Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 3: Puno to Cusco, Peru

Must every day start at 5am? Today we take a 5 hour bus ride from Puno, Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca to Cusco, Peru through the Sacred Valley.

First thing, we miss our bus. They just forgot to pick us up. On the steep side of the road, we wait for a touring bus from Peru. We meet up with the bus an hour late...8:30am instead of 7:30am.

The scenery is stunning. Click on the photos for a larger image. It's the end of rainy season and everything is a different shade of green. You can see why the Incas considered this the Sacred Valley. It's lush with greenery and surrounded by magnificent mountains.

This trip is more leisurely than yesterday. We make lots of stops to see churches, shop and walk around. Everywhere we stop they have set up shop.

We lunch at a buffet in a small town with tiny roads at right angles. Something about stuff in pots floating around in broth makes me nervous. They say it's chicken, but I've heard stories of guinea pig and alpaca. I make mine vegetarian. The salads are beyond compare. Beets, fresh hearts of palm, carrots, fresh lettuces and eggs adorn my plate every night.

I'd love to have one of the baby alpaca rugs. They are so soft and fluffy, but I'll have to carry that bitch for 10 more days. Laziness in this altitude overwhelms me. I refuse to carry anything more than I have to and am leaving crap behind each time we overnight somewhere. I do buy a pair of alpaca slippers for someone, probably me or the dogs.

Alpaca, sheep and llama graze by the sides of the road all the way to Cusco. We are met by Rocio at the bus station and she takes us to our hotel. There is no elevator and we're on the third floor. I need an oxygen tank.

We make plans for tomorrow with Rocio at an excruciatingly slow pace. She speaks little English. We speak almost as much Spanish. Somehow she is focused on me and thinks that I understand her best. The menfolk are getting antsy and I wish that she would talk to them. But apparently, I'm her favorite.

She will pick us up and take us to the train station to head towards Machu Picchu tomorrow morning at 6am. I know. It's always too damn early.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 2: Puno, Peru and Lake Titicaca

We leave Hotel Rosario and head to Puno, Peru. By bus, for 9 hours. I can't think. There's no air here in La Paz, Bolivia. As we board the bus, my uncle turns to me, "You have the tickets for this, right?"

Crickets. No, I don't.

"Did you give them to me?"
"Yes. All of them for this leg of the trip."

I remember late last night going to the tourism office in the hotel and setting it up and she gave us vouchers. Where did I put them? Shit. Shit. Shit. Where would I have put them? I look everywhere. They aren't with me. We ask the tour operator to wait on us while we get our vouchers for the bus, ferry, lunch and the hotel tonight reticketed. Fortunately, we're sitting in front of their office and they reprint them. The problem is that I have no memory of ever having them. My brain is oxygen deprived. Note to self: Be more careful with everything, especially you.

We begin driving, gaining more altitude and level out onto a road that takes us beside the lake. We pop coca leaves into the sides of our mouths and suck, but don't chew. We all have headaches and the coca leaves are supposed to help.

We cross Lake Titicaca on a ferry that I wouldn't send a load of feathers and cotton balls across on, and have a quick lunch at Copacabana, Peru. We plan a trip to Uros, the artificial Reed Islands on Lake Titicaca as soon as we arrive in Puno.

A storm is moving in and the colors on the lake are phenomenal.

Who wants to ride a reed boat to the next island? Me, me me! The serenity on the reed boat is beyond words. Quiet. Only the noise of two men paddling. Everyone maintains the quiet until two little girls that are riding with us begin singing for tips.

As we make our way back across the lake, the sun is setting and I am so tired. We find a dinner close to the hotel and on our way back I see a phone booth store where I call my love for the first time since leaving her. I'm a long way from home.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lucky Bitch

I know, I'm slow as hell. Hey, I've been sick. They don't know what's wrong with me, but I seem to be a bit better today. But we know it's not Yellow Fever, Hep A or B, the Flu, Malaria or Typhoid Fever. Probably just a nasty virus that I picked up on my travels.

Without further ado, the winner is... FREAKAZOJD over at Freaky Palace

She said...

