Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The lake that birthed a civilization, floating islands, more dancing, and some sickness...

This past week I came down with some evil sickness, continued to be frustrated by Spanish, and I travelled to the famous Lake Titicaca--highest navigable lake in the world!! Lake Titicaca is gigantic and gorgeous (although the first morning that was difficult to see, thanks to the rainstorm) and it was fun to see, despite me still being in recovery mode from my stomach bug. It´s a sacred place for the Incas (I´m surrounded by those) as one of the legends about their beginning states that the sun god had his children spring from the lake to form the Incan empire. Seems like a bad way to start a civilization to me, but I guess it worked for them :)
It was also an exhausting trip--we left Friday night at ten o´clock and arrived in Puno (right on the lake) at around 5 in the morning. Ouch. It was a rather uneventful trip, except for a small incident--I was locked in the bathroom for a solid fifteen minutes. Ironically, everyone else had complained about NOT being able to lock the door. I guess I was really freaked out about somebody walking in on me, and also half asleep, so I yanked the door closed really hard. It locked all right, and I ended up knocking and yelling until somebody heard me--a little boy who was the keeper of the keys. However, his key didn´t work, so he got somebody else, who go somebody else...I finally got out, amid the cheers of the crowd that had accumulated. Oh, what adventures!!
Thankfully, I was travelling with several Peruvians, whose connections came in handy. We were picked up at the bus station by Dwight, another Peruvian, who took us to his aunt´s house, where we had tea and talked for awhile. Dwight then used his connections as a tour guide to get us a tour of Lake Titicaca and the islands for an incredibly good price--other people on the same tour were paying over twice as much as us!
We wandered around Puno for a bit before our tour, and I have to say that Cusco is spoiling me--it was a rather dirty, ugly city full of garbage and even rattier looking dogs than I´ve seen in Cusco. The lake was pretty to see--and then it started to pour. I was soaking wet for the next hour, and travelling around in rickshaws--basically a guy on a bike pushing your seat, which has a tiny little umbrella over it--did not help that situation. We did eventually make it to our boat, hoping that the rain would stop so we wouldn´t get hypothermia.
And, thankfully, it did, just as we arrived at the first island--a small little one made completely out of reeds! It was one of the famous Uros Islands, or the ´floating islands´of the Lake Titicaca. The reeds have solid enough roots that are floating for little villages to be built on them. It was pretty amazing, and my favorite part of the trip! We hung out on the island for awhile, meeting a few of the locals and seeing their (reed) houses, and trying on their traditional clothes--a common part of tourism apparently. I looked ridiculous enough that the other tourists--from Bolivia, Amsterdam, Germany and Ecuador--all requested a picture of me. I tell myself this is because I´m on of the few who actually dressed up, but it´s more likely I looked like a complete fool.
We then took a boat made out of reeds (I´m sure you´ve caught on by now to the fact that everything was pretty much made out of reeds) to another island, and explored this one, seeing some local food still alive, including cuy (guinea pig!!), Perú´s favorite local specialty. I still think they´re too cute to eat, but at some point I will get around to trying it!
From there, we took a looooooong boat ride to Isla Amantaní, where we would spend the night. The sun had come out in full force, and it was beautiful when we arrived on the island. We were greeted by the families we were to stay with, as there are no hostals on the island--or cars, or running water, or really electricity--although there was cell phone service. It was like going back in time--we did have nice, kind of comfortable beds, but the kitchen was a little dirt hut with a fireplace. The food was amazing, although I don´t have any idea what most of it was. They were pretty decent Spanish speakers, but a lot of the food only had Quechua names, the local language down here. My favorite stuff was the tea, the mix of onions and cheese and some kind of fruit, and the crepe for breakfast!
After we rested and had lunch with our families, we watched a soccer game (or played, if you had the energy and/or the skills, both of which I lack) and then went for a hike. We hiked Patchatata, one of the two peaks on the island, and got some beautiful views, completely worth the long, hot hike! I had a small crisis when I dropped Hamarabi down a small cliff, had to climb down to get him and almost fell myself, and got yelled at by some random passersby, but it was a good trip.
I was hiking with Laura, my housemate, and Indira, a teacher from my school (we were also sharing a house on the island) and we managed to get very lost on the way down. I think we were all exhausted, but it was really hilarious...except for one one of the islanders refused to listen to my Spanish due to my shining white (or pink...) face. I was rather offended, but oh well. I still speak gibberish most of the time anyway.
We eventually found our house (how we got so lost on a tiny little island is beyond me) and had a delicious dinner, followed by a fiesta which included more local clothing (Laura in their traditional hat and dancing was so funny I laughed for about half an hour) and lots of dancing, which for me was swishing my skirt around and being whipped around in a circle. I was so tired at this point, I practically crawled back to my bed and passed out until the next morning when we were rudely awakened at 6 a.m. We had a delicious crepe and jumped back onto our boat, where we headed to Isla Taquile. The boat ride there was rough, I was rather seasick, which reminded me of Ireland, the only other place I have experienced that awful feeling. We finally made it to the island, where I discovered Dramamine in my pocket and took some in case the ride back was awful.
I was exhausted and just ready for the mainland at this point, although the hike up to the main plaza was pretty (and long) and then we sat around for awhile, waiting for everyone else. The steps down the mountain were rather frightening for me, and next to Indira in her little heels I felt like a fool every time I almost tripped and injured myself. We made it back, relaxed in the sun, and a million hour boat ride later we were back in Puno. It was another gorgeous day, but we caught the earliest bus we could and headed back to Cusco, which I was so ready for!
The bus felt like hours long...especially surrounded by a bunch of smelly Quechua women with their chickens and cats, and I was so relieved to be back in Cusco!!
This week has been uneventful so far, but it´s kind of nice to have Carnivale over--I´m a lot warmer! Although on the bus from Puno I could not escape, and go silly stringed right in the face. That stuff is hard to get out of your hair!!! I went on a field trip today, to the oldest (and most chaotic) market in Cusco, San Pedro´s. It was interesting to see all the foreign fruit and vegetables, and I bought some itty bitty bananas! No plans so far for the weekend, except for a soccer game possibly, between Cusco and Lima...my major plan for this week is getting healthy again! And bidding farewell to my friend Linda, who is heading off to volunteer on the coast.
I hope everything is well with all of you, and I hope my blog is entertaining somebody...and not completely boring, although I think this post takes the award for the longest so far!! What can I say, I tend to be wordy. I love you and MISS you all and would love to hear from anyone!!!!!!!!! Besos, Amy
p.s. No new pictures yet...having some techincal difficulties. But hopefully SOON :)

1 comment:

Jeni said...

Amy!!! It sounds like you're getting along fabulously. I'm glad to hear you shouldn't be getting drenched any more. That's crazy. Although, its pretty tough trying to blend in with the Peruvians looking like you do. Your pictures are great. I can't wait to see more. Take care! love, j