Okay folks, this is going to be a long one.
Our bus ride a few days ago from Cuzco was actually the bus ride from hell. Cuzco to Puno should take about six or seven hours. For us, it took ten. This is because we were apparently on a tour bus that stopped to show us more ruins every so often. At that point, I was a little Inca´d out and not really feeling it. The plus side was that I got to see more of Peru. I saw even more rainbows than I did before in Cuzco. Rainbows with the Andean mountains in the background is quite a sight. And, the highlight of the bus entire trip for me, was seeing flocks of flamingos hanging out in one of the lakes. I never really pictured flamingos with snowcapped mountains as the backdrop, but I´ll take it. More flamingos to come!
Puno is the main launch point to explore Lake Titicaca (teehee). Affectionately called Lake Boobypoopy. Yes, we´re mature. There´s a main street with tons of neon lights, a reggae bar, and hundreds of women asking you if you want a massage. Err, no thanks. We were told not to eat meat because Puno is even higher than Cuzco (we´re now at 12,500 ft.) and meat is harder to digest. So we played it safe and got pizza. Excellent pizza, actually. Being that we were completely lame and totally tired, we went back to the hotel room and watched some TV. America´s Next Top Model was on. TyraBanks is just as crazy below the equator as above.
In the morning, we caught our bus to the docks. Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world. It´s not what I pictured at all. In my mind, I pictured more of an oasis. Don´t get me wrong, it´s stunning to be on a lake surrounding by mountains, with blue skies and the clouds are closer than they have ever been, but it just wasn´t what I was expecting. Our boat looked like vomit central. Tiny, and shaky. Our guide was a really nice Peruvian woman that said everything in Spanish, and then English. She also wore a tshirt that said “Blondes `R`More Fun”. Given that she had black hair, I´m going to go with she didn´t understand what she was wearing.
The first islands we went to were the floating islands. Yes, floating islands. The people, the Uro, rely on a plant called totora for EVERYTHING. They make the islands with the roots and then hundreds of layers of reeds laid on top, they use it to make their boats, their homes, and they even eat it. It tastes like celery. Don´t worry Mom, I had the Benedryl with me…just in case. One of the islanders took us to his home and showed us his kitchen, which was outside. They live in one room huts. The family all sleeps in the same bed and there is a small TV above the bed. Each house uses a solar panel to get their energy. How progressive! They live in huts and use technology that we are still struggling to make common practice. I almost stole one of the little children running around, but I figured he´d be difficult to get through customs. Oh well. These islands essentially cater to tourists. As we got on the traditional boat to go to another floating island, they sang a song to us. It ended with ¨hasta la vista, baby!¨. Which is obviously hilarious, but somewhat sad at the same time.
While I was on the boat made of totora, I noticed that this one girl was staring at me. My first instinct was that something was on my face, but after a bit of small talk she asked me where I went to school. She said she recognized me and graduated with me from Richmond. In fact, she lived on the first floor of my freshman dorm. Wow. Small world. I´m on a little boat on Lake Titicaca in Peru, and I´m sitting next to a fellow Spider. How bizarre.
We went to the island of Amantani, where we were spending the night with a host family. As the boat arrived, we saw all the host moms lined up on the dock in traditional clothes. They all looked so tiny. Most of them, in fact, are barely 5 feet tall. They wore white tunics with floral embroidery, bright colored skirts, thick multicolored belts and black scarves on their heads. We followed our host mom up the hill in silence. She climbed the hill in sandals without stopping, as Jason and I huffed and puffed. I´ve never felt so inadequate. She led us to our room and then scurried away. The top of the doorway hit my chin. I felt like a monster. Haha.
After she made us lunch, we walked up to meet our tour to hike to the top of the island. While we waited, there was a friendly pickup game of soccer between the locals and the tourists. I have no idea who won. I HATE soccer.
We ate dinner with our host parents in their dimly lit kitchen. I somehow managed to hold a conversation in Spanish, but all of my previous Spanish teachers would have wept openly if they had been there. Despite my language deficiency, we talked about Barack Obama (who they referred to as “elnegro”), the price of college, and our families. Then, my host mother dressed me in clothing similar to what she wore earlier and gave Jason a traditional poncho. I had always assumed that the women were short and kind of rotund, but in reality, it is the skirts that make them appear so large. I bet they´re all very skinny. Dressed up and looking kind of silly, we joined all the other silly looking tourists in a rec hall and had a fiesta. The best part was that in between dances, our host mom and the other host moms would gather in the corner and sneak beers. Haha.
The next day we said goodbye and visited the island of Taquile. Much of the same, but still very pretty. It took us three hours on the boat to get back to Puno. Honestly, I could have swam faster than the boat. That was our last planned tour. We felt so free! I´m thrilled that the adventure of figuring things out for ourselves is now present.
I´m currently in Arequipa, Peru´s second largest city. Nothing too unusual about it–snowcapped mountains in the background, the whole deal. Tomorrow, we go to Chile. The plan is to spend a few days on a beach. I am very excited. Traveling for such a long time without a home base can get tiring. But for me, the hardest part about this trip is suppressing my inner political wonk. I want to know what´s happening, all the time. But I´m loving this trip. And I can read a few days worth of news at a time when I get to a computer.
Once again, please excuse all grammatical and spelling errors.