It was the end of another busy day at Coffee Tree Restaurant and I had surely earned my rest. The spiral stair case was no longer my bane. I had my balance sussed with coffees in both hands going up and a tip-toe run going down to place the orders in the kitchen. There were days I felt I was getting well-adjusted to the altitude (2850m.a.s.l) and yet there were days when I reached out for coca tea to revive my energy. I was free to go. My colleagues however, were still completing their working day.
One hour of daylight remained before the sun dipped below the curtain of rocky peaks encircling Ollantaytambo town in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Outside the door of The Coffee Tree was the perfect resting place. Some cushions spread across a stone bench against the wall. I sat not far from another man intent on silence. I recognised him. He was a regular in the first two weeks of my helping in the cafe. We had never spoken. He was one of those who spoke only Spanish and was interested in conversation with the owner and not with me.
At this moment especially, I welcomed silence. The sky was quickly changing its light and I wanted to watch the show of stars that would soon be turning up in the darkening canopy above and beyond the rocks.
WiFi was available here. Taking my mobile phone from my satchel I made my selection and pointed the phone to the sky. The extent of what lay above became apparent within seconds. Light years of information travelled from space to my phone to my eyes. I studied the content for a moment making comparisons with the shimmering objects that were appearing in the sky.
There was a sudden movement from the man beside me as he leaned towards me gazing at my phone. ‘What’s that?’ he sounded curious, his voice belying the solitude that he had appeared to be cultivating. I looked at him, surprised that he spoke English and that he was also speaking to me. ‘It’s Google Sky,’ I replied. ‘See, there’s the constellation of Gemini, I touched the Google Sky on my phone, ‘ and up there,’ pointing at the sky itself, ‘you can see Castor and Pollux two of its brightest stars.’ I pointed to the oodles of green ‘M’ labelled items on the Google Sky app. ‘These are all galaxies, billions of light years away, you’d need a great big telescope to see them.’ I pointed my phone to the ground. ‘If we were on the opposite side of the Earth, we might see Saturn,’ I concluded.
The fellow seemed impressed. We got talking. He told me his name. He was a Spanish traveller. He planned to spend two years traveling in South America. He needed to understand something more about life. He did not appear to be in any rush to make this discovery. Nor did it seem necessary to have any occupation and he didn’t convey a pressure to justify any of this to any other person.
Our conversation drifted back to space and the technology of Google Sky. Aliens were next on the discussion list. I know so many people by now who hold store in the belief that aliens are out there, somewhere. My Spanish friend had his own story, one I’d heard rumoured before. ‘N.A.S.A. ….aliens…top secret…..its sounds like Independence Day,’ I mused. ‘I have a friend who works in N.A.S.A’ he confided, ‘it’s all true.’
I sat back against the wall, while my friend checked out the Google Sky for himself. Here in this little town, so far from cities and high tech living, I could find out about the most confidential secrets of our planet. All I had to do was sit here and wait. It would come to me, the answers to everything I needed to know.
© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing