Tag Archives: Sacred Valley

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

 

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For Your Eyes Only – Journey In Peru

My story ‘Journey in Peru’ is coming to an end. If you think the ending was a simple matter of getting a taxi to airport and flying straight to Ireland, well no, the journey’s end had even more adventure to be lived.

Journey In Peru Book Coming Soon

Journey In Peru Book Coming Soon

 

Journey In Peru - Available Soon

Journey In Peru – Available Soon

Soon I will be publishing my story in its entirety, available for purchase through on-line stores and my websites.

This will serve as a forerunner and introductory to my first novel once published, which details the adventures of fictional character Kitty Clinch in Peru, that damsel who lured me to Peru a second time.

Journey In Peru - Mini Novel

Journey In Peru – Mini Novel

Thank you once again for reading and especially those of you who showed appreciation through comments and ‘likes’. I have received the highest praise a writer could wish for, from readers who contacted me in person to say exactly how my story made them feel. This is the ultimate reward for a writer, and especially one who has arrived late in years to this wonderful art form of expression through words.

Machu Picchu - Journey In Peru

Machu Picchu – Journey In Peru

You can sign up for the final posts (installments) of ‘Journey In Peru’ by entering your email address in the space provided either to the right side of this page (if you are using PC) or at the very bottom of the post (if using mobile phone). The ‘follow’ (subscribe) form is also found on the Home page and the ‘About’ section. All set for the ending of ‘Journey In Peru’!

Journey In Peru - Available soon

Journey In Peru – Available soon

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

 

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A Final Blessing – Journey In Peru

Waking up that morning was very different from all the others spent in this Sacred Valley story-book town. Like that first morning, my clothes for the day were arranged close to my bed, not because of the cold morning air, rather to save time for the last of everything.

Henry opened the door to the street and let me out. We spared our words for later. At seven in the morning I took my last walk around the world heritage town of Ollantaytambo. I took in the sounds of the gushing silvery water, racing through the river and the stone cut aqua-ducts. I relished the cobbled stones pressing unevenly through the soles of my shoes. I spied a large bird, possibly the condor, soaring way up high against the jagged peaks that traced the surrounding skyline.

Journey In Peru - A Final Blessing

Journey In Peru – A Final Blessing

The train station was quiet, as the early morning train had already taken its first passengers of the day to Machu Picchu, plus the tourist season was waning a little. Not many auto-taxi’s buzzing around yet and most shops had yet to open, including that of my friend Hoovert who had made me promise to call to say a last goodbye.

Ollantaytambo Peru

Ollantaytambo Peru

I had another area, to complete the tour, amidst the labyrinth of Cancha Inca buildings. A woman dressed in traditional attire, complete with the relevant hat of the area, spied me looking through the door of her courtyard. She gave me a great big smile and waved as if, she not only knew me, but sensed that I was leaving.

Cancha Inca Buildings

Cancha Inca Buildings

The Fortalezza was as stunning in the early morning as at any other time of day. The golden statue of La Ñusta (Inca Princess) urged a more positive spring to my parting steps. The Apu watched over me from Pinku Lluna as I made my way through the granite grid.

I walked on the market side of town passing my first home of Qusiqoller. The memories of those first mornings were strong. The fresh cool air, the hushed murmuring of people gathering their grasses near the entrance to the market and the men with taxi’s lining up for the days trips to Cuzco, Urubamba and other locations.

Ollantaytambo - Wild Star Landing

Ollantaytambo – Wild Star Landing

I stood in the middle of the Plaza De Armas square. I tried not focus on the closed doors of the Coffee Tree, where I had spent many of my days helping out and cementing friendships that would last forever. The ancient tree that was declared to be dying, looked upon its newly planted counterpart positioned close by. During my nine weeks in this town I had witnessed significant change not only in myself but for this little place also. Nothing stands still. We are always moving forward. The longer we stand still, the faster we die.

The Tree's - Plaza De Armas

The Tree’s – Plaza De Armas

Saying GoodBye at Worlds Coffee Cafe

Saying GoodBye at Worlds Coffee Cafe

Apu - Pinku Lluna

Apu – Pinku Lluna

One last vision to install in my memory banks. I took the avenue that gives the greatest view of this town’s most special Apu. She was glorious against the azure sky. I understood why these people, descended from Incas, held Veronica in such special reverence. There was something very inspiring and promising about that glacial mountain.

Veronica - Apu Mountain God

From the very beginning it had intrigued me. It held some secret of a life more extraordinary which lay in waiting of discovery. I had dared to travel beyond her stature by taking that trip to Santa Teresa. I had glimpsed a world to which I could never fully belong, because, my growing up entailed an entirely different set of memories and experience, to those who had furrowed in the midst of Veronica’s domain.

