So…. post Machu Picchu and the big night out in Cuzco, I was suprised that I woke up on the Sunday in not too bad a state. Was no longer walking like a weirdo and apart from a mild nausea ( thanks to the Pisco me thinks!) I was not too bad! Me and Viki had a chilled day, went shopping in the markets in Cuzco and then relaxed at the hotel. That night we went for steak in this really cool restaurant. The tables were old bathtubs filled with fish and with a glass top, and there were weird and wonderful lights and pictures everywhere. In the main room of the restaurant the entire ceiling was covered in disco balls and there was a huge silver statue with wings. The food was fantastic too, I had a steak in a port, honey and balsamic vinegar sauce… yum! And it only cost the equivalent of 6 quid too!! After dinner we decided to get a few beers and head back to the hostel for a few drinks and a couple of rounds of 13… a card game that became the ´game´of the trip…along with wink murder (will explain later!!)
After Cuzco we headed to Puno, a pretty nothing place, just the gateway to Lake Titicaca really. After getting off the bus and making it to the hostel we went out for a group lunch. Angel ordered a guinea pig… a delicacy in Peru and Bolivia. We had 1 to share between us all. Well it came out looking like a guinea pig still … although have never seen one sitting on its arse with a tomato on its head…but theres always a first time, (and a last!!) Was pretty nasty to be honest! It was very greasy and there was hardly any meat on the thing! Was way to fiddly to bother. Tasted a lot like crispy duck which I don't like so that's prob why! Plus the whole time I kept thinking about your guinea pigs Cath, and how cute they were…felt so guilty!! Post guinea pig, went for a look around Puno which didn't take long! That night decided to go for a few drinks but ended up out till some ridiculous time and then we all went back to Nickys room after the bar (one of the aussie girls). Woke up at 7am in a sleeping bag in Nickys, apparently I had fallen asleep`whilst everyone else was playing cards… ooops! That morning we were heading to Lake Titicaca… I felt like s***! We got picked up in Tuk Tuks and taken to the port were we got on a teeny tiny little boat that took 3 hours to bob its way over to IsleTequile… felt pretty rough I can tell you! Once we got to Isle Tequile there was a ridiculously steep climb to the top of the island… I swear you need to be built like a mountain goat to live in Peru! We had a traditional Peruvian lunch and then looked around the island and learnt about its culture. There are only about 2000 people who live there so there is risk of inter family marriage. Men knit on the island and they knit their own hat and bag which reflects their marital status. Different colours depending on whether they are single or married. When a man gets married his wife gives him a sash or belt which is woven with intricate pictures, which only she knows the meaning of.
After leaving the island we headed off again in the little boat and made our way to the Peninsula of Lake Titicaca for our home stay. The people of the island speak Imara and on the way we learnt several key phrases in Imara… I didn't master them very well mind!! When we got to the Peninsula we were greeted off the boat by the island band and lots of hand shakes and kisses from the islanders. We met our host family and were then taken back to their house to meet the rest of the family and settle in. Mine and Vikis host papa, was Juan and his house just happened to be the one right on top of the hill!!! His wife Luciana and 2 children, Aurelia and Cassia. They also lived with his parents. We put our stuff in our room and then headed back down to town with the 2 girls were there was a football game, us versus the locals! Me and Viki sat on the sidelines and cheered, and entertained the kids. When it started to get dark we headed back home. Aurelia and Cassia put on a little show for me and Viki whilst Luciana cooked dinner. They took it in turns to sing and dance, was v. cute! Dinner was lovely, turns out me and Viki got really lucky as a lot of the other guys had dinner in their rooms on their own, but we sat with the family. We were in a room which was a kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom and belonged to the grandma. Luciana had a little fire stove and cooked the most amazing food on it. Firstly we had a soup and then rice with stew all of which was very tasty. I forgot all my Imara words except Thankyou so I just kept saying that!! Which they seemed to find highly amusing! … hmmm maybe I was saying something else!.... oh well! After dinner we were supposed to get dressed in traditional Peruvian clothes and go back into the village and do traditional dance, well during dinner it absolutely chucked it down with rain and hail the size of your fist! I had conveniently lost my trainers in Cuzco so had only flip flops and as soon as we stood outside the door of the house to get to our room I slipped. It was the funniest thing, our bedroom was only 2mins away but the only way we could get there is if Viki held Juans hand who held mine, who held Luciana´s, so we were like a little train … I nearly fell several times and took Luciana with me, haven't laughed so much in a long time! As we were the highest family up, we thought there was no way we would make it to the dance in one piece as the hills were so steep it would have just been a mud slide!! So instead we went to bed!Next morning we had breakfast with the family - little breads that Luciana had made in the fire that morning and an egg fresh from the chicken! Aurelia took delight in showing me and Viki the animals they had, she was catching chickens and throwing her arms around their little calf Matilda… was sooo cute! Next thing we knew Luciana and the grandmother came in with a bundle of clothes and started to dress us. In Peruvian culture the woman wear a lot of skirts, the more skirts you were = the sexier you are in their culture. Its also a sign of wealth. On a very fancy occasion a woman will were all of her skirts at once as it accentuates her waist (it certainly did that for me … but not in a good way!) and when she turns you can see all of the colours of the other skirts underneath. Crikey, we had about 6 skirts on each and they were heavy! Then they tied a sash around your waste and put on a little jacket. The crowning glory though has to be this teeny tiny hat that they wear which just balances on the top of their head somehow. I have no idea why they do this or how! I seem to think that I have a giant head as mine looked especially small on me!! And also fell off like every 2 seconds!! We just about made it down the hill to the centre were we met up with everyone else, and the band started to play. Firstly the villagers danced and showed us how it was done, then it was our turn. Soooo funny!! Before we got back on the boat we had a picture taken with the family and then it was time to say our goodbyes before heading back out onto the Lake.
