Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Copacabana, Puno, Arequipa and Colca Canyon

I will start this post with a brief description of Copacabana in Bolivia, which nestles beside the majestic Lake Titicaca - it is shite. It is a dirty little town that had a 'carnival' going on for the whole time we were there. I will describe the scenario so my pain may be dissipated vicariously - a 'band' 'played' their instruments for approximately 14 hours a day outside our hotel, but it appeared they were briefed with the following instruction, "bang your instrument as loudly as you can and pay no particular attention to timing, rhythm or melody. As for dancing, have a p*ssed off look on your face and just do a 130 degree turn in one direction and then switch to the other direction (like an AC circuit) whilst twirling your skirt, and under NO circumstances try to improvise". I trust I have conveyed the message that I thoroughly enjoyed this local spectacle.

Thankfully the town also lacked a cash machine, meaning we couldn't withdraw the bunse to do a tour to Isla Del Sol (which by all accounts is actually beautiful) which hastened our premature exit to Puno, on the Peruvian side of the lake. What a relief! Cash machines, internet, excellent vegetarian restaurants, nice people and an abundance of good quality artisan items. We did a tour to the floating Uros reed islands which was interesting enough to occupy us for a few hours. We didn't stick around long though and made our way to Arequipa, which is the base city to explore Colca Canyon (deepest canyon in the world, twice as deep as Grand Canyon) from.

Arequipa is big! When we approached it at night in our bus it looked as big as LA or London! Quite surprising. It's a pleasant and vibrant city and - wait for it - Cressy and I went to a museum! Second shocking fact - it was actually interesting! There are the mummified remains of a female Inca teenage sacrifice victim on display, preceded by a very informative and captivating National Geographic video. An excellent guide furnished us with the perfect quantity of pertinent information and the whole experience only lasted about 40 minutes. In brief, the Incas believed that the volcanoes were actually gods and an eruption signified that they were angry. In order to appease them, human sacrifices were offered and it was considered a privilege to be chosen as the sacrificial offering. When the guide told me that I actually thought, "bullshit!" but according to the literature the claim holds true! The main mummy (Juanita) was behind screens being restored as part of an annual conservation program but the replacement was still an excellent example of a child body preserved by the extreme cold at the top of the volcano.

Enough history now. 3 days ago we set off on our trek of Colca Canyon, which was bloody hard! The scenery was stunning and there were two ascents, the longest of which was 1,100 metres on the last day up a steep rocky path in the pouring rain. At over 3,000 metres above sea level breathing was very difficult and at times Cressy and I declared that we reached 7 out of a possible 10 on the fed up scale! When we reached the summit I literally screamed (note 'screamed', and not shouted) with delight and felt like hugging everyone. To add to my delirium the hostel had the best shower in the world (ever, officially) and I could have spent the whole night in it. We toasted our success with a few Mojitos in the local bar and all agreed that I was in fact the best climber despite my apparent lack of quadricep muscles and legs that look like arms.

As it was such an achievement, we decided to celebrate again upon our return to Arequipa by having Mexican food, drinking beer then going to a karaoke bar and drinking lots of good quality rum and Coke. I was horrified by the version of Bill Withers' 'Lean on Me' they had and duly refused to sing, but was quietly amused by the inexplicable soft porn video they had to accompany it.

We head to Cusco tomorrow evening to seek pastures new and further adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Hi you two. I have been fascinated for a long time by both of those things you mentioned. The reed islands, and the privelige of being a young sacrificial offering. They did reports a few years ago about the latter, and it really struck a chord in my imagination. The victims were I believe well doped up, before their ascent to death, so probably died happy. Surely it would be impossible not to be scared otherwise.
    I always thought that the copacabama was a beautiful romantic sort of plac e. Obviously not. Anyway Sam, your descriptions have me smiling to myself, and I am enjoying what you are writing immensely.