It was the week of the Americans that was for sure. Ollantaytambo is no ordinary little town in Peru and that was my main reason for choosing to return a year after my first visit to this mighty homeland of the Inca civilisation. Evidence of the past is not only marked out magnificently in stone for all to see, the streets are also alive with inhabitants displaying their colourful costumes and attending to their traditions. And all the while, the nations of the world pass through relatively unnoticed by these country folk, or so it seemed.
After my three weeks of constant study and practice of speaking Spanish and adjusting to higher altitude (2,850m a.s.l) I had been paying more attention to my Peruvian companions rather than the tourists, who often only stopped off for a few hours before or after their trip to Machu Picchu situated a short train ride away.
But this week was different. The day before, I had spent the finest evening and night with a group of Americans whose company I will always treasure. As I raised my head from the pillow this morning however, it seemed that gravity was more against me in my efforts. Steve had already left town on his way to Cuzco but Nabila and Liz had promised to stick around a while longer. I got myself together and sent a message to the girls to find out about their plans for meeting up.
My friend Hoovert in the Mini-Market had been telling me lots about a festival taking place in a nearby towns-land. He urged me not to miss it as he would be one of the dancers taking part in Fiesta Del Carmen de Rumira. The girls were considering extending their stay in order to accompany me to the festival.
Excitedly I made my way to the square to meet them in the Coffee Tree Café. En route I met another lady, also American, who was having trouble finding a cash machine. Ollantaytambo, at that time, only had two cash machines, one on the corner of the Plaza De Armas (on the Pinkuluna side) and one inside the doorway of Hotel Sauce not far from the square in direction of the Fortaleza (on the left). There is no bank and another thing to note is that the machines often dispensed high denominations of Soles, leaving café owners scarpering from door to door in search of smaller notes for the purposes of ‘change’. I escorted Cathy to the bank machine at Hotel Sauce and discovered here too another interesting soul. I told her about my plan to meet the Liz and Nabila and invited her to join us in the café.
Once again we were ‘four’. I treated myself to a ‘tourist’ breakfast of ‘Huevos Rancheros’ but something was amiss. ‘I feel weak,’ I moaned a little. Liz and Nabila were grinning. ‘You probably are feeling the effects of high altitude Caroline,’ they teased. ‘Yes, it could be that,’ I wailed thinking about the mojito we had finished up our night with. ‘Have coca tea!’ Cathy suggested. I ordered a large pot. Coca tea has great riving properties to counter symptoms which high-altitude can induce and it did the trick for my present condition.
Nabila and Liz confirmed that they would stay an extra night in Ollantaytambo and come with me to the festival in Rumira. Cathy had other plans however. She had already booked a trip to a mountain village to learn the weaving craft of the Inca tradition. Weaving is a very popular tradition in Peru and Cathy was an enthusiast. Awamaki are an American volunteer (not-for-profit) group based in Ollantaytambo, they work with the Andean communities to promote their culture and assist their communities.
Cathy had booked her trip with Awamaki and would be leaving early in the morning. Nevertheless, she agreed to join us for a walk around the town.
We stopped off to confirm with Hoovert the start time for the Fiesta and then made our way along the river taking in the golden statue of La Ñusta (Inca Princess) and the breath-taking scenery along the road that leads to Andean village of Patacancha.
©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing