Hi from Cuzco, Peru!‏

Welcome to update 2 from South America.

I am currently chilling out in Cuzco before tackling the Inca Trail later in the week.

I have quite a bit of spare time here, because I´m not visiting the jungle here in Peru. Instead I am going in Ecuador. There are 6 of us from the group of 18 that are travelling all the way up to Quito (capital of Ecuador). But I think there may also be someone else starting the tour from Lima. There were 8 of us that joined the tour in La Paz, the other 13 have already been travelling on a tour from Rio. It´s a little weird joining a group that´s already established, but everyone gets along really well. There´s a couple from NZ, 5 from the UK, and the rest are Aussies. Dad, you´ll be pleased to hear that they are addicted to 500´s. (And before you ask, no they don´t know how to play Solo.) 

MORE ON LA PAZ

I spent Tuesday wandering around the streets of La Paz, mainly visiting the many plazas and markets including the Witches Market which sells all sorts of weird and wonderful herbs and potions including llama foetuses.

I also went to the Coca Museum. Chewing coca leaves is part of life here. The Spanish and catholic church originally tried to ban the chewing, but they soon realised they could get much more work out of the locals, particularly those working in the mines, so they allowed it again. Growing coca leaves for the drug industry continues to be a big industry for Bolivia, despite the USA providing millions of dollars in an attempt to eradicate the coca industry. Coca leaves are also used to help with altitude sickness. You can have coca tea, buy coca candy, etc.

Weather in La Paz was so changeable. When it was sunny you would be walking around in a singlet top. Then suddenly the sun would go behind a cloud and the temperature would drop dramatically and you would be reaching for your fleece. Then the clouds would roll in and there would be a massive downpour. Luckily it didn’t rain too much, but there was an awesome thunder storm. It was funny to see the women with plastic bags over their bowler hats. 

LAKE TITICACA, PERU – swimming, rowing and dancing…

On Wednesday we left La Paz for Puno in Peru. As we drove towards Lake Titicaca and the border, we passed a lot of farm land. It struck me that rural life in Bolivia looked so much cleaner, and a much better lifestyle than living in La Paz.

Another thing that amazed me was all the gum trees. The bloody things were everywhere, and they’ve increased since crossing the border into Peru. At one point we passed some gum trees and a windmill. If I took a picture you would swear I was in Australia, not South America.

When we crossed the border into Peru the thing that struck me was all the stone walls on the farms. It’s like Kolora and the Stonyrises – only multiplied. Where there aren’t fences the cows, pigs and sheep and pegged or tethered into the ground, and have a bit of rope or lead which allows them to eat the nearby grass.

We stayed Wednesday night in Puno, which is on the shore of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Puno is a city of half-finished houses. Actually most of the houses I’ve seen in Peru have been like this. They all have big rods sticking up from the roofs. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe they are going to build a second floor when they get the money. I know I’ve seen it in other countries. I think people leave their houses half built in Greece because when they are finished they have to pay taxes. Not sure what the reason is here, but seriously I wouldn’t want to build another story on many of these places. A decent earthquake would flatten the place.

On Thursday we took a boat out on the Lake to visit the floating reed islands. These are man-made islands of reeds that people actually live on. Now it’s a bit touristy, but it’s amazing to see how they lived. I even got to row one of the reed boats (I have pictures to prove it). Hard work at altitude with an old wooden oar. You really have to put your back into it!

We visited the Amantani island (this is a main island – not floating) where we were assigned a local mama. Our mama cooked us a local lunch (soup and omelette) and then we went and played a game of soccer with the locals (again hard work at altitude). We climbed a big hill to watch the sun set, before heading down to our mama who cooked us dinner, and then her daughter dressed us up in her traditional clothes and took us dancing. We stayed the night with our local family. It’s the best sleep I’ve had so far. They then woke us up for breakfast and then it was back on the boat. (Leanne everyone was jealous of your headlight. Our local families had no electricity, and the headlight was great for the toilet. It meant you had your hands free for the toilet paper and bucket of water for flushing.) Finally we visited the Taquile island where the men do the knitting. 

SWIMMING IN THE LAKE

Before getting back to Puno a few of us (6) decided that jumping in the freezing waters of Lake Titicaca would be a good idea. It was a nice sunny day and when are you going to get the opportunity to again say that you’ve been swimming in the lake. A few people had come prepared with their bathers. Unfortunately my bathers are one of the things I forgot to pack…So I stripped down to my undies and took the plunge. Oh my God it was cold! And to make matters worse my daggy black cotton undies almost came off as I went under. It was so cold that the air was sort of knocked out of your lungs.

The hard bit however was getting out of the water and back onto the boat. There was no ladder and you sort of had to hull yourself back on.

Lana ( a girl from Melb) and I just couldn’t manage it, and so the boys had to hull us back onto the boat. I think it took about four of them to drag me back on. Once on the ledge you then had to wiggle yourself back onto the boat.

Oh my God I would have looked like a beached whale! All I could think of was that this was not the best view of my backside and undies. To make matters worse I think the contents of my nose were no longer in my nose due to the cold water. They were sort of hanging out…

Not my most flattering moment! Oh well, a good way to get to know everyone. 

DANCING WITH THE LOCALS

Friday night we spent back in Puno. I am sharing a room with Nat – a 30 year old from Brisbane. She took a redundancy package from her work and is travelling around South America and Europe until the money runs out.

We decided to go out and see what the local night life was like in Puno. The first bar we visited was very keen to make us welcome. Once they found out we were Australian, “I come from the Land Downunder” came on. It was at this bar that we met Carlos and Lewis (not sure that was his name but it sounded something like that). They took us out dancing at a local discoteque, which was hilarious considering these guys only came up to our shoulders.

I decided it was time to go when Carlos started whispering “I like you, I love you, I love you” in my ear, and then started singing to me!

I have the phone numbers and email addresses of two local Puno guys if anyone wants them… 

Well I think that brings gets you up-to-date. Next time you hear from me I will hopefully have completed the Inca Trial and visited Machu Picchu.

Take care and lots of love.

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