After an eventful trip through Bolivia, including the
worst roads we've seen yet with many mountain passes
over 14,000 feet, uncountable water balloon throwing
maniacs at Carnaval and the theft of all of Tyler's
cameras from the van, we hot-footed it to Cusco to
meet my daughter, Jenn, on the 8th.
Jenn immediately started feeling the effects of her
rapid ascent from sea level to 12,500 feet. By the
10th, she thought she was ready to do the Inca Trail
hike with Shay, 3 nights and 4 days of climbing to
Macchu Picchu. She wasn't, unfortunately, and wound
up walking back down during the second day. The
effects of altitude sickness vary extremely from
person to person and Jenn felt nauseated and lethargic
and unable to go on since she had just arrived. Shay
was already aclimated by our travels up and down the
mountains since we'd crossed the Argentine border into
Bolivia. He stuck it out with the group and Jenn,
Tyler and I were there at Macchu Picchu on Tuesday
morning to meet him.
Macchu Picchu is truly an amazing place, the extensive
ruins of an Inca city (which, unlike Cusco, was never
ravaged by the Spanish) on a mountain top reachable
only by a train trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
followed by a 25 minute bus ride straight up to
heaven. We spent the day there enjoying the ruins,
arriving back to Cusco on the train at 8 pm.
We spent another day in Cusco and finished our
shopping. Cusco is far and away the champion of
artisan crafts - wonderful alpaca products from
sweaters to fur rugs, pottery, silver and gold
jewelry, to mention only a few.
From Cusco, we travelled back south to Lago Titicaca.
We had decided to wait for Jenn so she could join us.
In Puno, we hired a guide for just the 4 of us to go
to Los Ouros, the floating islands where the
indigenous people live. This was really a highlight
for all of us. Since we were such a small group we
didn't feel that we were excessively intruding on the
lives of the people who live there and they were very
hospitable to us. The rafts are made of reeds from
the lake and have a spongy feeling underfoot. We were
very interested in how they live. They, as you might
guess, primarily fish and hunt waterfowl which they
trade in Puno. On one island we saw a cage with
cormorants and ducks in it. Apparently, they catch
the birds and keep them alive until they're needed.
We had a ride in a reed boat from one island to
another and watched a group of men extending the raft
with layers of reeds to create a new boat dock.
From Puno, we went south again and headed east to
Moquegua. We were heading for Arequipa and were told
that the short road would take the same amount of time
as heading south to Moquegua and then north. That
advice turned out to be very good since the 3 year old
asphalt road was in extraordinary condition. It was
quite a climb, however. The GPS showed that we peaked
out at 15,700 feet - a real nosebleed of a pass. we
spent the night in Moquegua and arrived here in
Arequipa this afternoon.
Arequipa is known as the White City because the
colonial buildings in the Centro were all constructed
of a distinctive type of white rock. In addition, the
buildings, including the cathedral on the Plaza de
Armas, are built lower than other Latin American
cities due to the high risk of earthquake. It was
very overcast when we got here and is raining slightly
tonight, which means that we haven't gotten a glimpse
of Arequipa's famous volcano, El Misti. I can
certainly see how it got it's name, however, as it's
misting mightily outside right now.
Tomorrow we'll be on our way to Nazca where we intend
to take a short plane ride to see the Nazca lines.