Category Archives: Short Story

Every Day A Celebration – Journey In Peru

Everyday gives cause for celebration and in Peru this is especially so. I witnessed many parades, festivals and demonstrations of the Peruvian culture during my nine weeks there. There is a Catholic Saint dedicated to almost every profession you can think of, along with days of thanksgiving to the natural elements such as the Earth, Water and all that comes from these sources.

Celebrating Saint of Police Peru

Celebrating Saint of Police Peru

Patron Saint Of Police - Celebration in Peru

Patron Saint Of Police – Celebration in Peru

Parades featured music, dancing, flowers and decorated ornamental dolls held high. Often those parading would be dressed in colourful costumes of various traditions.

Water Day - Peru

Water Day – Peru

In the city of Cuzco, once the Inca capital of the World, these demonstrations were more frequent and colourful but even in this small town of Ollantaytambo they had their ways of putting on a show.

Cuzco Celebrations

Cuzco Celebrations

Independence Day was the most spectacular of all during my stay. Day Of The Water saw little children parading with balloons and banners displaying the importance of clean water for washing teeth and various activities. The water in Peru is often not fit for drinking so it was interesting that little children should be highlighting this.

Independance Day Ollantaytambo Peru

Independance Day Ollantaytambo Peru

The day of the patron saint of transport saw every taxi and minibus parked up with balloons floating above them. The patron saint of the police gave rise to a gathering of police and their families drinking beer outside the station. When locals get married it is customary for the couple to parade around the town accompanied by a brass band playing the same tune I heard in other parts of Peru the previous year.

Independance Day Ollantaytambo Peru

Independance Day Ollantaytambo Peru

Passing by the door of the church in the square one Sunday I waited a while to observe the goings on. The paintings on the walls were not the typical ones you’d see in a Catholic church, in fact, they displayed images more in line with the history of the people and their original beliefs, which were more associated with nature. At communion time the music switched to a Salsa rhythm and I learned afterwards that only those who had recently taken confession were eligible to receive.

Independance Day Ollantaytambo Peru

Independance Day Ollantaytambo Peru

I had the privilege of being the onlooker of these eventful days. I concluded that I was living amongst a joyful nation. Each group taking its turn to keep the collective spirit high, perhaps preventing obsessions that rob the heart of its rightful state of sharing and being free.

Fiesta Del Carmen Peru

Fiesta Del Carmen Peru

Back in Ireland, the closest resemblance of this joyous celebration was the sound of Harry Krishna’s beating their drums, dancing and singing, on their way down Dublin’s South William Street now and then. I always opened the window a little wider to hear them more clearly.

Having returned to live in the Irish countryside, I listen to the birds singing in the trees. They are either Peruvian or of the Harry Krishna faith because they sure know how to greet each new day in celebration.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Long Listed Best Travel Blog in Ireland Blog Awards 2015

Peruvian Nights – Journey In Peru

I may have been the most cautious adventurer to visit this Peruvian town but my caution paid direct dividends in the best of friendships. Sure I could have followed other paths to chicha house’s or dens of lucid smoking. In a far away conversation I recalled the mention of ayahuasca.

I made a determined decision during my time in Peru to take advantage of this fresh start. No people pleasing habits (of any kind) to be entertained! I preferred reliable, natural company and took my time getting to know this new culture and language so as to be respectful to those who were here to help me on my way.

Night Of The Perseids Peru

Night Of The Perseids Peru

NIght Of The Perseids

NIght Of The Perseids

I had watched, listened and learned and when the time was right, I was ready for lots of fun. The musicians from the night of the Perseids at Misha Wasi were about to perform at a local hotel. Henry and I went along to part-take of red wine and listen to the sublime instrumentals of this group, who have since disbanded to continue their wanderings of the Earth. They had an audience of tourists from around the world along with some familiar faces of local folk and non-Peruvians, like myself.

Journey in Peru

Journey in Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Afterwards, I had agreed to go dancing at the ‘Inka Disco’ with my friends from the Coffee Tree. It was a tiny venue in one of the Inca built dwellings, so typified with large granite boulders evident in the internal walls. Seeing the coloured disco lights swirling across them was a surreal and cave-like experience. The music was not my favourite, hip-hop not being of my teen-age generation but I hopped and swayed around the small disco floor as lively as the rest of them. Half way through the night, the music switched to a traditional style. It was beautiful, as I had the opportunity to experience the bachata style with my good friend Alex.

Inka Disco Peru

Inka Disco Peru

We danced all night until eventually, there were no more people in the room, except the four of us. The music showed no signs of stopping as long as we were there. I was the weakest link. At two a.m. I was wondering when it might be time to go home.

