Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Condors in Ollantaytambo

As it was we had one extra magnificent, beautiful and surprising experience whilst visiting the back paths of Ollantaytambo - we had gone past the beautiful old wall, and followed a mountain path for close to 45 mins at an upwards angle of course. There was a more secluded spot for what seemed like more meditative pursuits -

The holes along the edge of these ... shallow resting places might suggest that something - humans - alive or mummies might at times have been tied up here for meditation or observance of the mountains around - I am not thinking about a forceful tie up as much as perhaps a helpful support if you are doing a vision quest of some sort, standing all night, waiting for the sun to come up -

For staring right ahead of us was another magnificently beautiful set of mountain peaks, one in particular which could have had great interest were it so that the sun would at some particular day rise right between those two fingers protruding from the Apu's top.  Once again, I don't know for sure, but...... Emerita talked and I listened and the possibilities were many - and ....I keep forgetting...... we always talk about day time rituals with the sun coming up and going down, but how about that moon, those stars, they are not exactly permanent fixtures in the sky either, the universe is an ever revolving entity. How does it all relate to the Apus around us and the buildings which were so carefully place in order to honour specific sacred times of the year.

Photo by Pia and Emerita
Eventually we were done thinking and talking, and the decision was made to make our way down the path again.
Emerita in the front, me close behind feeling the tiredness in my feet and knees at this point, but ...we were on the way back down to sit somewhere and enjoy a cup of tea perhaps. Emerita came to a sudden stop though, she pointed and 'gasped' oh, look, where's your camera, the camera, and between staring towards the direction of her pointing hand and finding the camera I realized that we were staring at not one but TWO soaring condors, big beautiful males, they came around the mountain - and they were below us. We were up high enough that they were soaring below us. I am aware that I am repeating myself, but ...... it was a grand moment in both our lives. 
Photo by Pia and Emerita

Condors are not found on every street corner, they never were, sacred birds that they are, but there are even less of them these days. Their life cycles only let them breed every three years and like the bald eagles here in Canada, they are 5-6 years old before they are mature enough to multiply. They also prefer solitude, at high, high altitude, close to glaciers and as little human activity as possible. Emerita and I were transfixed, staring at these two gliding giants, and off they went towards the glaciers - they may not look so big in the photos, I know in the second one there is one bird that looks like a mere dot, but it is there - we saw them, we jumped for joy and then I shed a tear for truly .... it was a gift, something I hadn't even thought to put on a 'wishlist', for it seemed so remote to me that not even in my dreams could I imagine it. But they were there.

Afterwards we have joked about ... those two birds, now were they chickens or ... condors and with glee we have come to the conclusion that while visiting the ruins at Ollantaytambo the two women, Emerita Bucher and Pia Skaarer Nielsen watched two magnificent condors glide by - from above at that!
 Thank you Apus for sharing your beauty.


Onwards and upwards - the motto of the day. As we had entered the gate at the ruins in Ollantaytambo we were stopped by a woman with a big camera, she had just been up and about some parts of the ruin, but since she was traveling alone she asked if one of us would be kind enough to take a photo of her with this beautiful back drop. Emerita took care of this and then.... the woman used my camera and took a series of E&P photos so we would have something to show for our trip to the same place.

 As always Emerita had many exciting stories and theories about the constructions and the bumps and interesting surfaces of said constructions. This seem to be some sort of a sundial - we do of course not know what exact time this sundial was meant to capture, but ... for that moment in time, it actually was very close to lunch time and so ... the knobs showed us a straight up and down shadow. I have no doubt that at different times of the year if knowledgeable about the different corresponding knobs one would be able to precisely pinpoint this or that particular moment in time.

Here is proof that these little building blocks were not just carved on the spot they were found. Take note of all the smaller, flatter rocks used as a wedge to aid this carved boulder into position. It looks as if it never got to its final destination, it might have just been about another foot or two ahead, but this is where it came to a halt and has stayed for a goodly amount of time now.
 Just to make sure that everyone's perspective stays close to accurate. these are not minute boulders, these are large, gigantic several tons each, boulders - and once again I have to marvel at how they did it. The boulders I have sat down in front of are separated by narrow strips of carved granite, which all fits into the slits between each mega boulder. Wonder what it would feel like to have just two minutes of looking back in time to see how it all happened. Would we all  be horrified or would we slap a hand to our heads and say 'ah, of course, why didn't we think of that' or...... was it with the aid of the aliens?

The buildings and the views from everywhere we turned gave ample opportunity to stop and marvel, or stop and meditate, at way off in the distance sights or ....

 right there in front of our very eyes, something small yellow, the size of a thumb nail - a very yellow/green little lichen clinging to an ages old rock - someone had been around here making some sort of an offering. There were withered flowers left on a flat part of this rock - and signs of something having been burned.

Back down from one of those high points we went to look at the Water Temple - water is a connector between the upper and the lower world - looking out through the 'window opening' were more layers of mountains and some points which are points to take note of at solstice time, summer or winter - I am not sure, but along side the mountain walls opposite these points were several carved niches and points witnessing the fact that something special would have gone on here or there at specific times of the year, when the points and the sun coming up or going down connected and allowed the humans to know which day and what time of year it was.

Textures and colours, my favorite thing, so many purple rocks, not to mention the yellow ones and ... the reddish brown ones, these carved relatively smooth - sigh - it was a pleasure to stroke and slide a hand over these surfaces.
 More parts to this area still to be uncovered. There is so much to be found still under the surface of sand and rocks - when the Incas realized what was happening when the European intruders came along they started to cover up their treasures, their mummies and the evidence of their richness and magnificent culture. Hoping this was a way to preserve some of it - not for the future but for their dead ancestors to be left in peace the way they had always been left in respectful peace before - unless they were taken out to view their lands and grounds - they were no longer living, but they still had ownership and knowledge to share.

