Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Its been a while since I've written, so if this gets long or boring just lie to me and tell me you read it. I'd never know the difference. Actually, I have a feeling that's what's happening at restaurants and on some of the tours we've done. Who really knows. Ignorance truly is bliss...
So the last time I had written my mom and I were on the train on our way from machu pichu back to cusco where we spent another 2 nights. Like I said in the last email, cusco is a beautiful city but next time I go I think ill dye my hair black, get a really dark tan and do my best to dress like a local. Yes, I'm aware I stand out as a foreigner but that does not entitle every kid under the age of 8 to try and sell me finger puppets, water color paintings or postcards, all of which they say they make themselves.
How talented the youth of Peru are! While I'd love to buy a postcard from every kid in cusco its just not feasible, although they do take visa if you say you don't have any money on you. Nothing like a .33 charge to your credit card. I was wondering if I'm a bad person because after being followed for 4 blocks I begin to get annoyed with the parade of kids following me down the street, and was wondering if I should just turn around and give them the Soles I have in my pocket which equals about $1. Just as I was about to make my move, I turn around to find another little boy trying to sell more of the same postcards, and when I tell him I don't need any, he says "f - f - fyuck you"! While I was obviously shocked to hear this, and a little disturbed, the boy's pronunciation was what really got me.
If you're going to swear at me in my own language, make a better effort than that, PLEASE! That got me thinking...it wouldn't be such a bad idea to open a language school out here. I am TEFL certified...
After being accosted on the street by an angry gang of 8 year olds, we quickly laughed it off and went shopping. Or, continued shopping you could say. I now have enough hats and scarves to last me until next winter...I tend to lose things rather quickly.
What we did the next couple of days is kind of a blurr in terms of order, but most of it involved eating, drinking (I've learned to like me a nice pisco sour!) shopping and sight seeing. We booked a tour to some of the significant ruins just outside of Cusco
, the most impressive in my opinion being Sacsayhuaman.
My new pet lama
For the rest of you gringos, its pronounced sexy woman. I know...ha ha...our tour guide really loved that joke... The construction of Sexy Woman (it takes way too long to write it out the right way on my crackberry) was begun in 1440 and is said to be the most important incan monument after machu pichu. It was really impressive to the eyes! Its said to have housed up to 10,000 people and served both religious and military needs. Today only the outer walls are left standing, but supposedly it took 20,000 workers to cut huge pieces of limestone and marble - the largest weighing 361 tons - and build the city, piling huge rocks onto huge rocks.
We were debating whether or not to go to lake titicaca because it ended up being a lot farther from Cusco than we originally thought.
Parade in Puno celebrating the Festival of the Virgen Candle
That was my fault as I refused to plan any part of this trip in advance, but I'm so glad we went: aside from machu pichu it ended up being a major highlight of the trip. We got on a flight to Juliaca
, which is about an hour from Puno/Lake Titicaca. After a very dusty drive to the lake we checked into our hotel and got going. We had met 2 Americans on our flight who were characters to say the least (there's nothing like watching a 27 year old guy hit non-stop on your mother) but had a good time with them. We were staying at the same hotel and booked on the same tour of the islands the next day, so no escaping them quite yet! We were there at a great time, totally by luck. The first 2 weeks of Feb happens to be Puno's biggest festival, the festival of the virgin candle.
A drink with the locals
There were hundreds of Andean singers and dancers parading up and down the streets, each dressed to represent their district. We watched this for a good amount of time then walked around a bit, had dinner, and a lot of wine. After finding a random regge bar and dancing way too much we went back to the hotel to sleep. Somehow I think I should have known 5 hours of sleep wouldn't be enough.
We were up the next morning at 4:45 for an amazing tour of the islands in lake titicaca. First off, a little info about the lake: it looks like an ocean its so big. The mountains pore into it creating an amazing sight and its so high up it looks like you may be able to reach your hand up and touch the clouds. Its the highest navitagable lake in the world, sitting at 12,550 ft above sea level.
The women of the Uros Islands
Legend says the first Inca and his sister emerged from lake titicaca and founded the inca empire. While that's a very interesting theory and makes for a rather romantic myth, all I'm thinking is incest anyone???
We boarded a boat with a nice rooftop deck and went to see the Uros Islands, a group of 40 man made floating islands. The islands are made entirely of woven totora reeds. The people who live here use these reeds for everything. They're the floor, make their huts out of them, make their boats out of them, and even eat them. We took a boat ride on a reed boat from 1 island to another where we were pleased to learn the inhabitants there recently got a microwave telephone station. Its truly another world...
We got back on the boat and after 2 1/2 hours of the most beautiful scenery ever, we arrived at another island.
Mike and me in the Uros Islands "Hotel"
This one was called Taquile. I was very upset to learn there was no tequila here but quickly came around when we began hiking to the top. The people here didn't speak Spanish, but instead Quechua which explains why when we asked some of the locals how old they were they looked at us like we were crazy. My guess is they were about 110 years old but wouldn't have known it anyway. We were here for a couple of hours, hiked a good amount, had lunch, watched some of their festivities for carnival, and bought more hats. The next day we flew back to Lima
but not before I got totally soaked by a little boy who attacked me with foam soap. Think silly string but foam...I walked off the boat and this little boy, probably 10 years old comes up to me and shot me with it right in the face.
From the boat ride to Taquile
But oh no, that little boy messed with the wrong gringo. About 5 minutes later I had my own can of foam soap and that kid didn't know what hit him. The locals were very amused to say the least.
We found a cheap hotel in lima, well, negotiated the price down, and enjoyed a relaxing day at the pool. My mom left the next day and I went to meet my friend Mike who's been more than kind in putting up with me.
I've met a lot of his friends, all great people. I'm writing this email from a beach about an hour south of lima, where a group of them rent a summer house. Ill take a pic of the sunset and put it in my next update.
Love you all, and enjoy the great weather you're getting in Chicago.
Adios for now!