Puno | Safely Arrived | August 1, 2004
We just arrived in Peru and the city of Puno. Puno is nothing special and is on the Peru side of Lake Titicaca. Fortunately when we arrived in the city, there was a huge fiesta going on. They wouldn’t, of course, block off the street so as we were coming into the city, we were weaving through dancers in a parade. Just outside of Puno there is a city with a fertility temple. Before it got dark we went to the temple and posed with the 82 oddly shaped erect rocks (I won’t go into details). Kids outside the temple tried to sell us little rock miniatures. We thought they wouldn’t go over so well on a shelf at home. Later tonight we booked a tour back out into Lake Titicaca where we will visit some islands and stay with some local families! -steve
Puno | Floating Islands | August 3, 2004
Well friends, we just finished our two day tour of island hopping on Lake Titicaca and it was quite impressive. For example, we took a boat ride to the “floating islands” where the Uros people, a small tribe, live(or so they say, we think it’s just for tourism). The whole island is made up of interwoven totora reeds and they use these reeds to make everything from the islands themselves to little model boats to sell to tourists. The islands are pretty small consisting of maybe 5 or 6 reed houses with everyone selling stuff. We asked the tour guide where the people use the washroom and he mentioned that they use one side of the island to pee and crap and the other side for fresh water. But what the people don’t know is that these are floating islands and so they move around depending on the direction of the wind. I would be careful of the drinking water if I were you.
Well friends, our next island was Isla Amantani where we stayed with a local family. You can tell that this island was made for tourism because they have special toilets for the gringos (real ones and not the stinky holes that the locals use) and a total separate sleeping quarter with clean blankets. That afternoon we played football with the locals and we got creamed of course. Us gringos were huffing and puffing because of the altitude and all the locals were laughing and us. What I don’t get is that all the locals were playing in their dress shoes….maybe that’s the secret. Later on in the night we had a traditional fiesta where everyone got dressed up and looked pretty. They gave us some snazzy Peruvian toques and ponchos to wear for this festive occasion. We were 3 hot guys looking for some action! That night we showed the Peruvian girls what it meant to get funky. Actually it was weird because the girls were leading the guys but we finally caught on. And so we danced the night away. Quechua dance was a bit odd, almost plain to an extend. We had to add a bit of a Russian dance just to spice things up which everyone loved.
Well friends, the next day we hopped to Isla Taquile where we hiked to the other side of the island where the Uros people where doing their traditional dance in the plaza. They said it was a 40 min hike to the other side but us gringos did it in 20. All aclimatized – we are all ready for Macchu Picchu! The people were wearing their flamboyant traditional clothes and seemed to being playing the same songs but it was nice seeing them dance around in their costumes anyways. We took a 3 hr ferry ride back to Puno (sunbathing on the deck and getting a good tan) and will be taking an overnight bus to Cusco – yeah baby!!
When we made it to the island where we were going to spend the night, we were informed that there was a soccer game going on and we were to get a gringo team together to play the locals. This happens pretty much all the time and we always get beat. This was especially embarrasing this time though because we clearly didn’t have the advantage. These locals play every day and at 4000 meters I can make one strike and then I have to sit down.
After the soccer game we were told there was a fiesta going on that night. This was a little suspicious. I tried to find out whether or not they do this for the foreigners every night but I couldn’t get a straight answer. It was clear that the local island folks liked having us there so I planned to have a riot. Our host family dressed us up in traditional clothing (textile ponchos and touques) and we were off. The locals were ready to get dancing right away and before I knew it, this 60 year old lady was working me to the max. This lady wouldn’t let go and she was hurting my arms. I tried to take the advantage by incorporating some high school jive moves. Later in some sort of line dance everyone had some good laughs when Kevin, Ryan and I started incorporating Irish jumping heel clicks and random Russian yelling
Cusco | Sacsayhuaman | August 4, 2004
Today we hung out in Cusco all day after another fantastic overnight bus. Cusco is surrounded by a bunch of ruins which can be hiked to from the city. The most famous other than Manchu Picchu is Sacsayhuaman. It is probably just as fun saying the name as it is actually visiting the ruins (roughly pronounced “sexy woman”). After that we definitely went a little overboard with shopping for clothes. As I speak, I am completely decked out in the greatest Peruvian garb. I won’t describe anything because it will all be too apparent from the way we will be dressing in the next 2 years.Another funny thing that happened resulted from the numerous times we were offered drugs today. Marajuana and cocaine were the most frequent offers. Anyway, one of the times I muttered something under my breath like “stop bugging me” or “get lost”. The guy switched from his Spanish into perfect English saying “hey man, someone’s got to sell it”, in a funny voice. All of us cracked up loudly including the guy. The rest of the day as we were hassled to buy random (many hilarious) trinkets, the new phrase kept us optimistic and cheery.
Other than that, we are getting very close to the reason we came to the continent: hiking the Inca Trail to Manchu Picchu (most famous ruins on the continent). Seriously do a search and check out the pics if you have never seen it. Ok gone for 5 days!
