You seldom escape the gushing sounds of water in Ollantaytambo, in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Supplied by two rivers, racing from the towering Andean mountains, the Patacancha and Wilkanuta (Urubamba) rivers also deliver water to an abundance of stone cut aqua-ducts which serve the towns Inca stone buildings (Cancha) and the grounds of the Fortaleza.
Rivers and mountains are regarded as sacred to the Peruvian people. No wonder Inca Pachacuti selected this site for his residence. His reign is responsible for the splendid array of stones which form the terraces, buildings and temples which have earned this town its place as a world heritage UNESCO site. In later years it became the charge of Manco Inca Yupanqui to defend this town from the clutches of Hernando Pizarro (Spanish Conquistador). In his finest attempt he used his knowledge of the rivers and aqua-ducts to actually flood the plains, sabotaging his Spanish enemies attack.
I had established a routine of walking in the evening after helping out in the café. Off I set on my loop of the town, the sound of the water urging me to speed it up, or so I thought. Walking in the direction of the train station I noticed the road was busier. The season was picking up. There were as many Peruvian people as foreign tourists walking towards the train to Machu Picchu. I had noticed also in the hospedaje (hostel) that there were more families booking in.
Closer to the train station there was more commotion than usual. A large white tent was erected in the middle of the road, pumping loud music and above it I could hear a man’s voice interjecting with amplified announcements. Curious, thinking maybe it was some sort of commercial promotion, I peeped inside the tent. Next I felt an arm and a shoulder carry me a long like being caught in the current of the river that had overtaken me many times on my route. A sturdy Peruvian woman, with a smile that outstretched her ears, entered the tent along-side me. As if we were both expected, others were making space for us on a wooden bench at a long table running the length of the tent. I was handed a beer and folk saluted us.
Completely taken by surprise I found myself amidst party-goers with high energy. The music jingled like the rolling of the river turning over and over its rocks. A live band provided the music and the man with the announcements. On the wooden make-shift floor people of all ages were dancing vigorously. ‘Waino! Waino! Waino!’ squealed my friend who had carried me along. I knew then she was referring to the music. Waino is a traditional music of this part of Peru. It has an upbeat swinging rhythm and in the modern versions there seems to be a man shouting announcements throughout the tune. The other thing I discovered about Waino….it seems to be never-ending.
Up jumped this jolly woman pulling me along with her, and a few more besides. Now I was dancing the Waino….this is a good replacement for the gymnasium or any other fitness regime. Dancing at high altitude is a real test for your lungs and blood corpuscles. At approximately 2,800m.a.s.l, after three weeks, I was surprised at how there could still be times when I would gasp for air.
After twenty minutes I was truly whacked. The jolly dancing woman decided we should all have our photos taken together. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me. I soon realized why I was such an attraction for so many photographs to be taken with me. I was the only non-Peruvian person in the tent. I thanked the folk surrounding me for the fun I had with them and as I left the tent that great ‘current’ of a woman left alongside me. She had been a passer-by just like me but instead of peering in as I had done she plunged right in to the action and got involved.
Outside the tent the foreign tourists passed by on their way to the train unawares it seemed of the activities happening in their midst. I completed my walk more excitedly. I had a new story to tell the hosts of my lodging and I had to figure out how to tell them in Spanish. My landlady explained to me that the celebrations in the tent were a continuation of the religious festival of Carmen, the same festival I had attended a few days before in nearby Rumira.
Events such as these were the highlight of my journey living in this beautiful town.
What is your highlight of Ollantaytambo town? Are you planning to go there soon? If you have been following my blog you will know that I have many special friends there so please mention my blog to them and say Hi from Caroline (Ireland).
©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing.