Puno, Arequipa and Nazca (well, kind of Nazca)
5/11/06 25 °C
My favorite "travelling associate" and I set out from Cusco one early morning on an unrecorded day of the week (hell, I don't know what month we're in) and took the 6 hour bus to Puno, which is on the edge of Lake Titicaca. This lake is shared by Bolivia and Peru and each side claims that the other is caca. Hey...don't shoot the messenger! The bus broke down halfway through at a little valley right before the train tracks but we had bought two whole chaplas (Cusqueno sweet bread 1 foot in diameter) so that was enough to keep us quiet and happy as the driver carried water from the nearby stream to pour into our engine. That always seems to do the trick! We finally arrived at the bus station to Dan's favorite part of every journey...the part where all the hostel owners surround us at the station and frighteningly yell at us to come with them. I hate this part...it's too stressful...but Dan likes the excitment of this game, especially when it gives us attention AND lowers our price, so we finally went with one woman to Hostel Kukimimu or something like that. That day, we explored Puno, a small but busy market town. We ate at a rundown chicken and fries place where we had the most delicious curry soup until we found a chicken foot in the bowl. But it was still good...I licked the bowl clean...keep the chicken feet coming, Rosa! We booked a tour to Puno's famous floating islands for 7:30 the next morning and went off to sleep.
The next morning, at 6:30 AM, we were awakened by a loud pounding on the door. "The bus is here, the bus is here!" yelled our hostel host. Apparently, we had been given the wrong time. We quickly got dressed and ran down to meet the bus, which took us to the port where we got on a boat with 20 other gringos... and Ryan, our roommate from La Paz! While Dan and Ryan and other Dan (Ryan's friend) caught up on their futbol talk, I took a nap on the upper deck and got completely sunburnt. So I have flea bites on every part of my body AND a sunburn. Bueno. Our first stop was Isla de Uros, one of over 50 islands made entirely of floating reeds...you could swim underneath the island...I mean, if you wanted to. The Uros people built these islands hundreds of years ago to get away from the Incas and other aggressive cultures. They speak only Aymara, a pre-incan language, and their whole life revolves around reeds...reed houses, reed boats, etc. When in Uros, do as the Uros, so we ate some reeds (I ate everyone else's...no one seemed to like them) and then took a reed boat that looked like a dragon to another neighboring island. It stopped halfway between the two islands to get money from us. I wonder what happens to people who don't pay? Ponderings...ponderings. In the afternoon, we took a 3 hour boat ride to Isla Taqila, an awful tourist trap of a place where you have to meet with the "village leader" so he can tell you in which restaurant you can eat your lunch. During a nice lunch of fried fish and rice, we learned the 3 Incan rules: don't steal, don't be lazy, and don't lie. Someone mentioned that "don't kill" wasn't on the list but I think that person was promptly thrown into the lake when we weren't looking. And then it was a 3 hour boat ride back to dry land, playing 20 victorious rounds of cards with Dan, Ryan, Dan, and Amy (USA). I had planned on leaving Puno to go into the Amazonas but only one person had heard of this mysterious route and she had mysteriously disappeared. So rather than end up in a Colombian guerilla jungle base and lose my mother's love, I decided to join Dan and Ryan and Dan on an adventure to Colca Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world (the first largest is down here too). That night, we all went out for dinner while I tried to shelter 18-year-old Amy from 25-year-old guy conversation. Unsuccessfully. To see pictures of Uros, go here: http://www.peru-pictures.org/fotos-peru-fotos-lago-titicaca-fotos-isla-uros/fotos-peru-fotos-lago-titicaca-fotos-isla-uros.shtml
The next morning it was bright and early to get the bus to Arequipa. Dan let us take a rickshaw bicycle down to the bus and this ride remains one of my favorite memories of this trip, almost getting run over by the taxis as we got pedaled down the hill. I am easily amused. Arequipa, Peru's second largest city and home of Colca Canyon, is graced with beautiful architecture, pure white colonial churches and buildings. We settled in at Casa de Reina, in a beautiful corner room with an open air balcony overlooking the white facades of the city. With the sun setting, it looked a lot like Jerusalem! The following two days, we visited Colca Canyon. We stopped at various lookout points, trekked down a windy country road as the boys tried to skip rocks on the lagoons below, and soaked in thermal waters under a sky of stars. That night, we slept under a tin roof in the dusty town of Chivay after playing a very competitive game of "I spy with my little eye" -- which I naturally won. Unfortunately, I found out that British people play the game entirely WRONG. They don't know that you're supposed to say "something starting with blue or red". Instead, they say "something starting with ´a´ or ´b´", a completely ridiculous and wrong version of the game. At times like these, I have to remind myself that it's not their fault they were raised in this awful way. I shudder to think how I would have turned out if I had grown up in a world that encourages letters instead of colors. Get with the program people!
The next morning, we woke up at 5 am and sped out for our first view of Colca Canyon. There were about 12 HUGE condors flying around from our lookout point and some even perched on the cliff right next to us. The wing span of condors is 9 feet! They were so graceful and beautiful...and CLOSE it looked they were coming in for the kill! Well I thought so anyway, so I ducked but noone else did. Apparently, they're scavengers, but you never really know. After this close encounter, we trekked around the top of this deep, deep canyon, think 3 km deep. Back in Arequipa that night, we went out for a dinner on a balcony looking over the brightly lit Plaza de Armas, musicians spicing up the air and hundreds of people strolling in the evening breeze. After that, it was off to play pool where we met Veira and Jackie, two arequipenas who took us out to Deja Vu, where we danced to cumbias, salsa, and rock until odd hours of the night. I got accosted by a drunk gypsie guitar player who insisted on singing "Born in the USA!" at the top of his lungs while I buried my head in my sweatshirt.
The next day, I had to bid Dan farewell. He was going to New Zealand and I was heading out on my own to Nazca where there are huge 2,000 year old field drawings of animals and trees that some people believe were caused by aliens (because you can only see them from the air and 2,000 years ago, no planes) but were probably created as agricultural calendars. It was very sad, this farewell from Dan, my longest travelling friend yet, so I won't linger on it. But it seems that Dan was my good luck charm because after leaving him, I missed my bus out of Arequipa, missed my tour to the field lines, AND ended up in the emergency room after eating some questionable but still delicious wonton soup (damn you, senor Wonton, so tricky!). All in a day's work. In the end, all I really saw of the lines was a sad little steel tower that Petre took me to after our more official tour of the ER (where I made the two nurses rolling their eyes hug me while they gave me a shot in the tucchus!). The worst part was that they told me I couldn't eat chocolate. For five days! Ridiculous advice. Must be a mis-translation. As soon as the red spots all over my body were gone, leaving me with my much cuter flea scars, I got out of Nazca ASAP and got a bus to sunny and gorgeous Ica, home of some of the largest sand dunes in the world. Poolside and sandboarding, here I come!