“Adios Titikaka, hola Peru”!
Ok so technically I said hello to Peru first as Lake Titikaka has a reach so vast it ploughs deep into both countries. That said, I was finally making inroads towards Machu Picchu. But let us not get stuck on a single vision about where we are headed. There is indeed a whole lot to see on the way. One such place is the city of Puno, possibly one of the dirtiest and aesthetically displeasing places I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in Glasgow!
Much like Glasgow however, it was also an incredibly friendly place. Having realised that I’d left my phone charger in my hotel room in Copacabana, “trust you” my Mum would say, as if I had fully met her expectations. I can hear her voice in my head now. “Yeah, I know ok”. Anyway, this meant I either allow my battery to drop or I buy a new charger. With all the usefulness of language translation, GPS maps and the convenience of being able to book hostels and hotels in advance etc, losing my pocket sized bestest friend in the whole world simply wasn’t an option. Luckily there were plenty Peruvians happy to point me in all sorts of directions until I finally got one which le me to a small mall. Upon entering a phone shop the ‘salesman’, if you can call him that, bizarrely shook his head in response to my cheerful enquiry about said new charger. This later seemed bizarre as not a moment later a woman appeared with a little more intent to actually sell me something. One glance at my pocket sized bestest friend and she quickly produced a charger, even testing it for me there and then. “10 soles” she said, and the deal was done. Perfect. I thanked her, ignored the useless git who clearly didn’t know his arse from his elbow and made off for some street food followed by an early night.
The next morning it was time to stop going around the lake and actually head out on to the damn thing itself. I’m not one for boats, or water for that matter, but there were two islands to visit and they both sounded pretty cool. The first island was one of the several floating islands that are dotted around he lake. About 80 in total. These things are man made and are built entirely out of the long grass that pierce out of the water’s surface, making up vast fields everywhere. All are inhabited, and have been since their ancestors took to the lake to escape the Spanish, literally living on boats until they realised these islands were possible. The structures themselves are just made up of crossed over layers upon layers of grass, with the whole thing tied to posts sunk into the ground. Best to anchor down your floating home I guess.
The second island was less weird, this one was made of rock, and didn’t visibly move or make you feel like you were on quicksand if you stood still too long. It was pretty however, and we were treated to an amazing lunch. I even met a friendly English chap who delighted in talking about nothing but himself every 2 minutes. Too bad there were no sinking islands nearby.
Back in Puno and it was time to get the bus to Cusco, this was to be no ordinary bus however, it was to be a tourist bus. Now I’ve nothing against tourist buses per se, but I am wholly against tourists. They bug the hell out of me. “Please don’t touch” That’ll be a new collection of fingerprints on that priceless display item, “Please no pictures” suddenly the frigging paparazzi are in town. They are morons in my opinion, Not that I’m perfect, I do have a small piece of the Ancient Pyramids at home, but at least I don’t irritate others by being a stereotypical fat American, or a skinny witch who decides to practically stand on my toes so that she can take another unauthorised picture. “Hellooo, I’m standing here ya silly bint!” Anyway, I digress.
So the trip was cool, we saw some interesting Incan stuff, ate some good food at a buffet lunch, but best of all I got my new hat! Not just any hat, but a leather one with a cool Condor shape on the front and more Peruvian animal shapes all around it. After leaving the shop where I had successfully haggled 5 pesos off the price, I glanced at the ground and saw what could only be described as Indiana Jones’ shadow stretching out from my very own feet. I took an obligatory Facebook photo, smirked and set off back towards the bus. Cusco was close by and tomorrow I would be setting off for Machu Picchu.
Setting off at dawn it was a two hour drive or so to a small town called Ollantaytambo. This was to easily become one of my favourite places in Peru. Surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains, Incan ruins and an un-tampered sense of what it used to be like back in the day, it was certainly a special little spot. Stepping out the taxi that had brought me here from Cusco, I felt like I had instantly stepped into a level in Uncharted (A game on my PS3). I even half expected the main characters Drake and Sully to come barging out a nearby bar, fresh from another brawl. Unfortunately in real life such things never seem to happen.
So the bikes arrived, they were pretty top of the range. Just as well because I’ve never been the most confident cyclist. Well, at least going downhill anyway. The problem, I think, arises from when I was a wee boy. On a biking trip with my dad and sister I was involved in an accidentally attempt at impersonating Superman. As I flew over my blasted BMX handlebars, I was unfortunate to then find myself at the hands of gravity. This resulted in my quick descent, chin, knees and elbows first, on to what was probably nothing short of a treacherous garden of rocks and stones. An uncomfortable landing to say the least. So as this memory has yet to fully fade, and as I still behold the scar on my chin that proves this tormenting tale, I was perhaps a little bit sceptical of my own ability to remain on my bike this time around.
At the very least, the view was just as breathtaking as the incredibly high altitude!