Early Morning Ollantaytambo Peru

Early Morning Ollantaytambo Peru

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landing

Journey In Peru – Wild Star Landing

A lurking sorrow began to well. Just in time, I received her final blessing. ‘Yes, you do belong here’. I bowed to the glimmering mountain. Taking her message to me I echoed, ‘I do belong!’ I had been embraced by the people of this town. The final days had been the most telling. They were just as sad as I was, to be saying goodbye. I had been told over and over that I was regarded as family, not just of one family but of those whose threshold’s I had crossed. I had allowed their ways to merge slowly and gently with my own, keeping judgement and unnecessary fear in the deeper dungeons of my heart. We had helped each other at every opportunity, to learn, to grow, to understand. I thought I had lost a great big battle that I had set up for myself but here I was realising how much I had won.

Sorrow turned to gratitude, the kind that also makes you cry, so my tears did not go to waste. I was really going to miss this wonderful place, all of its people, every sight and sound. Hoovert was not yet at his shop. At least we had said goodbye the night before.

The Shop On The Corner

The Shop On The Corner

I returned to collect my bags. Now the pangs of departure were setting in. ‘We feel the same,’ Catty consoled me as she saw the evidence of my sadness. Henry allowed me to sob upon his shoulder for some minutes without any words save for, ‘ I feel the same.’ Catty could not let me go without the reminder that I was to return soon. Her last wish for me I cannot share because I have not found it yet but it was for something ‘good.’

Getting ready for the road to Cuzco

Getting ready for the road to Cuzco

Paola and Liz were also taking the trip with me to Cuzco, as they were returning to their home, at that time, in Lima. I was grateful to have their company. As the mini-bus (taxi) pulled away from the area of the train station, I quickly asked Liz to request the driver to slow down and beep his horn as we passed by Hoovert’s shop. He actually stopped outside the door, I could see Hoovert sweeping the dusty floor. He saw me waving and rushed to the mini-bus. Opening the door wide, he stepped inside and gave me the greatest hug and a parting kiss. As the mini-bus pulled away I watched through the rear window. Hoowert stood in the middle of the road, with his hand held in high, in Inca-style salute, until we were out of each others’ sight.
The Plaza De Armas remained quiet at that hour and the Coffee Tree, unusually, was not yet opened for business.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

The mini-bus made two rounds of the square before making for the exit route. Then it was the closing of the book, the one whose pages I had stepped cautiously between in my first days in this ‘Living Inca Museum’. Like the gaps between the cobbled stones I had fitted nicely there.

Veronica Glacier Peru

Veronica Glacier Peru

I took my memories with me, all the gentle sources of love, all the friendship and the final blessing. I made a promise, never to forget a single moment of that special time in my life which allowed for so much transformation. But, there was much weeping all the same, as I watched the Sacred Valley slowly slip away to the enormity of mountains and our descent into the throb of Cuzco city.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Three Times Finalist In Ireland Blog Awards 2015

Three Times Finalist In Ireland Blog Awards 2015

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Water Running Past My Feet – Journey In Peru

There is nothing eloquent about the word ‘goodbye’. People say it pretending they are likely to see you in a month or two. There was nothing certain about my return to this town or country. The only justification would be to live and work here having obtained the relevant visa.

My presence in this place may have given false impression that I was financially well off. I had simply weighed my options to decide to come here a second time. The life choices which presented as satisfactory to many others, had not presented their appeal to me. I had walked a very different path with many cross-roads and confusing signposts. I was simply getting weary of the uphill climb and the amount of dragons I had encountered along the way.

Coming to Peru presented the opportunity to slay another of those fire-breathing beasts. This dragon had two heads. I understood initially that I had lost that fight but in hindsight it was the best outcome with an unexpected treasure attached to it.

SHop On The Corner - Journey In Peru

SHop On The Corner – Journey In Peru

It took some time, amidst many tears, to place my belongings into my luggage. When, eventually, I opened the door of my room, there was my friend Henry, standing with his sweeping brush. ‘Maybe’ he said. I smiled. This was his favourite English word to pronounce. This one word I used to tease him about, I will always associate with him.

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landing

Journey In Peru – Wild Star Landing

Saying GoodBye - Journey In Peru

Saying GoodBye – Journey In Peru

It was time to say goodbye to the people of this town. As bravely as I could, I set off, calling into shops and homes. I will never forget it. I had gifts for each of them and they in turn gifted me something of theirs. I gave my oil pastels to little Nancy, the child I had sketched during my first week in Ollantaytambo. And I gave the ‘cocaine’ to Alex. It was, of course, only a detoxification tea. I also bought gifts for my family and friends back home.

Pacha Mama Ollantaytambo Peru

Pacha Mama Ollantaytambo Peru

By The Urubamba River

By The Urubamba River

When I returned to my lodgings to store the items in my bags, I was invited to lunch with my Casa Del Abuelo family. Henry had cooked a special meal of cow’s tongue. I tried my best not to disappoint my hosts but I could not get used to the texture of the meat. Eventually I had to admit defeat. When asked for seconds I opted instead for the sauce which was delicious. ‘What’s it made of?’ I asked. ‘Cows tongue!’ Catty replied. We all laughed at this.

