#8 Peru, March 11, 2000

Dear Everybody,

Last Sunday was Carnival which lasted through Tuesday until the beginning of Lent, but with all the wonderful celebrations of this in South America, where I was (Cusco and Puno) it amounted to kids throwing water balloons and shaving cream. I did get a bit wet in Puno, but oh well!

On Tuesday, I had an interesting nine-hour bus ride to Puno.








We stopped at three tourist sites—Pikillacta, a pre-Inca Wari site,







Andahuaylillas, a pretty Colonial town with an interesting church, and Raqchi, a huge Inca site. We also stopped for over an hour for lunch.









When we arrived in Puno, and Lake Titicaca, it was raining so I thought my good weather luck had run out. But lo and behold, by 10:30 the next morning, the sun came out and so I grabbed a boat, and with about a dozen other people went out on Lake Titicaca to visit the Uros Islands. These are man made tiny islands, which have about 10 houses on each. The islands, the houses, and their boats that they use are all made of totora reeds that grow in the lake.







We had a ride on a reed boat to the next island. By this time the sky was blue with beautiful white clouds, and the excursion was a real thrill.  I bought some pendents from the people who lived on Uros.



The next day I did a real ‘local color’ thing. I left early by taxi to get a collectivo (small bus) to Desaquadero on the Bolivian border. There were no tourists on board. The women wear many skirts and petticoats and little ‘bowler’ hats. They all carry colorful red bundles on their backs that contain many things including babies. I noticed that most do not have their ears pierced or wear earrings. The ride was along Lake Titicaca, which offered wonderful views.

On arriving at Desaquadero (2 ½ hours) I went through immigration—both Peru and Bolivia, then changed some money and then was greeted by a man who owns a small restaurant next to my hotel in Puno where I had had breakfast the day before. He asked me the standard two questions: “How did you get here?” and “Did you come all alone?” He had taxied an American couple to the border where they got another taxi to LaPaz. Everybody with a car is a taxi driver.

I got a collectivo to go to Tiahuanocu, having to wait about an hour for both of the collectivos since they don’t go until they’re full. I was coming to see these pre-Inca ruins, built between 375 and 700 AD. I got dropped off on the highway and walked about three miles to the ruins.

Now I was getting short of time, and it also clouded over and began to rain lightly. It was 1:30 and I had only had fruit for breakfast. Yes, the ruins were great, but probably not fully appreciated by me, being hungry, rushed for time, and getting rained on!

After I raced through the ruins, I was looking forward to a hearty lunch at one of two restaurants at the site. Bad luck—both were closed because it’s the low tourist season, I suppose. I did get some crackers at a stand, which I ate. Then I was going to buy some more snacks when I realized that I only had seven Bolivianos (money) left and the fare when I came was 10. And they absolutely would not accept Peruvian money—I tried using Peruvian before getting some changed. I decided that when a collectivo came (if one came) I would just wave it down and get on—they usually don’t collect the money until later and maybe they’d let me stay on.

So I put my jacket hood over my Panama hat (!) and headed back to the highway in the rain. A really horrible black threatening cloud was rolling in, directly in front of me. (If they had tornadoes here, I would have thought it would be one!)   Just as I was getting somewhat anxious, a collectivo came but when I waved it down, it first looked like it was full and wasn’t going to stop (!) but then it screeched its brakes and stopped. The good news was that they had ONE (jump) seat left—it’s impossible to stand, they’re tiny vans with 16 people crammed in—but the bad news was that the seat had a horrid steel bar right down the middle! The fare turned out to be only five Bolivianos (relief!) and I eventually got to the border—through both immigrations, and then on a larger (small) bus that took me back to Puno, arriving at 7 PM. It was an interesting day, but kind of full of obstacles.

The next day I had another bus ride—seven hours back to Cusco. Today I am getting ready for an eight-day trip to the Amazon jungle—to the Manu National Park. I have bought a ‘completely waterproof’ poncho, and a flashlight, as instructed. They are providing rubber boots, a sleeping bag and binoculars (at a small cost) for me. I’ll get back to Cusco next Sunday night so my weekend email will be late this time.

Anyway, Peru is great and I’m still enjoying it, although I have made plans to come home earlier than I had planned. I’ll be home March 30th—gotta get ready for Sweden and Berlin, April 23rd—and a tooth (not the broken one) is acting up a little, so I will be happy to get that problem solved too. I hope it doesn’t give me trouble in the jungle. Oh well, there must be some tree bark that I can gnaw on.


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