Wed, 26 Mar 2008 20:01:17 +0000

La Paz Index Lake Titicaca

If you've ever kept a rodent as a pet, you might like to skip this one.

The bus to Puno left pretty early, and I had to check in by 7:45, so it was an early start for me. Unfortunately this hostel, Loki, turned out to be something of a party hostel. The people sharing my dorm stayed up until midnight, chatting, laughing, and yelling at each other, paying no heed to me very obviously trying to get some sleep. Also, being a party hostel, breakfast wasn't until eight, so I missed out on that too.

But I was in plenty of time to catch the bus. As we drove away, there were some spectacular views of the mountains.

There was also some interesting countryside to watch. Lots of mudbrick buildings and dry stone walls. A lot of the buildings reminded me strongly of Tibet, but that's probably because that's the only comparable rural area I've driven through. Most of the world is probably like this.

But then lack of sleep caught up with me, and I drifted off. When I woke up, there was Lake Titicaca, looking glorious in the thin atmosphere.

The Peruvian border crossing was much, much less painful than at Corumba. Just a couple of forms to fill out on the bus, a few stamps, a few minutes to stroll around the bustling border town, and then back on the bus. A bit later on we were also stopped by what I assume were the narcs, looking for cocaine smuggled out of Bolivia. Very intimidating they looked in their black woolen uniforms, but not very practical in the blazing sunshine I would have thought.

Once in Puno, the rest of the day was all about organising more stuff. Most important being the train to Cuzco, which is supposed to be one of the most spectacular in the world. I expected this to be tricky, since it only runs three days a week. In the event, there was a train that fit perfectly into my schedule, but it was full. So instead I booked the reverse journey from Cuzco to Puno, and a night bus to Cuzco. The train is outrageously expensive compared to what I've been paying, almost 150 US dollars. But it looks pretty luxurious, and hey, luxury is OK once in a while.

Having got various bookings out of the way, it was time for dinner. It may seem ridiculous, but Machu Picchu for me isn't all that important in itself, it was just a target to aim for. The real reason I'm in Peru is to try guinea pig. So I took my opportunity straight away.

Of course, people in Peru eat guinea pig the same way the French eat frog's legs: it does happen, but you can't just get it on any street corner. Instead I had to go to the tourist street and find a restaurant doing Peruvian cuisine. I dislike nice restaurants in general - give me a formica tabletop and a plastic spork any day. But I was prepared to slum it this once. I decided that "cuy" was pronounced more or less "cooee", and that seemed to work.

Unfortunately I had to wait an hour and ten minutes before the food arrived. I was pretty unhappy, and complained. It was probably a little early to be ordering at six o'clock, but still. Anyway, when it finally arrived, perhaps a little pink due to a rush job, I was satisfied with the results.

As I expected, trying to eat the thing without just using your fingers turns into a bit of an autopsy. The skin is the best part - crispy and fatty and falling off the bone. But getting the meat out requires a lot of work. And how much actual meat do you get on a guinea pig? Not a lot. A reasonable meal if you're eating sensibly, but pretty stingy compared to what I've been eating recently. I certainly extracted a good proportion of what was on offer:

Next time I'll try some alpaca.

La Paz Index Lake Titicaca