Night Time Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Time Ollantaytambo Peru

Late night Peru

Late night Peru

As I entered my room on the rooftop of my lodgings, I gazed in the direction of the Fortalezza and shuddered a little in the cool breeze. In less than a week I would no longer have this splendid view, the mountains that hugged me closely here would be replaced by distant lower lying ones and the stars would be up-side down once more in their arrangements.

I gripped the moment to my heart knowing the exact measure of it could never be maintained just glimpsed through memories and their transposition to these meagre words. These were my Peruvian nights which I so cherished.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

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Culture On Street Corners – Journey In Peru

My silent quest with regards to my journey in Peru had been torn to shreds. In the end it was for the very best. My remaining weeks in the country were more precious now. It was unlikely I could afford to dream up another wild reason to return.

Conacky - Crafter

Conacky – Crafter

I handed in my notice to Alex in The Coffee Tree Cafe where I had been helping out a few days a week. He made me a coffee and I proceeded to explain to him the concept of a travel blog and introduced myself as a travel writer. He agreed to be interviewed in Spanish the following day.

Art Of Conacky - Ollantaytambo

Art Of Conacky – Ollantaytambo

In this way I opened myself to knowing the people of this town and its culture in a deeper way. One evening, at the corner near my accommodation, Conacky (the craft maker) called me over to introduce me to his parents who were visiting from Lima.

Art in Ollantaytambo Peru

Art in Ollantaytambo Peru

He introduced me as a writer and told me that his father, Louis, is a poet. This was a rare privilege. It is not often I meet a poet, although I suspect there are many secret ones about, especially in Ireland.

Family of Conacky

Family of Conacky

I listened hard to hear Louis’ poetic words. My Spanish was not advanced enough to understand the depth of his words. But I understood the depth of feeling that he conveyed. He was rooted in the nature and spirit of things. I took off promising to return within minutes. In my bedroom I booted up my laptop, took hold of pen and paper and began to translate, with help of internet, a few of my simplest poems. I ran back to the corner waving the paper in my hands.

Author and Conacky - Peru

Author and Conacky – Peru

We stood side by side as I recited my poems in Spanish. He thanked me and indicated that he understood. I agreed to return the following evening with more poetry in hand. We had some quiet conversations on the topic of writing over the coming days, until he and his wife had to return to their home in Lima. We made a parting promise to continue our writing and to share it openly.

Wild Star Landing

Wild Star Landing

Blog Awards Ireland 2015 Best Blog Article

Blog Awards Ireland 2015 Best Blog Article

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Wild Star Landing Blog has been long-listed as ‘Best Travel Blog’ in Irish Blog Awards 2015 and shortlisted in same category in 2016

Best Travel Blog in Irish Blog Awards 2015 - Long List

Best Travel Blog in Irish Blog Awards 2015 – Long List

Night of The Perseids – Journey In Peru

Another 6a.m. phone call from home, this time to notify me of a global astronomy watch for a meteor shower peaking on this coming night, to be witnessed from cloudless parts of planet Earth. I was smiling to myself. It was suddenly cool to be an astronomer. It was now the stuff of news bulletins, family conversation and social media glitter.

Concert At Misha Wasi - Sacred Valley Peru

Concert At Misha Wasi – Sacred Valley Peru

I had spent some nights trying to reconfigure upside-down constellations as they appeared in the Southern sky of Peru. When I had internet Wi-Fi available I relied on the Google Sky application on my mobile phone.

Misha Wasi - Journey In Peru

Misha Wasi – Journey In Peru

Tonight’s concert at Misha Wasi was perfectly timed. Misha Wasi had started as Bio Museum. It housed a display of Peruvian grains and plants for the purposes of educating tourists to the nutrient rich, diverse crops of Inca legacy. Thanks to a transient eclectic group of foreigners, Misha Wasi also housed art, craft and fashion and posed as a cool out-doors concert venue.

At that time, a group of travellers had come together from different parts to form a resident musical ensemble at Misha Wasi. I found them much too late in my time in Ollantaytambo for I would have loved to have joined them.

Night Of Perseids

Night Of Perseids

‘Fil’ was the only Peruvian member of the group, his instrument was the cello. My friend Henry affectionately referred to him as ‘Phil Collins’, the name stuck in my head from then on. The other group members played guitar, percussion and flute.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

We gathered in darkness of the courtyard amidst a hush. Star-lights dripping from the surrounding trees and shrubs created a fairy-tale scene. I recognised some faces as I purchased my glass of wine.

