Our apologies for the delays in uploading photos and writing our blog, it has been a big challenge using the internet in Peru. Even when you finally find an internet it can take 20 minutes to access your email account!
We completed our fantastic journey to Manchupicchu and took some much needed rest in Cusco before meeting up with some Kiwi friends that we met in Ecuador. Cusco is the historic capital of the Inca Empire and is located in central Peru, near the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley) in the Andes mountain range (which I believe its the second largest range in the world?). Anyone attempting to visit Macchupicchu will pass through this ´gringo capital of Peru´, which translates into lots of tourists and a safe and enjoyable environment. Of course if busting tourist hotspots are not your thing than this is not the place for you!
We had already spent a couple days in Cusco prior to our Inca Trail trek where our tour group was given a guided tour of the city and the many surrounding archeological sights such as Saqsaywaman (otherwise known as ´Sexy Woman´). The city viewpoint from Saqsaywaman was incredible, it was like a sea of red roof houses and buildings. The day was full of archeological sites and information about how the Inca empire came to be and their rein of only 100 years. We really enjoyed the city and learning about its rich history. If you take a moment to search the Internet for Cusco you will most likely see pictures of the beautiful Plaza de Armas, the central square with fantastic, Spanish churches that seem to touch the sky. The Plaza de Armas illustrates Cusco´s diverse history while remaining the center of the city´s life and culture.
We quickly learned that the people of Cusco are very proud of their history and culture, however this cannot be said about the current government. It seemed as though every guide or Peruvian we spoke to had a very negative opinion of the current government, and they loved to share their opinions! One guide even stated, with conviction and facts, that Peru was the 2nd most corrupt government in the world next to Nigeria. I don´t know if this is true or not but it did open our eyes and peaked our curiousity.
After returning from the trek we spent most of our time wandering the streets and eating typical Peruvian food for US$ 2 per meal. Nicole was very happy that we found a local vegetarian restaurant that served authentic Peruvian food without the meat! Needless to say we ate there several times in our brief stay!
It was then time to travel on to Puno and Lake Titicaca. Before entering the bus, all tourists were required to put an index fingerprint on the seat chart, a first for us! On some level the task of giving a foreign bus company your fingerprint was a little daunting but all in the name of security, right? Maybe it was to allow rescue workers the ability to identify the body if the bus were to crash? I´m still scratching my head to figure out what the purpose was for. The 6 hour bus ride to Puno passed through some of the most amazing landscapes that we´ve witnessed on our trip thus far. I´m not sure of the exact altitude (very high!) but at the height of the journey the flatlands in the valley were covered in snow and the inhabitants of the rural land proudly made Llama snowmen along the side of the road.
It is hard to find the words to describe the Peruvian landscape, it really is a place that needs to be witnessed with your eyes to truly understand. Passing through cities it became clear that most buildings and construction projects were/are never completed. The majority of buildings are abandoned with four brick walls and a concrete roof that has yet to be completed. Rather than complete what was started a new building was created next door and also never finished. This trend continued for miles and was evident in every city and town. It is hard to understand why so many houses are abandoned and left unfinished, and yet so many people live in poverty. A shame really, and very odd.
We arrived in Puno and quickly sorted out a day tour to visit the Peruvian islands of Lake Titicaca. It was in Puno that we noticed that very few Peruvians actually smoke, probably due to the expensive costs but definitely different from poorer Asian nations. Puno is a small, dirty lakeside town that is poor and littered with tuk tuks and beeping taxis. We really didn´t have any desire to spend an extended period of time in Puno so we set off to the islands first thing in the morning. We visited the Uros Islands, which are floating straw islands that support a large family of traditional Peruvians. The families live on these small man made islands and showcase their lifestyle to eager tourists. It´s tough to understand why anyone would want to live in those conditions but it definitely draws the tourist dollar. After Uros our tour carried on to Taquile Island, which has a population of over 2,000 people. It is a cute little agricultural island that does not have the need for policing. The people wear certain hats to define there marital status, which we found to be an ingenious way to stimulate the dating scene! Single men wear hats with white and red and single women have a certain dress that they wear to let the men know that they are available. Now that is simplicity at its finest! The trip to the islands was definitely a worth while experience but it was also a lot of boat time for limited island time.
We left Puno after only two days and headed to Copacabana in Bolivia, another lakeside town of Lake Titicaca. Hopefully we´ll post photos soon, when we finally get to an internet connection that handle the upload!