Lake Titicaca

Thu, 27 Mar 2008 21:40:42 +0000

Puno Index Cuzco

Well, I got sick. It was bound to happen: I consider this just a tax you pay for visiting these kinds of countries. So yesterday's boat tour of Lake Titicaca wasn't quite as enjoyable as it should have been, and today I'm certainly in no condition to write an upbeat blog entry. Despite that, I started out with just a headache, so I managed to enjoy it nevertheless.

Unfortunately, there's no pictures today: my memory card got corrupted. I think the photos are still on there, but I'll have to wait until I get access to a proper computer with Linux before I can try to recover them.

So the day started early, with the bus picking me up from the hotel a bit before 7:00. We assembled ourselves onto the boat and we were introduced to our guide, Stephen. He gave a reasonable commentary in English and Spanish, which made it fun to correlate up the words and learn a little Spanish.

First stop was the floating islands of Uros. These I particularly wanted to see: an artificial archipelago made of reeds floating on the lake. I was really interested in how much sheer work is involved in that, and the answer is, a lot. The islands felt rock solid, although it's weird to walk on a soft carpet of dried reeds. A bit like walking on a bouncy castle.

We were introduced to the head man of one group of ten families living on one island. It's pretty clear that the locals spend most of their time supporting the swarms of tourists, rather than the fishing they are nominally supposed to make their living from. And that always makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to gawp at quaint foreign cultures, especially when the only reason they bother with that lifestyle is to draw in people like me. People should lead their lives however they want to, in privacy. Instead, a bunch of the women in traditional garb were wheeled out to do a dance for us. I'm sure most tourists love it, but I just have to do my best to put up with it.

Still, I got a ride on one of their reed boats, which was fun. The reeds make excellent insulation, so it was lovely and warm to sit on. I also got to try eating some reed. Rather watery, but suprisingly crisp. Doesn't taste of much, but I guess it does the job. They also grow potatoes on the islands, which I thought was a little out of left field. I guess you don't want to live on reeds and fish all day.

After leaving Uros, the next stop was Tequile island. A proper rocky island this time, but unfortunately much the same deal: a native culture gutted, stuffed, and mounted for the benefit of tourists. It's a beautiful spot: craggy and green, with the blue of the lake spreading all around. We had lunch of soup and trout on a hillside looking out over the lake, and it was a gorgeous place to relax. Afterwards we were treated to more dancing by the family that runs the restaurant. Again, it had me cringing, especially when we were all invited to participate. I counted myself among the refuseniks I'm afraid.

Then we walked through their main plaza, the most amazing feature of which was the drystone free-standing arches they've built everywhere. Why, I'm not sure, possibly just so they can put crosses on top. And finally we decended a spectacular rock staircase down the hillside. This was the best view of all, picture postcard perfect in the afternoon sun.

The ferry ride back to Puno lasted two and a half hours, and by this time I was really starting to suffer. Still, I made it back to the hotel in one piece. And then there was last night, about which the less said the better. Right now, I've taken my Imodium, and instead of my plan of wandering around Puno, I'm going to sit in my hotel room and maybe try to catch up a little of the sleep I missed. Luckily, I had today earmarked as a recovery day anyway. The real issue is the next few days, which are quite tightly booked, starting with a bus to Cuzco at 10:45 this evening. Hopefully I'll be fit enough to travel. Machu Picchu is supposed to be in three days time, so if I make it to Cuzco, I'll probably be in good condition for that.

Puno Index Cuzco