Tuesday, March 9, 2010
They dive down to the shallow parts of the lake to cut huge blocks of the soil where the reeds are growing to create the bases of the islands. Turns out that soil floats when it's cut free. Then they pile layers and layers of reeds on top and anchor the islands with rocks so they don't float to Bolivia overnight. We got to see inside their houses, some of which had solar panels and electricity, which is really cool. Then we bought some souvenirs and got to ride in a reed boat to another island. I asked if I could row for a bit and they let me...until the wind blew us backwards then they asked to row again so we didn't crash into another island.
It took 3 hours to get to Amantani, the next island we visited and where we met our families who cooked for us and let us stay the night in their houses. I got asigned to a family with two other younger women who were also traveling by themselves who didn't really speak Spanish so I made most of the conversation and translated. Our room was really nice, very insulated with real beds and a nice bathroom with western style toilet outside the house, compared with most of the metal outhouses on the island it was great.
We had lunch of soup with potatoes and quinoa (keen-wa) which is a great grain I was delighted to find is a staple of not only Boulderites' diets but also the people of Titicaca. Then we took a nap and headed to the main square to meet the rest of the group to go hiking to the top of the island for sunset. It was about then my stomach started hurting and I ended up walking super slowly until I had to turn around, find my way back to the house and I just slept the rest of the day and night. Unfortunately that meant missing dressing up like the natives and learning their dances at the party they had for us, but I felt much better the next day so I guess it wasn't worth pushing myself.
We had pancakes for breakfast and then rode the wild waves of Titicaca to Taquile Island which was gorgeous in the sparkling blue waters and sunshine. Lots of terraces and people in bright clothes. Taquile is known for the handicrafts; the men knit and the women weave really delicate patterns so I had been saving a lot of money to buy gifts here. It was worth it. The men also display their marital status through the Santa-esque hats they wear. If they have a red and white hat it means they're single. Completely red means married. Pretty cool, no mistakes there!
We had lunch in the beautiful sunshine then strolled back to the boat down the other side of the mountian. I had made friends with an old French man on the boat who gave me some eucalyptus to smell when he saw me with my upset stomach. We chatted in Spanglish/French and took pictures of each other. He was very kind!
A long boat ride back in the sun concluded the trip. What an adventure! Then I packed my stuff up back at the hostel and met the girls from my homestay for dinner and shopping before a night bus back to Cuzco, caught a flight to Lima. Whirlwind!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
First of all, I'd like to send out some Love and Prayers to everyone who experienced the earthquake in Chile. Thank goodness all my friends there are alright, and I had no idea it even happened until I heard about it on the bus back from Iguazu. Thanks for all the love and support!
I am so grateful that Spencer’s mother, Patsy, put me in touch with her friend Susan who is living in Lima Peru. Susan has been so ridiculously helpful and kind from the email conversations that we initially exchanged, I felt like I had a mother in Peru even before we met.
Her Peruvian friend Javier picked me up from the airport (with a sign that had my name on it!) and we were conversing easily before we pulled away from the airport. He pointed out all kinds of really interesting things about the city as we drove toward Susan’s apartment. He works for a travel agency and brought me there to check out options for Cusco and to see if Machu Piccu is open yet after the tremendous flooding that happened several weeks ago. Unfortunately, it won’t be open until April, but I guess that’s another fantastic reason I need to come back to South America.
We carried on to Susan’s apartment where I was immediately welcomed and told Susan and Javier wanted to go that afternoon to the healing hot springs I had read about in the Lonely Planet guide and mentioned. Apparently people think they cure anything from rheumatism to infertility to acne, and probably have alien origins. It sounded fantastic to me, so we high-tailed it down the Panamericana highway through the surprisingly arid land surrounding Lima.
After 45 minutes of easy chatter in Spanish we arrived in the town of Chilca, which obviously saw little, if any, foreigners. We pulled up next to a lagoon of water surrounded by plain, dry mud about 50 yards long and 40 yards wide. Javier asked a man what the pool was supposed to heal and he casually replied “Todo”. Oh, of course it cures everything. We were herded towards the entrance by Javier who was dressed too nicely to join us in the swim but volunteered to take pictures and watch our clothes. As we paid one sol, about 30 cents to enter, we looked closer at the few people swimming around and noticed the water they were splashing was a vibrant, toxic looking green color.
Susan and I immediately went for it and to our delight found a bucket of mud on the steps into the pool which we immediately smeared on our faces. Then we waded into the water which was pleasantly warm and still noxiously green. The bottom was muddy and in some places it felt like the mud was at least two feet deep. We kept smearing mud on our faces and experienced the most buoyant water either of us had ever been in. If I didn’t want to be squishing around in the mud under the water, all I had to do was pretend to sit and I was easily floating with my head and shoulders above the water. Susan kept getting flipped onto her stomach by the buoyancy and decided just to float that way.
We made our way to the far edge of the pool to the shallow black mud pit that was filled with people absolutely covered in the inky mud just laying there soaking it in. They made some gringo jokes I didn’t understand when I flopped down in the mud with them but I just laughed and played with the mud and chatted with them. It was incredible. I mean, mud with elephants or monks is really fantastic, but this was just so silky smooth and warm and mucky, I couldn’t believe it! Javier came over and laughed and took a bunch of pictures of Susan and I wallowing in the mud, there truly isn’t a better word to describe what we were doing. It was blissful.
After about an hour of that we decided to rinse off in the green pool again, then shower and go get some dinner. Susan and I were delighted by how silky soft our skin felt, and I swear she looked about 20 years younger than she claims to be. We left the pool and immediately bought three bottles of the most amazing sweet wine I’ve ever tasted (and boy, did we taste!) for 20 soles, about 7 dollars, then decided we better buy three more since it was so amazing and so cheap. Then to top it off, Javier and Susan took me to a delightful restaurant where I had the best cebiche I’ve ever experienced (well, until the ones I tried today), an excellent pisco sour and some really great fish. I think I dig Peru!