You scared me into commenting. ;) I would LOVE a llama. I'll take 3, please! Joking. Please don't get me a llama. As much as I love them, I just don't know where I'd keep it. I suppose we could call it Tina and feed it casserole a la Napoleon Dynamite but I don't make that much casserole...
When do you go? Have fun - it sounds like an amazing trip!

As much as I'd like to say that I brought her back a fetus with the fuzz intact, I didn't. I don't need anybody virtually hating me.

Her grand prize is Yerba Mate (pronounced Mah-tay) complete with Bombilla (the silvery straw that also strains) and a Paraguay Mate cup. EVERYONE and I do mean EVERYONE in Paraguay drinks mate. Like we in the South drink sweet tea...but even more so. Everywhere you will see people with mate cups and bombilla and their own mate cooler to carry around their precious beverage.

On the squares, women have mortars and pestles made of Palo Santo or Holy Wood and they are tamping out the precious juices of all types of flowers, weeds and greens and making mate drinks.

So, Sweet Freakazojd, I have brought you a piece of Paraguay! Email me your mailing address and Enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

La Paz, Bolivia

Our taxi driver pulls over before our descent into La Paz. As far as the eye can see are houses and buildings of red. Immediately, we cannot breathe deeply.
Mission #1: Find Coca Leaves.

They are not bad. Sweet, but stiff. (Yeah, yeah...I'm leaving that one in for the fellas. Just like ya'll.) You stick them between your cheek and teeth and suck. Do not chew. But you do swallow. (I just keep setting you guys up!) If they help the altitude sickness at all, I don't know. I can't breathe, but I don't have the slamming headache that everyone else is complaining of.

Colors are bold and bountiful. From the signs to their clothing. It reminds me of Guatemala, but not as organized. In Guatemala, everyone in a family or community will match their weave. It truly is an amazing sight. This place is beautiful, just different and a very large city. With too many steep roads and steps.

We walk everywhere. And fast. These old folks are killing me! I am traveling with two uncles and an aunt all close to 70 years old. They want to walk down every street. The junk in my trunk knows that we will have to walk back up these steep streets and I will regret walking down, but not as much as I would regret not going with them. THEY are the adventurers. I'm just along for the ride.

We stop and buy snacks of Brazil Nuts, Raisins, Walnuts and Dates. Did I mention that the old folks are health nuts?

Everyone has internet access. Everyone. And cell phone cards. In La Paz, Bolivia, I don't see the homeless and hungry. Everyone is selling something.

From dried toads and llama fetuses at the Witches' Market to woven bracelets sitting on the street, they are all trying to make a living with what they have.

Ah yes, there's the matter of who will take home the prize that I brought back for my peeps! I promise to get to that tomorrow. I'm still trying to acclimate and catch up with work and family and friends and the blogging before my last brain cell dies and I remember nothing!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Like A Rock Star

I finally understand the meaning of exhausted. Keeping up with three 70 year olds for 12 days was enough for me.

I've been to Bolivia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and back to Bolivia. I am frazzled. I feel like the world is spinning at a different speed and angle than I am. My brain may never recover from the lack of oxygen that I experienced in La Paz, Bolivia at around 13,000 feet above sea level. Apparently, I'm a sea level kind of gal, because I could not think without my requisite dosage of O. And my brain still ain't right.

I've rafted across Lake Titicaca in a reed boat and been doused by buckets of rain at magical Machu Picchu. I've given beggars my change too many times to count...but one little girl haunts me.

On our last day, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, we were waiting in the grand courtyard in front of a Catholic Church with palms laid on the front of it. It was 10am and our plane was leaving at 11pm. We decided to hang out and people watch.

My aunt K wanted an ice cream. Just like she did every day. I accompanied her through the palm trees in the park where hundreds of people gathered to spend Palm Sunday afternoon. It was 70 degrees and sunny and a breeze made it the perfect day.

We heard music in the corner building as we walked to the ice cream shop. Obviously, a child's party was going on. Balloons were everywhere. Arches of balloons. A live band. Food and drink. We walked past the noise coming from open windows of gorgeous architecture with bars on the windows.

On the sidewalk sat a beggar woman on a blanket. A little girl accompanied her and played shoeless beside her in a blue velvet dress that was almost too small. But it's a special day and she dressed her as best she could. She held out her hand, and I placed my coins inside the brown wrinkling of her hand.

