Sunday, June 1, 2008

Day 12, Lake Titicaca

We left Uros right after breakfast, and headed to Tacquile. I had read about the 500+++ steps, and had thought I could just lounge in a little restaurant while others checked out the island.
But, we landed on the opposite side of the island.....and there was nothing there. Nothing.
We set out on a stone path. I did not know it would go on for an eternity, straight up and up.
The path went relentlessly higher. I had difficulty breathing. I would have chewed on my coca leaves except I was too sick to my stomach to even think about doing so. At first the landscape was barren, and then grew increasingly lusher and more beautiful.

Clothesline of women's skirts. I do appreciate the beauty of the island, and the opportunity to capture these images to keep forever.

Reaching the end of our long upward hike was disappointing. There was nothing to see....just gray two-story buildings, housing local government offices....There were no stores, only one building for woolen goods. They were not doing big business. Solas other currency, or credit cards accepted. No one had a smile for us, either.

There is a coop of knitted and woven goods. Both quality and prices are high. Women do the spinning, everyone does the weaving, but it is men who do the knitting. Here you see a married man as designated by his red hat. Unmarried men's hats are white. Men and women live together...even having children....from an early age. Marriage takes place only after years of being together, when they are ready to make that serious commitment.

Far down below where we were having lunch, laundry was being done, and fields tended. The village elders direct each tour group to a restaurant they designate. It is a socialist island, our guide told us. Had I known that I had no choice in where to eat, I may not have wanted to go to Tacquile......but, if I had known how much serious hiking was required....I'd known I had no business attempting this adventure.

Silvia pointed out a group way down below us, saying they were "old people" who could not climb any higher. I asked her what she meant by old, and she said "Retired. From 55 to 70." Yes, Silvia....that's where I belong! I belong with
I thought this looked like the subject of a long-ago painting.

We passed through a series of gates. They were similar, each with rough figures on top which seemed to be facing all in one direction.

Ah, the last gate and the lake at last! And, below, our waiting boat. I difficult can it be to go down? Besides, I was going down from 13,00 ft. to "only" 12,000.

It was a l-o-n-g ways down. The steps were uneven and there
was nothing to hold onto. Could I maintain my balance? Keep my weight off my left knee? The island had not felt that friendly, so staying was definitely not an option.
This nice man, a leader of another tour group, kept me sane by laughing at my quips, as well as physically assisting me down these 566 steps to the boat! We had crossed the entire island on foot, which would have been fine, except for the altitude.
I had difficulty with lagging behind, being the last one. I have difficulty accepting any limitations that I have.

As we headed back to Puno, the sky got darker and darker. It was then that I noticed the two boat "captains" were only barely out of their teens. Soon, it was raining heavily, and we were rocking in rather large waves. There were no life preservers on the boat. I knew this because it is the very first thing I had checked the morning before.

By the time we reached the floating Uros islands, where navigating through the reeds might have been impossible without good visibility, we had left the storm behind. I was very grateful to get back to Puno and our hotel. Though we had been gone only one night, we had to check in all over again....doing the routine with passports and all. I was so ready to go home!:-)

Our route....based on as gradual a rise in altitude as possible:
Lima to Arequipa
Arequipa to Colca, back to Arequipa
Cusco to Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu
Cusco to Puno to Lake Titicaca
Puno to Lima

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