Lake Boobypoo and the Incan Capital

Howdy folks!

Round two in La Paz was unfortunately not as enjoyable as round one: I now heartily wish I hadn’t spent so much time there in the first place. Admittedly, I was stuck there waiting for my replacement debit card, but STILL, there are way, way better places to be in Bolivia. One of these places is the charming (yet overwhemingly touristy) lakeside village of Copacabana.

Copacabana is on the shore of Lake Titicaca (do you get my extremely hilarious title-joke now?), which my guidebook describes as everyone’s favorite elementary school statistic. It is the largest and highest navigable lake in the world, but more interestingly it is from where the legendary founders of the Incan empire emerged. The lake is famous for it’s trout, and we enjoyed many fried fish in the beach shacks, looking across the lake, which is so huge it seems like the ocean.

Trucha!

However, the place to be is actually on the glorious Isla del Sol, which features ruins dating to before Christ and an ancient lifestyle by and large unchanged by the hordes of tourists that visit each day. Here, all the slopes are terraced, and have been for thousands of years, and they are still cultivated by the locals in traditional ways (that is, totally by hand). After a steep climb to the top of the island, we were rewarded with stunning views of the lake, which is ringed on one side by a mountain range to rival the Rockies. All the cafes have patios from which to enjoy the views as you sip your ice-cold beer, and our afternoon was largely consumed by doing just that. We then went on a walk around the terraces, and talked with the many field workers as they harvested their primary crop, peas. Every little girl or boy we met eagerly asked us to take their picture, but we quickly learned: as soon as the shutter clicked, their pleas changed to “paga me, paga me!” Evidently they desired renumeration for their work as an indigenous model.

Bringing home the crops

A word about my Spanish skills. Some time in the last couple weeks, something just clicked, and suddenly my listening comprehension took a huge leap forward. I don’t know how, but I realized I was suddenly able to differentiate easily the individual words in a string of speech. It’s very exciting . . . talking with the locals has never been better. As Brandon put it today, we are no longer super-gringos, but a more savvy traveller. It is incredible what breaking down the language barrier provides. I suppose my ear just needed two months to adjust to the Spanish sounds.

Sadly, we couldn’t linger at the beautiful Isla del Sol, because Brandon has to meet his sister in Lima in a couple days, and my visa had expired. We rushed off the island, and headed (finally) into Peru. The border crossing was extremely easy (nothing like what Keiran & Co. are currently experiencing in the Middle East!), and after converting our Bolivianos into Nuevo Soles, we were ready to go. The first, only, and most striking difference upon crossing the border (apart from new and exciting beers to try) was the sudden appearance of rickshaws. These are bicycles (the fancy ones are motorcycles) that have been converted to have two passenger seats behind the pedeller (or driver). These bike-taxis are extremely common in India and China, I hear, but I never expected to see them here in Peru! I’ve yet to try one but I can’t wait.

We arrived in Cusco, Peru, which I had never heard of before coming to South America, but my guidebook affirms (as do my initial experiences here) that this is THE gringo capital of South America. Cusco (which means “The Navel of the World” in Incan) was the capital of the Inca Empire, which was founded by the two original Incans soon after they emerged from the icy depths of Lake Titicaca. The modern city is built on the remains of the ancient one, and most of the buildings here have foundations of Inca stonework. The stonework is amazing, because the stones were painstakingly chosen to fit perfectly together — they were not carved or hand-jointed.

Inca stonework

Of course, Cusco is now most famous for Maccu Piccu, Peru’s answer to the Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty (joke). It also stands at the mouth to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which contains countless Inca ruins all within walking distance from the city. This place is seriously cool.

Maccu Piccu is ridiculously expensive. Just taking the train (the only way to get there) up and back for a day trip is about $250!!! The famous Inca Trail, which is a four-day trek to the site sits at about $400, but is so popular that it is fully booked until mid-May or so (only 200 people a day are allowed on — but that’s still a lot!). Fortunately, I have found a somewhat cheaper option: for $200, I can go on a four-day excursion (food and everything is included), which features a full day of downhill mountain biking, two days of trekking in the mountains past other ruins, a full day at Maccu Piccu, and a relaxing finish at a thermal spring. A bit of a budget buster, but it’s gonna be great!

Just walking around this town is hilarious . . . for the first time I’m seeing tourists other than budget backpackers like myself, and EVERYBODY is trying to sell something. I’m thoroughly thankful that I’ve had two months to become skilled in evading agressive sellers. Everybody speaks some English here (unfortunate, because it is very useful to confer in a language they don’t understand when considering their offer. Many sellers do the same however, by speaking in Quechua, the indiginous language of these parts. And yes, most people speak it, and some speak only it — no Spanish! Cool.), and as a tall white guy I am a prime target. My favorite are the pretty girls who are trying to sell us massages — one hour for about six dollars. It is actually somewhat useful having three or four of them at once trying to sell us the same thing, because then we can work them off each other: one offers thirty soles, and another immediately counters with twenty-five. With patience and a practiced “Well, maybe, but I’m not sure” expression, you can get crazy cheap deals.

There is much more to tell, as always, but I’m afraid I’m tired of writing. Unfortunately there’s not too many new pictures, the quality of which I’m only somewhat pleased with, but wait for next week when I’ll write about Maccu Piccu!

Thinking of you all!

‘K Bye.

PS: Beer in Peru comes in 1.1 liter bottles! Life is good.

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~ by turvyc on March 20, 2008.

One Response to “Lake Boobypoo and the Incan Capital”

  1. i hate tu inca capital

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