Friday, February 13, 2009

BOWL ivia!

We have made good on the second half of blog title. After a few tense moments at the border, we made it over to the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. Since our last post we have not dropped below 10,000 feet (so high)! We have some catching up to do.

From The Trip, pt. 4: Arequipa to the frontera

So Colca Canyon was deep, but we wouldn't have known on our way there because it was so foggy. Once again, I came face to face with the dangers of needing to use the bathroom while on a long bus journey. As we arrived in Chivay at the top of the canyon, two hours from our destination at the bottom of the canyon, I didn't think twice about the impossibly long line of people that seemed to be waiting to board our bus, nor was I really concerned when I had to squeeze past all those people as they shoved their way on. I found the "hygenic services," contemplated buying an empanada, and made my way back to the bus, at which point I realized I might be in danger of not getting back on the bus. People were literally trying to shove their way into this bus with little luck. I watched in horror as the bus driver started the engine and people shoved harder. I told the door guy that I had a seat but there wasn't much he could do. As the driver continued revving the engine and as John really started to freak out, the door guy grabbed both sides of the door frame and squished me and himself into the bus. The door couldn't even close all the way and we rode like claustrophobic sardines with our heels hanging out over the road into the next town. Lucky for my sanity, a few people got out in a few kilometers, which meant we could close the door, but in my new position I was packed so tightly I could hardly breath. Then a little distance further a few more people got off and I was able to elevate myself until I was more or less sitting on this mom's lap with her son. Then a little distance further I was able to fight my way back to my seat. And so I learned another valuable lesson about bus riding.

From The Trip, pt. 4: Arequipa to the frontera

When we finally arrived in Cabanaconde, it was so foggy and rainy you could hardly see across the little plaza. After being mobbed by people who wanted to us to stay at their hostel, we followed our friend Ronald to his and then ate one of the best meals we have had so far in Peru. The thing to do in Cabanaconde is hike, either into the canyon or up to the condor viewing point. So the next day we attempted to explore town and see if these trails made themselves apparent, but they did not. Our hostel hostess let us know that these were not mere day hikes, but the good news was that there was a fiesta happening that night. We asked what kind of fiesta and she said, Fiesta del Pueblo. So we convinced ourselves that we didn't want to hike down into the canyon because then we would have hike back up and we didn't want to hike to condor lookout because we would pass it in the bus, so we waited it out, expecting the townspeople to start setting up tables or make some sort of preparations but all seemed quiet. Then at the appointed hour after dark we walked out into the quiet plaza and saw crowds heading out toward the cemetery. We followed, stopped where others were milling about, followed again, milled some more, unexpectedly received a plate full of food that men were handing out to everyone, were embarassingly interviewed by a man with a incredibly brightly lit video camera, then followed again to a church near the cemetery. Some sort of ceremony seemed to be occurring inside then suddenly someone was setting off booming fireworks and a marching band started playing. We marched with them back toward town, stopped at another church for more ceremonies and firecrackers, then continued on to the plaza. Then as far as we know the band continued to march well into the night around and around the plaza and woke us up the next morning as the playing recommenced at 5.30am and they were still playing as we bussed away back out of the canyon. Quite the fiesta del pueblo!

From The Trip, pt. 4: Arequipa to the frontera

As we had hoped, we zoomed straight from Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca where we stumbled upon another festival in the town of Puno. Here they were celebrating the Festivilidad of the Virgen del Candelaria. The festival had been going for several days and we were lucky enough to catch the parade on the last day. Now as we should have guessed from the Fiesta del Pueblo, this was no ordinary parade. We learned that it started at 7am and wandered down to see men and women and children from all the neighborhoods around Puno in beautiful traditional costumes, bowler hats, skirts spinning, every color in the rainbow glittering as they twirled by. The male costumes were a bit more symbolic, representing demons and devils as far as we could tell and each group had their own mini marching band. We watched, walked to the end, children bought cans of shaving cream and began spraying each other, dancers could be seen spinning around with bottles of beer. There were so many people watching, sitting in chairs set up along the route that it was a nightmare trying to get across town. Finally we went down to the harbor and got a ride to check out the floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca. Horribly touristed but fascinatingly bouyant nonetheless. We slowly made our way back toward town surprised to see the parade still in full swing. We went back to the hostel, back down to town to eat dinner, got some pisco sours and beers at a restaurant called Machu Pizza and the parade was STILL going. We got a cab back to hostel and asked the driver how long this parade was going to go and he said until midnight (seventeen hours of dancing!). I asked how they did it and he said, with beer and faith.

From The Trip, pt. 4: Arequipa to the frontera

The next day we made our way to the Bolivian border. There is a hefty reciprocity tax between Bolivia and the United States. For whatever reason Bolivians entering the US and Estadounidense entering Bolivia have to pay $150. It was painful.

From The Trip, pt. 5: Bolivia

Copacabana, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, was another one of those towns whose entire economy seemed to be based on tourism and there seemed to be more tourists there than Bolivians. While our brains adjusted to dividing prices by 7 instead of 3, we explored town and found one of the most amazing cathedrals we have seen yet. The next day we caught a ride out to a non floating island called Isla del Sol. It was pretty.

From The Trip, pt. 5: Bolivia

Now we are in La Paz, highest capital in the world, where we are staying at a hostel brewery, which happens to be the highest hostel brewery in the world. I think we were at almost 15,000 feet. La Paz's one million residents cling to sides of a breathtakingly steep valley bowl. We need to go explore more now that the protest has gone by. Apparently they protest every morning at 9.30am to express their desire for nationalized auto repair... obviously I didn't quite catch the specifics. I just exchanged Clive Cussler's 'Treasure of Khan' for Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road,' at what was supposed to be an incredibly discriminating hostel book exchange... lucky for me the keeper of the book exchange spoke German.

From The Trip, pt. 5: Bolivia

And that brings us up to date.

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