Imagine not one but three pairs of eyes shining their loving rays of sunshine back at you. I stood in the doorway of the Coffee Tree Cafe soaking up this splendid wave of energy. Without effort or invitation I was reflecting three smiling faces, beaming from ear to ear. I stepped through the doorway to greet my new friends. Nabila, whom I had met for the first time just a few hours ago in Casa Della Abuelo Hotel, introduced me to her travelling companion, Liz. ‘And this is Steve,’ she added. The three had got talking to each other while having coffee. Steve, also from the States of USA, was travelling solo and had just arrived in Ollantaytambo from Machu Picchu.
After three weeks of grappling with a new language, my Spanish was slowly improving but not enough to convey much detail. My new Peruvian friends in this Sacred Valley town, were patient with me, but I was very much a baby amongst them and definitely ‘in the corner’ in many ways.
This was ‘baby’ stepping out of the corner into centre stage. English gushed from me, so much to say and to appreciative listeners. If you know that bond that exists between friends from an earlier part of your life, which ignites instantly once you are together again, this was the feeling I had in that moment of meeting these wonderful souls, except we had never been connected previously in this lifetime of my earth existence.
A plan was set in place without hesitation. Pizza and Pisco were involved in the plot. Off we set and since I was considered by my new friends to be the ‘local’ amongst them, I got to choose the venues. Tonight I was going to be a real tourist, so we ate our ‘stone-oven-fired’ pizza while listening to Pan Pipe music and sampling Peruvian ‘Tacama’ Red Wine and Pisco Sour.
We were abuzz with conversation. My new friends were such interesting people. Liz and Nabila both worked in education, researching the ways in which children learn in order to develop better strategies for teaching them. They both seemed highly motivated and passionate about their work, we discussed the ways the world could benefit from such advancements. I was intrigued by Nabila’s story of how her family had moved to America when she was little, leaving her war-torn homeland of Afghanistan behind.
Steve, who also had Peruvian background, told us about his work as an orthopaedic doctor. He had journeyed to Peru with a team of doctors from America for the purpose of providing voluntary medical assistance and surgery in areas where people cannot afford medical care. Having spent some weeks in this role, he was spending his final week enjoying a vacation before return home to U.S.A.
I was in awe of my new friends, inspired and feeling grateful to have the company of such
magnificent minds and hearts. Naturally they asked me about my story. ‘What brought you to this place?’ Nabila asked. The answer I had rehearsed for the inquisitive café customers came tripping out more shyly this time. ‘I wrote a novel,’ I replied as the three of them listened attentively. ‘I visited Peru last year on a holiday,’ I added, explaining how this first visit had inspired a story. ‘I wrote continuously, morning to night for five months until I had completed it, my first novel.’
I looked at them, wondering what they might think of this. I half apologised for not having made more effort to do ‘worldly-good’ deeds as they had been doing. Steve was the first to reassure me, ‘I wish I could write a novel!’ he remarked.
The laughter and fun continued and our next stop was the Quechua Bar in the direction of the craft market and Fortaleza. You will know this bar if you visit Ollantaytambo. It’s the one that is playing the Bob Marley music and the Spanish version of U2’s ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’ The dogs in the deserted streets followed us home. Since my accommodation was on the far side of town, the guys walked me there first. Steve was leaving early in the morning so I wished him well on his journey. Liz and Nabila were toying with the idea of staying an extra day, so we had swapped mobile numbers in order to make plans.
That was my ‘wildest’ party night in Ollantaytambo town during my nine weeks there and the best friendships formed with any touristic visitors to the town during my stay. Only in more recent times did I discover that Steve’s trip to Peru that July was even more significant than he had revealed that night. He had been responsible for making a miracle happen. At least it was a miracle for the young Peruvian boy who received a prosthetic limb. Steve had responded to a plea for help which could have gone unheard. It seemed impossible to him at first but he got support of his colleagues and arranged for the artificial limb to be made especially for the boy, whose family could never have afforded this. During this trip to Peru, Steve had personally delivered and fitted the limb to the young boy, transforming his life forever.
Salutations to you Steve! And to Liz and Nabila, thank you for being there!
© Caroline Cunningham Wild Star Landing Author