Ok, I know, this is Erika´s blog, but because I accidentally erased 45 minutes of her writing the next update (weird keyboards here in Peru)... I get to write the replacement. Though upset, she was mainly mad at the computer because it had been giving her problems the whole time. So we went and ate fried chicken at a local Pollo ala Brasa... which made her much happier and, I think, made up for my error.
The last we left yall was in Chile, waiting for the transportation strike to end. Well it did end and we were able to catch a bus to Arica, Chile and then another bus across the border to Tacna, Peru. We spent one night there and then caught a bus the next day to Arequipa. Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city, with mountains surrounding it and Volcan El Misti looming nearby. Its elevation of 8400 feet made the first day there a bit slow, allowing us to acclimate to the altitude. Plus, we had mate de coca to drink, which locals claims wards off sorroche (AMS). We spent 4 days there exploring the churches, museums, cobbled colonial streets, and cheap restaurants... plus, I got a haircut for 3 dollars! Eat yer heart out Supercuts. I also found my old friends the Diaz Corals, which had befriended me in 2003 when I was here. We had a nice visit with Verita and her daughter Jenny. Verita, as some might recall, fixed me guinea pig (Cuy it´s called, a Peruvian delicacy) last time I was here but unfortunately (not for Erika) we had to take a rain check.
From Arequipa we headed southeast to Puno and Lago Titicaca. Lago Titicaca is the world´s highest navigable lake and a must see for Erika. It was good we spent some time in Arequipa acclimating as the lake and Puno (the Peruvian city on the lake) sits at an elevation of 12,500ft... whew, deep breaths, but we didn´t pass out. The highlight was an all day tour to the Uros Floating Islands and Isla Taquile. The floating islands are the only home to the Uros people, a race that predates the Incans. The Uros use the Totura reed to construct everything... their islands, homes, boats, and trinkets for tourists. They even use it for food, which I tasted... kind of like celery.
After the floating islands, we hopped back on the boat and started the next leg to Isla Taquile, itself a throw back to an ancient culture. Clothing on the island is one of the most easily recognizable aspect of this culture. The guide asked us if we knew how to tell a single man from a married one... I piped up and said ¨the single one is still smiling!¨ as Erika glared at me. Nope he said, single men wear different colored hats and waist belts than the married ones and it is the same with females... same with the smile too I bet. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the island and marveling at the adherence to custom and the beautiful setting.
The boat trip back to Puno was quite exciting as the afternoon winds had kicked up chop and a swell of four to six feet. For the small boat of 30 people it was quite exciting as the occasional wave crashed over the main cabin. Several tourists had to hang on the rails. Not us, though, seasoned seafarers that we are!
It is good to be in Peru. Although not as organized, clean, or sanitary as Chile and Argentina, it is exciting and cheap nonetheless. We are having a much easier time staying under budget. I have convinced Erika that we can avoid the tourist trap eateries and enjoy a good dinner at the local restaurants. Now we are eating for between 75 cents to 2.50... that´s American dollars... mmm mmmm! Although we splurged last night on fried and rotissiere chicken, fries, salad, rice and a coke... for 6 bucks total! Bus travel is also more exciting, and that´s not even riding in one. This morning in Cusco, the bus company we had bought tickets with hussled us over to another company, switching our tickets for free. Then that one, evidently having their bus cancelled for whatever reason, hussled us over to another company (Palomino Bus... sounded lucky) which converted our tickets to their own and we were on our way. No luggage lost, no extra money, and only an hour late!
So now, we are in Abancay, a remote city between Cusco and Nasca. We left Cusco this morning and picked Abancay as a nice stopover to break up the long trip to Nasca (12 hours) our next ¨touristy¨ destination. It was good we stopped because the 4.5 hour trip was one of the most windy up and down route we have been on. The views were awesome but Erika was nauseous and had a headache for much of the trip. When the bus stopped at Abancay, several vendors boarded to sell travel sickness pills to the remaining passengers who were continuing the journey on to Lima... have fun.
Well, it´s getting close to that 75 cent dinner time so Erika will finish what I started... but later and with all the cool details on our journey into Cusco and up to Machu Picchu.