Tag Archives: Fortaleza

Looking Down From Above – Journey In Peru

My last days amongst the people of Ollantaytambo were pressing upon my mind. So conscious was I now of the sun stretching from its rise and peak to its descending point. I could not grasp the measure of how this place had attached itself to me.

I had spent some time in those last two weeks with a younger Peruvian woman who was visiting some relations in the town. She planned to return from Lima back to Ollantaytambo to find employment and eventually start a business. She encouraged me to think about returning also to consider my own venture. It was tempting. I wanted to live every possibility of my life. This was one possibility and I certainly felt at home in this culture.

View Of Fortalezza from Pinku Lluna

View Of Fortalezza from Pinku Lluna

My original quest awaited me in Ireland. A desirous one. I had sought an alternative goal when coming to Peru, appeasing a curiosity. In truth, I was being fearful of failure and disappointment. The Universe had answered loudly. Even Machu Picchu was in cahoots. Go back to Ireland and finish what you started.

Plaza De Armas Ollantaytambo Peru

I had bags that needed packing. I couldn’t face into it. Liz suggested a visit to Pinku Lluna. It is an uphill trail of loose terrain, leading to a number of Inca built structures, such as, a store house, for the purpose of storing grain. Higher still, the face of an Apu jutted from the rocks, keeping protective watch over all below. It was a useful place to visit now and then to gain a perspective on situations.

Ollantaytambo Peru

Looking down from above, the town neatly sprawled into the foothills of the dignified mountains. Beyond, the Fortaleza dramatised the scene fantastically. This was no ordinary town. While Machu Picchu reigned gloriously a short train journey away, this Sacred Valley town rested in the womb of world, served by silvery foaming rivers and guarded by mountains. Ollantaytambo was the location chosen before Machu Picchu as the first private royal residence of Inca Pachacuti in the mid-fourteen hundreds.

Vi ew from Pinku Lluna

Vi ew from Pinku Lluna

Perhaps I was charmed in the same way as those Inca Kings and Queens. Only one year ago, I had spent a night in this town. Whilst wrapped in blankets on the deck of a bar, I thought how lovely it would be to spend longer in this appealing town. I think the Inca’s had something to do with it. There could be no regrets. I had grown in many ways and the ground beneath my feet had become more solid like those towering rocks.

Inca Store House - Pinku Lluna

Inca Store House – Pinku Lluna

Apu - Pinku Lluna

Apu – Pinku Lluna

As I gazed upon the roof tops and scanned the stretch of buildings, I noted the ones in which I had made friendships and had been regarded as family. Some seeds are scattered poorly, deprived of the elements that provide growth. Some are smothered by thicker and more vigorous vegetation and some are trampled upon as they attempt to grow. That same seed could reach its potential given a different set of circumstances. And this is why some of us human beings need to remove ourselves from our original environment. It is the tragedy of life that some humans never realise that there could have been a different, possibly a better, outcome, if they had only dared to move.

One last look around and then back to the heart of the town and the packing.

© Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

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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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Waino Dancing By The River – Story Of Peru

You seldom escape the gushing sounds of water in Ollantaytambo, in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Supplied by two rivers, racing from the towering Andean mountains, the Patacancha and Wilkanuta (Urubamba) rivers also deliver water to an abundance of stone cut aqua-ducts which serve the towns Inca stone buildings (Cancha) and the grounds of the Fortaleza.

Patacancha River, Ollantaytambo, Peru Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Patacancha River, Ollantaytambo, Peru Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Rivers and mountains are regarded as sacred to the Peruvian people. No wonder Inca Pachacuti selected this site for his residence. His reign is responsible for the splendid array of stones which form the terraces, buildings and temples which have earned this town its place as a world heritage UNESCO site. In later years it became the charge of Manco Inca Yupanqui to defend this town from the clutches of Hernando Pizarro (Spanish Conquistador). In his finest attempt he used his knowledge of the rivers and aqua-ducts to actually flood the plains, sabotaging his Spanish enemies attack.

Walking on Cobbled Stones - Life in a Peruvian Town - and the stones gave me lessons in adaptation

Walking on Cobbled Stones – Life in a Peruvian Town – and the stones gave me lessons in adaptation

I had established a routine of walking in the evening after helping out in the café. Off I set on my loop of the town, the sound of the water urging me to speed it up, or so I thought. Walking in the direction of the train station I noticed the road was busier. The season was picking up. There were as many Peruvian people as foreign tourists walking towards the train to Machu Picchu. I had noticed also in the hospedaje (hostel) that there were more families booking in.

Forteleza Photograph by Caroline Cunningham

Forteleza Photograph by Caroline Cunningham

Closer to the train station there was more commotion than usual. A large white tent was erected in the middle of the road, pumping loud music and above it I could hear a man’s voice interjecting with amplified announcements. Curious, thinking maybe it was some sort of commercial promotion, I peeped inside the tent. Next I felt an arm and a shoulder carry me a long like being caught in the current of the river that had overtaken me many times on my route. A sturdy Peruvian woman, with a smile that outstretched her ears, entered the tent along-side me. As if we were both expected, others were making space for us on a wooden bench at a long table running the length of the tent. I was handed a beer and folk saluted us.

