We arrived in Lima and I feel like I am in another country, even though we are in the same country. Lima has 1/3 of Peru’s population. It is the second driest city in the world, second to Egypt. It never rains here, even though in the Andes, where I spent the last week, in rained heavily every day. Last night, at 11,000 ft. in Puno, I was wearing my rain jacket, a warm jacket outside and slept under two alpaca wool blankets. In Lima, I should be wearing a sun dress. We had lunch at La Lucha, which is like Shake Shack. My brother had some porky sandwich with sweet potato and I had a veg sandwich. For the afternoon, we walked to the mall, which has all the foreign stores and the movie theater. I went to Pinkberry for a refreshing cool snack and it was the first Pinkberry that did not have mochi or Captain Crunch as toppings, probably only in the US. I am excited for the movie and today’s rest day. Tomorrow travel day/transfer to Panama then to Costa Rica to begin part 2 of vacation.
After arriving back in Cusco, the next day, we took a short flight to Juliana then a bus to Puno. Puno is the city closest to the border in Bolivia and nearest to Lake Titicaca. I read the lake is noted as a possible origin of the Inca civilization and the lake itself is the worlds largest navigable lake. It is 100 miles wide and 935 ft deep. The lake is split between the border of Peru and Bolivia. We only visited the Peru side because for Americans the Bolivia visa is a few hundred dollars.
First stop on the lake tour was to the Uros islands, floating reed islands. The islands are patched together by dirt, bound by reeds and float. Each island has about 6-8 families living on it. Their livelihood is mostly fishing and tourism. The tourism money allows them to go to the mainland to buy things like sugar and vegetables. The huts are made of reeds too and have solar panels so they can have light on the rainy days. The children of each of these islands, row 30 minutes to another island to get to school. School is only available until primary school and the life expectancy is around 60 years old. Living on the reeds is always wet and the adults mostly all have arthritis. They also eat the reeds which taste kind of like celery but more fibrous. It supposedly has calcium. The reeds can also be used to put on your forehead to reduce symptoms of a fever.
The next island we visited was Taquile, a Unesco protected site. It is one of the largest islands on the Peru side. We learned about local island customs and agriculture. I was most impressed by a plant which turns into shampoo. The shampoo can be used for cleaning your hair and sheep’s wool. The wool when sheared is grey but when cleaned turns a brilliant white.
Around Puno, we also visited Sillustani ruins, an archaeological complex with circular stone towers, used as mausoleums. The tombs date to 1100 a.d. from the Kolla culture.
The Inca trail was one of the most amazing treks I have ever experienced. Over 4 days, you travel through valleys and over mountains, a total distance of 26 miles – a marathon. You gain and lose an elevation of 11,000 ft., up to 14,000 ft., and down to 8,000 ft. On Day 3, as part of the trail, we hiked down 3000 steps. The weather was mostly heavy rain, so much that my hands were wrinkly, and my clothes, bag and gear almost daily were soaked through. Despite all this, I still loved the experience.
I felt well supported by the Peru Treks company. We had excellent guides and porters. The porters range from 18-54 years old, 20 in total to support 16 hikers and one cook who made the most amazing popcorn I have ever tasted. The porters are restricted to carry a maximum of 44 lbs. There are various checkpoints to ensure porters are carrying equal weight. They carried our tents, camping food equipment and we paid extra for them to carry 13 lbs of our private stuff which would include a sleeping mat, sleeping bag and change of clothes. The remainder of items you need, you carry yourself in your day bag. I am guessing my bag weighed around 20 lbs since most days I was carrying close to 3 liters of water. The company was a local trekking company that I am now happy to recommend. My money went directly to them instead of an international trekking company that partners with a local company.
Our group was amazing too. We had 16 people from all around the world, in my same age range, with the exception of two mature 25 year olds Australians, one son who was 15 years old accompanied by his dad. There was a couple from the UK/South Africa, a Irish couple, an Australian couple who were on their 6 week honeymoon via Patagonia, Inca trail, and Cuba; the Israeli brothers from Australia, the son-dad Czech family from Colorado, a Korean couple, and me and my brother. Even though we only spent 4 days together, like all my adventures, I feel like I made good friends for life. I didn’t even need to explore Machu Picchu on our last day, the journey getting there was the most rewarding.
We survived the Inca trail despite the heavy rains. Anyone who has hiked this trail and said it was easy has not done it during the rainy season nor carried a day pack with winter gear. It was an amazing 4 day trek through valleys and mountains. I will post pictures as soon as wifi is better. We are now in Puno, at Lake Titicaca, tomorrow to Lima on Christmas Day to watch Stars Wars and eat Chinese food, like a Jewish Christmas.
I made my brother buy a sunhat because he didn’t pack one like I asked. He bought one at a local shop for $11 USD. The hat label read designed in Korea, produced in China, exported to Peru. The gear here, may look like popular brands back home but it is poorly made. His hat will probably last a while but the quality of other items is poor. The zippers are not sewn right, the arm length seems off but the logos are perfect. Best to bring reliable gear from home that you have used.
Diamox is sold here with aspirin. Isn’t that crazy? By the way, today was the first day I was feeling better from congestion and small headache from altitude. Happy I planned 3 full days to acclimate before our trek.
We rented trekking poles for both of us, total $12 USD for a 4 days, no extra cost for the day before or after for pick up and drop off. I would have liked to bring my own poles from home but they aren’t allowed as carry on. Tomorrow begins our journey to Machu Picchu. I will post if I find a signal, otherwise I will write again when we return by Wednesday.