This is a day-by-day account of G Adventure’s Andean Adventure tour (tour JLM). Instead of stretching out my posts over a few days after my return, I decided to simply post in chunks when I have access to the internet. Here are the past 5 days. Next time I update will probably be after Machu Pichu in 4 or 5 days. I’ll try to add some pictures too at that point.
Day 2 – May 26th, 2012
We left La Paz for Peru today. To get from La Paz to where we were going, we had to take a long bus ride and a short ferry boat ride across lake Titicaca. Despite it’s grade 2 hilarious name, Lake Titicaca is seriously legit. This is a giant lake, like, massive. If it were a country, it would be the 171st largest (out of 249). It’s bigger than Luxembourg and Hong Kong. Not only that, but it’s 3 800 meters above sea level! Pretty crazy spot. Luckily we crossed it at a point where the distance between the shores is only about 800 meters.After crossing the lake we got back on our bus towards Copacabana (not the famous one though, that one’s in Brasil). We were warned by our guide that we should pretend to not know him in Bolivia for work visa reasons. Kinda sketchy, but not really. Apparently much sketchier things happen in regards to immigration in Bolivia (the people who were on the previous tour that crossed into Bolivia had to bribe a border agent with rhum and money, though he apparently would have prefered a chicken). We got off the bus in time for lunch in Copacabana and as people were asking our guide for good spots to eat and visit, the police showed up. Our guide started acting distant and we got the hint that we should pretend not to know him. After lunch, we all returned to the bus, but our guide was nowhere to be found. I won’t use the word crisis, but people started worrying. After all, he was the one with our bus tickets and our hotel confirmation (and the only one who really knew what we were doing for the next few weeks). We figured the best thing to do was to take the bus, like it everything was ok, and cross the Peruvian border. We’d figure it out in Peru. The 3 hour bus ride was full of conjecture and slight agitation. The problem with traveling with a tour is that you’re not really in charge of what goes on since everything is organised for you, it can feel like you’re just along for the ride. We got to our final destination in Puno, Peru. Who was there waiting for us? BAM! Our guide! Apparently the Bolivian police asked him if he knew us/was working with the tour, he said no, and then told him that if that was the case he should get out of Bolivia immediately. So he boarded the next bus to Puno and waited for us to arrive. All’s well that ends well!Day 3 – May 27th, 2012
Today we went to check out some floating islands and indigenous villages on lake Titicaca. The floating village, while cool, had the typical tourist trap vibe to it. We went to see some houses, but while there, we were presented some things to buy. I hate awkward situations like that so much, but at the same time I understand that tourism allows communities that would otherwise not have any resources to continue existing. It’s a frustrating dichotomy. After that, we took the boat for another few hours to an island where we took a little hike up to a restaurant. Altitude hiking rewards you with pretty stunning scenery, but it’s so exhausting. Thankfully a delicious meal was waiting for us in the village on top of the mountain (hill?). Some fresh quinoa soup followed by a delicious fish and rice meal. So good! Afterwards, we went to another island where we go to meet our homestay family with whom we’d spend the night and morning. My roommate Alex and I don’t really speak Spanish, and the family was a bit awkward (to be fair, not as much as we were), so it was a pretty rough start to our stay. We ended up playing marbles with the 8-year-old boy while we waited for supper in the kitchen. There was a celebration of sorts later that night, but I felt a bit run down, so I figured I should be responsible and go to bed early. I think Alex didn’t want to go out in the cold. We both crashed at around 9pm. I’d hate to be sick for Machu Pichu!
Day 4 – May 28th, 2012
Winter (because it’s winter here right now) nights in Peru are cold. So cold that Alex and I slept under 4 heavy wool blankets. Our room wasn’t heated, or insulated, but still. Despite sleeping under 30 or 40 lbs of sheets, I woke up rested and healthy (thank goodness!). Alex didn’t sleep as well, but that’s probably because he had some coca tea after supper. That stuff’ll wake you up. After a nice, and once again awkward, breakfast, Alex and I went with the father to harvest some barley on his plot of land. The hike up was about an hour, but we took the scenic route. Alex, the father, the son, and I harvested barley for about 45 minutes and then we rolled it up in 60 lbs (I’m guessing) bundles and walked it down to their house using a more direct route. It still took us like an hour though because carrying a giant load of barley on your back using only a blanket and some rope takes some practice. Despite how tough it was, it made for a very enjoyable morning. It was nice to see what daily life islike for members of such a community. After a nice lunch, we were on our merry way back to the mainland. I spent a good hour on the boat ride back removing tiny barley twigs from my shirt, those little guys are prickly!
Day 5 – May 29th, 2012
Today was mostly a travel day. We went from Puno to Cusco, the main touristic city in Peru. It took us about 6 hours, but the view along the way was stunning. It’s hard to describe, but it looked like we were surrounded by giant mountains of green velvet. I know it sounds really tacky, but it was a stunning view. Having those green mountains, interspersed with distant glaciers, made me feel like I was back in the time of dinosaurs. Lke, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the road was blocked by a brontosauraus gently crossing the road or something. The ruggedness and scale of the Peruvian mountains is something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. Once we got there, I got to walk about Cusco a bit. I have to say, Cusco’s a really cool city. It has a really relax vibe to it. I think staying here for a few weeks while learning Spanish would be a great experience. Perhaps influencing me on this is that I went for supper to a place called Nuna Raymi with another person from the tour and had the most delicious meal. The menu describes lomo saltado as Tender juicy thin slices of beef sirloin sautéed and seasoned with pisco, garlic, coriander, soy sauce and complemented with crispy onion, yellow chili, fresh tomato, served with french fries and white rice (the version I had added this) plus mushrooms, peppers, chives and beer, all this DELICIOUSLY sautéed. I wish I had taken a picture, but it wouldn’t do it justice. Later that night, we met up with the other people at what is billed as the world’s highest Irish pub for a few drinks. It was a good end to a relatively dull day.
Day 6 – May 30th, 2012
Today was much more relaxed than any day before. We had a guided tour of Cusco with our tour leader in the morning. For me, the highlight was the local market. It was loaded with clothes and food, and had a really nice feeling. Like Jean Talon market if they got ride of all health concerns and started selling clothes and sundries. I like to imagine that if I stayed in Cusco for a few weeks, I’d go to the same merchants on a daily basis and have nice conversations in Spanish about the quality of the fruit or the weather or something. I ended up going to lunch at the market with someone from the group. I wasn’t fancy (it was a wooden bench in front of a table behind which they prepared some food), but it was good, fast and cheap. In the afternoon, our guide brought a few of us to the top of a hill overlooking Cusco. It was a bit rough it make it up, but it was beautiful up there. It was also a great opportunity to break in my hiking books before the Lares Trek to Machu Pichu. It was also a nice opportunity to try the local hiking suppliment, coca leaves…