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.

Peru's Independence Day Ollantaytambo, Cuzco Region

Independence Day – Peru

As I made a speedboat in the Irish sand, Peru were celebrating their Independence as they do each year on July 28th ever since Jose San Martin took control of Lima in 1821. This was regarded as a new beginning for Peru as they continued to reclaim their country from the weakened clutches of their Spanish invaders, bringing an end to over three centuries of oppression and tyranny.

I will never forget that horrific image depicted in painting displayed in Museo de Historia Regional (Garcilaso, Cusco). To describe the scene would be too torturous for words. Perhaps there are world leaders or conflict leaders we should nominate to have a look instead to see if it would enhance their sensitivities towards fellow human beings.

Last year I was the on-looker as the Peruvians celebrated their freedom from tyranny. As usual it was a colourful display and it continued throughout the day in Plaza De Armas, Ollantaytambo. In my opinion you cannot choose a more pretty, tranquil and picturesque setting to observe this Peruvian celebration.

I was testing my own independent strengths by coming to this Peruvian land alone, in an attempt to conquer my own fears and restore peace of mind. On what day, in what month and which year should I choose to mark my Independence. When would that day arrive for me? I’m back in Ireland now wondering about it all. I didn’t exactly dig my head in the sand. Instead I choose to build a speed boat. Perhaps my imagination will get me there…all the way to Independence.

Independence Day Celebrations Ollantaytambo Peru

Independence Day Celebrations Ollantaytambo Peru

Peru's Independence Day Ollantaytambo, Cuzco Region

Peru’s Independence Day Ollantaytambo, Cuzco Region

Ollantaytambo Peru on Independence Day

Ollantaytambo Peru on Independence Day

Independence Day Celebrations Peru - Ollantaytambo

Independence Day Celebrations Peru – Ollantaytambo

Cars in Peru display the colours of their National Flag

Cars in Peru display the colours of their National Flag

Speed Boat in The Sand - Ireland

Speed Boat in The Sand – Ireland

 

The Road To Santa Maria - Peru

Win Or Lose – An Irish Womans Journey In Peru

The morning after an eventful two days and nights in Ollantaytambo, I stood at the edge of the Plaza De Armas waiting for the bus to Santa Maria. I wasn’t the one intending to travel. I was parting company with my soul sisters, Lis and Nabila, having spent those last two days together. The girls planned to travel to Santa Teresa in the cloud forest and from there to make their way to Machu Picchu via a walking trail.

The Road to Santa Maria - Peru

The Road to Santa Maria – Peru

They purchased snacks of cancha (Peruvian corn) and nuts for the long trip of at least six hours or more up into the mountains and down towards the jungle. I admired their adventurous spirit, thinking they were braver than I, even though they had each other for support. They were undertaking a journey completely independent of tour companies. Their journey would take them North to Iquitos and then to Ecuador. We all had Peruvian cell phones so we agreed to keep in touch as long as they remained on Peruvian soil.

 

 

 

I waved goodbye and wished them well and resumed my life as an Irish woman getting used to life in a Peruvian town, striving to improve my Spanish upon other things. The time I had spent with my American companions, the last few days, was a refreshing break from my routine but it shone the light more closely on my reasons for coming to this place and just staying put.

On my evening walk about I considered it more. To decide to come to this place was probably the bravest thing I ever did in my life. It had taken me 15 years to build to the level of freedom and confidence I now experienced but it didn’t come easily and I had further to go. I wanted to experience winning for a change but there was something I needed to let go of also. Here I had plenty of perspective that was for sure. It seemed the Universe had other plans for me. I did not win in the way that I had hoped. I lost in the most miserable way in fact. And that which I wanted to lose stayed with me.

You have licence to invent all kinds of scenarios to fit my cryptic talk but please be kind and keep it to your intellectual self. I mean that sincerely, I assume my readers have high intellect and compassion. I prefer to land the ‘seemingly’ dysfunctional stuff on my novel character Kitty Clinch of the unpublished (not for long hopefully) novel. She gets to be the kind of woman who’d probably make some ‘modern’ women weep for shame but in my novels (I’ve started the prequel already) she is on her way to becoming the Heroine.

I was barely in my third week in Ollantaytambo I had at least six more to go. The plot had not unfolded completely for me. Right now I felt I had the winning streak. At the very end, the measure of what I won was priceless, unexpected and will stay with me forever.

