A railway station evening in the Andes revisits me

Sept 14, 2012. On a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt on our way to South Africa…  Why do I feel so inspired and so elated when I travel? In trying to fall asleep, I feel a sudden urge to write about Ollantaytambo. A stone, water and sun place, high in the Urubamba Valley, a starting point of Inca Trail, a mighty tale of glories past, this place that lies not only high in Andes, but deeper in my heart.

Why is it when I travel that I feel so different? So alive? All of a sudden my  entire being becomes a sponge. My eyes, my ears, my nostrils, my lips and taste  buds, my skin and everything inside… My brain and stream of being become  basic elements of absorption.

I love the process of absorption. Yet what I find more rewarding is this sudden  impulse, this sudden reliving of a moment past, this rich encounter  with time and emotion, with studded moments of personal life that make up the  sum of being. Don’t they say we are the sum of our relationships and our  experiences? I love the moment when one such particle of past springs forth and  claims its right to attention and reverie, out of the space and time filled sphere of vibrancy and dullness that is life.

Tonight Ollantaytambo claims the spot and nudges  at the muses and at my heart. It comes back in all its suddenness, its remoteness, its timelessness, and love. Ollantaytambo is a place, a spot in universe, a little railway village deep in the  Andes, but all the same is an eternal moment, is now, and past, and future all  together, is Inca fiber and universality, is heart and taste, and smell and  tear of feeling alive and eternal. And now is part of me.

I know my words cannot do justice to the moment and the feeling. Language is  but a poor conveyer of the feeling. If I was Mozart or
Tchaikovsky perhaps I would have had a better chance at telling you all this in  sound. If I was Leonardo or Michelangelo perhaps I would have had a better try  at capturing a glimpse of shiver in a piece of marble. But  I am not them, nor am I Einstein so I could most elegantly show you that we all are here and there, now and then and that my Ollantaytambo speck of universe lives in eternity.

Here is my humble recount in words of one of the most magical moments of  my life. Imagine this little village, tucked in one of the folds of Urubamba, shaded by stunning Andes, warmed by a Sun adored by its inhabitants. My place  of reverie is a train station, a dining room that opens to the platform, with  rustic rooms in the back, whitewashed two-story buildings, huge wooden terrace  and open windows to a garden of tropical bliss, with humming birds, and bees, and  streams of water. My memory is not cheating, it can  barely do it justice, I promise. Go and see….

Is evening,  we just arrived by car,  finally we said  goodbye to the wheel and ready to embark on our railroad leg of Andean
treading. I so much yearned to travel by train, so ready I was to leave behind  the comfort of four wheels and rail into unknown. Apart from the exquisite
beauty of the setting, the rich Inca imprint on everything in the village and  surrounding slopes, my first moment of deep emotion was the realization that
our hotel was in fact on the railway platform. Ah!!! How I loved the idea! We  had to go through iron gates on the platform to enter our hotel.
When I stepped in I felt in an instant that I know the place, deep down, somewhere in my most basic element of being. Almost like stepping into
grandmother’s little house in a remote village on the opposite corner of the Earth.

After a very warm and heartfelt greeting, when we step outside, in the interior  garden to walk to our room, I feel that my emotion and fullness in beauty is
tested to a new level. The garden is stunning, the flowers, the smells, the  sounds, the simplicity and truly rustic character of it… Ah… The place I
never knew I dreamt of….

My moment is built layer by layer, emotion by emotion, surprise by  surprise, all in an incredible concert of sight and sound and smell and memory.
Then comes the dinner. This unassuming hotel on a railway platform lost in the  Andes had somehow shifted something in my compass… My soul felt home and had  expanded amply that night. The dining room is small and unpretentious, one door  and windows open to the platform. From our table we can see the train coming  from Cusco, on its way to Macchu Picchu. We are going there tomorrow. But now,  I am all here, with every particle of  being absorbing sounds and smells, the view and the emotion. Four Inca-descendant cooks work skillets  in an open kitchen.  Ripe vegetables displayed on a  whitewashed ledge. How clean is everything! How beautiful the tomatoes and the  squash…

On the threshold of the door that opens up to the platform sat down an old  Qechua man, dressed beautifully in the bright colors of the Andes, he softly
starts to play a harp. Then he stats singing. Only later, after being lost  and found in his sound, do I realize he is blind. His voice connects me to the
root of his emotion, if only let yourself float on his thin air wave, he’ll take  you back to Inca times, his face transfixed in sound and condor flight, and sun
and moon, his fingers stroking gently the stings that have seen many seasons  and hold the countless stories of fight and might, and lights in dark-dawning  nights.

And tears are falling… My God! The train that stopped, travelers stepping on  the platform, looking around and carrying with them emotion, expectation,
weariness and dust, with heightened senses, so visible, so tangible… The harp  cords striking gently the air and pulling unseen strings of soul, the evening
falling calmly on earth, the smells, the colors, the wine, the sip, the toasted  corn, the candle on our table… I cannot help but cry from heart, with heart
in throat, in ears, in eyes, and in my skin down to my nails and hair ends. I  am alight; I am a flame of heart and time and love for being and of gratitude.
I fall in love again with my companion, my travel partner and my rock who is  the loyal witness of my love of life and of experience, who has become my
breath and light, who makes my journeys smooth and takes care of my feet and  worldly luggage when I am flying high on sounds of age-old blinding harps lost  in the endless colors and mystery of Andes.