The mini-bus slowed a little as it neared the end of the tarmacked road. Taking the sharp bend to the right, that’s when I knew the significance of the sign which (in Spanish) reads ‘You are now entering Ollantaytambo’.
I swayed from side to side with halts and bounds of the wheels rolling across the uneven and broadly rounded cobbled stones paving the way into this Sacred Valley town.
The driver was well familiar with this road, avoiding other vehicles, negotiating spaces alongside stone-carved water ducts, walls and random trees.
The bus swung another sharp bend this time to the left. As we turned I viewed the valley through an Inca doorway, the entrance to a walking trail.
Moving forward with added excitement the road narrowed as walls of outer courtyards became homes and shops, with doorways facing out onto this even more narrowing cobbled track.
Then the opening appeared and as if through the eye of a needle, we emerged into the expansive square of Ollantaytambo.
Hurtling around the square and to a kerb-side space the driver pulled over and I set my feet upon the cobbled stones. From there on my walk was not the same but I had not much time to think about it then as there was accommodation to be arranged and introductions to various people who might assist me with an occupation.
I was lost and found all at once. This was to be my home for the next nine weeks and these cobbles stones would be a reminder every-day of the importance of adaptation.
Every foot step was different and most awkward in the first few days, not unlike my efforts at communicating in a new language.
Depending on your footwear you could find yourself sliding from the rounded bumpy parts with toes dipping towards the channels in between. I preferred to use my runners for getting about more easily. With my ‘ballerina’ shoes I got about in a tip-toeing manner as if crossing the stepping stones of a trickling stream.
On two occasions I observed the amusing sight of a Peruvian lady bent on getting around in high-heeled dainty shoes. This was the only evidence I saw of a dedication to ‘modern’ fashions during my stay in Ollantaytambo, a ‘Living Inca Museum.’
I soon got the hang of it. My walk became less stern, more flexible and willing to adjust to the uneven surface. Knees bent, hips lowered, feet forward touching the ground in a softer fashion, for what ill did the earth ever do to me?
On my return home to Ireland, that’s when I really noticed that my walk had changed and the thing that had changed it was 10,000 miles behind me. I carried on my with my new walk thinking it suited me better anyway.
One early morning I made my way towards Trinity College (Dublin) grounds in order to take a city centre walk closer to the trees. On my way through I came upon a courtyard much further in from the main entrance. Ahead of me lay an arrangement of rounded cobbled stones, smaller than those in my Peruvian town but with a similar design.
I closed my eyes as I took the first few steps. I was transported in these moments and my walking style gained a fresher step.
I imagined the mountains looking down on me, the dusty air blowing from the rocks and the sound of water running through the aqua-ducts. A little pocket of paradise is how I remember it and I have the ‘walk’ as it’s constant reminder.
©Caroline Cunningham Author & Photographer of Wild Star Landing Blog