© Caroline Cunningham Author and Owner of Wild Star Landing

The Road To Santa Maria - Peru

The Road To Santa Maria – Peru

Veronica (Glacial Mountain) leads the way to Santa Maria - Peru

Veronica (Glacial Mountain) leads the way to Santa Maria – Peru

Paradise - Mixed Media

Where The Heart Is – Art Of Caroline Cunningham

Where do you call home? Is it the place where you are King or Queen or is it the place where you are bound to serve or it is something more? What brought you there, what made you stay? Can home be found in the many places that touch the very centre of your being? Have you gone in search of those places or have they found you? If you need some inspiration in your search I invite you to explore my own reflections on ‘Where The Heart Is’.

GLENDALOUGH – Ireland has many treasures and Glendalough is one. The serenity of the lake, the purifying breath of forest and solace of a glacial valley, these I treasure as the home-place of my soul.
VARANASI COW – India’s famous love-story beckoned and found its way in to my heart forever. Varanasi ‘City Of Light’ had an unexpected appeal with its wandering sacred cows and the Holy Ganga River flowing by a population, worshipping its’ sunrise and sunset.
MOUNT LEINSTER MANDALA – Since I could be profoundly affected by a far-away land such as India I took a closer look at the landscape which shaped my youth and decided for the first time to express the emotions that my Irish home-land triggered in me.
WINTER SKY and EAGLE HILL – My education in the National College of Art and Design (N.C.A.D.) brought a new level of artistic expression to my paintings and drawings. I departed from the use of photographs for my productions and relied instead on drawing and painting from life. Also it was my first practice in the use of pastels. Once again I depicted the local landscape of Carlow.
SANDYMOUNT SUNRISE – Dublin! I never intended it to be my home but somehow it happened this way. A city can be an irritating place for a country person now and then but it has its splendour and so much variety to be explored. It was a frosty 7.30am start on the strand on a September morning before work in the office but during those moments I found my way home.
THE KISS – From all around the world a famous Dublin bridge attracts many visitors. The Hal’penny Bridge harbours stories of its own. As I cross the Liffey I am anchored in its tale. It makes me wonder if I am really a city person after all.
PARADISE – Dreaming of Paradise! Do you know where it is? Tell me because I haven’t found it yet.

Art of Caroline Cunningham is for sale at Rathvilly Café & Deli during July and August.
If you are interested in making purchase the Café owners can advise you.
Payment can be made in cash or via paypal to loveisrealart@gmail.com
If you have any queries you may contact Caroline at loveisrealart@gmail.com
or visit http://www.carolinecunningham.com
Visit Facebook Page: LoveIsRealArt

Exhibition During July and August 2014

Glendalough - Caroline Cunningham Art

Glendalough – Caroline Cunningham Art

Varanasi Cow, Caroline Cunningham Art

Varanasi Cow, Caroline Cunningham Art

Mount Leinster Mandala - Caroline Cunningham Art

Mount Leinster Mandala – Caroline Cunningham Art

Winter Sky - Caroline Cunningham Art

Winter Sky – Caroline Cunningham Art

Eagle Hill - Caroline Cunningham Art

Eagle Hill – Caroline Cunningham Art

Sandymount Sunrise- Caroline Cunningham Art

Sandymount Sunrise- Caroline Cunningham Art

The Kiss - Acrylic on Canvas

The Kiss – Acrylic on Canvas

Prints and Greetings Cards of Caroline Cunninghams Art are available via Fine Art America

Fiest del Carmen Rumira

Sacred Valley Festival – Stories from Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen was underway in Rumira, a roadside towns-land a few miles outside Ollantaytambo, Peru’s ‘Living Inca Museum.’ My decision to return after my first visit to Peru, one year earlier, did not disappoint me. Ollantaytambo stood out as being rather unique, so, I chose to discover what life was like in a small town in this area known as The Sacred Valley.

Fiest del Carmen Peru

Fiest del Carmen Peru

My friendships grew at the rate of my improvement in learning Spanish. I was the director of my own learning and all my life discoveries with help, of course, from those whom I befriended. In this, my third week I had formed a lovely bond with some passing American tourists. Lis and Nabila agreed to walk with me to Rumira to witness a religious celebration which my Peruvian friend Hoowert had been telling me about.

