Upwards the mini-bus spun in steep ascent along the spiralling road. After a thirty minute drive we reached the final stop. In early morning silence we crossed the largely isolated plateau.
A couple wearing traditional Andean costumes walked further ahead with some intent. Only horses in the distance and further away a row of modest houses towards the overhang of the flat terrain, no doubt, with awesome views of the city. Despite this, it didn’t strike me as a place sought after as valuable real estate.
Things didn’t seem to make sense about this area known as Temple Of The Moon. Why was it so quiet up here? A place full of contemplative beauty. A cool sun was blazing strong upon the grasses. Despite the added elevation above the Inca capital, distant mountains boasted a spectacle of higher peaks. A relatively short drive away Cuzco bustled with life but here an uncanny stillness invaded every space.
Perhaps it was too early for a visit to a place of night time rituals. At the entrance of The Temple Of The Moon a woman dressed in council clothing said we should come back later. It seemed she could be persuaded to let us enter but shoes had to be removed as a token of respect.
We entered the crevice noting the mouldings of rock that represented the Inca symbols of Puma, Condor and Snake signifying unity of all that is above, below and in between.
It took some moments for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Further in, a shaft of light from above revealed a smooth alter of rock. Hundreds of years ago, spiritual leaders of the Inca tribes had performed sacred rites during full moon worship in this very place but my companion lamented that nowadays the goings on are more scandalous than sacred. Perhaps this is why the place was so deserted. A darker force had invaded the territory.
We collected our shoes and continued walking towards another opening in the rocks. I wandered over to a high alter upon which some dishes containing ashes were laid amongst scattered coca leaves. I reached to pick up one of the dishes to get a closer look. My companion shouted a warning to me not to touch but it was too late. The practice of magic is very much alive in this part of Peru but it is not all well intended I am told. By touching the remnants of this aftermath of ritual a darkness intended for another might accidently divert itself to me. I understood the power of intentions, I had been at the receiving end of both extremes.
I made a mental effort to protect myself from any harm but already my defences were weak. I felt the weight of sadness taking over. It had been building steadily these last few days. Soon I could walk no further and sank down onto the grass, sobbing uncontrollably. Any attempt to stop just made things worse. My companion sat patiently next to me with little hope to offer. We had sought to transform our lives, to work together, that was the plan, but something had changed. I didn’t understand it. Was it a sick trick on his part or had I been desperately fooling myself for this last year?
I couldn’t speak. Deep down I knew this was not the only reason I had come to Peru. I was trying to accept something more difficult than this. A heart being closed to me was not something new. Years spent changing my ways, understanding forgiveness had helped but had not altered this capacity to be overthrown so deeply. I had not realised the true meaning of ‘free will’. It was time to let go. Deciding to travel was a determination to expect something better. At this moment I was not sure what that could ever represent.
On the brow of a distant slope we spied again the man and woman attired in the traditional clothing. They were busy with garments, following a very old tradition. They had been washing the clothing of ‘The Dead’ in a nearby stream and now they were spreading them upon some rocks to dry. It made sense to me now, being here, in this ethereal place called The Temple Of The Moon, with its dark forces and deserted charm whilst emptying the sadness of my heart. There is a place for everything.
The sun continued to shine strongly and the sky was intent on being blue. Moving forward was the only option. I stood up. We continued in the direction of the road. A bus was conveniently waiting. There was no looking back. My business in Cuzco had come to an end. On my next visit I would be bound for the airport to make my way home to Ireland.
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)