From high up into the layers and layers of beauty, down there in the bottom of this winding valley runs the road upon which the taxi brought us to Ollantaytambo. Sitting here in Nova Scotia,  between my two local mountains, the North and the South mountain, well, I have lots of blue/grey/cold horizon but no layer upon layer. This Peruvian view was so fascinating to me, fading away into the distance.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Extra wash

 Weeks later when the skin on my hands and my face had ceased being bumpy, red and irritated I got the now dried yarn out and started to wind it into balls. The aim was to do what the Andean weavers do, which is make sure that there was a tight enough twist in the yarn for it to easily weave up into bands and show sharply the beautiful patterns they put in their woven bands and large woven pieces. The next day I discovered that perhaps my allergy was not only to the sun, for the skin on my hands were again beginning to show signs of irritation and I must have touched my face whilst winding balls for my chin and cheeks were showing a slight red irritation as well as giving me an urge to rub and scratch. So I went to the market, bought a pair of rubber gloves, borrowed a baby tub from my landlord and washed and rinsed all of my skeins of yarn with laundry soap and copious amounts of cold water.
 This of course put a slight stop to my eagerness to make a warp of my own and weaving with my own handdyed and then tighter spun yarn from Chinchero. The consolation was that... the view out of the window in the laundry room lead my eyes straight to a most beautiful and large cactus and you know..... then it is hard to be cranky, everything was beautiful and right around me and so....... it was my job to focus on making sure that my yarn was free of whatever it was that along with too much sun added to the my skin irritations.

And here they are, once again on the line, the skeins sporting a rainbow of chilca, cochineal, old man's beard, a dried yellow flower and a mix of same + left over cochineal - made my eyes smile and laugh at the same time.

Wonder what the passing hummingbirds thought of this display - did they come over for a closer look - in case that cochineal should be a giant juicy reddish flower - or .... did they pass the intruding brilliant rainbow by to head to their ever present favorite bushes showing off their spring flowers?

After the dye workshop

Braulia and Emerita having a sit down talk instead of a stirring talk. 

I found a few more photos from that beautiful dye day in Chinchero, Peru, where Braulia patiently entertained and worked with me - for many more hours that first decided and was it ever a treat that I was not 'limited' to a few hours but could use and did use up the whole day - we did not leave the premises of her back yard/dye studio until after 4 pm. A long warm sunny day and ... we had had loads of fun and in the bags I carried to the bus was the proof, heavy wet skeins of beautiful yarn.

Emerita, stirring the pot of cochineal - Emerita is a stone carver and a painter and a history teacher, her stories of the events and timelines of the comings and goings of historical figures and buildings in Peru kept my ears flapping for the 9 weeks that I lived in Calca and went to 'school' Monday to Friday at Apulaya.

Photo by Emerita

I found this in another album, busy grinding cochineal for the dye pot - as I mentioned in the previous post, I was slow and meticulous - moving the round rock from the right to the left hand at regular intervals - my muscles are not ..... really used to this kind of  hard work - it is ... perhaps not the hardest job in the world I know that.... but then again, just like breathing at high altitude which was a job in itself if I tried to pretend that I needed to hurry from A to B - grinding by hand requires its own set of toned muscles. But I got it done.

Photo by Emerita

This is one of the lovely photos that Emerita took whilst I was busy .... doing something else, who knows what - perhaps grinding more, perhaps trying to figure out whether to wear my sunhat or the sweater or not. It was a warm day - and there was semi shade by the stove - and so .... a lot of the time I was not wearing my hat, I got too hot, and I even chose to not wear my wool sweater - thinking I would be warm enough - results of the hat decision can be seen at the end of this blog post.

Photo by Emerita

200 grams of nice wool yarn taking the colour of the chilca leaves in the dyebath. A pretty pale yellow - the skein was hot and nicely saturated by the dyestuff. But since we were not looking for pretty pale yellow but rather for a deep pungent olive green the yarn was lifted out of the pot and then...

Photo by Emerita

We added this sulphur to the dyewater, stirred it well and ..... threw the pretty yellow skein back into the clay dye pot.

Photo by Emerita 

This is what came out after a few minutes - pungency and dark green instead of delicate yellow. Green is a challenge to me - in that I don't seem to be able to really get hot and excited about it - give me reds and oranges for that please! But.... this skein dried up really nicely, the colour lightened up a bit and really..... it is a lovely green which has the perfect hue to brighten up the reddish purples of the skeins dyed with the cochineal.

However the result of the on and offing of my sunhat was this - we were up high in the mountains, I knew that the air is different, I knew the sun's rays were stronger and yet ..... my brain and preoccupation was focused solely on the joy that I experienced lifting yarn in and out of pots, stirring, later rinsing and then hanging side by side with a chorus of drips and drops of clear water sliding off the skeins. And doing that I was not really taking any notice of the amount of sun I let touch my face. Also.... this stage of the swelling did not occur until about 48 hrs later - when I woke up Thursday morning my face felt funny .... I sat up, looked in the mirror across from my bed ... immediately laid down again, wondering if ..... I should clean my glasses ...... ended up rubbing icecubes on my face and a few hours later had a visit at the local clinic to take home cortisone pills, cream and another A+D cream for when the cortisone treatment was over.
Self portrait!

So People, if you go to the Andes, or anywhere at high altitude ..... don't take off your hats - and do wear lots of sunscreen. And if you are shaking your head at my ignorance - remember, I grew up in Denmark, the flattest of flattest - the highest point is Himmelbjerget at 147 meters, where I live now in Nova Scotia the two bumps we call North and South mountain are not much higher than that - and so ... I have learned a lesson - I keep my hat on - at all times!