Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lake Titicaca!

Oh Lake Titicaca! We really like saying your name. You´re also the highest navigable lake in the world, with a bunch of interesting islands. So I figured I´d get on a boat and check them out. We left Puno (recall Slepak´s fun getting here) and headed through a channel cut between some reeds:

First stop, Islas Flotantes – floating islands built from those reeds by the Uros people. They wanted to be out on the lake away from the aggressive Collas and Incas. It´s pretty cold up here at 12,500+ ft if the sun´s not shining. And the Incas weren´t known for their boat building skills. So living in the middle of the lake seems like a pretty good idea:

Nowadays the islanders mostly survive on tourism though there is some token fishing. Around 30 people “live” on the one we visited. The islands are about 2 meters thick and new reeds are constantly added to the top as the bottom ones rot away. Walking around is interesting as you sink in about six inches:

We got a talk from our guide about the history and the mechanics of the islands and then took a bunch of photos:

This photo has me in the foreground, by popular request from Liv. I also like that they added teeth to the boat:

And finally me being artsy:

Our second stop was Isla Taquile which is known for having a strong weaving tradition. You can tell islander´s marital and social status by the patterns and colos of their hats and belts. They´ve also gone super touristy with their island so they charge an entrance fee, aggressively hawk their weavings, have a set menu at every resturant – trout or omelet both 15 soles, and funnel the tourists through. There were over a dozen boats when we visited, up to 40 in the high season I´m told. If you´re ever here, skip Taquile, but do visit the Islas Flotantes.

So you´re probably asking yourself how did Lott end up in Peru, I thought he was in Seattle nursing a busted should and eating bacon? I was indeed! But PT only filled a couple hours a day so I started looking for a job. In this economy, it seemed prudent (read: my brother finally got a job so 100% of Mom´s nagging was directed my way) Fortunately I had several options to choose from and with only modest regret I can say I´ll be ending my funemployment in July. I´m heading back to Microsoft to work on Bing!

So for one last hurrah, I booked plane tickets to South America. First stop was Cuzco. I spent my first day there figuring out how to get to Machu Picchu. Slepak loved his Salkantay Trek so I booked a similar one. Mine unfortunately didn´t join up with the classic Inka Trail, as they´re sold out months in advance, but I´m in it for the mountains, and we´d get to Machu Picchu anyways. I spent the evening running around Cuzco and Qorikancha – the Inca´s Golden Courtyard. It still looks golden when lit up at night even though the Spanish plundered all the real gold:

The next morning I met up with the group – 7 tourists and 4 staff – and we started the hike. I had left Seattle (sea level) on Tuesday morning and landed Wednesday morning in Cuzco (10,800 ft) so starting to hike on Thursday in Mollepata (9,200 ft) seemed like a not egregiously bad idea. The colors of the mountains reminded me a bit of my hike on the Routeburn in New Zealand back at the start of funemployment:

The best part about taking this version of the Salkantay Trek is that horses are allowed the whole way, so you don´t have to carry all your gear. The downsides being you do have to dodge some of their “gifts” on the trail, and every once in a while a big group of them comes thundering by in the opposite direction, ready for a new load. In this case they were practically sprinting down the switchbacks we´d just climbed:

By the time we reached 4200 meters (or 4400 m depending on whose math you believe, call it almost as high as Mt. Rainier) the rapid ascent had begun to catch up with me, but clearly not the cows lazing about in the high meadows:

An hour later we reached the pass around 15,200 ft:

And the view of Salkantay was spectacular:

The trek got easier for the next two days as we descended into the Amazon Basin and followed various rivers. The heavy jungle cut some of the dramatic views down a bit, but being next to the rushing water was a soothing sound. Crossing the rushing water was sometimes challenging though:

At the end of day 4, we had met up with the rail line that links Machu Picchu and Cuzco. Hopping from railroad tie to railroad tie was fun, and as we crossed a bridge we got our first look at the back side of Machu Pichu – the Inca Bridge is somewhere in the line of green high on the left cliff:

Finally we reached Aguas Calientes, base camp for Machu Picchu, a real bed, and if Cyrus were on the trip he would say a sign of civilization:

The next morning we joined the mob at 0530 waiting for a bus up to the city. We wanted to get there early enough to get Wayna Picchu tickets, and the prospect of starting hiking at 0300 just wasn´t cutting it. We watched sunrise and the mists lifting as we snaked up the hill. With a mad dash to the ticket office I got #369 of 400 to climb at 10am and then settled into a tour of the city. The alpacas clearly wanted the sun to break through the mists:

And when it finally did break through, the city was lit amazingly. The amount of work to build all these buildings and terraces, plus at least double it for the supporting foundations is mind boggling:

I really like this photo which shows the contrast of the rough stonework of the terraces, using some of the natural rocks, and the fine stonework of the Temple of the Sun:

We headed up to the Guardhouse for the obligatory panorama:

And then hiked up to Wayna Picchu for an even higher view. The flying stairs on some of the walls at the top of Wayna Picchu are fun to climb on:

And I was really happy to get the bird´s eye view of the city:

So now I´m stuck in Puno for a day as a bit of civil unrest has caused most of the roads in Southern Peru to be closed. Fortunately I have a buffer travel day, so if all goes well, I´ll be able to head back to Cuzco tomorrow and catch my flight on Saturday to Quito!

1 comment:

arnie said...

I like the artistic photo attempt. Looks beautiful, makes me want to travel.