Once we were on the lake we headed to the Floating Uros Islands. These were probably one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. Islands on the lake made completely out of reeds. The foundation is a thick bed of reed roots which are anchored to the lake bed to stop the island moving and then layers and layers of reeds are put on top to form the island floor. The reeds last approx 1 month and then a new layer must be put on top. The houses and everything is made from reeds too and each month when a new island floor is laid the houses are picked up and moved so that they can do this, and then put back into their original position… Seemed like a lot of work to me! They even eat the reeds, which forms one of the staple components of their diet. One of the little girls peeled one and passed it around and we all had a taste, was quite nice, a bit like a giant water chestnut! The island visit was fantastic though and really interesting to learn about the island way of life. We got to look around the island and even inside someones house. I was once again dressed in traditional Peruvian clothes…am starting to really like this look on me now!! After looking around the island they took us on a boat tour in one of the reed boats, which again were absolutely fantastic to look at. 2 people sat at the front of the boat and rowed and we got an idea of the perspective of the islands and just how vast a community it is!
After our trip to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca we made our way back to Puno. I was shattered so chilled out for the rest of the day really. The next day we headed off on the bus to La Paz, were some of the group were going to leave us! La Paz is in Bolivia, so we said our goodbyes to Peru! Absolutely crazy place, you definitely wouldn't want to drive there. Driving in general in S.Am is crazy, but even more so in La Paz… its basically just a free for all! And there isn't a moment that someone isn't honking their horn. We arrived on a Thursday and the tour finished on the Saturday, but for 9 of us that were doing the 26 trip through to Buenos Aires, our new tour started on the Sunday evening so we had a few days in La Paz to chill out. On the Friday we went to a pre Inca civilization, Tiwanaku. There were archaeological excavations taking place there so we got to see those which was interesting. They were uncovering parts of the city which had been buried by the Spanish conquest.The city was supposed to be very ornate and much of its architecture embellished with gold, but this was stripped by the Spanish. We had a few hours here before heading to the valley of the moon, strange rock formations on the outskirts of La Paz. We headed out that night for dinner, our last night with some of the group, and Priscilla introduced me to Frozen Margaritas…yum! Next day a lot of the group decided to do Death Road… the worlds most dangerous road, which you can do on Mountain bike. I decided that after my poor mountain biking skills in South Africa id give it a miss, and me and Viki wandered around La Paz at the sights and at the markets.La Paz has a really interesting Witches Market full of strange curiosities such as glitter encrusted toads, which I think bring you good fortune, there were also dried llama fetuses hanging everywhere which are for safe guarding your home and family, they are supposed to bury them under the porch of the home. There were many other potions and trinkets for love and protection etc… it was really interesting! Sat night we met our new group … which was the 9 of us, plus one 65 yr old American man… Jim, Keiko, a girl from Japan who was like 4ft 8 or something ridiculous, bless her! And Dannia a girl from Surrey...who was traveling in Peru before with one of her uni mates Helen Angel, do you remember her from Edwalton guys? Her brother is Paul Angel who I think was in Rachels year?...small world hey! Our new tour guide was Jorge (or Horhey as you pronounce it. He got v.crankyif you called him george!) To be continued…