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Published: November 24th 2015
PERU...to play the flute under the condor's beak.
The clouds brushed the black sky obscuring the stars...the stone jigsaw lined passageways a tad darker tonight...the golden heroine calling us to bay to the Incan peeping moon.
"Come with us to the Inca fortress. Roberto is going to play the flute under the condor's beak. Come with us," Mirinda beckons.
"But we are off to Machu Picchu at dawn."
"Come with us," Roberto echoes.
The others nodding...smiles of expectation.
It's times like this we travel.
It's times like this we are thankful we have no other plans.
It's times like this we embrace the moment...our hearts taking over...serendipity blessing our paths.
So a troop of us tramp the cobbled street...over the river and into a cornfield.
"Do we need torches?"
"Nah. It's more fun in the dark."
Denise & I flew into Cusco from Arequipa and immediately wanted to get out of there...rain falling...torrents of muddy water sweeping the streets...locals still about 'cause that's what they do.
The Spanish cathedrals and colonial stampings on this famous city will have to wait.
Caught a private
car for the right price instead of a taxi...'cause all we wanted to do was get out of there.
Private cars for long distances...helping the local economy...definitely the best way to go!
Sacred Valley here we come.
Spectacular countryside...winding through mountains...green fields...paintings on buildings of which political party to vote for in upcoming elections...local music on the radio...being asked if we want photo stops...just enjoying the freedom of the road...excitement palpable... winging it...just us...wind in our hair.
Down, down, down then along a river...turn up a steep road into the cobbled village of Ollantaytambo...main square and stop.
Where to now?
Can you take us to Casa de Wow?
It's the only hostel name we know.
Another reason we took a private car...the driver speaks Spanish. We don't!
Through backstreets then stops. Road too narrow for vehicles...from now on it's by foot.
And that's how we met Stephen...little English...more than his Dad Roberto the owner as it turned out.
"Yes we have a room. Let me show you."
Needs my help to put our names in the guestbook...so
I book us in!!!
Up a narrow spiral stairs...carries our suitcases to save our backs...to unobstructed views to die for.
There was a room overlooking an Incan fort with rustic bed hand-made by Roberto with ropes and tree branches (as was other furniture)...shared bathroom with two other upstairs rooms with views.
There was one room with no views but an ensuite.
Nothing like convenience at our age.
We're heading off to Machu Picchu in four days.
We'll take the room with own bathroom please...and how about three nights to start?
Bags in our room then up to the tiny shelter on the roof for 360 degree views.
Check this out Denise...Inca ruins on the mountains on both sides.
Might be in the Sacred Valley...but I reckon we're now in Paradise.
Ollantaytambo is the only intact Incan village in modern Peru.
Alleyways all lined in Incan or pre-Incan exquisitely precision fitted massive stones...smaller more recent stones on top.
Earthquake proof as they are stacked at an angle.
It is at the confluence of three valleys hence three rivers...the last stronghold of the Incas we
were told...after the Spanish conquistadors killed the Incan king and plundered and pillaged the countryside in the early 16th Century.
No Catholic Church here as the usual ever present reminder of the Spanish...which makes Ollantaytambo extra unique.
It's a tourist village retaining it's Incan charm...on the railway line to Machu Picchu to the right...Cusco to the left...no crime we were told.
We wandered the mountains...the ruins...the terraced fields...the alleys and passageways.
Sat overlooking the river...eating local food washed down with Pisco Sours...drinking copious amounts of coca leaf tea with honey for altitude remedial...laughing with other travelers in the hostel and in restaurants...talking seriously with the locals...then sipping more coca tea.
There was one at 40 who has been here for several weeks to decide if the boyfriend back home in USA comes first...or she follows the pleading of her children to get rid of him.
"You know what you have to do," I tell her.
"What is that?" she asks.
"It's not for me to tell you." I say. "You know what you have to do. You have as good as told me."
The look of someone who knows but does
not want to face it.
Then there was Niall...an Irish chef working in high-end restaurants in Europe...exploring and raving about the Peruvian fusion food in Lima...same age as our daughter at 26 but treats us as if we are their age...wicked humour.
Day becomes night and night becomes day and days become more days.
Getting close to when we need to get out of here.
Niall has been in the mountains for his encounter with an Andean shaman.
We had told him he'd be smoking peyote and dancing naked around a fire today...so we went out to dinner so he could tell us all about it.
It was on our return at about 9pm that we headed off to the Incan fortress...for Roberto to play the flute to the wispy moon.
The river was rushing extra loud as we crossed the narrow stone bridge...senses alight...no whispers of breeze in the cornfield...the air cool but not cold...the smell of summer...feel of impending rain in the air...the clouds lightly obscuring the moon...throwing a muted glow...just enough to see by...but not much more.
We walked in Indian file along narrow tracks
and dirt walls about six inches wide dividing the fields from a ditch next to a stream...like walking a tightrope in the dark...Roberto leading Denise by the hand...Mirinda leading me by the hand...the others whispering with care.
"Watch your step here," Mirinda often saying...me wondering if she thinks I am blind...probably wise...don't want to wreck our holiday that one slip could do.
After a bit of a trek we are there.
The ruins of the Incan fortress with low walls and square blocks of stone at the base of the mountain.
Bit hard to fully explore and appreciate in the dark so Den and I pick a stone platform each and one or two others join us for a bit of Tai Chi.
And as our movements glide and stroke...the lilting notes of Roberto's flute caress and waft into the still night air.
About six of the more youthful ones climb a narrow path...up and up a cliff to a large flat stone or ledge.
Probably once a sacrificial altar...that sits under a rocky protrudence...named as it looks...the condor's beak.
We walk back in silence...only the odd "watch
here, watch there" from Mirinda as she guides me back...me thinking she knows I'm not blind.
"Surreal" is an easy word to say...much harder to truly experience...but this was one time we truly did.
Niall expressed it like a religious experience...I just called it surreal...but one that really moved me.
One so good it was worth changing our plans.
As we prepared for bed I suggested to Denise that after Machu Picchu we not
return to Cusco for which we have train tickets already paid for...but we hop off early at Ollantaytambo and come back here.
As we crawl under the doona Denise says, "I agree. It's our holiday after all. We can do what we like."
We were moved by the flute played under the condor's beak.
Mellifluously calling "Come back...come back."
So Casa de Wow kept our room free...but did we return?
Of course we did.
After an experience like that...to do otherwise would be unforgivably slack!
Relax & Enjoy,
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