Sacred Valley Peru

Sacred Valley Peru

I found a bench and soon the music began. Slow, soft melodic, instrumental, transcendental, hypnotic, gentle rhythms infused our collective souls. Having finished my wine, I lay across the bench facing towards the sky, waiting for the shooting stars otherwise known as meteors. They were faint but frequent until I saw one that blazed a bright silent trail of fantastic light. Then I was so happy.

Misha Wasi Concert - Peru

Misha Wasi Concert – Peru

The music found a deeper path into my being at that very moment. I was connected to every element, thankful to be in this perfect place at this perfect time with eyes and ears to witness the sensuality of this finest night. The night of the Perseids at Misha Wasi and all around planet Earth.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing Blog

You Never Know – Journey In Peru

You never know what’s outside your door until you open it and venture out into the light of day. This is especially so when you are traveling in a distant land, with everything so new and exciting.

A child-like state automatically takes me over when I am in the surrounds of the beauty of a culture so rich as that of Peru. The only country in the world that would find strong competition in my eyes would be India, which I dearly love.

As a solo female traveler, I preferred to travel to the sanctity of the Sacred Valley of Cuzco’s Ollantaytambo. Perhaps I will one day graduate to solo travel in India, the first country that made me fall in love with every part of it.

Afuera La Porta

Afuera La Porta

On one particular morning in my new lodgings in Ollantaytambo Peru, I opened the door to find two labourers resting with planks of wood. They made such a striking pose as they stood there smiling. I ran to get my camera and asked them if I could photograph them. They nodded their approval, smiling all the while.

 

El Horno - Ollantaytambo Peru

El Horno – Ollantaytambo Peru

Another day I came upon a man at the adjoining bar, busily stomping bare-footed in a pile of wet mud. He did not mind me stopping to watch. ‘What are you making?’ I asked him in Spanish. ‘El horno!’ was his reply. Pizza’s are popular in Peru, more especially with tourists, and where there is business to be made our Peruvian friends are not slow to act. Clay oven’s were particularly popular. And this man was making an addition to the services offered by his funky ‘Quechua Bar’ (the one that plays the Bob Marley Music and the Spanish version of ‘The Streets Have No Name’).

 

 

 
My neighbour grabbed a bucket and began to sprinkle clumps of black strands into the mix of mud. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Hair!’, his reply. ‘Human hair?’ said I. ‘Si,’ he affirmed, ‘it helps the mud to stick together.’ I enquired if there was any other spiritual belief attached to the practice of using the hair, but no , it was purely a practical solution.

Making an Oven with Human Hair - Peru

Making an Oven with Human Hair – Peru

Making an Oven - Peru

Making an Oven – Peru

Making an Oven - Ollantaytambo Peru

Making an Oven – Ollantaytambo Peru

I delighted in such happenings for my collection of childlike wonders. The fact that I was making these discoveries through learning a new language added to the experience. To learn like a child is such a lesson in life. It is a humbling experience and can be vulnerable too. Fortunately, I was surrounded by kindly souls for the most of my visit. My adventures into the lessons of adulthood however, were to be treacherous in comparison.

Making a Pizza Oven - Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo

Making a Pizza Oven – Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo

Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo Peru

Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo Peru

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog).

Her Name Was ‘Smile’ – Journey In Peru

‘Where are you going friend?’. These were the words she spoke to me every single day I crossed the bridge from the ‘arty’ side of town. Her smile was infectious. In my new neighbourhood I realised I should introduce myself. I crouched down beside her, as she sat outside her craft shop, and practiced my Spanish lines, which I had rehearsed for such introductions.

Her Name Was Smile - Journey In Peru

Her Name Was Smile – Journey In Peru

She told me her name. I had to ask her to repeat it. I didn’t’ t like to ask a second time. It was a name I had not heard before. I had a go at saying it. She nodded, but I wasn’t sure I had said it correctly. To me it sounded like the Spanish word for ‘smile’. So I thought to myself, it suited her and in my own mind from then on, that was her name, ‘Smile’ (in Spanish of course).

I had to get used to her asking me that awkward question however, everyday. It’s like that other question, ‘how are you?’ The answer is supposed to be positive. ‘I’m so fxcking alive the world just can’t keep up with me!!’ Isn’t that one answer you might just like to give?

In honesty however, that is not how most folk feel on an everyday basis. And so we lie, against any inclined bone in our body to be honest about things, even with strangers.

‘Where was I going?’ Some days in that Peruvian town, even though for me it was a destination in itself, I just wasn’t sure, as I was about to cross that lob-sided wooden bridge. All I knew was this, ‘I have to move!’ Because if I stop moving for a considerable length of time I get in serious trouble.

Luckily I had some occupation there and I did my best to invent others. I had made some friends and I had plenty to learn about life.

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

One day I decided to reverse the questioning. I asked my smiling friend about her circumstance of sitting at the corner of this bridge where, ‘bizarrely’, in this UNESCO Inca heritage town of Ollantaytambo, heavy articulated vehicles and buses barged through on a regular basis. ‘Does it affect your health?’ I asked. She smiled, of course, and just shook her head. It was not a problem.

I figured she had a strong mental attitude to life and I was just a meddler from Ireland who had some stuff to learn. A week later however, I noticed she was not at her post. I enquired from the person minding her shop. My smiling friend was ill and resting. ‘ I tried to resist that gloating thought of ‘perhaps I was right after all’. I will never know.

So I got used to her question most days. ‘Where are you going friend?’ Until one day I had to admit to her that I was going very far away. Back to Ireland. I will never forget that day I said goodbye to those wonderful people in Ollantaytambo. Everyone of them broke my heart completely. Her words to me I will not forget. ‘You must return. And when you return you come here to find me. And if I am no longer in this place, you ask the next person where I am. And you come to say hello.’

I how I wish I could go there now.

Dear reader if indeed you do happen to be Richard Branson reading this little wee article, if you have a seat on a jet, or the galactic vehicle, do get in touch, as I’m sure I could parachute from space, if I had to, and therefore cause the least inconvenience. And P.S. I have dear friend in New Zealand who would love to travel also but I doubt he will parachute as he has bad arthritis in his knees. (o:

Crossing the Bridge in Ollantaytambo Peru

Crossing the Bridge in Ollantaytambo Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author and Creator of the Title ‘Wild Star Landing’

Riding Along The High Ledge Of A Canyon – In Peru

‘Riding along the high ledge of a canyon’, wasn’t too unlike how my American traveller friends had described it in a text a few weeks earlier. I did not consider this news when I made my decision to travel to Santa Teresa. The bus journey from Ollantaytambo (Peru) to Santa Maria had taken me three and a half hours over and beyond the Abra Malaga Pass. The views were stunning and the roads extremely windy as I travelled almost an extra 1,500m.a.s.l. into the atmosphere from the Sacred Valley.

 
It’s an hour by car from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. In that hour I contemplated the possibilities of life and death. I observed the faces of the other passengers either side of me. They had the usual expressions of everyday acceptance of the familiar. The car rocked from side to side as it grappled with the rough terrain of this dusty, un-tarmacked road. The driver drove steadily, negotiating bends and occasional oncoming traffic which threw up blinding screens of dust. I had become more accustomed to the bends but what bothered me most was the fact that to my left I could see right down into the depths of a canyon where the Urubamba River snaked its path with greater speed towards its Amazonian counterparts.

Rio Urubamba in Santa Teresa Peru

Rio Urubamba in Santa Teresa Peru

I observed the driver and his co-pilot. They did not look like fellows who were set to die on this particular day. Logic butted in. An unexpected necessary swerve could send us off this narrow ledge to a certain death. Could I handle it? I had no choice right now. I was certainly not offering to walk or turn back alone. I could handle death if I knew it could be swift. Looking over the edge of this cliff-road it would surely be swift.

 
What were my alternatives? I could have stayed at home in my safe environment where life threatened to tick itself away minute by minute repeating the same un-holistic patterns until I died tediously and tragically without much sympathy. My logic drove me to dramatic lengths to justify the fact that I was now sitting in this car on a treacherous route to Santa Teresa’s cloud forest.

 
Slowly I allowed the thrill of this high risk situation to take me over. I had passed the pinnacle of Veronica en route, the glacial mountain which stood adamant in its promise that dreams can be made real as long as we do not give up. Perhaps it was more risky to believe in the dream that I had beset myself and kept within my heart. Risks have to be taken in such pursuits. This was practice.

Tropical Glacier as seen from Santa Teresa Peru

Tropical Glacier as seen from Santa Teresa Peru

The car trundled towards a break in the road. A cascading waterfall, which in another setting would warrant a day of natural observation, was in this instance presenting an obstacle as it flowed heavily across the dirt path. There were two apparent options. The first option was already being negotiated by another vehicle as it waded ever so slowly through the deep trough of the stream. The other option our driver took without much hesitation. We were driving across the fast flowing waterfall stream along a few planks of wood arranged to bridge the gap as the water beneath us took its magnificent plunge towards the Urubamba far below.

 
And in this fashion I eventually arrived with the dust of the earth in my mouth and matted to my skin and hair, into the tranquil surrounds of tropical Santa Teresa.

Andean Slopes of Peru's Santa Teresa near Machu Picchu

Andean Slopes of Peru’s Santa Teresa near Machu Picchu

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog