29.10.2012 - 01.10.2012
Prior to embarking on this trip we discussed going to Lake Titicaca where I was keen to see the floating reed islands of Uros. It seemed like a cool thing to do seeing as we had to stop in Lima anyway and it was only an hours flight from there. Lake Titicaca is the highest altitude lake in the world at 4000m above sea level. And it is huge. It borders Peru and Bolivia's capital Le Paz on the other side. We decided to hold off booking the flights until we reached Quito (at 3000m) in case altitude sickness prove&d to be an issue there, in which case we would abandon the idea of going to Lake Titicaca. With only mild symptoms in Quito such as shortness of breath going upstairs, we decided to do it.
Flying into Lima you can see nothing but brown. It appears to be a desert with stone 1-2 story buildings covering the landscape as far as the eye can see. From the air the poverty appears overwhelming and we are very apprehensive about what we are about to experience. From the ground however, driving through Lima, the buildings are in fact all brown brick and some have the front face painted. There is little to no achitectural variation. Whilst it appears very poor, when we are directed to a mall for lunch we discover that all is not as it seems. The mall is ultra-modern with free wifi available and designer label shops. It seems like every second shopis either a mobile phone provider or a bank.
t couls just be that we are starved for decent food after nearly three weeks of the typical Cuban fare of rice and black beans and overcooked meat, but the food in Peru has proven to be delicious and the Pisco Sours, Peru's signiture cocktail, wash it down nicely. It is just as well as I am missing my IV line of Mojitos from Cuba!
Aside from the food, the people have been so friendly! Taxi drivers are really interested in talking to us and the best part is that they speak slowly so our 'un poco espanol' manages to keep up! Not sure yet if this is how they speak normally or if they are just slowing it down for us but compared to Cuba and Ecuador we are finding communication a lot easier!
Arriving in Puno, at lake Titicaca's edge, resulted in some mild symptoms of altitude sickness by the end of the day. A foggy head like having a cold wihout the congestion, and the occasionalgasping for air, especially in the night. The following day we head off on our tour of the floating reed islands. These are islands made by laying reeds on top of reed roots which float in the water until they are above water and dry. They have then built houses out of the reeds, along with boats, and pretty much everything else. They also eat the reeds although we were recommended not to try them as they give newby's diarohea. They were the most amazing looking communities. The people support themselves my making and selling crafts to tourists who come to the islands, and also selling them on the mainland. They all wear very traditional clothing, like many of the peruvian people, especially in Puno.
By midday my head was pounding and I'm gasping for air evry now and then whilst sitting. I realised it was no Pisco Sours for me as alcohol exacerbates altitude sickness. But an early night and all was fine in the morning. Nobody else seems affected so we are thankful for that.
Puno is known as the capital of Peruvian culture and it is not hard to see why. Whilst this town is for most tourists a necessary stopover in order to see the islands, they don't stay long. However we have discovered that this lively little town has a lot to offer. They have a great crafts market, a thriving local vege and food market, music playing everywhere and people are so friendly.
The irony of Puno is that we are there to see the locals, and marvel and stare at their traditional clothing, which consists of many layers despite the heat, and yet we feel as if we are animals in a zoo! They all stare at our kids like they are freaks of nature. On the bright side we also have people approaching us and talking to us because of the children. We took the kids to the circus which happened to be in town at the time we were there and sat next to a couple with a 4 year old girl. They chatted to us prior to the show and were really friendly because their daughter had taken an interest in our kids. These interactions are ssome of the highlights of our trip and without the children there to break the ice I don't believe we would have had these conversations. They also spark interest from other travellers who are interested in these crazy kiwis travelling with kids. We have only met one other couple who were in Cuba with their 11 year old son. And yet, what an amazing experience it has been for both them and us.
Having said the people are lovely, there is always the 'bad egg'. I had to pay $25NZ to get my phone back after accidentally leaving it in a paddleboat. The woman pretended she hadn't seen it but when I offered her money if she found it she suddenly perked up and asked how much - unforunately I only had large notes on me but they produced my phone from her pocket - I laughed and called her an evil witch and she replied "gracias". I suspect she understood. Later I passed a woman in the street who had been there trying to assist when I was looking fot the phone but was not present for the conclusion. I explained that the lady at the paddleboat had it all along and I had to pay to get it back. She was appalled and told me I should report her to the police. Whilst I know that this may prevent it happening to other people, I also am selfish and don't want to spend all day in a police station over $25NZ. And I learnt a valuable lesson. Irrespective of the awesome panoramic photos my phone takes, leave it locked up at the hotel!!!! Below is the shot that cost me the $25 as I took the phone out to take this photo. Worth it? You decide.