|By Wes Newbury
|To be fair, neither my words nor my pictures will ever come close to capturing the beauty of Ollanta.Even as I experience it, I cannot grasp it.What follows is thus an endeavor in futility.These are my first impressions.
Every morning I awake to the song of birds and the smell of a wood stove.Sun light beams through my window and beckens me to my feet. The balcony is aglow with early morning light I stretch and hear the familiar sound of our neighbors radio. This morning, the rythym that could only be a Latino salsa fills the crisp morning air. A rooster anounces the begining of a new day. A humming bird seems to move to the salsa, weaving in and out of the flowers below me. The green mountains take on a new appearance every morning. Today they’re shrouded in the myst of Amazonian humidity. It’s early and I’m a bit groggy, but what I experience upon stepping out of my room gives me every reason to not return to bed.
Breakfast is a warm poridge infused with apple and honey. The beverage warms me from within, warding off the nip of the cool morning air. After a pleasant conversation with Doris, I sling my bag over my shoulder and make my way through the red corridor. I stroll down the cobblestone streets aligned with rivlets of running water. The town is just awaking. Vendors are opening shop. Brilliantly dressed Quechua women are wrapping their babies around their back. Men in ponchos hoist rakes and shovels over their backs and make their ways to the chacras (cornfields). The train to Machu Pichu departs with a long blast of its horn. The sound echoes off the steep mountain walls and slowly fades away. Water runs swiftly through the ancient irrigation canals, like aquatic sidewalks murmuring of the rains that passed as I lay warm in my bed.
Crossing the bridge into Ollanta, my nose is filled with the smells of freshly baked bread and sizzling meat. The first of the tourist buses are arriving. In their wake, they leave wide eyed Westerners who have either dressed to climb Everest or survive the Australian outback. As pitiful as some may seem, they are the reason I’m here.
I spend the day exploring the town and its ruins. At four, I head for the soccer court. The concrete court is surrounded by the walls the Inca erected over four hundred years ago. In the stadium of the fallen empire we play the sport of their conquerors. The game is rough. Peruvians do not play “the beautiful game.” Heads collide, knees bleed, and elbows fly as the ball bounces around the court like a charged ping-pong ball. The ball only travels forward. There is no time to think, to devise a play. I don’t enjoy their style so much, but I guess its something I can get used to. It has taken three days for these guys to even pass me the ball, so theres no turning back now. We play for money. Everyone pays one sol, winners walk with two. I walk home with four.
Dinner is a hearty dish of chicken and rice. The rice is mixed with spinach, corn, and many vegetables I can’t even identify. The chicken is pan seared in the herbs of the garden. I finish and feel satisfied. For dessert, Doris brings out a sweet peach nectar. My lips pucker from the sweet drink. We spend the night in deep conversation. We discuss the socio-economic issues Peruvians face and how a truly sustainable form of tourism could help to elliviate these problems.
The night sky is overflowing with twinkling stars. Crickets announce the end of another day. The mountains retire into darkness, and I follow suite. I slip under my alpaca quilt and read the stories of Jack London until I fall asleep.