Inca Bridge - Ollantaytambo Peru

Inca Bridge – Ollantaytambo Peru

Henry had the perfect plan for our last evening together. We went fishing down by the Inca bridge, four of us. On the way, Henry was curious about Irish tales he’d heard of. So as best I could, in Spanish language, I told him the story of Cū Cualainn and ‘The Salmon Of Knowledge’. He also amused me as he tried to understand the correct pronunciation of the word ‘beach’. ‘And a female dog?’ he asked next. He had me laughing. To him, both words sounded the same. ‘Bitch!’ I replied.

Fishing - Ollantaytambo Peru

Fishing – Ollantaytambo Peru

We didn’t catch any fish but it was good to be by the river. It reminded me a little of my trip to Santa Teresa. Throughout that journey, the Urubamba river flowed all along the canyon floor. During that trip I had been impacted by the immensity of this country and the extent of difference of this culture from that of my own background. So much I would never understand or know. Yet here I was with the water running past my feet, waiting for fish to bite. Right then, I felt like a tiny bit of me belonged to that river, like I had earned its respect or something.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Afterwards, I called to my first home in Quisiqoller. The family had gathered and Carlos was in the process of having an avocado facial treatment. I spoke to them only in Spanish. Carlos commended me on my improvement. I had lived with them for the first four weeks of my time here and had very limited conversation in the beginning.

Avocado Facial - Journey In Peru

Avocado Facial – Journey In Peru

Art Of Calle - Journey In Peru

Art Of Calle – Journey In Peru

Next I called to the Coffee Tree. This I was dreading. It was quiet that night. Only Alex and Roxanna there. Alex was busy with his computer while Roxanna studied her mobile phone. Alex made me a hot chocolate. We spoke very little which was not the way we usually were. ‘You are family,’ this Alex reminded me over and over in the final days.

Finally I got up to go. I hugged Roxanna and then turned to Alex. I saw him wipe a tear from his eye as he told me how he would miss me. I hugged him and headed as quickly as I could for the door. I rounded the corner in the direction of the Fortaleza and then the flood began. I was heartbroken.

Some of my friends met me as I arrived at Hooverts shop. They teased me, seeing my inability to control my emotions. Hoovert, was his usual upbeat self but he made no deception that he too was going to miss my presence. He presented me with a thoughtful gift. A book about Machu Picchu and a DVD with the cultural dances of Ollantaytambo, in which he also featured as a dancer. He made me promise to call in the morning to say a final goodbye as he would be opening his shop early at 7am.

By now it was dark and cold. Back in La Casa Del Abuelo some friends gathered to pass the time drinking a hot drink, which had a more than a drop of Pisco in it. Nobody spoke of my departure the next day.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Urubamba River Ollantaytambo Peru

Urubamba River Ollantaytambo Peru

Three Times Finalist In Ireland Blog Awards 2015

Three Times Finalist In Ireland Blog Awards 2015

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Harley’s and Rum – Journey In Peru

I was easily distracted from packing my bags. My friends knew I was going home soon but they only spoke of my return. One female friend insisted that it would be very soon. When I argued that it would take a lot of work and saving for that to happen she said to me ‘OK! I give you two years and then you return.’ Two years seemed like a long time then but it has already passed and I have not yet made the trip. It will happen.

Catty and Liz invited me to join them at the Coffee Tree. It was quiet that evening, early September. The season was settling to a slower pace of visitors. Twilight was setting itself for transition to starlight mode. Alex joined us as we sat outside.

I had a surprise which I revealed from my coat pocket. I had spotted it earlier in the Pacha Mama Shop. A bottle of ‘Abuelo’ Rum. I had been planning on giving it to Henry the owner of Casa Del Abuelo, one of my home’s in Ollantaytambo. I showed it to my friends. They were very impressed with the label and we laughed about my idea of giving it as a gift to Henry, the husband of Catty. ‘I think we will have to try it first,’ I hinted. They were all in agreement. Alex went to get the glasses with some coke and ice. It certainly went down well. ‘Henry will never know,’ Catty giggled as we drained the last drops between us.

Just then some bikers hauled into the Plaza De Armas, parking just across from us. ‘Motor Cycles!’ Catty cried in glee. ‘Harley Davidsons!’ I exclaimed. We crossed the square to take a closer look. The owners of the Harleys had made their way from Chile. They certainly didn’t mind our interest and allowed us to pose for photographs.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

It was my second last night in Ollantaytambo. It contributed a mellow setting for the ending of this story in which I had placed myself. I recalled that first week, as I sat huddling in the square, thanking Venus for its familiarity and despairing at the silent sun’s rapid descent. A drama had unfolded. It had all the highs and lows of any tale that has ever been worthy of expression. But it was I who lived it, I who told it and the imprint is forever with me.

© Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Ollantaytambo Peru

Ollantaytambo Peru

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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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