Train to Machu Picchu - Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Train to Machu Picchu – Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Completely taken by surprise I found myself amidst party-goers with high energy. The music jingled like the rolling of the river turning over and over its rocks. A live band provided the music and the man with the announcements. On the wooden make-shift floor people of all ages were dancing vigorously. ‘Waino! Waino! Waino!’ squealed my friend who had carried me along. I knew then she was referring to the music. Waino is a traditional music of this part of Peru. It has an upbeat swinging rhythm and in the modern versions there seems to be a man shouting announcements throughout the tune. The other thing I discovered about Waino….it seems to be never-ending.

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

Patacancha River Ollantataytambo Train Station

Up jumped this jolly woman pulling me along with her, and a few more besides. Now I was dancing the Waino….this is a good replacement for the gymnasium or any other fitness regime. Dancing at high altitude is a real test for your lungs and blood corpuscles. At approximately 2,800m.a.s.l, after three weeks, I was surprised at how there could still be times when I would gasp for air.
After twenty minutes I was truly whacked. The jolly dancing woman decided we should all have our photos taken together. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me. I soon realized why I was such an attraction for so many photographs to be taken with me. I was the only non-Peruvian person in the tent. I thanked the folk surrounding me for the fun I had with them and as I left the tent that great ‘current’ of a woman left alongside me. She had been a passer-by just like me but instead of peering in as I had done she plunged right in to the action and got involved.

Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

Outside the tent the foreign tourists passed by on their way to the train unawares it seemed of the activities happening in their midst. I completed my walk more excitedly. I had a new story to tell the hosts of my lodging and I had to figure out how to tell them in Spanish. My landlady explained to me that the celebrations in the tent were a continuation of the religious festival of Carmen, the same festival I had attended a few days before in nearby Rumira.
Events such as these were the highlight of my journey living in this beautiful town.
What is your highlight of Ollantaytambo town? Are you planning to go there soon? If you have been following my blog you will know that I have many special friends there so please mention my blog to them and say Hi from Caroline (Ireland).

Peru Rail...train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

Peru Rail…train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing.

Los Americanos En Ollantaytambo

It was the week of the Americans that was for sure. Ollantaytambo is no ordinary little town in Peru and that was my main reason for choosing to return a year after my first visit to this mighty homeland of the Inca civilisation. Evidence of the past is not only marked out magnificently in stone for all to see, the streets are also alive with inhabitants displaying their colourful costumes and attending to their traditions. And all the while, the nations of the world pass through relatively unnoticed by these country folk, or so it seemed.

Forteleza, Inca Architecture, Ollantaytambo, Peru,Travel & Astronomy,Ireland & Peru. Published in Astronomy Ireland Magazine 2013 Photograph by Caroline Cunningham

After my three weeks of constant study and practice of speaking Spanish and adjusting to higher altitude (2,850m a.s.l) I had been paying more attention to my Peruvian companions rather than the tourists, who often only stopped off for a few hours before or after their trip to Machu Picchu situated a short train ride away.

Inca Descendants in Ollantaytambo

Inca Descendants in Ollantaytambo

But this week was different. The day before, I had spent the finest evening and night with a group of Americans whose company I will always treasure. As I raised my head from the pillow this morning however, it seemed that gravity was more against me in my efforts. Steve had already left town on his way to Cuzco but Nabila and Liz had promised to stick around a while longer. I got myself together and sent a message to the girls to find out about their plans for meeting up.
My friend Hoovert in the Mini-Market had been telling me lots about a festival taking place in a nearby towns-land. He urged me not to miss it as he would be one of the dancers taking part in Fiesta Del Carmen de Rumira. The girls were considering extending their stay in order to accompany me to the festival.

 

Fortaleza In Ollantaytambo, Peru

Fortaleza In Ollantaytambo, Peru

Excitedly I made my way to the square to meet them in the Coffee Tree Café. En route I met another lady, also American, who was having trouble finding a cash machine. Ollantaytambo, at that time, only had two cash machines, one on the corner of the Plaza De Armas (on the Pinkuluna side) and one inside the doorway of Hotel Sauce not far from the square in direction of the Fortaleza (on the left). There is no bank and another thing to note is that the machines often dispensed high denominations of Soles, leaving café owners scarpering from door to door in search of smaller notes for the purposes of ‘change’. I escorted Cathy to the bank machine at Hotel Sauce and discovered here too another interesting soul. I told her about my plan to meet the Liz and Nabila and invited her to join us in the café.
Once again we were ‘four’. I treated myself to a ‘tourist’ breakfast of ‘Huevos Rancheros’ but something was amiss. ‘I feel weak,’ I moaned a little. Liz and Nabila were grinning. ‘You probably are feeling the effects of high altitude Caroline,’ they teased. ‘Yes, it could be that,’ I wailed thinking about the mojito we had finished up our night with. ‘Have coca tea!’ Cathy suggested. I ordered a large pot. Coca tea has great riving properties to counter symptoms which high-altitude can induce and it did the trick for my present condition.

