Avena and Veronica

Waking up on an icy blue morning in the high Andes of Peru you might just shiver a bit as you contemplate your swift moves from the weighty blankets of your bed to the clothes you cleverly laid out the night before within arms reach. A cardigan to warm you as you make your way outside to the shower which thankfully is electric and guaranteed to be warm for at least two minutes. I made these moves many mornings as I got my act together for the day ahead.               I am a creature of comforts and only swap them for the thrill of an adventure. I gave my adventure wings when I bought the ticket to fly me to Peru and the landed myself in a small town, which happens to be a ‘Living Inca Musuem’ by the name of Ollantaytambo. I quickly realised that going to bed early (9pm) was a great idea. In July and August the temperatures drop from mid 20 (degrados) to sometimes minus one or two. It was too cold to stay up and I didn’t understand the Spanish TV just yet. I was usually well awake before 6am and already learning my Spanish and writing my letters to friends and family back home.

As I started my Peruvian life I was about to discover the things that made waking up a delight to every Peruvian. Food is certainly a factor. My host Qeta at Qusiqoller invited me to join her for a daily helping of Avena, the closest thing to porridge that I discovered here. A more finely ground grain than the oats I had been accustomed to, more runny and with some cinnamon and apple added. It warmed me and since it was home-made it was certainly appreciated.

And the other thing that made my heart beat with extra warmth after having my hot Avena breakfast? The sight of Glacier Veronica as I made my way to the square passing the country people collecting their grass to fatten their goats and sheep. Veronica! It’s my mothers name so it seemed as if it was purposely there to remind me of my own home. The mountains are as sacred to the Peruvians today as they were to their Inca descendants. They represent Apu’s, Gods, protectors of the people. Tropical glaciers certainly are important to the agriculture and water supply of these lands. But the sight of this Glacier with it’s brilliant white cap against the dazzling blue sky and its snow white  river known as ‘Sacred Tears’ gave me great joy as i greeted the busy day in this thriving town. Men running with backpacks of the Inca trailer tourists, whizzed passed me on these mornings, perhaps full of Avena and the sight of Veronica.

And I was part of all of this wonderment for nine weeks of my precious life. I had no idea the impact it would have on me then and I am only slowly coming to terms with it now.  Thank God for Avena and the sight of Veronica in a Peruvian land.

Avena, Traditional Peruvian Food, Travel Writer Caroline Cunningham tells a story about life in the Peruvian town of Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Cuzco


4 thoughts on “Avena and Veronica

  1. bridget sinnott

    Hi Caroline
    Have just read your post dont know how it got so far down my emails
    really enjoyed it Thank You
    Love B


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