And already its my final blog from Peru... It seems to have gone really quickly, though when I look back on all the different things I´ve done in this diverse country I can´t believe I´ve crammed it all into just under 3 weeks. I´ve a feeling despite this being the 1st country of my tour it´ll be one of my favourites, largely down to the hugely distinct array of cultures evident here. The last few days I´ve been aquainting myself with another culture - that of the Aymara people who live around Lake Titicaca.
The 8 hour bus journey from Cusco to Puno was fairly gruelling. It was all going smoothly until we got to within 40km of Puno and the tarmac road turned to horrendous dirt track. Add to that a 2km diversion through some fields for roadworks as well as the sauna like heat within the coach, and it wasn´t pleasant. I was in a daze when we finally got out into the fresh air again.
Puno is a mid sized city situated right on the banks of Lake Titicaca, which at 3820m (12,530ft) is the highest navigable lake in the world. Yesterday we set off on our 2 day excursion of just a fraction of the massive lake, which could really be an inland sea. The day started with us all getting tuk-tuks (3 wheeled bikes, common in Asia. 2 passengers sit in front where 2 of the wheels are situated and the driver pedals from behind) down to the harbour. It was a pretty fun experience as the drivers all raced each other. It was my 1st ride in a tuk-tuk and it was enjoyable if not a little scary. I´m yet to try a rickshaw which are even more common in Peru. Again, I had previously associated them with Asia.
We then left Shirley our tour guide and met up with our new guide for the excursion, Roger. We had a boat just for ourselves, in which you could sit inside or sunbathe on the upper deck. It was nice except it was the slowest, worst boat in the world. It took us 3 hours to reach the island of Taquille, which was within sight from when we left. The boat also broke down twice and required engine attention on route, and on the way back the steering wheel-rudder connection broke, forcing both drivers to steer manually with their feet using the very stiff rudder pole at the rear. It was a good job the lake was like a millpond.
Taquille was a horrendously commercialised island in which there appeared to be more tourists than locals. We had a wander round, evading the street sellers, and had a nice lunch overlooking the lake from above. Then we got the boat 1 hour back across a really short straight to the community of Luquila, where we were to spend the night on a homestay with a local family. On arrival we were greeted by a local band who ferried us up to the local school, where the other GAP Adventures group were already playing a game of 6 aside football against the footy mad locals on the small concrete pitch. They swiftly lost 4-0 and then it was our turn. Playing football at 12,000 feet wasn´t easy, but it was the most fun I´ve had on this trip since the sandboarding. We played first to two and both sides were so evenly matched the game went on for an eternity. The other GAP team watched in awe! We eventually emerged winners with me poking in from a throw in from close range - queue massive celebrations! We then beat the other GAP team with ease, and then came another epic rematch with the locals. We came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to win a first to 4 match 4-3, before posing for team photos as the sun went down.
Then we were met by a person from our "adopted family" who showed us back to the our home for the night. Me and Thomas were put with a rather shy family who lived right by the school. Our room was reasonable and the bed warm with a tonne of blankets. So many you couldn´t move. They had electricity and running water despite the fact it was an absolute poverty house. Our bland dinner was cooked in the primitive kitchen by our "mother", who conversed with Thomas in Spanish whilst I sat there without a clue what was being said. I did however have some fun with a crazy and cute 4 year old named Omas, who was fascinated by my digital camera. After a while he grasped my name, having persistently referred to me as "turista". Peruvian children are so cute in their local costumes, but it all goes downhill once they turn about 15, when thery morph into hideous creatures. The craggy old women are characterful too, but everyone in between is not pleasant on the eye! Its so hard to guess the ages of people though, since 30 year olds dress like old women.
In the evening we had to don local costumes and attend a dance at the village hall. The men all looked like characters out of a spaghetti western, whilst the girls all looked like those dolls you place over the spare toilet roll in your bathroom. The music was horrifically monotonous and the dancing very rigid, but it was still a fun night. I´m not usually one for fancy dress. After the dance we got to bed about 10pm, but I had a terrible night sleep after being woken at 4am by the loudest cockerill on the planet cock-a-doodling right outside our bedroom door. Donkeys, cows and the house´s pet lamb all added to the noise, and neither me or Thomas got any sleep after. Whats worse is that I woke up with a bad head cold, and am now all miserable and bunged up. Its been doing the rounds in our group and I think I was susceptible to it after getting a chill cruising out on the lake. I bought some meds from the pharmacy today and I hope it clears soon because I can´t breathe or taste at the moment.
This morning we boarded the slow boat again back to Puno, via a short visit to some Aymara communities who live out on floating islands made of reeds. They enthusiastically welcomed us and showed us into their homes, and we then got a short boat ride on a reed boat, though I was too bunged up to appreciate it all. We got back to Puno about 1pm and I caught the last 15 mins of a Stoke v Chelsea re-run on Fox Sports and then Spurs v Man Utd on ESPN. Both in Spanish sadly but still good watches. Despite my feeling unwell I went for a walk with some of the others up to a massive condor statue offering beautiful views of the lake and city, complete with reed fires in the background. We´ve just been for some cake as part of Sarah´s 23rd birthday celebrations and tonight I may try some guinea pig with my dinner (not as a main course) as all the locals rave about it. Its my last night in Peru as tomorrow is an 11 hour public bus ride to the Bolivian capital of La Paz. I´m just hoping the swine flu paranoid border authorities let me through with my cold. Those who arrived in Ecuador had to pass through a heat screener before being allowed entry. I can´t see Bolivia, South America´s poorest country, being so stringent though.
Anyway, adios from Peru.