Once we finally got to Puno, altitude 3820m (12,530 feet), I started feeling tingly and dizzy so I started drinking water after water to do away with altitude sickness. That didn’t work however and after dinner I went straight to bed and became sick enough that we had to call a doctor in the middle of the night! Things continued to go south from there and I had a miserable few days filled with shortness of breath, vomiting, chest pressure and tightness and rapid heartbeat. I missed out on a few days of the trip - a homestay on the island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca and hiking the Lares Trek (the alternative to the Inca Trail which is closed in February for routine maintenance). While I was disappointed, I still got to see some amazing things and got to go hiking at lower altitudes! We toured the Uros Islands which are floating islands in Lake Titicaca. Each island is made out of layer upon layer upon layer of reeds, which are also used to create beds and houses. I was amazed to learn that because of solar panels, many of them now have electricity, TV and radio! Each island houses about 5 or 6 families and an animal or two, mainly chickens and cows. It’s a much different way of life which is so normal to these people. It was fascinating! For the sales pitch portion of the trip we were taken in pairs to their homes, dressed up in traditional clothes and were sold their woven tapestries. I couldn’t help but give in when Gabriella the woman selling them kept pleading to me, “But Katy, but Katy,” but I negotiated well, so all is good!
We travelled through the mountains from village to village, stopping at areas of importance. We had an incredible guide named Manuel who really made you feel like you were getting the inside view of the Peruvian culture. He had such an amazing perspective on life and said something that will stay with me – “If you’re having a bad day and nothing’s going your way, remember that somewhere there is land so beautiful that will take that all away. Try in your mind to transport yourself to another place.” I went to two Incan ruins sights, one in Pisac and one in Ollantaytambo. They are very well preserved as they were so well built. What these people knew about architecture and masonry was astounding. These structures are going to stand forever! And they’re flawless! Unfortunately many of them were unfinished, mainly due to the fact that they took sometimes up to 200 years or more to build. For Pisac specifically the Incas had to bring the massive stones from a quarry 6km away by pushing, pulling and rolling them through the valley, then they had to get them up a ramp along the side of the hill on which they were going to go. Once there the rocks had to be formed into a square, carved until they fit just perfectly, hoisted onto the wall (without any machines or pulleys), positioned just so, polished, etc. Incredible!
Between Caccoccollo and the Pisac Market, I couldn’t help but buy some beautiful things. But I had to talk some sense into myself and force myself to stop buying. Although all the stuff you see below (blanket, gloves, purse, 2 hats (do I really need two???)) only cost me the equivalent of $35 USD!
“Only 10 soles (Peruvian money)”
“Por favor senorita…5 soles”
“Senorita, por favor,muy bonita”
Then she pulls a little cloth doll out of her bag and it starts again. It really tugs at your heart strings. That is until a little boy came up to me asking to shine my shoes (which are cloth by the way) and I said, “No gracias” and he said, “F*** You!” What?!?! I was shocked! This kid was like 10 years old!