Church in Andahuayliallas
After relaxing in Cusco, we took an eleven hour bus down to Puno which is the large, industrial city sitting on the shores of Lago Titicaca. This was a “tourist” bus which was quite comfy and included a guide, a stout little woman who’s English was somewhat questionable. Along the way, she narrated in a combination of Spanish, English, Spanglish and perhaps Quechuan (the local Inkan language) at various stops at a church (Catholic of course) in Andahuayliallas, ruins at Raqchi, lunch at a small, touristy buffet place and Pukara where we saw yet another church.
Lunch was actually kind of fun because we met a 22 year old kid from New York who was doing his big travels before heading off to medical school.
The ruins at Raqchi were OK but most everything after Machu Picchu kind of pales in comparison. We did manage to stumble onto a wedding ceremony there (we have a brief video) which was pretty funny. Pukara was hot and boring and we were ready to get to Puno.
Market in Raqchi
We eventually arrived in Puno which is a big, ugly, industrial city and stayed at a reasonably nice hotel called the Conde de Lemos located close to the square (and marvelously furnished - hahaha). We woke up early the next morning to start our two days on Lago Titicaca, ending up with a fairly diverse group of people including an older English ex-pat couple living in Reno Nevada, two daughters and their parents from Canada, two French guys who had been traveling for the last nine months and a group of Spanish speaking Japanese kids.
Woman in Pukara
The first stop was on the famous “floating Uros Islands” which are really floating islands made of reeds - pretty bizarre. This time it wasn’t food poisoning that got Cindy but altitude sickness. Puno is at about 12,500 feet and Lago Titicaca is the worlds highest navigable lake if my third grade geography (that made me laugh so hard…) holds correct. The weird thing was that we had been in Cusco, Salkantay and Machu Picchu at altitude for over ten days already. While touristy, the islands were actually pretty cool and we were given a brief overview of how the people live, how the islands are built, etc. before taking a ride on one of the boats you see in the picture to a second of the islands (there are lots of them floating around.
Lake at Pukara crossing
After wandering around a couple of the islands and not buying any of the pretty tacky souvenirs (much to the dismay of the residents) we headed back off on our boat for three or four hours to Amantani Island where we would be spending the night with a local family.
We landed at a tiny harbor on Amantani and were eventually met by our “families”, we ended up being the last picked up by Ruperta, our jovial little (OK short, not little) house mom who spoke of course no English (and our Spanish is not exactly stellar). She proceeded to hike us up to their house on a goat path and then showed us our room which was actually very nice. There was even one single 15 watt light bulb (but no plumbing, much to Cindy’s dismay).
We rested for a bit in the room before being called down to a lunch of soup, rice, potatoes and squeaky cheese - that’s right, squeaky cheese. Apparently the Peruvian’s have some mystical way of making cheese that actually kind of squeaks when you eat it, somewhat like Styrofoam. Well Cindy, suffering from altitude sickness and believing that Mr. Atkins must be at least partially correct and eating a meal of rice, potatoes, more potatoes, some more potatoes prepared differently (supposedly Peru invented them and have thousands of varieties…) is probably not a great diet, decided that there was no way she could even come close to finishing her plate. We didn’t want to have Ruperta and the family thinking we were not gratefully so I unsuccessfully attempted to eat my lunch and hers….uggh…The picture of their kitchen shows how modest their accommodations are - it was so smoky that Cindy couldn’t sit in there and I could barely see.
Red Stone Church at Pukara
Uros Island Boats
After lunch and meeting her daughter Ruthie, we started to hike up the hill to meet the rest of the group with whom we were going to hike up to the summit of the island and see the Pachataka temple and watch the sunset over the lake. Ruperta handed us off to her husband Eduardo who patiently waited for us as we slowly hiked up the steep road to the basketball/soccer field where all the touristas were gathered engaged in a soccer match with the locals. Once everyone arrived, we all hiked up to the temple which was further and steeper than anyone thought, but we did manage to see a very nice sunset and Bolivia in the distance.
After the hike back down, we went and had dinner with Ruperta, Ruthie, Eduardo and their oldest son Roberto who was visiting from Arequipa.
Dinner was in the smoky little kitchen and was pretty much the typical quinoa soup, rice, potatoes, more potatoes and some more potatoes. After dinner, the locals put on a dance/party at the community center and all the travelers who were visiting were dressed up in traditional Peruvian garb (see the picture of Cindy and Ruperta) and dragged out to dance with the local women (who were very enthusiastic). You all know what a fine dancer I am (*cough*) and even I could not avoid it and managed to dance with Ruperta and a couple other local women. Eventually we trudged home along the dark goat path and actually slept really well in our modest little bedroom.
Uros Island Baby
The next morning, we hopped back on the boat for a several hour ride over to Taquille Island.
The lake is so huge that if you squinted your eyes, you could imagine being off the coast of Baja California instead of deep in Peru. After a steep hour long hike, we arrived at the little village where they had lots of pretty nice but over priced textiles. We ended up buying some bracelets from the cute little girl in the picture and then having a really good fish lunch on the hike down. The World Cup (that would be soccer…) was going on and the two French guys were plugging their ears so that they wouldn’t hear the results of the game. I am sure they were later thrilled when their star player Zidane head butted the Italian guy (who was supposedly saying but stuff about his sister…) and got thrown out of his final game…After a steep hike down the hill (knees still complaining) we climbed back aboard the boat for the three hour cruise back to Puno.
Baby Girl on Uros Island
I ended up talking to the two French guys the whole way about their travels over the past nine months. They were both actually very cool (most of you know the French and I don’t always get along ;-)) but unfortunately close to the end of their adventures and headed back to Normandy to start careers in physical therapy.
Ruperta in the kitchen on Amantani Island
We got back to Puno and hung around the Conde de Lemos hotel watching TV and then had a really nice dinner where I managed to lose a filling - I can’t seem to travel or ski without having some sort of dental crisis. We finally headed to the bus station for our night bus to Arequipa late that night and prepared for the worst.