Journal: day 11

 In the Sacred Valley 

In the Sacred Valley 

So I've missed a few days of writing, particularly due to a few busy days in Cusco dealing with Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. We also saw Lake Titicaca. I'll touch on that later.

Yesterday, we left Cusco at 16:00 on a bus said to arrive in Lima at 11:00 the next day. We just happened to share that bus with the world's most unpleasant baby, who cried and screamed for hours and hours straight without any caretaker addressing the problem in any way. Hours of continuous wailing is a clear sign that a baby needs something.

On top of the baby, as we made the full pass over the Andes mountains in the middle of the night, the windows began to ice over on the inside of the bus. That means that it was clearly too cold. I found myself in the fetal position, head and arms pulled inside two wool jackets (and a third covering my legs), a bandana over my mouth to keep the dry mountain air from ravishing my throat, wearing two hats, and two pairs of pants. For as little as it did yo keep the cold out, it wasn't even a possible position to maintain, because as our driver zoomed through sharp switchback curves, a body not well-braced would be thrown off the seat. It was a long, long night, and I ended up doing most of my sleeping as we passed by morning along Peru's southern Pacific coast, some of the least attractive landscape I've ever encountered.

Now, allow me to backtrack substantially, and recall some of what we've experienced in the undocumented days before today. We spent an entire day in La Paz out and about to see such the spectacular city. As it turns out, in passing conversation with a taxi driver we had hailed from the bus terminal upon arrival, he offered to take us the next day on a tour of the major sites of the city for 40 Bolivianos - just a big more than 5 US dollars. We made the deal and sure enough, there he was the very next day, waiting at 9 am out the front door of out hostel. He was a short man of feeble stature (and who's name escapes me), fluent in Spanish, Quecheua, and Aymara, two major indigenous tongues of the Americas.

 George and the driver

George and the driver

So with our driver we passed through a richest neighborhoods that fill the lowest basin of the bowl shape of La Paz, then went up to all the highest points of the crest around to find all the most spectacular views of the massively expansive, surprisingly modern city scape built on such an impossible mountain grade, seemingly a still photograph and an entire metropolis just poured, cascading down the sides of the mountain and collecting in a fine shamble of tall and colored glass buildings, set in front of complimentary rugged, rough, dangerous, and unconquerable mountain-scapes towering behind. 

 Dried baby llamas

Dried baby llamas

He even took us on a quick 20 minute jolt from the city center to the Valley of the Moon national park, a preserved landscape of eroded mud fenced of in the plain center of a residential area.

So our 3 hour voyage ended back at the hostel, where we spend time exploring the witches' market that lay outside out door. Common fare includes, but is not limited to, dried llama, frog, and bird carcasses, carved amulets meant to remedy any ailment, a smorgasbord of dried herbs, ripe to be smoked, brewed, or rubbed on the skin, and various forms of preparation of certain psychedelic cacti. 

The next morning we found ourselves on an early bus out of La Paz to Copacabana, the Bolivian border town on Lake Titicaca. We ferried to cross a skinny outcropping of the lake, and traveled on a bus atop a rickety metal flat boat, floating amongst wooden fishing ships and sailboats. Upon arrival in Copacabana, we bought bus tickets several hours in advance for a trip to the Peruvian border, and headed up several hundred meters to a stone monument and lookout over the lake. For an hour we climbed an impossibly steep slope with no real marked trail, wondering how many people could commonly visit this place, only to find, upon reaching the top, a massive stone staircase pouring down the other sided.


The view of the lake, needless to say, was spectacular. With such dry, clean, clear air at such a high altitude, the water reflects brilliantly the color of the sky, creating the illusion of no distinction between the two. Except, of course, for the mountains on the horizon. Although, the horizon seemed for some reason to fade away around its intersection with the water, leaving only visible floating mountain peaks, fading up out of the horizon and into the sky. Quite spectacular, indeed.

Then from Bolivia onto Cusco, Peru, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Cusco is an odd city, being both the Americas' oldest continuously inhabited city and a major destination of international tourism, there is a visible dichotomy. In the tourist center, the same dish available for 17 USD is sold literally two blocks away in a place where travelers don't often wander, the same thing is sold for a dollar. Cusco has Disney tours as well. You can book a trip with Disney and go to Cusco and Machu Picchu. I found that striking.

Then we also went through the sacred valley and up to Machu Picchu.