Fiesta del Carmen Peru

Fiesta del Carmen Peru

Hence, we found ourselves sitting amongst the Andean folk, me pretending to drink beer and managing plates of rice with vegetables and tiny pieces of fatty pork, provided for all the guests. It was close on 5pm and things were just getting started. I didn’t know if we were at the right house at first but I was reassured when I saw Hoowert coming from the road. I was proud to introduce him to the girls. He treated us like special guests and was so eager for us to understand the essence of the celebration.

 

 

 

Fiesta del Carmen Peru

Fiesta del Carmen Peru

He described everything beautifully. It was poetry to him. ‘We celebrate The Jesus and The Mary,’ he explained, ‘and also the traditions and stories from our past.’ Whilst the Spanish conquistadors imposed the Catholic belief upon their Inca captors these tenacious people and their descendants never lost sight of their original beliefs and traditions. Hence the ceremonies are a fusion of two belief systems ending up with very colourful and joyful celebrations.

Dancers Costumes Peru Fiesta

Dancers Costumes Peru Fiesta

Dancers Costumes Peru

Dancers Costumes Peru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancers Costumes Peru

Dancers Costumes Peru

For this festival is it the custom that a patron provides food and drink for the occasion. It is considered an honour to do so. All are welcome to the feast no-one is ever refused. Hoowert brought us into a tiny hut that had an open fire with pots and pans. The fire was lighting and some meat was hanging from the rafter for curing purposes. Hoowert had a good grasp of the English language, which is not usual for his kin. He owned his own mini-market where he worked long hours and in his spare time he performed as a traditional dancer at ceremonies such as these.

Dancers Costumes Peru

Dancers Costumes Peru

The way he described the importance of the dancing and what it meant to him was inspiring. Until recent years I had encountered very few people who would unashamedly display their hearts passion openly as he did. His love for his culture exuded in every word, every demonstration of his body behaviour and from his light-filled eyes.

Dancers Costumes Peru

Dancers Costumes Peru

 

Giving Thanks To Pacha Mama - Peru

Giving Thanks To Pacha Mama – Peru

After educating us about the celebrations he urged us to walk further along the road in the direction of the church. Throughout the remainder of the evening groups of dancers would be arriving there to perform their ritual dances. Each group represented the houses of the hosts of the fiesta. Costumes and masks are part of the dance and every item including the colours is significant. Hoowert explained, ‘the dance tells a story of my country.’ One of the masks was yellow in colour representing a tragic episode in history where many people in

Fiesta Del Carmen In Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen In Peru

that area died of Yellow Fever. Also some costumes were ragged and torn to represent extreme poverty that had been endured. He told us to watch out for the man with the whip, this too signified the history of oppression following the invasion by the Spanish in 1500’s.

 

 

Dancers make their way to Church - Peru

Dancers make their way to Church – Peru

 

Dancing Groups arriving at the Church - Peru

Dancing Groups arriving at the Church – Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen – Peru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiesta Del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen – Peru

We had some fun as the young men displayed their costumes to us. After taking photo’s we followed instructions and made our way to the church. It was getting much cooler as it does in this part of the high Andes during winter. The church was a small modest building decorated inside with fruit above the altar, as thanksgiving to Pacha Mama, Mother Earth. The statues were decorated like dolls with pretty dresses all a glitter. Outside a group of dancers arrived in a procession towards the church. A large costumed gorilla led the way. There was a particular foot work sequence which I noticed through-out the dances, a quick shuffle of steps from side to side accompanied by swaying bodies and outstretched arms.

Fiesta Del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen – Peru

 

Fiesta Del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen – Peru

As the sky darkened, country-folk gathered around the courtyard of the church. One after the other, groups of dancers arrived with bright colourful costumes and outrageous masks. Each group had a different theme and different story to tell in their performance. We saw the whipping man, yes, and he appeared to be genuine in his whipping intentions as he lashed at those who stepped out of line. After each group completed their performance in front of the church, they then proceeded into the church itself. A new group took their place to perform the next sequence.

 

 

Fiesta Del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen – Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen – Peru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed as long as our bodies could withstand the cold. We bought coca tea with spices from a nearby stall and skewered barbequed meat to sustain ourselves. A few hours had passed. It was truly special to be here but also to have friends to share the experience with and to see my friend Hoowert dancing.