 

Los Americanos En Ollantaytambo

Los Americanos En Ollantaytambo

Nabila and Liz confirmed that they would stay an extra night in Ollantaytambo and come with me to the festival in Rumira. Cathy had other plans however. She had already booked a trip to a mountain village to learn the weaving craft of the Inca tradition. Weaving is a very popular tradition in Peru and Cathy was an enthusiast. Awamaki are an American volunteer (not-for-profit) group based in Ollantaytambo, they work with the Andean communities to promote their culture and assist their communities.

Hoovert - Mini Market Owner & Dancer

Hoovert – Mini Market Owner & Dancer

 

Cathy had booked her trip with Awamaki and would be leaving early in the morning. Nevertheless, she agreed to join us for a walk around the town.
We stopped off to confirm with Hoovert the start time for the Fiesta and then made our way along the river taking in the golden statue of La Ñusta (Inca Princess) and the breath-taking scenery along the road that leads to Andean village of Patacancha.

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing

 

 

La Nusta Kura Ocllo, Ollantaytambo, Peru

La Nusta Kura Ocllo, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Cuenca del Patacancha, Sacred Valley, Peru

Cuenca del Patacancha, Sacred Valley, Peru

Travel Writer Caroline Cunningham describes life in a Peruvian Town in the heart of The Sacred Valley.

Travel Writer Caroline Cunningham describes life in a Peruvian Town in the heart of The Sacred Valley.

 

 

 

 

The Silent Sun – Peru’s Sacred Valley Story Book Town

The silent Sun was dropping slowly from the winter sky as I entered the square. Colour drained from the surface of the mountain walls.

Quietly I sat myself on the only vacant bench. My first week in this Sacred Valley Peruvian town, everything so new to me, I sat there wondering about it all.

The disappearance of the Sun was dramatic in its silence. It slipped prematurely from my sight. The mountain walls protruded more sternly now, their peaks appearing more dagger-like with keen edges.

Plaza De Armas Ollantaytambo, Cuzco Region Peru.

Plaza De Armas Ollantaytambo, Cuzco Region Peru.

Town folk lingered at the corners of the plaza perhaps speculating on the going’s on of the day. Some older men sat staring into space from a bench on the opposite side of the platform.

Other folk, mainly women, stood alongside mobile stalls, preparing hot drinks for the night time trade.

I huddled more snuggly into the folds of my clothing. It was suddenly a lot colder. The sun not only deprived me of its light, it took with it the warmth I craved. A town dog must have sensed my plea, as it wandered from its pals and came to rest curled up at my feet.

Darkness was taking hold of the sky. I gazed upwards. A jagged rim of mountain peaks framed

Plaza De Armas, Ollantaytambo Peru - Sacred Valley Stories

Plaza De Armas, Ollantaytambo Peru – Sacred Valley Stories

the dusky blue. It was like peering from the inside of a caustic cauldron out into the atmosphere.

I gave my senses to the newly rising stars. Venus had already taken pride of place. It dangled heavily above and beyond The Coffee Tree in the direction of the Fortaleza. I sighed in gratitude. Venus, my familiar friend would not forsake me.

Ten thousand miles from home, in this story book town of Ollantaytambo, Peru, I had made a few connections already but we were vastly unfamiliar.  I was just another stranger, probably intent on passing through, like all the others.

I struggled to learn the Spanish language more quickly so as to remove the tight girdles that robbed my personality. People were kindly towards me. I reciprocated the kindliness as best I could whilst treading carefully amidst a culture that I could not yet expect to fully understand.

Peru's Story Book Town of Ollantaytambo in The Sacred Valley

Peru’s Story Book Town of Ollantaytambo in The Sacred Valley

The darkness closed more tightly around the diamond stars. A little auto-taxi came rushing through from an artery of the plaza, interrupting my thoughts and the otherwise hushed surroundings. It seemed somebody somewhere had more important business to be doing.

It was time to move along. ‘Maňana,’ I told myself, ‘I’ll return tomorrow evening to assess my situation’.

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Venus above the Fortaleza in Ollantaytambo, Peru

Venus above the Fortaleza in Ollantaytambo, Peru

The stranger slowly left the scene, little realising she was walking through the pages in which her part had already been neatly included throughout chapters and sentences, between full stops and capital letters.

A new day was on its way. Another page was waiting to be turned in this story of an Irish woman’s journey in a Peruvian Town.

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing Blog

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Irish Blog Awards 2015

Irish Blog Awards 2015

Blog Awards Ireland 2015

Blog Awards Ireland 2015

Caroline Cunningham is a Carlow based Irish Writer and author of Wild Star Landing Blog which features ‘Journey In Peru’ stories. Caroline is also an artist and reflexology therapist (Authentic Reflexology).