Cusco | Trek to Macchu Picchu | August 10, 2004
Well, we just finished our longest trek yet this trip. It started high in the snowy mountains up to 5000 meters and continued down into the tropical jungles at 1500 meters. By night we had pestered our guide enough – it was clear we wanted to eat guinea pig. Our cook (the genius) found this no challenge at all. We were staying near a local house that night and absolutely everyone around this area has guinea pigs running around their floors for special occasions. At the time, I didn’t know we were actually going to get to eat them so I was catching them and petting them etc… Then a lady walked up to me and I thought she wanted a turn petting the cute little thing but she grabbed it and broke it’s neck right in front of me!
At that moment for some reason, kevin wanted to get a picture of it. It some sort of attempt at revenge, or maybe kevin’s special touch, the guinea pig started emptying its bladder with forceful projection. Kevin spun around and everyone was screaming and jumping out of the way. The locals were hysterical. At this point I was not quite sure if it was actually dead yet and I wanted it back to revive it or something. But the killer lady grabbed it back and then while it was still warm and twitching (me still shocked and jaw dropped), she proceeded to skin and gut it. After getting over that shock (and getting most of it on video, hehe) we had a great Peruvian classic dinner (guinea pig is the national specialty).
I mentioned our cook was a genius. Seriously, Julio cooked up the most amazing things that you wouldn’t expect on the side of a mountain. Everything from gourmet soups to great pastas and deserts. Everything had garnishes and 10/10 for presentation. I almost lost it when he brought out this cake one morning that he somehow made in a pan. The next couple days were kind of a downer because I got sick (again). This time it was for a just cause though – over exerting myself over mountains (in addition to the normal path) and drinking too much non-purified river water.
For the last part of the trek we were walking along train tracks. I got further ahead then the group and didn’t realise they took an alternate route along the road. The tracks started to go through many narrow tunnels. I knew there wasn’t supposed to be any trains coming but I would still enter the tunnels with caution, creep half way and then take off running out of fear just in case a train would come. At the 4th or 5th tunnel I was over that fear and was just casually walking through the tunnel. Half way through I was shocked to hear the sound of a train. I took off running and good thing because a train did enter the tunnel. I made it out of the tunnel with ample time but I definitely needed the run. Later I checked and there was lots of room to pin myself against the wall of the tunnel (that would have been the more thrilling option if I had another chance 🙂
Alright, day 5, the pinnicle of our trek and our reason for coming to the continent: Manchu Picchu. I think I can only describe the ruins it in one way. Manchu Picchu is the probably the most stunning sight on earth but you have to share the experience with 500 people you don’t like. I guess that is not totally true.. we did try to befriend a couple American tourists at one point – but not because we wanted to respond to all their questions – we wanted the remains of the sandwiches they were going to throw out. We chatted for 10 minutes and finally we got offered the remains. Then it was back to explore the ruins some more. Don’t get me wrong, we had the most amazing day and it was well worth it. We got up at 4:30 AM and hiked to the ruins, making it there before everyone. We sat up on a hill for the next 2 hours and watched as the morning mist slowly revealed the ruins. It was absolutely fantastic. The rest of the day was hot and sunny and we got the best pictures. -steve
Lima | Luxuries Please! | August 13, 2004
Nope Dad, we haven’t been attacked by Shining Path yet and we weren’t on that bus wreak containing all the Canadians. But we have been on many busses recently. We are heading northward to Ecuador quickly cause we are running out of time. We just finished a couple days in South Peru in the Colca Canyon near Arequipa. The canyon is the deepest in the world and a great place to catch a glimpse of some condors.
We have been getting a little sick of travelling lately and have been making excuses to find luxuries whenever we can. For example, instead of 3 meals a day we go to a good restaurant and eat enough for the whole day. A couple days ago we walked into a buffet (cost 17 Soles). We planned to eat for the whole day and the owners noticed. We got the bill and it said we owed 25 Soles each! We were furious cause it was supposed to be all you can eat. They said we ate too much. Some of the people in the restaurant started trying to help us out too by this time. Then they switched their minds and said we ate too many deserts. Now, I did have 8 or 10 desert plates but still, it was all you can eat right? After some extended pursuasion, we got out paying no extra.
Another luxury – we decided to try a more expensive bus for once. This one had full reclining seats, served supper, and had movies! The funniest part was after the first movie, the conductor handed around bingo cards. We were laughing our heads off but played along as he read the numbers over the bus intercom system. Ryan almost won. I think it is good that we only have a couple weeks left cause we are finding it difficult to be the cheapest ever. However, as for hygene, Kevin still insists on being The Bum. -steve
Puira | Time to Stock Up! | August 16, 2004
We spent last weekend in Piura in Northern Peru staying with a family that Ryan is distantly related to. Staying with the Falks was refreshing and they made us feel at home. Some of the memorable events were eating yuka and plantane dishes along with seafood cooked (supposedly) in lemon juice. We also drank purple corn juice which was amazing and made various fruit shakes out of the passion fruit tree behind the house. One day after lunch we went walking looking for wild iguanas. When we had found enough we entertained ourselves by making scorpians attack eachother. That’s it for Peru though! On our way out we made sure to stock up on the essentials – Coca tea and Inca Cola. It is difficult to leave these essentials but we have a good stock that should last for a while as long as we can survive carrying our heavy new burlap sacks full of stuff.