Well with a week spent around the worlds highest and largest navigable lake in the world, I must say we have had quite a few unique, first time experiences up here. At 3800 meters (12573 feet), its pretty amazing to look across a body of water and get lost on the horizon.
We arrived in Puno, the major city situated on the Peruvian side. We booked a two day tour to see the various islands owned by Peru. First stop was the floating reed islands community of Los Uros. A little over-commercialized, but amazing none the less to see this unique way of living. These people have lived on islands made out of torta reeds for thousands of years, and some still maintain their traditional lifestyle (apparently they did this to escape being under the rule of any other civiliation and it has worked). The islands are made by starting with 3 foot thick blocks of reed roots that are dug from the ground (they float). Next they pile on hundreds and hundreds of reeds to build a base that you can walk on (although you have to keep a keen eye for rotted sections). Every
ten days they add a fresh layer and the lowest layers starts to decay. There are littleraly hundreds of floating islands with a few families on each. Each family is independant i.e. if they decide they don^t like the families they are living with they simple cut their part of the island off and float away to join up with a new party. How sweet would it be if you could do that with your home?? The islands open to visitors are a little on the commercial side but it still gives a great picture of this unique lifestyle. There are two other communities floating on the lake that still live the traditional way and do not allow visitors.
Next stop was the Island of Amantani where we spent the night. They have lived and farmed this island for thousands of years and still live a pretty traditional lifestyle. Apparently they just got electricity but the generator is not working so its back to solar power light bulbs or candles for the time being. That evening we went out partying with the local flavour and were encouraged dress up like them and party local style! Needless to say this
involves a lot of dancing which we are both horrible at, but we ripped it up anyway and had a good time!
From there it was off to the island of Taquille were they run a socialist economy - interesting concept but it seems to work when all the economy consists of is a little tourism and a lot of farming. All decisions must be decided at the Sunday gathering where all the islanders can vote on every issue. Funniest thing here is that the men do most of the knitting and they have to knit their own hats, floppy touqes that are coloured differently depending on whether or not they are married. Andrew, youÂ´d fit right in here!
We returned to Puno and the following day decided it was time to head over Bolivia. But first we had to check out the Temple of Fertility. More ruins I know, but how can you not snicker when you walk into a temple devoted to the carvings of massives dongs all over the place? As I ve said before those Incas were crazy people and it was here they sent virgins and their women who had problems conceiving. Its
Stupid Bus Driver...
your best guess what they tried to do here... us on the other hand, thats another story...
The Bus Crash
So after the temple we hop on a local bus to take us to the border. Just another bus of hundreds we have taken before. The road to the border is in perfect shape and flat. Everythings just peachy until halfway when we get to the longest straight stretch I have seen so far in South America. Ahead of us, two mini-vans have stopped to drop off people and somehow our bus driver misjudges the distance between us and stopped vehicles. He leaves it far too late to stop and because there was on-coming traffic, his only response was to lay on the horn, tap the breaks gently and swerve into the ditch to advoid ramming the vans at 80 km/h. We hit a steep ditch and roll on our side, taking out a huge concrete billboard with us.
We were on the downside, Nas at the window and after the dust cleared, Nas was laying in a pile of broken glass with me and two others laying on top of her. After the initial
confusion and wailing by woman and kids, everyone managed to get out and the human damage was luckily very small. One dude got a concussion from a falling box, and Nas was the only other one with any substantial injuries. We were sitting right where the bus struck the concrete sign so our window shattered before the side hit the ground, meaning Nas got the worst of flying glass. Fortunately she was wearing a coat and only got minor cuts all over her right arm and a small one in her lip. Other than being shaken up, we are ok. Nas went back to Puno with a tourist bus, while I had to stay with the bus to get our bags. Since they were in the baggage compartment under the bus, it began to seem like I wouldn t be getting them for a long time. I started to get fed up and started examining the upright baggage compartment and sure enough there was a 1.5 foot space that connected the two so I jumped in and rummaged for our bags (by this point it was every local for himself, half had already flagged down other buses and continued on
with their journeys like this was a regular occurance for them!) I finally got the bags free and threw them out and got the hell out of there myself, as there was diesel dripping from the rear gas tank the whole time... Next thing I know I was off to the hospital with one very hospitable family (gramma, gramps, mom, dad, three kids, a dog, me and two big backpacks in a toyota corolla - makes for one cozy fit!!)
Got to the hospital and Nas is waiting for me to bring cash - we found out in Peru they don t touch you until you buy all the equipment necessary from the farmacy first (including latex gloves). So a whopping $3 later, I had everything needed for the staff to get down to business. They were really nice though and fixed Nas up real good and fancy with nine stitches over four cuts. They didn t even charge us for the work done to her, just a 6 dollar consulation fee. At the end of all this we are lucky to have gotten away with such few injuries and are we thanking our lucky stars. Nas is doing
Eating a Reed Banana
You just peel the skin off and eat...
just fine and says to tell you that she gets her stitches out tomorrow!
So one day later - we get over our fear of buses and do the same trip to the border and WE MAKE IT. Hooray! Hop the border to Bolivia and get to Copacabana,a lovely little beach town much more relaxed than the Peru side. We did a really great hike down the coast and hired a rowboat over to another island called Isla del Sol. This island was our favourite of all of them for its varied landscape and georgous views of both the lake and the massive Cordillera Real, the largest part of the Andes Mountains in Bolivia. We spent a night here and then caught a boat back to Copacabana. The best thing in Copacabana was the daily blessing of the atuomobiles, where everyone brings their vehicle to be blessed by a priest. Its quite comical seeing people decorate their cars, and once their cars been blessed celebrate this memorial event to the extent of breaking bottles of champagne and lighting fireworks!
So we ve had our fist taste of Boliva and are heading inland to discover the rest. Talk
to you soon.
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