|Traveller Not Tourist: Jay's Journey pt.4|
|Written by Traveller Not Tourist|
Traveller Not Tourist:
Jay’s Journey by
Part 4: The Lake That Looks Like an Ocean
So, Sucre, what a treat! It's totally gorgeous. I managed to spend a week there and barely do anything but utterly enjoy myself. Jess, a fellow volunteer from Angels of Hope, and I struck gold with our accommodation - we stayed in a self contained flat (above a family home) complete with fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with (almost) hot water, sitting room with dining table and TV and a balcony. We even got to share the family pet, Dino (a dog, not a dinosaur). We made dinner for the family one night and they returned the favour.
I helped out with a couple of English lessons at the local language school, which was my first step on the road that ultimately led to TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). I also went on a hiking trip with a local to see some of the 7 cascades (waterfalls just outside Sucre). Other than that I just wondered around with a big grin on my face looking at the gorgeous buildings and chilling out.
Walking up the stairs from the port on the Isla del Sol was pretty hardcore due to the altitude and the harassment from young boys trying to get us to go to their hostels. We eventually got one for 15 bolivianos (1 English pound) that had a perfect view over the lake and a reasonable toilet. We went for a walk before dinner and had a quiet half hour contemplating the lake that has inspired so much awe and so many stories. One version of the Inca account of creation tells that the great Creator God, Viracocha, created the lake and then drew out the sun and the moon from it. There is another tale about a city of proud and arrogant people who were wiped out by a terrible storm which brought so much rain that it created Titicaca. Another story claims that the great Lord Kon-Tiki emerged from the lake. Whatever you believe, if you spend any time really connecting with Titicaca, I think you will feel the same power and potential those ancient peoples did.
We spent the next day walking from the south of the island to the north and back. The ruins were good and the museum was small but cute. The altitude wasn't too much of a problem but it was certainly a good work out. Back in Copacabana we met up with some guys we'd been talking to the day before and they invited us to dinner so we bought wine and veggies (which we could just about afford), had a nice warming cup of “Api” (thick, hot drink made of maize and cinnamon) and headed over to their house which was right on the shore of the lake. Dinner took about 4 hours to make but it was made with love and laughter and tasted great. It was truly multicultural as well, Jess (American) and I sat down (finally) to eat with; a Columbian, an Argentinean, a Bolivian and a Spaniard (a German and an Australian also popped in halfway thru but didn't stay to eat).
The next day Jess and I finally parted company after a month or so of being room mates and I headed off to check out the Uros Reed Islands on the Peruvian side of the lake. I've heard people complain that they were too touristy but then that's their main income now so it's par for the course really. I think that if you really find something interesting you just have to put up with “touristy” sometimes! It's amazing how they make the islands - they take 8 months start to finish but luckily they last for about 25 years. I got to eat some of the reeds and even have a trip in a reed boat (and I rowed)
I later learned that the name “Titicaca” means “Rock puma” in a combination of Quechua and Ayamara, the 2 main local languages. I also learned that the Bolivians joke that the Bolivian side is “Titi” and the Peruvian side is “caca” (lit. “poo” in Spanish). An unfortunate linguistic coincidence there. Not surprisingly, the Peruvians have a very similar joke (reversed of course).
After the Uros Islands we had a three hour boat journey to Amantani where I was placed with a host family. I'd heard that the islanders only spoke the local language of Quechua (pron: Ke-chew-ah) but it turned out they spoke Spanish so that made life easier. I had read my Rough Guide and therefore bought gifts of fresh fruit and toys for the children which were very well received (in fact, the ball I took with me was still being played with by the whole family when I left).
We were taken for a walk up a hill to Pachatata (pre-Inca temple dedicated to Father Earth) from where you could see Pachamama (Mother Earth - nice balance). We watched the beautiful sunset with a hot cup of muña (mint) tea in hand. Mmmmm!
There was a party that night to which we wore traditional dress - 2 brightly coloured skirts, a blouse, a VERY tight belt (worn v high) and a shawl. It was freezing so I wore my outfit over my trousers. Lots of traditional dancing ensued. I think I was lucky in the family I ended up with – they try to distribute the tourists fairly around the island but some of the families are less thrilled about the compulsory parties than others.
Next day after breakfast, we were back on the boat, bound for Tequile. We wandered round the island a bit, had lunch and heard all about the local dress (they have an interesting system where the type of hats the men wear tells you what their marital status is – easier than internet dating I guess). Then back to Puno and onwards to Arequipa where, although I didn’t know it at the time, my destiny was waiting!
So, what can we glean from my ramblings this week? A common thread seems to be getting in with the locals – an undervalued skill in my opinion. Speaking the local language certainly helps but I think a genuine interest in their reality and a little attention to detail go a long way. From walks to see waterfalls to multicultural meals, great accommodation to learning how a country works, there’s no end to the advantages to be gained from being friendly and making an effort. Of course, you have to be careful and you can’t just assume that everyone has your best interests at heart but I think if you follow your intuition, and add in a bit of common sense, you can’t go far wrong!
And if I haven’t already made this clear, I definitely recommend a visit to the lake that looks like an ocean.
Next up - Part 5: How dreams become reality