I wait on my Aunt K amidst dozens of people getting ice cream on the warm day. People shuffle around me and no one notices her. She has two balloon remnants and is filling them from a drain tube coming down the side of the dirty wall. Normally it would drain onto the ground, but she's thirsty. She fills the balloon and drinks.

Aunt K asks me again after I've told her that I don't want any ice cream. I'm not hungry. Nor am I wanting. I say, "Yes, I do. A child's portion."

The guys behind the counter are laughing and having a great time. Trying to ask me in broken English what I want mixed into my ice cream. My throat closes and tears well up in my eyes. "It doesn't matter." They laugh, thinking that I'm chunky and I'll eat anything. They ask me again. Surely I want some thing mixed in. It comes with it. Strawberries? Chocolate syrup? Oreos?

"Si, oreos. por favor."

He hands me a huge portion of ice cream with a middle layer of oreos with a tiny spoon and napkin.

She's still filling her balloon.

I squat beside her and peck her on her velvet covered shoulder. Her eyes light up. She takes the ice cream and sits on the blanket. Her mother looks at me, smiles, touches her brown hand to her heart and points at me.

I ask for another spoon for her. I had forgotten her.

It was by far the best ice cream that I've ever had.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Where's my Xanax again?

To say that I'm totally flipped out is such an understatement. I'm feeling so...well High Fucking Maintenance. I must have my styling mousse. And lotion. And and and and and....Then there's the logical side of me that has looked at the weather in Bolivia and sees that it will be rainy every day. I suppose that's why they call it "rainy season."

In typical Libra fashion, I am torn between looking decent in my vacation pics and carrying the Paul Mitchell Mousse and saying and having my hair fly back in wings circa 1976. But I will. I'll just have to find a way to pack it all.

Then there's the flight. Whatever will I wear? Leaving Nashville tomorrow at 2pm @ 47 degrees. Brrr. Arriving in Miami at 5pm @ 82 degrees and rain. Then arriving in La Paz, Bolivia @ 7am Friday morning @46 degrees.

Am I really this high maintenance all the time? Say it ain't so!

P.S. If you wanna be in the drawing for the South American prize, comment in the post below. It's sure to be something fabulous! Dried llama fetuses are the new black. It's for real, ya'll.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who Are You? Who Who Who Who?

I've decided to bring back something from my journey to one of my lucky readers. It will be unisex and will fit anyone or it might be a little South American knick-knack for the home. It could be from Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay (but not Yellow Fever, I hope), Argentina or maybe even Chile.

That means that you lurkers will have to turn off your cloaking devices (Hi Corky!) and let thyself be known.

There's only ONE person who can't play. SHE is getting a spoon! (Insert Ms. Penelope's squeal here)

Decloak, delurk and demystify yourselves! I'll pick one person at random from the comments on this post.

But first, does everyone have room in the back yard for an alpaca? Kidding!

P.S. I wish I could bring back something for everyone, but I have to haul it all around and I'm lazy like that.

Disclaimer: No purchase necessary. (Although if you want to give me money, who am I to complain) Only one entry per person. RLL is not responsible for you not having a yard if I bring back an alpaca for you. If you're allergic to wool, alpaca or llama, it's just too damn bad. If not enough people comment, I reserve the right to bring back a dried llama fetus and mail it to the lucky winner. So comment, dammit!

LOOK!!!! A Lemming!

Since Dana did it, I wanted to do it. I'm a copy cat! And there you have it friends, my Classic Movie Test results. Now you know why I'm headed off to La Paz, Bolivia home of the Road of Death and to who knows where after that.

I really want to go to Lake Titicaca. I mean, just so I can say Lake Titicaca. I know, I'm 12.

After much discussion, and I do mean endless pouring over maps and figuring out how far it is from here to there and IS there a railway....we still have no clue exactly where we're going.

I have been told by my girl that there will be no eating of guinea pigs. I've never owned a pet guinea pig, but the pic below secured the fact that I will not be ordering cuy picante. Too graphic for my tastes.

I have most everything packed, but I still need a few things. It occurred to me this morning that I leave in TWO days. Breathe. Not that they don't have stores if I forget something, but I want my OWN toothpaste, my favorite soap, etc. One last trip to Target and I'll be ready! Yeah, right.