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2012 Peru Day 10 Morning

Good Friday, April 6, 2012

We awaken today with the plan to travel on towards Cusco. It will be a long day and may take 2 Blog Posts to get there! Outside of our hotel in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the normal hustle and bustle carries on in the streets. We walk 2 blocks to a luxury bus that will carry us today. We manage to get front row seats!

We travel through Juliaca, a neighboring city and the sights are interesting.

Into the highlands again and the scenic vistas are breathtaking! Yellow and red quinoa fields abound (pronounced keen-wah) before we arrive in the town of Pukara for a rest stop.

In Pukara (or Pucara) the attraction is the “Sixteen Chapel”, we believe it to be a bad pronunciation of long ago in an effort to mimic the famous Vatican Chapel. But it is Good Friday and they are decorating for Easter Sunday. Outside, children play in the streets and we also see an older woman pulling her delivery bicycle instead of riding it. The road out of town is dirty and muddy, but our bus navigates it okay.

Then it is back into the highlands where we pass through random towns, some with names that are difficult to pronounce.

Soon we come to open pastures where flocks of Llamas and Alpacas graze. The bus stops to let us stretch our legs. Vendors display many products for sale that are made from these animals. We look but don’t buy anything. A sign tells us we are at 14,200 feet!

Driving on, our bus stops at “La Pascana” restaurant ‘Turistico’ for lunch. This is an open air restaurant overlooking a river and pastures that we walk in and are promptly spit at by a feisty Llama! Again, vendors display their wares in hopes of selling us something. The gardens are bright and filled with colorful flowers.

It is time to travel on. We will continue todays story in the next Blog post!

2012 Peru Day 9

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So we wake up after an amazingly good night’s sleep in a strange bed with a still warm rock at the foot of it and we go into the dining room and have a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit and coffee! Our host, still dressed in her traditional native garb sees us out and down to the docks. We also left her with an amount of Peruvian Pesos but I can’t remember the amount after all these years and it’s not important. Just to know that we did. Our private 50 passenger boat is there with our guide and driver, their names have also eluded me now. They take us down the shore to another dock a mile away and we disembark for our next planned adventure. You can see by the photos what it is comprised of.

Now would be a good time to call us crazy! We are 59 years old and getting into sea kayaks for a 4 mile journey out to Taquile (pronounced Ta-kee lay) Island! Now add to that idea that the surface of Lake Titicaca is at 12,500 feet above sea level (3810 Meters for our friends around the world) and it is a given that breathing is challenging sitting still on dry land at this altitude! But not to worry! We can DO this! So we get suited up and get in the kayaks and get the sea boots sealed up. I have even put my camera in an underwater case for photos! But the exertion is such that not many photos get taken. My camera sobs with disappointment. Okay, so paddling… And paddling some more. I look back. Wow, we are about halfway as the shore in front and the shore in back look equidistant. But I am exhausted. I can rest here for a bit. Just stop paddling and rest for a few minutes. But I didn’t estimate the size of this lake. Calm waves are 18-24 inches. When you stop, they wash over you. It is severely uncomfortable. Have to paddle on… Is this silly excursion going to be my demise? Why am I thinking stupid thoughts?

No, the solution is to paddle on. Wait, I’m feeling better. I think this is what you call ‘getting your second wind’. Okay, I can do this! I paddle and set my sights on the shore ahead. Paddle, damn it! I get into a rhythm and calmly paddle and paddle and paddle. Did I mention that our private 50 passenger boat AND and a small power boat are powering on each side of us? No, I guess I didn’t, LOL. We have never been in any danger. Our guide is in a kayak with us! At the instant we get in trouble, we have a rescue kayak, a power boat and a passenger boat at our rescue. But my story sounded so good, didn’t it?

Well, anyway, I get to shore on Taquile Island first. Our guide actually struggles to catch me because he wants to be ashore first to assist us out of the kayaks! The guide tells us we are his slowest clients. We tell him our ages and ask him if we are his oldest clients and he laughs and says we are!

So now that we are totally exhausted, Our guide suggests lunch and we heartily agree! He says lunch is up on top of the island. What we don’t understand yet is the top of the island is 1200 vertical meters up or 4000 feet which puts the top of the island at 16,500 feet (5030 meters) which is the highest altitude of the entire trip! At least the path is somewhat smooth. So, after exerting yourself in kayaks for 4 miles at high altitude, how do you climb this path? Simple, one foot after the other! So we climb and climb and climb. There are no vehicles on this island, everything is foot powered. We see several people and sights along the way and our cameras do their best to capture the good shots!

We make it to the town on top and think, “Wow, we’re here!”. But there is still another 300 vertical meters to go (1000 feet). So we plod along and Elee almost doesn’t make it. I help her and we walk slowly together and sure enough, we finally come to Restaurant Flor de Rosa and find seats for lunch. This trip was 9 years ago and what we ate eludes me, but getting here was the memory! We even came across a vendor selling raw meat just laying out on a tarp!

