It will never be said about Santa Teresa that ‘the best thing about it is the road out of it’. This is a figure of speech used in Ireland when poking fun at a rival towns-land. It was time to leave the cloud forest jungle and this tree-house style room in which I had spent two airy Peruvian nights.
The unpaved dusty wriggly road, high upon the canyon’s ledge lay waiting for me to chance it one more time, except this time the car travelled on the side closest to the edge. There was no getting used to it, especially when the driver met another vehicle at a particularly narrow bend and had to reverse to make way for it to pass. I just thought ‘if I die now at least I can say I have dared to live life to the maximum’. If I had died then I would have died blissfully ignorant of the truth I had neglected to heed.
I had brought with me to Santa Teresa a curiosity that needed to be satisfied. A woman of my imaginative creation desired to finally put her past to rest and move her life forward once and for all. I had written a story around her and it intrigued me as to how it really would pan out for her if she were indeed to settle in this country and live a traditional modest married life. She would come to an exotic place such as Santa Teresa to play out her romantic quest in a daring manner like never before.
I pondered the sequel to this story as the canyon glided beneath the car window.A happily ever after ending would never do the trick. She deserved to be happy that was certain. But for how many years should she be allowed to retain that happiness? I thought I could reasonably allow her 15 years or so. A tragic accident would widow her and she would be faced with the decision to return to her home country or remain amongst her new family in Peru. There would be a twist too. All the ingredients of a good story or so I thought. Can you have too much tragedy in a story? If there is tragedy at the beginning is it over the top to subject the heroine to further misery towards the end?
All in all, perhaps my idea of tragedy was over-imagined. But to live a whole life without the knowledge of self that only comes from attempting to fully know another, would that not then be a tragedy? I wanted to divert my heroine temporarily from her tragic route.
By now I had transferred to the bus that took me from Santa Maria back to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. This time there were absolutely no seats remaining and I had to stand in the aisle. The air was still hot from the jungle. A nauseous unease welled inside me accompanied by a faintish daze. I must have looked like I was going to collapse on the seated passengers. Someone pointed to the rear of the bus and bodies made way. I squeezed into a corner of the back of the bus on the side that faced deep into the floor of the mountains footholds with all the windings of roads yet to be travelled set out like threads below. I stood in a leaning position as there were no seats in this part of the bus but at least I was secure enough not to collapse.
It occurred to me that my Ollantaytambo friends would be curious about my trip. I realised then how much that humming bird had come to my rescue. Without doubt, seeing this wondrous bird before my very eyes was the best thing about my visit to Santa Teresa. It was a blessing then as I diverted their further questioning and it was a blessing later when the dreams I had dared to realise fell to shambles.
I too had a story. I didn’t want anyone to know the truth of it. I did not want to be seen floundering with the eyes of the world upon me. For those days in Santa Teresa I fooled myself, thinking love was on its way. It was in fact withheld once again. I misinterpreted every word, every in-action.
As I stepped from the bus onto the cobbled stones of Ollantaytambo, I turned to wave goodbye. It was the start of a slow series of goodbyes but also the beginning of something new for I never felt about myself the freedom as I had then. I was living an adventure and my arms were wide open to the highs and lows that were to yet to come.
© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing