countin' the days

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Surreal World

Next stop on our saucy Southern Peru trail was Lake Titicaca (and yes, that is in fact its real name). The lake sits way up at 3,812m (12,507 ft) and aside from being the largest lake in South America, is also the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake is teeming with islands where indigenous people still live mostly traditional lives, but the main attraction is a group of 42 "floating" islands.

Called the Uros islands for the people who live there, these islands are a very surreal sight to see. In attempting to escape from the wrath of the Incas, the Uros created islands to inhabit by hand using only totora plants (reeds), which grow readily in the lake. The islands are anywhere from 3 to 5 meters deep, and every last thing on them is made of these reeds. The ground, the homes, the boats, benches, observation towers, and of course plenty of kitchy tourist souvenirs. Truth be told, these islands are a bit of a tourist trap, but it was spectacular to witness nonetheless. Walking around on the islands feels a bit like tramping on a waterbed, and you have to keep an eye out for the occasional sinkhole. Obviously, Desi and I avoided the souvenir stands and restaurants like the plague, and instead sat in the sunshine on the shores of the islands contemplating how something so spectacularly surreal could be possible.

Naturally, we also went out to the bars the night before. Lured by free drink coupons, we ended up in a random bar getting happy hour specials on Pisco Sours long after happy hour ended. What was originally some decent music with a few people swaying around turned into a huge bumpin' dance party with a bunch of college buddies from Georgia. We were reminded of many a fun college night with our fun college homies, many years ago ...

Our original plan was to go further out into the lake and do an overnight homestay with an indigenous family, but unfortunately Desi was battling with a nasty bout of altitude sickness (the town of Puno resides at a hefty 3800m). So, in true travel form, we spontaneously completely changed our plans and headed out on the next bus to Cusco.

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