So now our bellies are satisfied, it is time to go back down to the lake. Lucky for us, Elee’s knees were in better shape back in 2012 so going down is stressful, but not impossible! We pass many people both on the way up and the way down. One thing our guide explains to us is the color of the tassels that both the men, women, and children wear. They define the marital status that you have and whether or not you are of age and/or available! A young lady who is 18 and single wears a white tassel. A married adult male wears a red tassel with blue strings in it. A young lady under 18 wears a blue tassel to signify she is to young to be betrothed. The rest of the colors are forgotten to me.

We make it to the Lake and board our 50 passenger boat for the trip back to Puno. we witness sunset as we pass back through the Islands of Uros and it has been a good, yet exhausting day! One of the last sights we see is a cloud shaped like a bear, fun to see!

So we check back into our hotel for the night and we’ll see you in the morning!

2012 Peru Day 8

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This morning the skies are overcast but not threatening. Once again the restaurant is on the top floor and there are views overlooking Puno and Lake Titicaca. We are at 13,000 feet and comfortable as we get acclimatized to the altitude. We drink the Coca Tea and enjoy our breakfast. We are just finishing up and the hotel brings us word that our ride is here. We step outside and our driver already has our bags loaded in the taxi. We take a double take as we realize our taxi is a bicycle powered open cart! This is going to be fun!!!

Our driver speaks almost no English, but he knows where we are going. It is probably not really difficult for our driver as it is all downhill to the Lake. He probably has to use most of his energy on the brakes! He takes us to a market near the lake edge as we need to buy some supplies for our next destination. So we buy 10 pounds of Sugar and 10 pounds of rice. You’ll see why soon!

It turns out we have to carry our possessions across 3 boats and onto a 4th boat where we find our ride is a shuttle boat with seating for 30-50 people. We are the first ones on so we take the front seats. Before we know it, our guide and the driver cast off and the boat is underway. Hey, what? We are the only ones on the boat! It turns out this boat is all for us and we marvel at the attention showed to us. We go by an island with what appears to be a large hotel in the middle of it. We never do get any info about it. But in about an hour, we arrive in Uros, a section of the lake that is filled with reeds growing and dozens of man made floating islands made from these reeds. Our destination is “Santa Maria Island” where we disembark and the boat leaves.

Our cameras are busily clicking away at the sights of reed boats with creative animal faces designed into them and floating isles. The wife of the couple that lives here takes Elee into her hut and dresses her in native attire for fun and a camera moment. We meet the family that lives here and they take us into their hut and show us how they weave the reeds into useful things. They also show us how they chew on the reeds to keep their teeth healthy. These people have the whitest teeth we have ever seen! The father brings out a bowl and shows us the fish he caught this morning for their dinner. He has to fish every day as there is no electricity for refrigeration. A group photo is taken for us and the wife brings out a needlepoint tapestry she has made and our wallets are about 100 US Dollars poorer after we buy the tapestry and a model reed boat for souvenirs! But you can see that tapestry in our hallway framed any time you visit us!

We all go back outside and they now demonstrate how they build and maintain their island. Walking on the island feels very spongy and comfortable to walk on. It is quite the intriguing process as they have to add reeds to the top of the island as the bottom slowly rots and disintegrates into the lake! There is a small tower that they let me climb and I take a shot of all of them below us and then Elee and I get onto a reed boat and the husband paddles us across to another island that has actual wooden buildings on it.

The paddle across is uneventful yet quite a fun ride!

We get off the reed boat onto the larger island and it turns out this is where their schools are. They have a fish farm for food and we walk around letting our cameras lead the way to colorful and interesting shots! This island has electricity and even a pay phone! We see a sign spelling out “Tupirmarka” and it takes a minute to figure out it says “Supermarket”, where you can buy food and clothing! Our large 50 person boat is here and we re-board it for the next ride.

The boat now takes us through the reeds and past more floating islands as it weaves its way out onto Lake Titicaca, sometimes spelled “Titikaka”. Another hour or two and we arrive on a peninsula into the lake where our next host meets us at the stone dock. We have to wonder if the people here are dressing for the tourists (our first guess) or if they just get up and always dress in costume. We’ve seen some that appear to always dress this way.

Before we ever leave the dock, my camera begs me to shoot some sunken boats and the thought hits me that these people are so poor, so why did they let them sink and not patch them up? I never get an answer. We strap our luggage onto our back for the hike up the hill (we have luggage that converts to backpacks just for this trip!) and our new host leads the way along with our guide that is with us for two days here. We get there and drop our bags in a windowless room that is shown to us. When I say ‘windowless’, I mean there are openings in the walls with reed mats to cover them, but no formal windows!

We are told the children here are still in school and they have to walk an hour in the morning to get to the school bus and then walk an hour home in the afternoon! Their school day with the walking goes from 6 AM to 5 PM. So we take a walk around the area and see what we can see. From a small herd of sheep to the backside of the complex we’re staying in to signs identifying the area we’re in!

We give the sugar and rice that we purchased this morning to our host as we were requested to do something like this. Because it is almost Easter, we have also brought some things for the children. We knew before we started this trip that we would be staying with this family and that they have 3 children. So just for fun, we have brought plastic Easter Eggs filled with candy and before the children got home, we hid them around their yard. Now it must be pointed out here that the concept of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs doesn’t hold any meaning in South America because they represent Spring and the beginning of life. In South America, it is Fall and they don’t have such pagan rituals. This family doesn’t speak English, they speak Quechuan. An Indian language. Lucky for us, our guide speaks Quechuan. So we explain the ritual and game to our guide and he translates for us. As soon as these children understand how the game is played, you’d never know it was new to them. They took to the game like any children do!

Then we sit down to a vegetarian dinner with the family and the kids are happy and curious. They ask questions which our guide translates and stories are shared. The meal is delicious and we bring out more goodies for the kids in the fashion of Coloring Books, Crayons, Writing Notebooks, Pens and Pencils. They start going at the coloring books and the little one falls asleep at the table.

Mom and Dad have the new goodies put away and the kids go off to bed. We chat with our guide for a few more minutes and then say goodnight ourselves and turn in. Before we do, the mom brings us two hot rocks wrapped in towels and instructs us to put them at the foot of our beds. We do and our feet stay toasty warm all night!

See you tomorrow!

2012 Peru Day 7

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We awaken early for this morning’s excursion. We walk to the town center to await our ride for the day, a 15 seat bus. While in the town center, a group of children dressed in native garb comes out and music starts playing and they dance for us. Quite the fun sight and as you can guess, a tip jar is passed around the groups of spectators! We drop some coins in and our day has begun!

Another bus picks us up today. We head out around 6 AM for a ride up to Condor Pass and we make a 10 minute stop in Maca for some locals that hope we’ll spend a few dollars. We get some fun photos with a little girl and her Alpaca and a lady that has a trained Condor!

We make it to the top of Condor Pass at 7 AM, the time the condors start soaring to warm themselves for the day! Absolutely amazing! Literally hundreds of Condors fly in and out of the canyon! This the deepest canyon on earth at a depth of 4160 meters or 13,640 feet deep! We are standing at about 11,000 feet but the mountains across the canyon are several thousand feet above us. For the next two hours, the magnificent Condors fly and our cameras are singing! Colorful vendors sell their wares to the crowd of spectators as this is one of Peru’s highlights for tourists. Elee buys a hat which gives us permission to photograph them. For any of you that would like to hear some Peruvian Pipe Music, here is a link to “El Condor Pasa”, a Peruvian tune supposedly written for this place, and with a little research, it turns out that Simon and Garfunkel did a version of this in 1970! The Simon and Garfunkel version here

Standing here at 11,000 feet, watching the largest flying birds on earth soar gracefully back and forth is a sight I wish all of you could witness! Even baby Condors learning to fly are here. The canyon is ablaze with Wild Lupin larger than any I’ve ever seen. Some blossoms are more than a foot tall! Our bus group gathers for a group photo before traveling on as the Condors have settled down after warming themselves.

We travel back down to a place called “Chivay” and stop for some refreshment, to use the restrooms and a lunch stop.

The bus travels on for several hours, climbing through the Peruvian Highlands and a brief stop at “Mirador de Los Andes”, back at 16,000 feet and this time we don’t over exert ourselves. Supposedly, several volcanos can be seen from here but we only get a glimpse of part of one, “Volcan Hualca Hualca” (pronounced ‘walka, walka) because a rain storm has taken over the area. Back on the bus and another hour or so and we descend down to 13,000 feet and arrive in “Puno” on the shores of Lake Titicaca (yes, a real place!), the highest ‘navigable’ lake on earth! It is dark now, so photos will be few until morning.

My stomach is feeling a bit queasy, probably from something I ate and I recognize the signs early as possible food poisoning. So Elee orders normal food for dinner but I order dry toast and 2 bananas. The waitress brings me a banana milkshake and I cringe for the absolute last thing I want is a non pasteurized milk product. We finally get her to understand that all I want is the bananas and she brings them.

We have an early day scheduled for tomorrow and my stomach is on edge so we turn in for some sleep. See you all tomorrow!

2012 Peru Day 6

Monday, April 2, 2012

Today we awaken to a beautiful morning. We enjoy breakfast on the top floor of our hotel like most hotels in Peru. We don’t forget to drink the Coca Tea! Arequipa is only at 7660 feet above sea level but we are told we will go much higher today! Then we board the same small bus we were on yesterday to travel on our way to Colca. The same set of volcanos appear throughout the morning! The volcano in the first photo is “Volcan Misti”!