Published: February 5th 2009January 31st 2009
Hola mis amigos,
It has been a week since the trek yet the images from Machu Picchu still swirl through my head.
I left you one week ago when we hopped a bus to Puno (Lake Titicaca) which took a beautiful ride through yellow flowered land and rolling snow capped mountains. Along the way we visited different artisan shops and small towns of different character. The most obvious difference was their churches. One catholic church dubbed the ´sistine chapel´of Peru also had other influences such as a giant Islamic star which was carved into the ceiling... a striking contrast. Another church was quite large, dark and seemingly abandoned which happened to mirror the feel of the town. I noticed the floors and walls were crumbling as I stepped in small pot holes, and any art work was nearly faded, yet the entrance still produced a small donation box. It would take more than a few soles to fix up that place.
Our arrival in Puno was marked by a tremendous view of Lake Titicaca, a lake that I had only read and dreamed about until now. A gorgeous sight from a town that could never do it
We spent the evening enjoying some local food at a good price on the well known 'calle lima´and prepared our activities for the following day which involved a phone call to Cristina and Victor, a family who lives on the unique 'Uros islands'. (Amanda and I got the tip from a couple we met horse-back riding in Cusco.)
I have never seen anything like they way the Uros people live...talk about sustainable. There exists some 64 or so islands all built from the totora plant. We luckily escaped the traditional tourist boat and tour and smiled to ourselves as Victor loaded us onto his small fishing boat. We slowly made our way through a maze of these totora plants, witnessing many different speccies of birds that made Victor chuckle as they scampered away from our boat. A 30 minute ride and we entered into the Uros community. Cristina and her daughter Mary greeted us as we stepped onto an unusual and unstable floor made of totora reeds. We took our first close up glimpse of one of these islands and stood aghast at how much these reeds were put to use. EVERYTHING was made from them, from
the ground, to the houses, to the boats and even the decor.
Walking on the floors was a struggle itself and something only the Uros could master. We learned that since the floors do slowly deteriorate and sink, the Uros re-layer their lislands 3 to 4 times a month, each time taking 2 days: 1 day to cut all the reeds and the 2nd to lay them across the whole island (which involves lifting their small totora roofed homes to lay some reeds underneath). It sounds like a lot of work but it is what they live for so they have the time!
We spent the afternoon hearing about their incredibly unique way of life, enjoying a fresh lunch of trout, potatoes, corn and vegtetables and dressing up in their traditional clothing for 'picture time'. We each became Cristina´s doll...she chose colorful skirts and jackets to wrap us in and braided our hair with incredibly large, heavy, colorful woven balls which seemed to belong in a carnival fiesta. It was quite fun and to top it off they took us out on their gigantic catamaran like boat, also made of totora reeds and takes 3 months to finish
(which actually seems quite fast).
The following day we jumped a bus to Arequipa, dubbed the 'white city'because most of their buildings are made from local white volcanic rock. The plaza was beautiful and had the first palms I have seen in Peru. Arequipa is a great break in order to enjoy other types of food such as crepes or turkish kebabs- one of my favorites and a memory of late night food I use to eat in Spain.
After a night we quickly made the four hour ride to the Colca valley which boasts the second largest canon in the world. We spent the night in Chivay, a cute small town where we enjoyed some much needed hot springs. We woke early in order to catch a 4am bus to 'cruz del condor'or a location 2 hours from Chivay that exists the best view of the condor. (Of course they only fly in the cool hours of the morning and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss them). Around 7am four massive condors flew in the surrounding canon just below us. Their graceful flight mixed with the first bits of morning sun peaking into the large
colorful canon was enough to make me want to set up camp right there.
From here I split from Amanda and Erika. They went off with one other (who luckily speaks fluent Spanish) to hike into the canon and stay in the bottom of it for the night, a trek that is supposedly more difficult when hiking out than the Inca trek was, (however they ended up taking mules out which was probably smart). I chose to save my knees from the pain and took the day to stop at the many villages within the Colca Valley. I first stopped in Maca. I barely took one step off the bus before a man placed a giant Andean bird on my arm. It shocked me as the talons were quite sharp but after some time I felt quite comfortable. The man explained he was named ´Juan el bueno´, or 'Juan the good'because he doesn't bite. hah
The small village of Yanque also impressed me with snow capped mountains adorning one side even though I was sweltering from the heat. A museum there explained a lot about the region and had wonderful artifacts from ancient civilizations as well as a
replica of the famous frozen sacificed 'Juanita' of the Inca.
I traveled back to Chala to see an old Inca built bridge before making my way back to Arequipa for the evening.
After an 8 hour bus ride through my first sense of desert and along a long stretch of Peruvian coastline (where I witnessed dolphins swimming), I arrived in the 3,000 person populated town of Chala. My hostal room looked onto the beach and without hesitation I ran into the ocean, shocked at how cold it seemed.
Chala is the town closest to 'Puerto Inca', an archaeological site on the coast built for those who ran from Cusco to collect fish for the high officials. They would send the message through runners to the coast and within 24 hours dresh fish would lay on the plates of the most high. (Cusco is the other side of the country and the trek to the coast invovled going up and over the Andes, not an easy task).
I woke at 5:30 to begin a 2 hour trek in the cool hours of the morning, and along the beach with the goal of finding this small almost forgotten site. Unfortunately the locals speak quite fast and mumble most of what they say so I only gotten broken information of how to find Puerto Inca. I walked the entire length of the beach and when that ran out I hiked up the main highway to a path that I thought I was told to take. I thought I heard that there was a shor