as valuable real estate.

Temple Of The Moon Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Moon Cuzco Peru

Things didn’t seem to make sense about this area known as Temple Of The Moon. Why was it so quiet up here? A place full of contemplative beauty. A cool sun was blazing strong upon the grasses. Despite the added elevation above the Inca capital, distant mountains boasted a spectacle of higher peaks. A relatively short drive away Cuzco bustled with life but here an uncanny stillness invaded every space.

Entrance To Temple Of The Moon

Perhaps it was too early for a visit to a place of night time rituals. At the entrance of The Temple Of The Moon a woman dressed in council clothing said we should come back later. It seemed she could be persuaded to let us enter but shoes had to be removed as a token of respect.

Snake – Inca Symbol – Cuzco Peru

Puma – Inca Symbol – Cuzco

 

Condor – Inca Symbol – Cuzco

We entered the crevice noting the mouldings of rock that represented the Inca symbols of Puma, Condor and Snake signifying unity of all that is above, below and in between.

It took some moments for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Further in, a shaft of light from above revealed a smooth alter of rock. Hundreds of years ago, spiritual leaders of the Inca tribes had performed sacred rites during full moon worship in this very place but my companion lamented that nowadays the goings on are more scandalous than sacred. Perhaps this is why the place was so deserted. A darker force had invaded the territory.

Temple Of The Moon – Peru

Temple Of The Moon – Cuzco

We collected our shoes and continued walking towards another opening in the rocks. I wandered over to a high alter upon which some dishes containing ashes were laid amongst scattered coca leaves. I reached to pick up one of the dishes to get a closer look. My companion shouted a warning to me not to touch but it was too late. The practice of magic is very much alive in this part of Peru but it is not all well intended I am told. By touching the remnants of this aftermath of ritual a darkness intended for another might accidently divert itself to me. I understood the power of intentions, I had been at the receiving end of both extremes.

Rituals at Temple Of The Moon

Magic Rituals Cuzco Peru

I made a mental effort to protect myself from any harm but already my defences were weak. I felt the weight of sadness taking over. It had been building steadily these last few days. Soon I could walk no further and sank down onto the grass, sobbing uncontrollably. Any attempt to stop just made things worse. My companion sat patiently next to me with little hope to offer. We had sought to transform our lives, to work together, that was the plan, but something had changed. I didn’t understand it. Was it a sick trick on his part or had I been desperately fooling myself for this last year?

Temple Of The Moon Cuzco

Wild Star Landing – Journey In Peru

Wild Star Landing – Journey In Peru

I couldn’t speak. Deep down I knew this was not the only reason I had come to Peru. I was trying to accept something more difficult than this. A heart being closed to me was not something new. Years spent changing my ways, understanding forgiveness had helped but had not altered this capacity to be overthrown so deeply. I had not realised the true meaning of ‘free will’. It was time to let go. Deciding to travel was a determination to expect something better. At this moment I was not sure what that could ever represent.

Temple Of The Moon Cuzco

Temple Of The Moon Peru

On the brow of a distant slope we spied again the man and woman attired in the traditional clothing. They were busy with garments, following a very old tradition. They had been washing the clothing of ‘The Dead’ in a nearby stream and now they were spreading them upon some rocks to dry. It made sense to me now, being here, in this ethereal place called The Temple Of The Moon, with its dark forces and deserted charm whilst emptying the sadness of my heart. There is a place for everything.

Temple Of The Moon – Rituals Peru

The sun continued to shine strongly and the sky was intent on being blue. Moving forward was the only option. I stood up. We continued in the direction of the road. A bus was conveniently waiting. There was no looking back. My business in Cuzco had come to an end. On my next visit I would be bound for the airport to make my way home to Ireland.

Moon ove Cuzco Peru

Moon ove Cuzco Peru

Moon over Cuzco Peru

Moon over Cuzco Peru

Inca Rituals (Musuem in Cuzco)

Inca Rituals (Musuem in Cuzco)

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Wild Star Landing - Journey In Peru

Sexy Woman – Journey In Peru

In Cuzco there is a tourist ticket that covers a multitude of Inca sites both in the city and in The Sacred Valley, including the ‘Fortalezza’ in Ollantaytambo. It is excellent value to avail of this ticket which saves on individual entry fees at each location.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

You also have the option of taking a tour with a guide on a bus which takes you to all the Cuzco sites listed on this ticket. These tickets and tours are on sale at numerous tourist offices throughout the city centre. The tour bus is very convenient but if you have more time the Sacsayhuaman site is deserving of a longer visit.

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

‘Sexy Woman’ is how the English speaking visitors often refer to this UNESCO heritage site elevated high above the city. The name is derived from the Quechua language the first part meaning ‘full’ or ‘satisfied’ and the second part of the name is thought to refer to a falcon. It is also believed to have been an important site of sun worship in Inca times.

