My friends were dying to see my photos of Machu Picchu. I had done the rounds with my PC ending up at The Coffee Tree with Alex. Only a few remaining days I would have amongst my Peruvian family. It was hitting me hard. I came, an unfamiliar person, to this town and country, and within two months it had attached its tendrils to the heart of me.
It was quiet in The Coffee Tree that afternoon. Alex started telling me about a festival in Patacancha. It was a place in the mountains, a half hour drive from Ollantaytambo. ‘Quires ir?’ he asked. ‘Ahora?’ I replied. He nodded, yes, meaning he was prepared to go straight away. I was curious. How would we get there? Who would mind the Coffee Tree? He planned to go there on his motor bike and the cafe would close for the afternoon.
There was only one other time I ever saw the closing of the Coffee Tree, it was the day all the people from Calca returned to their hometown for the celebration of a religious festival. I shook my head. It was appealing but I didn’t fancy risking the journey on a motorbike. Alex sent Maria to enquire about the availability of a car. She returned minutes later saying ‘no hay’. Alex decided he would need to check for himself. He insisted that he would find someone with a car to take us there.
I needed to return to my lodgings with my PC and take a jacket, so we agreed to meet around the corner outside Worlds Coffee (cafe) in ten minutes. When I arrived there, Alex and Maria were waiting alongside the motorbike. There was no car available.
I was shaking my head about the proposition of going on the motorbike. We had no helmets, no protective gear at all and my head was still sore from the blow I received from the rock at Machu Picchu only the day before. I was feeling wounded and unwilling to risk further disaster. ‘Muy peligro, muy peligro!!’ I kept repeating over and over.
Julio, Alex’s brother and owner of World’s Coffee had stepped out to observe our situation. Alex dug inside his pocket and produced his driver’s licence to me. Perhaps he was offended that I was so distrusting but I could not allay my fears just then. Julio did his best to encourage me but I wasn’t having any of it.
Alex was talking rapidly in Spanish. I could no longer understand him. He went into the shop next door to find Hoowert who spoke excellently in English. Hoowert listened to Alex and heard my complaint. My good friend turned to me and said in English, ‘Caroline, you need adventure in your life, you should go!’ I heard him well. He was right. I needed adventure. I was about to leave this fantastic country very soon and I had not ventured very far from the little town which I had made my home.
There were many sites worthy of a visit, many trails worth climbing and exploring, much for an adventurer to achieve but I had had very different agenda for my visit and my funds were limited, so, apart from trips to Cuzco and Machu Picchu I had restricted my opportunity in many ways.
I took Hoowert’s good advice and sat on the motorbike between Alex and Maria. Off we set, me stating my wishes that we would go slowly and reminding Alex that further up the road there was an un-covered chamber, quite sizeable, which he must avoid.
Soon I realised I could relax. My friend, who loves fast music and fun had much sense in his driving. It was uphill all the way, gradually at first and then much steeper as the bends became more acute and winding. We passed farmers walking along the road with shovels upon their shoulders and donkeys or cows before them. A dog chased us as we passed one household and it had great fun nipping at our ankles. The Patacancha River flowed vigorously from the mountain as we climbed and the air got steadily cooler. As we came nearer to our destination there were hints of wet snow pitting in our faces. The week of unexpected rain had brought a sudden chill to the area and in higher parts it was more apparent.
The journey was much longer than anticipated and I realised afterwards why the drivers of the cars may have been unwilling to take us to this place. Within fifty minutes or thereabouts, we arrived at the village of Patacancha.
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing