Tag Archives: Cuzco

Inca Trail – To Do Or Not To Do? – Journey In Peru

Deciding to travel to Peru from Ireland or Europe can be a big deal especially as the price of the flight is often quite staggering and especially so during peak season. The lure of Machu Picchu, now a World Wonder and famous UNESCO heritage site of the lost Inca civilisation, captures the imagination to the extent that travellers often sign up for the Inca Trail that leads there without ever having done this type of thing before.

There are some important factors to consider before signing up to undertake some days of trekking in Peru. Firstly, I will outline, I have been to Peru twice and have even lived quite close to the Inca Trail but have not done the hike itself. I had my own reasons for this.

Two important factors to consider are, your fitness level and your adjustment to being at higher altitude than usual.

If you excersise a lot, have good stamina, are used to hiking, especially for long durations then possibly you will be more equipped for spending a couple of days of hiking the Inca Trail. If you have not experienced the thrill of hiking in hills and mountains why not join a group in your local area, who are skilled in guiding you and see if you enjoy the experience. Your expensive holiday should definitely be one that you fully enjoy.

If you have already lived in high altitude environments then you will know your bodies adjustment and reaction to this. If you have not experienced being at high altitude it is very important to educate yourself on the symptoms and effects that can occur. You really don’t know until you go, how this will effect you. It has no bearing on age or fitness level.

Machu Picchu (2430m asl) is actually at a much lower altitude level than cities such as Cuzco and Puno for example. It is best to acclimatise slowly by spending a few days in high altitude before attempting hiking treks that take you further away from access to medical care.

Always heed the signs of altitude sickness and report to your guide if travelling in a group. Guides should be trained in health and safety. Tour companies usually have these saftey guidelines well out-lined for their clients.

Peru is an amazing country with so much to offer. Machu Picchu may be its crowning glory for tourists but there is so much more to discover such as the Amazon area, Lake Titicaca and its floating reed islands and Uros civilisation, Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, Cuzco City once the capital of the Incas and Arequipa’s volcanoes and architecture.

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Many people travel solo and do the back-packer thing which can be less luxurious and less expensive, while many others take advantage of an organised tour which take you much more quickly around the vast circuit of treasures in a shorter space of time.

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Trekking and hiking can be a lot of fun and brings a sense of achievement and opportunity for bonding with fellow trekkers. Whatever you decide, be safe, be well and choose the option that will make your travel experience the most enjoyable for you.

If you do consider trekking the Inca Trail have some consideration for the ones dedicated to carrying your back-pack. This is a service that is provided for travellers within tour groups. I have spoken with one young man who did this work for a while before he studied for the hospitality industry. His recollection of carrying the heavy back-packs of travellers was not the most joyous. So put yourself in the shoes of others and pack as lightly as possible.

Enjoy your trip. If you have enjoyed my blog and this post and found it particularly useful why not repay me by sharing the post or leaving a comment.

© Caroline Cunningham – Author of Wild Star Landing and Journey In Peru

 

One Direction – Journey In Peru

I said goodbye to my companions who had travelled with me from Ollantaytambo. They were heading straight to Lima from Cuzco airport. We kept in touch by text until they stepped aboard their plane.

On my final night I treated myself to a room in what was considered to be a posh hotel in Cuzco. My companions told me it was the chain in which ‘One Direction’ (band) had stayed when touring Lima. The room I was shown however, had a dismal view of an internal concrete chamber. I enquired if there could be another option available. The staff were reassuring and asked if I could wait twenty minutes. I was astounded by the outcome after being escorted to my room. I had been given the Presidential Suite with a view of the entire Plaza De Armas of Cuzco!

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

I was so thrilled I took photos of the room and sent them to my friends saying ‘I think I’m ‘One Direction’!’ As I sat in amazement looking out the window at the stunning view of the Inca capital my brain grappled with the reward it was receiving.

Cuzco City Peru

Cuzco City Peru

I most definitely had been lured by some other-worldly force, to visit this country of Peru. I had written uncontrollably from the moment of my first arrival, the year previous to this, completing my first ever novel. I had subsequently stepped into the pages of my own book, having created a curiosity in terms of a sequel.

Fact and fiction had become inter-twined. I yearned, as much as Kitty Clinch or any other fictional character, for an adventure of my own. What makes a heroine? Is it the things she would do for love, real love? And does anyone on this planet know what that truly is? I can safely say there are a great many people, men as well as women, aching to know the answer to this question. And of the love that lies within, can it ever find you, if you feign defeat against the haunting conflict of your past?

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

The view from my presidential suite pulsed with a sensation of terrific reality. Was I proud of Kitty Clinch or was it that she was proud of me? For four months I had observed her whilst sitting at a tiny desk in my rented bedroom in Dublin, with a hot water bottle on my lap and the cold breeze nipping at my fingers as I typed beside a draughty window.

