Monday, September 24, 2007

Lake Titicaca and La Paz

So we're hanging in La Paz now, getting ready to fly up north in Bolivia to the Amazon basin jungle. Tapirs, crocs, river dolphins, pirhanas, etc... but that's just the dinner menu. (Ok, not really, but they do cook up pirhanas--we're excited to try one!). We'll let you know how it tastes in next week's blog, when we get back.

Our last night in Cusco was perfect. We finished our last Spanish class and went straight to the best restaurant in the country--the MAP Cafe. Located in the Museum of Precolumbian Art's courtyard in a glass cube (think Apple store), the MAP Cafe boasts the best chef in the country (and some say the continent). We had an incredible feast with drinks, three courses and live music, it was under $100. God bless cheaper economies (I type this as the dollar keeps hitting an all-time low against the Euro... thanks, Bush!).

The next morning we took a train through the beautiful southeastern countryside to a stopping point on the Peruvian shores of Lake Titicaca, where we spent the night. Thanks to a great trio of Argentinian retirees on the train, we shared gourd after gourd of maté and watched the hills and rivers roll by. After the 7th hour on the train, we had to resort to watching the Family Guy movie on my iPod. We love technology... we really do.

The next morning we took a super early bus to the Bolivian border and crossed with relative ease (only a thin chain three inches off the ground prevents you from making a run for it). Twenty minutes later and we were in Copacabana (sans Lola), on a peninsula jutting into the lake.

Titicaca is enormous (it's really hard not to crack pun after pun, but I'll spare you) and it seems like an ocean. In fact, it felt a bit like Malibu, but colder and less developed, complete with gorgeous sunsets over the ocean. The very sleepy town didn't have much going on, except for huge parades and festivals every single day. One highlight (though we didn't have the camera) was about 20 8-year-old school children walking through the main street all dressed up in homemade Tigger/cat costumes, chasing their teacher, dressed up as a mouse.

After a few days of relaxation, we hopped a boat to take us to the Isla del Sol, an early Incan stomping ground in the middle of the lake. We hiked the length of it (three and a half grueling hours--see Aaron's "Why I Hate Hiking" diatribe, to be posted later), which Deanna absolutely loved. I'm still sore (a week later). The path took us along a ridge at the highest points of the island, where there were rock gardens and some cool ruins (see the pictures below).

A few days later, we took a bus further along the lake to La Paz, the highest capital in the world. But to get there, we had to take a quick ferry--passengers in boats while the bus was floated on a barge across the straight. See the picture below. I saved the day with my leatherman as our boat stalled out 3 times (we're talking about a 100-yard straight to cross) and they needed my knife to fix a gas line.

We arrived to La Paz and felt instantly at home with the pace of life and variety that the city has to offer. One thing that really strikes us as odd is the layout. The city is built in a giant valley/canyon, and it's HUGE. The interesting thing is that the richest parts of the city are the lowest in elevation, in the center of the valley. The hills with the stunning views are 100% slums--the opposite of most places we know.

After a morning of walking and exploring, we hopped on a double decker bus to tour the city. The highlight so far (not counting the warm pastrami sandwiches with real deli mustard in a restaurant owned by a New Yorker) was the Valley of the Moon (which is on top of a hill--go figure), with crazy rock stalagmites formed by erosion. Pictures don't do it justice, but too bad--you're going to see them anyway in the upcoming ofoto gallery.

Tomorrow we're off to the jungle, then the salt flats. Stay tuned for some more amazing pictures of rainforests, geysers, animals, and, well, salt flats. And food.


Ace Cowboy said...

I hear piranha tastes like chicken...

stefanie said...

im not sure about piranha but ive heard guinea pig is pretty close to chicken too(ill take your word for it, guys!).