Before leaving the ‘Beautiful People’ of Patacancha, it was incumbent that I should purchase some items of their traditional craft. I had been gifted the experience of a bygone era, diminished now from my own culture. It wasn’t so long ago that my own grandmother picked stones and potatoes harrowingly in the fields and a time when we had not so many creature comforts but this community thrived in its unaffectedness in an era of modern prosperity without much apparent desire for transformation.
With my little bits of Patacancha stored within my pockets, I climbed upon the motorbike, sat between my friends, Alex and Maria, and prepared myself for the journey back to Ollantaytambo. It was quite tricky on the downward trek. The mud had thickened and a truck had over-turned blocking our path. We waited a while . It was interesting to see how the men were dealing with the situation. Chains and vehicles were employed. A solution was imminent. But we were intent on getting home. Alex decided that he could make it solo if we could endeavour to meet him, on foot, beyond the obstacle.
My pretty golden ballerina shoes were already destroyed from the mud. I dismounted the motorbike and clung once more like a ninny to Maria. We made it to the other side and soon were on our way, downhill towards Ollantaytambo.
And how I remember it now. It was upon us to be arriving before the thick of darkness. Darkness was fast descending. The Patacancha River paid no heed to the light reduction, it simply gushed and rolled over rocks towards its counterpart, the Urubamba River, intent on its Amazonian arrival.
The air wetted itself completely. I hid my hands in the pockets of Alex’s jacket, concerned for his well-being on our ride against an increasingly freezing cold. We were whipped with sleet for the immediate part of our ride. Further down I became dull to the effects of it. I was more so haunted by the landscape. Here I was remembering a dream, a place I knew from distance memory, long before my arrival in this existence. I couldn’t explain it, except, it pierced me deeply with its intensity. I clung to my friend, realising, more than ever, how much he had come to mean to me.
He accepted me, a stranger, only two months ago, to help in his cafe. We had worked in close proximity, at first incapacitated by the barrier of language. Somehow a very special kinship had grown between us. I had always cherished that blessing he bestowed on me in the mornings when he greeted me upon arrival at the cafe. A benediction of appropriate kisses and afterwards the getting on with work and serving of customers.
He was half my age and locals would have considered him quite a catch in terms of his business acumen. In fairness to his manliness he had checked my susceptibility on two occasions as to whether I might like to join him for a drink.
To me he was an unknown entity. I had observed the reactions of some of the Peruvian men, passersby, with whom my friend was acquainted. There were times when they would go outside to have a chat and when they re-entered the cafe, it was apparent I had been the topic of their conversation. ‘Alex is a macho man!’ one older comrade remarked to me. Another bloke, much younger altogether, was not so inclined to hide his interest in the situation. In fact I was appalled at his sliminess, especially considering his good-looking, non-Peruvian girlfriend, sat right next to him as he challenged me suggestively with his eyes. I understood his preference for the wearing of loose pants. Alex also appeared to be quite uncomfortable by this fellows taunting demeanour.
He sometimes brought me exotic fruit and we kept each other company on evenings when all was quiet in the cafe and always I helped when it was required, even after I had officially given my notice of redundancy and emergence as travel writer.
But we were of different worlds entirely. Deep down I knew I could not expect this man to ever comprehend my own complexities. He deserved a much simpler path. I had my own ambitions for him. I could see it all before him, a beautiful young wife, some children, lots of prosperity with his business and just happiness all around. I was not a part of this dream. He would have to find it without me.
As we drew nearer to our destination, the same dog remembered to bite at our ankles and I reminded Alex to avoid the uncovered sizeable chamber in the road. We came to Ollantaytambo at the fall of night. Felipe, friend of Alex, was waiting to take our place on the back of the motorbike. Off they sped.
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)