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

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The enormous boulders of rock situated in labyrinth style reaching into the heavenly blue sky creates a striking visual impression. Looking down into the deep bowl of the city you get a glimpse of what convinced the Incas that this was the centre of their world. Mountains graced the surrounding area and created the perfect protective space within for dwellers, at least until the arrival of the infamous Pizarro who came to conquer.

Wild Star Landing - Journey In Peru

Wild Star Landing – Journey In Peru

The city sparkled a shiny miniature of itself, with the sun bouncing its rays from glassy surfaces. The low rise organisation of buildings and parks dotted with leafy trees and fountains all seemed so particular and fun to the tourist eye. Close by, a statue of Catholic Christ stood large with outstretched arms overlooking the city dwellers adding to the sense of sanctuary.

Christ Statue Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Cuzco Peru

Cuzco - Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco – Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Every city has its darker side and down below despite the busy endeavours of people selling their wares there were stories of anguish that would break a heart to hear them. Hence the amount of volunteer ‘not for profit’ businesses in the area. A salary is not a profit, I didn’t understand this concept originally. In any case thanks to these charity businesses, international volunteers are in no short supply, giving hope to many.

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

I took the city tour in the company of a Romanian traveler whom I befriended on my second, slightly longer visit to Cuzco.

Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Night Time Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Night Time Cuzco Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landing

Feeling Cocky Like A Local – Journey In Peru

I suppose I was feeling cocky like a local. I didn’t feel the need to consult trip advisor. Cuzco was becoming familiar to me. By now I had been living almost seven weeks in Peru, my second visit to this spectacular country.

Cuzco

Cuzco

During my previous visit to Cuzco I had spied a premises that looked like a good deal for accommodation purposes. Peruvian people are shrewd when it comes to parting with their money. There was a two-tiered system in place when it came to pricing and I was keen to keep my spending to a minimum, this was no fancy holiday, it was a journey with a purpose.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

It had been agreed that I would return within a week to Cuzco to see what could be salvaged of a disastrous affair. I was slow to realise that I should have been gone with the wind to Machu Picchu, anywhere but here, as I was left to my own devices from the start.

The accommodation was a hell-hole. The room I had bargained for had been given to someone else. I was shunted into a hovel with no window. A makeshift room with walls that were creeping with squalor and close sounds of grunting and hocking. I was freaking with the prospect of staying a night in this room by myself. It just couldn’t happen. I hit the dazzling streets of Cuzco and went from door to door enquiring for vacant rooms and favourable rates.

Many of the hostels were fully occupied. I was being fussy, I wanted a private room. It was not looking good. I almost took a room in a converted convent but it competed with the hovel for the wretched feeling it provoked in me.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Along the way I separately met two male backpackers who were also seeking accommodation. We exchanged details of the premises we had already sussed out. Since I was more familiar to the city, they each asked me to recommend a place to eat that was inexpensive. Later the three of us met at a Peruvian diner that is not normally frequented by travellers. I introduced the two young men to each other, one Canadian, one Dutch and when I was finished my meal I left them to each other’s company.

Sunday In Cuzco Peru

Sunday In Cuzco Peru

It was Sunday. And Sunday’s in Cuzco are eventful. Plaza De Armas was thronged with people celebrating armies and officials. Men in large numbers paraded with medals and pride whilst ordinary people thickly lined the perimeter of the square. Brass bands and lively dancers added their contribution to the spectacle. As a tourist the previous year it had all seemed so grand and formal and intriguing but now I was not so impressed by this dominance of male ego which seemed staged to prevent any contradiction to its force.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

I had pushed through the background of the crowd on my quest to find a room and it was getting tiring. The light was draining from the sky as the sun swiftly descended beneath the mountains. The air was cooling rapidly in this high altitude location, I had to give in to an alternative solution.

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

The moment I entered the door of one particular hotel, I felt welcomed. The young man at the reception asked me where I had learned my Spanish. When I mentioned Ollantaytambo his eyes lit up. He had an affinity with this little town, good memories, although he revealed days later that his reputation at the time had not been good so he asked me not to mention his name there.

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landing

Journey In Peru – Wild Star Landing

I asked him about the rates at the hotel. It was way beyond what I had been planning on spending but I was running out of time. Without too much haggling he provided me with a very special rate the only condition was that I must take the room immediately. I was moved in within twenty minutes much to his surprise having returned to the hovel to retrieve my backpack and relieving my tongue of the disgust I felt for the place.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

I breathed a sigh of pure relief that night as I slept securely in my room. It was a simple, traditional hotel with a basic luxury but I was being minded by angels as it turned out, for the staff in this hotel were destined to provide a kindness that is uncommon for ordinary folk serving the needs of others. I was truly grateful and when I think of them I send blessings in their direction.

I spent at least five days in Cuzco this time, but I cannot account for all of them. It is probably best that it is so.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)