He stood in the doorway of the cafe with all all the magnificence of his Inca descent and the radiance of Machu Picchu in his heart. His spirit was overflowing with a joyousness that was instantly infectious.
‘Hola Charlie!’ This was the welcome greeting my friend Alex reserved for certain Peruvian men who visited his cafe. It had taken me a while to realise that it was an on-going joke with him to call certain of his pals this name. This particular Charlie hugged the younger man in the most hearty manner and I was introduced to him as a member of the family.
Alex and I had just part-taken of our evening meal after a days work. It was a quieter evening than usual, one of those days when folk most likely go fishing and just chill out.
Charlie sat with us. This man was a private tour guide who spoke several languages including English, French and Japanese. Like a child amidst visiting relatives I was put forward to show off my ‘Quechua’, the Inca language that is alive and well in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. It was always a source of amusement for my friends that I could repeat the phrases they had taught me. It also garnered respect amongst them that I took an interest in their heritage.
Charlie indicated to Alex that a few glasses would be necessary along with some ice. He dipped his hand inside this jacket pocket and from it withdrew a small bottle of whiskey, what we in Ireland refer to as ‘a naggin’. It was apparent I was being included in share. He poured the whiskey and we saluted the air and clinked our glasses to start the round of tales. It was still bright outside the sun had not yet dipped behind the curtain of the mountains. The first few sips were amidst a waiting silence.
The spirit was making its way to the heart of memories. Our new friend recounted some of his recent travels with tourists. This was easy company. He sometimes spoke in English for my benefit and sometimes in Spanish but always in a manner that both Alex and I could understand.
I wish I could remember all those stories which he told but perhaps that’s the doing of the whiskey, it seals the lips of those who’s ears were opened during the part-taking. But I do remember one tale.
He was on the mountain, camping one particular night when he first saw the light. An unusual light. It came very quickly from the distance and brightened with intensity as it approached. As he told the tale his speech slowed and his eyes were fixed on the ‘in between’. He became more serious and cautious while recalled how this mysterious light hovered momentarily before speeding away into the vanishing distance. He took another swig of the whiskey and we followed in his instruction. ‘What was it?’ I asked, urging him to continue with his story. ‘Aliens!’ he replied. He blessed himself. It was apparent the incident had had quite an effect on him. Some gentle teasing arose and I enquired about the whiskey on that particular night. ‘After that night I started going to church,’ he added as he shook his head and took another swig of spirit.
I had one more alien story to add to my collection. Aliens are quite common in Peru, many believe that the Nazca lines were instructed by these visitors from space and perhaps the Incas availed from their intelligence as of yet their engineering ingenuity is regarded as an enigma to modern engineers. I recalled a saying I heard many times in Peru. ‘In Peru everything is possible.’
Eventually the stories came to an end coinciding with an empty ‘naggin’. It was time to say farewell. It was an evening well spent in good company and the whiskey did its usual trick of coming good with interesting tales.
©Caroline Cunningham Author (and Owner of the Title) Wild Star Landing