the "Little Sistine Chapel of the Andes" in Andahuaylillas
Early we leave for another bus-day. It's supposed to be a long 8-hour-drive to Lake Titikaka. And high up into the mountain. Luckily, our buses are comfortable and they all carry a bottle of oxygen with a mask. Just in case.
The road leads us through magical scenery. The road is quite good, and there is barely any traffic. We pass little villages with clay huts scattered over the land, and cultivated fields. Again I feel the pressure in my head and I know it's only a matter of time when the nausea sets in. There are mountains all around and we get higher and higher.
We stop at Andahuaylillas, a little village famous for its church. It's covered in frescoes and monumental golden altars, which gained it the name of "Little Sistine Chapel of the Andes".
temple of god Wirakocha in Raqchi
When we get there, restorations are going on, but we are allowed to go inside. The artwork truly is amazing, but what catched my eye was the Holy Family at one of the altars - Joseph, Mary and little Jesus fabric dolls with features of the Quechua people. Lovely! What also catched my eyes were the trees outside on the square - huge and beautiful! The guide explained it's a local sort, but I forgot the name of it.
We stop at another village, Raqchi, where there are ruins of a temple devoted to god Wirakocha. As soon as we set foot on the village square, the women start setting up the market. When we return from the Wirakocha site, there are plenty of shopping opportunities. The historic site is located practically in the middle of the village, and I can't blame the people taking advantage of it.
The use of the public toilet costs 1 Sol, for instance.
But, it was a nice break, and we continue our journey after a while. Soon we break the 4000 m/asl mark reaching Abra la Raya pass at 4338 m/asl. It gives view on a glacier and on desert land. Above 4000 m/asl nothing grows, except quinoia and barley. The quinoa is the main food here, since it provides the vitamins and minerals people don't get from fruit and vegetable which cannot grow here. The barley grows but desn't ripe completely, so that it's planted for cattle food only. It's astonishing to see how people have adapted to this rather inhospitable environment. But it is a magically beautiful environment!
We arrive in Puno, a million-inhabitants-city at lake Titikaka.
Our hotel lies at the shore, on a peninsula. Though my head seems to be exploding of pain, I join the group on a tour to the Uros people. With a little motor boat we are taken across the lake and soon stop at one of the floating islands. A friend gives me a Caffetin pill which releases me from the horrid headache. Just the smoldering nausea deep inside my stomach awaits there as if waiting for the right moment to ambush me. Anyway, I try not to think about it and pay my attention to the head of the island as he explains the method of constructing this floating island. It's just chervil, a kind of papirus, that is being cut and layered into 3 m thick bundles, then tied up together to form a severeal m2 big island. Four to five families live on one island, with one man being the president
lake Titikaka with Puno at its shores
They live in chervil huts, and build chervil boats. The kitchen is open air in the middle of the island consisting of earthen ceramic little stoves. I smile at the sight of a solar panel, that seems so out of place here. They use its power for TV, radio and light. Though the weather is cloudy and chilly, they walk around barefooted, wearing colorful dresses and bowler hats. It's kinda weird to know that they have no way of making a fire, no place to warm up. The guide explains that nevertheless the Uros people live a long life, mostly reaching the 80s, but suffer from different rheumatic diseases from an early age on. Upon my question what they do for a living, since there are no fields to cultivate, he answers it's fishing and tourism. Visitors like us provide their salary, and as we are taken to the main island we cannot but buy some handicrafted souvenirs. The saleswomen are not very keen on haggling though.
We return to our hotel and after a nice dinner I go check my mail. In every hotel we've been so far, there was free internet which was perfect and fast.
The nausea won't leave.