Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lago Titicaca

As transcribed from my journal on July 2, 2011:
Floating Island
I`m writing this on a boat crossing Lake Titicaca. Unfortunately, it`s rather unimpressive. I had heard how beautiful this lake was, but it appears that these people have never visited on a cloudy, dreary, rainy day. We visited Isla Oros whih is actually about 60 or so tiny islands constructed from reeds by the Aymara people. Apparently, you can do alot with reeds- build islands, build houses, eat them, etc. I signed up to go on the day trip with Scottish James. We are the only two people in my hostel. Such a change from the party hostel I just left! James is in the same place in life as I - quit his job to go traveling after everyone told him it was a bad idea. Poor guy has to put up with little sick me. Yes, I got sick (with a cold, not food poisoning). It`s very curious that I`ve been in Peru for almost a month and haven`t gotten food poisoning, even though I eat everything I`m not supposed to: street food and raw fruit and vegetables. No, I caught a cold from a girl on the Inca Trail. Luckily I got sick AFTER visiting Machu Picchu. Coincidentally, the weather got really bad in Cusco the day after I finished with Machu Picchu (once again, lucky for me!).

Boat made from reeds on Lake Titicaca
My last day in Cusco was quite fun. Scottish Andy (who was my friend for all the time I spent in Cusco) and I took advantage of the rainy day by continuously finding places to eat at. I think we shared about 5 meals together that day as the Inca Trail had expanded both of our stomachs! We even found a coffee shop. A REAL coffee shop. It`s very curious that Peru exports delicious coffee beans, but everyone here drinks instant coffee. They also drink tea, or mate (meaning herbal tea). Here are your choices for tea: black tea, chamomile, anis, lemongrass, and coca. Peruvians believe that coca leaves cure EVERYTHING. Anyway, Scottish Andy and I went dancing at the bar in the hostel until 2am, which seems late but since the bars in Cusco close around 5am (if ever), it really wasn`t that late. We kept joking that we were the only ones who could actually appreciate the 90s pop music they were playing because we were a proper age when the music originally came out and the 19-year-old gap year kids in the hostel had barely been born!

One benefit of visiting Puno was learning more about the strikes during the month of June. A kind woman working at my hostel explained to me, albeit in spanish, that the majority of people in the Puno area are farmers. Apparently, the government based in Lima signed a document granting a foreign company the mineral rights in the agricultural lands around Puno. Therefore, the farmers and inhabitants of Puno went on strike. A number of people were killed and you can still see the aftermath of the protests (broken windows, etc). Downtown Puno is a ghost town right now as far as tourism is concerned because people are too afraid to visit. However, hooray for the protesters because the government signed a document saying that they will no longer sell the mineral rights. YAY! As I learned in my rangeland class, mining in third world countries can have an extremely negative effect on the agricultural land which the local native people need to farm in order to survive.

Anyway, Lake Titicaca proved to be rather disappointing. It`s cold (freezing!) and I hate being cold, dreary, and over-commercialized. I`ve been in many tiny villages in Peru, but I got the impression that the native folk on these islands were faking it for the tourists. So I`m going to take my frozen self and head north. I hear it`s warmer near the equator.
Plaza de Armas - Arequipa

UPDATE July 3, 2011
This morning I arrived at the bus station in Puno with a bus ticket to Cusco in hand. But at the last minute I decided I didn`t want to go back to Cusco. So at the very last minute I bought a ticket to return to Arequipa. I figured that if I was going to be sick somewhere then it should be somewhere familiar and comfortable, not as cold, and at a lower elevation. So I jumped on a local bus (as opposed to the swanky tourist buses that I`ve been taking) and made the journey back to Arequipa. The bus was disgusting and packed with people, and if I hadn`t been sick then I would have appreciated the culture. But finally, after a 6 hour bus journey and taxi ride later, I arrived back at Casa de Avila. I walked into reception and was immediately greeted with, ´´Melanie! You came back!`` followed by a big hug. At that point I knew I made the right decision to wait out my sickness in Arequipa. I`ll head north when I feel better.

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