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

 

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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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).

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.

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

VOTE FOR US IN IRISH BLOG AWARDS 2015 until September 23rd 2015) : VOTE HERE

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).