Oh to live this life completely carefree. That would be a joy. In this world however, caution is required and my experience as a woman has taught me to be especially cautious. But I am always curious as to what I am missing out on and so there are times when it is necessary to dare to discover the extra spaces that are available for my adventurous soul.
That first evening in Ollantaytambo, as the son of my host accommodation accompanied me to a local shop to buy batteries for my torch, I heard a whistle as I passed. My young friend explained to me, ‘that’s what the men here do when they see a beautiful woman’. I uttered not a word at that time. I was concentrating on the wide cobbles of stones beneath my feet as we crossed the square of Plaza De Armas in that Sacred Valley town of Peru.
I don’t think it was the normal behaviour however, I’d say the whistle was more intended to alert my new friend that he had been spotted with ‘stranger’.
It only happened one other time. I had spent almost six weeks in the town at this point. I was once again crossing the square. It was early afternoon with the sun blazing. That ‘wolfish’ whistle was loud and obvious. I was not being presumptuous it was clearly aimed at me.
I had passed three men at the corner of the square and whilst I didn’t look their way it seemed to me that I was being spied upon. The hair upon my neck stood erect and my footing was halted mid-air. I was momentarily displaced but quickly alerted my senses. I was not going to let this pass!
I stopped in my tracks. I felt like Clint Eastwood in one of those old westerns as I slowly and deliberately turned to face the culprits. There they stood, two dodging my eyes and their companion peering out between them. I recognised this one. He saluted me slowly in military style with a sheepish smile. I responded with a slight tilt of my brow, eyeing him all the while.
We had met within my first few days in this story book place. I was grappling with the newness of everything at the time and he almost cajoled me into meeting him in the moonlight at the Fortalezza. He didn’t understand much English and I hadn’t learned yet how to politely decline in Spanish so I had alluded him into thinking I would go. But I had stood him up and later tried to figure out a way to explain. For a while thereafter I avoided his quarter out of embarrassment.
Whist I operated mostly with caution amongst strangers there was only one other time when I almost got sucked in by a fascinating man. There are people out there who are capable of captivating you in an eye blink. When you are travelling in an adventure you attract the most intriguing characters. Thus, there was one other stranger who spoke of The Universe, Love, and a Quest to save everyone. I cringe now when I think how I gave him my contact details so easily but I do believe his intentions to share his ideas were not malevolent.
And now I was sitting in the travel office of an agent in Cuzco’s Avenido Del Sol. It had taken half an hour already to secure booking for my trip to Machu Picchu. I had been led to believe that availability at this time of year can be slim due to it being high season. The tricky part can be the alignment of the train tickets with the entry date.
I sat patiently in the luxury of being in no hurry. I was recovering from the shell-shock of rejection and contemplating redemption in the sight of the Inca sanctuary. Eventually the agent conversed with me in Spanish. There was a problem. The tickets which he had procured from his computer booking, required an additional authorisation from a regional office. I had already paid for everything so now I had a choice, to accompany him to the regional office or wait here in Avenido Del Sol until his return.
It was safe. I had observed his company for quite a while, his interactions with his colleague, he was a good sort. We took a taxi, a five minute drive. It took no length to set things straight and we returned on foot to the centre of the city of Cuzco. It cheered me up to think that I was learning something brilliant. To be carefree, requires an element of risk but with risk comes information and knowledge that widens the capacity for reassurance and more freedom.
I had my tickets. Soon I would leave this proud Inca country to return to my home in Ireland but first I would journey to Machu Picchu.
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)