View Single Post
Old 07-29-2012, 05:36 PM   #593
mightymatt43 OP
URALiNEED
 
mightymatt43's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Texas, USA
Oddometer: 475
Day 96-99 in South America: Copacabana to Puno

Day 96-99 in South America: Copacabana, Bolivia to Puno, Peru



Very near the top of her “must see” list in South America, Kristen was eccstatic about finally arriving to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca in Peru. The Uros, a pre-Incan people, began living on islands made of bundled totora reeds for the purpose of distancing themselves from their more aggressive neighbours. Only a few hundred continue to live the traditional lifestyle (mainly for the purpose of tourism) as most have moved to the mainland.

*

We hopped onto a boat with a small group of curious tourists, all armed with big cameras with equally big lenses. As soon as I saw the rest of our group, I immediately began to dread what easily could be a zoo-like atmosphere when we reached the islands.


*



*



*



*

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Not only was the rest of our group very respectful, but the island we visited was full of people that were genuinely interested in giving us a window into their lives.

Our island, called Waca Wacani, was home to five families and 7 structures entirely made of reeds. Their way of life is primarily funded by visiting tourists, but it’s not a gimmick. They legitimately live out their lives floating on Lake Titicaca. The community of nearly forty islands share a school, courthouse, community center, and bathroom facilities all housed upon bundled reeds.


*



*



*

I should say that there was definitely a little “push” to purchase some of their handicrafts but it was definitely not as bad as it could have been. Considering the insight that we gained into a people that live drastically different than how we do in USA, it wasn’t much a sacrifice.


*



*

The President of Waca Wacani:


*

As one final "treat", we headed out onto the lake via the Waca Wacani reed boat.


*



*



*

After experiencing the reed islands, I can definitely see how it could be an awkward and morally odd situation in different circumstances. Considering we were confined to a small space for several hours as guests in their home, we both found the Uros people to be gracious and had no problem going along with their desired flow of the tour. If you’re squeamish, however, in situations where something is financially expected of you, this may not be a good idea...

*

Seeing as we had been staying in some pretty mediocre places for cheap over the past couple of weeks, we decided to splurge for one night on a really nice hotel right on the lake. That night we ate at the hotel’s fancy restaurant and found ourselves with food poisoning a couple of hours later. Considering the state of the places we have been eating throughout South America, it is amazingly ironic and I legitimately laughed as I huddled over the toilet. Being sick took it’s toll and we were urged to stay a few nights - not great for the wallet.

At least the hotel had a herd of llamas.


*



*

It also had the highest conglomeration of white people we’ve seen thus far. The hotel was definitely a major hub for tourists. Because Lake Titicaca is so high in elevation (12,500 ft), apparently this was necessary:


*

One last thing about our first couple of days in Peru.

Corruption.

As I began the process of entering the country at the border while Kristen watched over the bike, I could tell things were going to be very different. It was like both the immigration and customs agents were desperately trying to find something wrong with our papers. After fighting through for about 45 minutes, I was escorted to a police station. I later found out that I could have excused myself at this point as this step was not necessary, but seeing as I didn’t know, I was treated to an interogation. Just when I thought all was well, I was asked for my insurance. I handed over our insurance for the USA and told him it should cover us in Peru as well (not entirely true) but he wasn’t having it. I sat around for another 10 minutes or so while he put on quite the show of pleading with his commanding officer, trying to find a way to help me out, etc, until he finally told me that if I slipped 50 Soles (about $17) into a folded piece of paper on his desk while he looked the other way, we could leave. Seeing as it was too late to pretend like I didn’t understand any Spanish, I eventually gave in and slipped him some cash. 10 Soles did it.

Defeat. It’s all part of the adventure, I suppose.

mightymatt43 is offline   Reply With Quote