So, as many of you know, Barb and I tend to travel a bit on the cheap side; as an example, our current hotel is costing $26/night. For two people. I have always found the rooms to be clean, the staff welcoming and friendly. In fact the only time I have ever seen bedbugs was in a pricy hotel room in Vancouver, Canada. However, where I find this always to be a gamble is in... the bathroom. Specifically, the shower. Call it a foible of mine, but it can be 110 outside and I still do not want a cold shower. This is often a source of amazement to hotel staff, but there it is. So often, the shower temperature is lukewarm at best, and sometimes comes out in dribs and drabs, so that one is constantly moving around the spout, trying to rinse off. Well, I have dubbed our current shower "El Magnifico"... the water is scaldingly hot, and comes out like a small fire hydrant somehow installed in the shower wall. I had to fight my way back through this deluge to work the controls and it felt amazing on my neck, which complains after a day of carrying my day pack around. I know, simple pleasures, but there you are...
On another note; as you know we tried cuy; one of Peru's national dishes earlier. I have nothing against eating guinea pig, perhaps never having had one as a child, I am just not that attached. However, at the end of a wonderful tour of a local necropolis, we stopped by a typical local house for a tour. It was a series of simple stone buildings; no electricity, but in one corner they had...a darling hutch that I can only call a guinea pig condo!!! Three floors, stone steps leading up, thatched roof,cute little guinea pig family running about. It was simply entrancing and disturbing in equal measures (see photo).
We spent part of the day Friday on a tour of the Sillustani ruins a necropolis used by several cultures from 1000 BCE up until the Spanish arrived. They would bury the dead; particularly important dead people (at least they were important until then) and it was interesting to see how the burial practices changed with the passage of time and the cultures living there at the moment. They all have the commonality of placing the entry doors facing the winter solstice, which is our summer solstice. I thought this was curious, as I believe Stonehenge et al also focus on the June summer solstice. Mummification in the fetal position was also de regueur (a little French mummy pun) and Barb and I have seen a few dozen mummies by now, which are both fascinating and sad. We reached a height of 14000 feet (with some huffing and puffing and heart palpitations) I am seriously hoping the altitude is all downhill from here.
In the past two days we have literally scaled Mt Rainier twice (almost, I exaggerate). Yesterday hiking to Sillustani and today hiking up a trail to a town square on the Island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca. Once again I did not read the find print to know that each of these excursions required hiking upward trails. I have been having headaches and shortness of breath since arriving in Puno. Walking to the Plaza de Armes a few blocks away my heart is pumping. I've also noticed a slowness of thinking and extreme exhaustion. Drinking Coca tea and chewing the leaves helps but I feel like a horse chewing hay. It was better today than yesterday and Cusco is lower in elevation so I should be running laps when I get there.
Back to our excursions, Sillustani was impressive. The layers of history that our guide was able to explain at each level was most interesting. There was one Chullpas that was unfinished with the stone ramp used for construction still in place. The view from the top was so impressive. I can't get over the expanse of sky. There are always clouds of different shapes and sizes settled above the hills in the distance and the blue is such a striking color.
Todays day trip is on Lake Titcaca which is 12,500 feet above sea level and is the world's highest fresh water lake. The depth averages between 460 and 600 feet reaching it's greatest recorded depth near the Bolivian shore at 920 feet.
On the tour to Lake Titicaca we visited two islands, one a canned show of how the floating islands are maintained and a visit to their living quarters and the next the Island of Taquile where we hiked a nicely maintained trail, up, up and up. The walk was through terraced gardens planted with corn, beans and the ubiquitous Quinoa. At the top of the hike, and pictures do not do it justice, we had a lovely lunch of grilled trout and quinoa. Then, onto the town square and a market. The trip home was livened by a storm that blew in fast. We couldn't see the whitecaps over the sea spray. We met a couple from Bothell who are travelling an extended period through South America and were arranging the removal of two trees on their Bothell home due to the snow. It was nice to talk home and their travel experiences. Archive adventures for the future.
Tomorrow on to Cusco, 6 hours on the bus with bad subtitled movies.