Cuzco Capital Of The Incas

Cuzco Capital Of The Incas

Incredibly, this character had inspired me to arrive at this grand position of observation. The whole city of Cuzco was spread out before my eyes. Christ stood, with outstretched arms, between the elevated Inca temples of the Sun and the Moon. The memories of my visits to both of these locations were cancelling each other out with the intensity of opposite emotions. I felt like an Inca Chief standing there and I’m proud to be the teller of the tale.

Christ in Cuzco

Christ in Cuzco

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Dear Reader,

I am preparing to publish my blog as a mini-novel and introduction to my original novel inspired by my first Journey In Peru. I am really grateful to the readers who have taken time to ‘like’ my posts and especially those who have contacted me tell me how much they have enjoyed my writing. Your comments are very much appreciated. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of ‘Journey In Peru’ please stay tuned in the coming weeks and all will be revealed.

Kind regards,

Kitty Clinch (oops!) Caroline Cunningham

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

Sexy Woman – Journey In Peru

In Cuzco there is a tourist ticket that covers a multitude of Inca sites both in the city and in The Sacred Valley, including the ‘Fortalezza’ in Ollantaytambo. It is excellent value to avail of this ticket which saves on individual entry fees at each location.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

You also have the option of taking a tour with a guide on a bus which takes you to all the Cuzco sites listed on this ticket. These tickets and tours are on sale at numerous tourist offices throughout the city centre. The tour bus is very convenient but if you have more time the Sacsayhuaman site is deserving of a longer visit.

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

‘Sexy Woman’ is how the English speaking visitors often refer to this UNESCO heritage site elevated high above the city. The name is derived from the Quechua language the first part meaning ‘full’ or ‘satisfied’ and the second part of the name is thought to refer to a falcon. It is also believed to have been an important site of sun worship in Inca times.

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

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The enormous boulders of rock situated in labyrinth style reaching into the heavenly blue sky creates a striking visual impression. Looking down into the deep bowl of the city you get a glimpse of what convinced the Incas that this was the centre of their world. Mountains graced the surrounding area and created the perfect protective space within for dwellers, at least until the arrival of the infamous Pizarro who came to conquer.

Wild Star Landing - Journey In Peru

Wild Star Landing – Journey In Peru

The city sparkled a shiny miniature of itself, with the sun bouncing its rays from glassy surfaces. The low rise organisation of buildings and parks dotted with leafy trees and fountains all seemed so particular and fun to the tourist eye. Close by, a statue of Catholic Christ stood large with outstretched arms overlooking the city dwellers adding to the sense of sanctuary.

Christ Statue Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Cuzco Peru

Cuzco - Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco – Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Every city has its darker side and down below despite the busy endeavours of people selling their wares there were stories of anguish that would break a heart to hear them. Hence the amount of volunteer ‘not for profit’ businesses in the area. A salary is not a profit, I didn’t understand this concept originally. In any case thanks to these charity businesses, international volunteers are in no short supply, giving hope to many.

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

I took the city tour in the company of a Romanian traveler whom I befriended on my second, slightly longer visit to Cuzco.

Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Night Time Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Night Time Cuzco Peru

©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).

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

A Special Energy in Ollantaytambo – Journey In Peru

‘There is a special energy here,’ this I heard said many times during my stay in Ollantaytambo in Cuzco’s Sacred Valley. Local Peruvians and visitors from far away were in agreement on this. I remembered my first visit the previous year. For sure it had struck me that of all the places in Peru I had visited, there was something in this place that had intrigued me to know it better.

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

 So I returned to find out what that something was. A month had passed. My own energies had fluctuated many times with adjustment to higher altitude, attempting to speak a new language and alignment with a new culture. Along with this, the flux of tourists and highway traffic trundling through the plaza contrasted with the quiet hollow hours of evening when all deserted it and locals sought the shelter of their concrete homes.

 

 

Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Photo by Caroline Cunningham

In my evening walk about the town it was more apparent, a special energy. Was it the cobbled stones that brought more awareness to my feet and the weight of my stepping? Was it the greater mass of rock that had been forced to surface and form on this southern earth-sphere, enticing elements of our galaxy more strongly to itself? Or was it the escaping ions from the water that lashed against the rocks as it plummeted from those high phalanges of the Andes? Was it contained within the granite stones that the Incas carried to this town to construct the Sun Temple now called the Fortaleza. Or was it something that was carried deep within a folk descended from Inca’s, such as a deep regard for mountains and rivers and condors?

 

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Temple Of The Sun - Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Temple Of The Sun – Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

I could not ascertain an answer to any of these questions except that I was glad I had returned to find out. Yes there was a special energy. It was already finding a resting place in my heart and it was set to travel with me on my return to Ireland. And when that time came I had a better inkling as to the answer.

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Have you been to Ollantaytambo (Cuzco, Peru)? Were you one of those who remarked about its special energy? I would love to know your thoughts on this, please leave a comment below.

© Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing