When you see the southern cross for the first time,
you understand now why you came this way,
cuz the truth you might be running from is so small,
but it's as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day...
We left Puno in a boat with about 20 other passengers to visit a few islands in the Lake Titicaca. Each island offered different elements of wonder. The first island was a floating island, and that is to say that they make the island and it doesn't attach to the lake floor. It is anchored by 18 small tethered weights and the island is purposely made up of thatch and mud that supports the various agriculture that is indigenous to the area. By doing this, they insure they have a built in source of irrigation and the islands last for several years (sometimes 30) before the mulch becomes too rotten.
The island is a natural source of tourist activity too, which further justifies it's creation. We took a hand paddled boat that loosely resembled an old viking ship to another floating island where our regular boat picked us up and we set off to the first of three regular islands.
We arrived at the island where we would stay the night after about three hours in the boat. There we met our host mother who was as sweet as cartoon candy. She made us some soup and tea and we (Dylan, Michael and I along with a couple from New York/India and a young woman from England) all then took a short nap before the hike.
After about an hour of down time, we meet our guide in the main square which was about a ten minute walk....straight up hill. There seemed to be some commotion with some of the other's vouchers. After waiting this out and catching our breath, we began a hike to the second highest plateau on Earth. This hike took about an hour and with the vertical challenge combined with the altitude (
13,800 feet above sea level) this was a very challenging hike. Several times I doubted my ability to complete this challenge. But we kept hiking and eventually, breathless we arrive at the top. The air is thin, the hike is brutal but we feel aglow from the hike. And, instead of feeling spent and daunted by the hike down I feel like I could finally breathe. I felt strong and my breath wasn't an issue for the first time in days. This hike seemed to expedite the acclimation to the altitude. Awesome! The view of the lake from the plateau is amazing and I arrive just as the sun is setting. This plateau is considered an ancient source of power and a place of union of feminine and masculine energy. So, when you reach the top you are to place four stones from the ground into the wall to represent a prayer for you health, love, wealth and joy. I liked this little ritual.
The hike down is easy, I can breath and gravity is doing most of the work. When we reach our home stay, the mother has made another delicious soup. After sating ourselves on the local staple, we then get dressed in traditional Cetchwa clothing to go to a dance. The dance is lively as it is full of locals and travelers dressed similar to me and my fellow travelers. The dance ends early, which is welcome despite the fun, for it's been a long day and another early rise is upon us. As we leave the dance I see the southern cross broadcasting it's sky domination to those in this hemisphere. Wow! It was truly a vision. And if that weren't enough, the whole sky was unencumbered by light and stars shone bright and they all wanted to show off at the same time. This was the brightest star display I've ever seen. Time for sleep...
The time machine is working again and I wake up several times in the night. which feels fine, especially coupled with more views of the star speckled ceiling.
In the morning we give the host family some small gifts and tips and thank them for such a nice stay. The mom makes peruvian pancakes. After breakfast we get back in the boat and head to the third island. There we hike up to another plateau. This one is not as high and I'm feeling like a machine now....altitude be damned. After we learn of the local economy of we walk down the 540 or so steps to the boat. A three hour boat ride brings us back to Puno where we are happy to rest and meet some of our fellow travelers at Machu Pizza for a nice dinner. Sleep then off to Cuzco to start the Inka (spelled like the outfitters spell it_) Jungle tour. This will be hours and hours of hiking, biking, zip-lining and hot springing on our way to Machu Picchu.
Viva mas amigos!