Fiest del Carmen Rumira

Fiest del Carmen Rumira

There seemed to be no end to the dances but it was evident that a return to the houses for more food and drinks was part of the plan. We had received an invitation to return to the house we had started out from. Getting home could have been tricky for there were no lights along the road back to Ollantaytambo and we had only dark clothing. For luck there was an auto-taxi. Nabila did the deal as her Spanish language was more fluent. Three of us huddled in the darkness of the covered motorbike giggling at the driver’s choice of music which was loud and surreal to my senses. This dimly lit motor-taxi dropped us safely back to Ollantaytambo.

 

 

It was our last night together. The girls were bound for Santa Teresa in the morning. Our time together was short but definitely memorable.

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Auto Taxi Peru

Auto Taxi Peru

Auto Taxi Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen En Rumira – A Peruvian Tale

It was nearing four in the afternoon. Andean sun-down was strictly 6pm. Once the sun dipped behind the rocky mountain fortress we would be reduced to sudden twilight shifting to darkness and plummeting temperatures sometimes reaching zero degrees. It was July in the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo. I was all set with my new American companions, Lis and Nabila to attend a Peruvian festival in a nearby towns-land.

Fiest del Carmen Peru

Fiest del Carmen Peru

Rumira, we were told by Hoovert (my Peruvian shop-keeper friend) is a forty minute walk from Ollantaytambo in the direction of Santa Maria and the Jungle. The girls had stayed an extra night in Ollantaytambo so as to accompany me to the Fiesta del Carmen, an annual religious celebration which takes place in this part of Peru in July. While Carmen is a Catholic saint we were about to witness the amalgamation of two religious cultures during this colourful celebration. Hoovert was keen for me to go so that I would also see him dancing.

Auto Taxi Peru

Auto Taxi Peru

We didn’t meet many people walking out that road but we did encounter traffic, mostly trucks and cars. To avoid the trucks I found myself hopping across large drains on the edge of the roadside. We walked in silence mostly, which allowed for contemplation of the journey. Hoovert told us that there would be parties in the houses and we were to go to one of these. ‘All are welcome,’ he had explained, ‘no-one is refused during the Fiesta.’ We didn’t know really what to expect as the instructions he had given us were quite loose and the starting time kept changing whenever we asked about it.

Peruvian Rooster

Peruvian Rooster

We had walked almost an hour. I was still drained from our extravagant night out the night before. Another serving of Coca tea would have suited me fine. Nabila who was slightly ahead of us on the road had come to a stop just outside the entrance to a courtyard. She appeared to be talking to someone. A young man was beckoning to Lis and I, he looked vaguely familiar to me. ‘The family say that we are welcome,’ Nabila explained to us.

Cusqueno

Cusqueno

Fiesta del Carmen - Peru

Fiesta del Carmen – Peru

Fiest del Carmen Peru

Fiest del Carmen Peru

We entered and were offered seats amongst the Peruvian people seated in the outdoor yard and we were each handed a bottle of Cusqueňo beer. I looked at Lis who was beside me. ‘No me gusta,’ I whimpered quietly in her ear. ‘Pretend you are drinking it,’ she answered with her ever-ready smile and winking at me. We sat there smiling at the locals. There was no lively conversation, most just sat there sipping their beers and watching the chickens clucking and picking in the earth. It was fortunate that those chickens were constantly looking downwards for around the corner of a small hut was a clothes line with full skins of chickens hanging out to dry.

 
A dog sat beneath a chair with a beer by his side. His eyes intrigued me. They were wildly dark and lively and matched his tanned wavy coat. He had the stature of a regal warrior. He surely deserved a beer.

Stories of Peru

Stories of Peru

We were the only tourists amongst these Andean people. The older folk were dressed in more traditional clothing. This pertained particularly to the women who wore full skirts with petticoats beneath, woolen jackets and blouse and hats that were particular to their clan. The hats here were tanned and brimmed. These were older women. I had noticed that the colours of the clothing grew duller with the aging of their wearer. Thus, the younger girls could be seen vividly in full array of colourful clothing.

Fiesta Del Carmen Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen Peru

Festival In Peru - Sacred Valley

Festival In Peru – Sacred Valley

We passed a half an hour this way, observing the details of the company. A group of younger men scarpered in and out of doorways of the house behind us. It turned out that they were busy preparing their costumes for later. They were one of the groups of dancers for the evening’s festival. The atmosphere was about to get more lively. Hoovert had arrived.

 

 

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog

Follow Wild Star Landing to hear stories of life in this Magical Land of Peru