The Full Circle Part 1

Trip Start Apr 03, 2010
1
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Trip End May 05, 2010


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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Full Circle Part 1 - Puno & Arequipa
Yesterday we went the full Peruvian circle. We started in Lima and are now back here taking in what can only be described as a circle of extremes. From snow capped mountains to the driest deserts I have ever seen, from jungle rainforests to long sandy beaches with swell that goes on forever!
And that's only the geography. The culture and history is very diverse as well.
As we near the end of our Peruvian adventure (though not quite yet we still have a few experiences to go) a few reminisces or maybe just catch ups are in order.
After leaving Cusco (refer to previous travelpod) we caught an all day train to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This was 10 hours in first-class luxury. I was hoping it would rival one of the great train rides of the world. Well it didn't match those dizzying heights but with the altitude that we were at it was still pretty dizzying. The distance from Cusco to Puno is only about 380km but because of the terrain which extends at first from extremely mountains to unfold into long stretches of endless plains, where spot the tree was our favourite game. Karon won 2 nil. The train took 10 hours which means an average speed of 38km/h. Not dizzying by any stretch.
Anyways although a little too long it was still an amazing (I will use that word frequently) experience. Finally we reached the shores of Lake Titicaca at sunset with the last rays of the sun hitting the calm tranquil waters.
After a night at altitude (which involves restless sleep and sometimes headaches) we set off for the floating islands of Uros. As a young boy, maybe seven or eight I was given an encyclopaedia (probably more a picture book) by Mum & Dad. I still have 2 vivid memories from that book. One was the long horn played by the Tibetan monks with the Dali Lama's monastery in the background and the other was the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think that one day I would be walking on the strange reed beds that feel like walking on a waterbed. The description of how the islands are made, eating one of the reeds (they call it a Uros banana) and visiting one of their houses was an amazing experience.
We left there for Taquile Island which is a solid island where they do farming in the traditional ways. It reminded me of the islands of the Mediterranean with local ethnic clothes, and sheep in rock walled fields surrounded by a spectacular watery vista. Those steps up the cliff face were a doozy!
After leaving Puno by plane which was delayed by firstly mechanical problems and then high winds followed by lightning we finally arrived at Arequipa, the white city (sounds like a Tolkien story). The highlight of this part of the journey was our trip to the Colca Canyon which is the second deepest canyon in the world. The only deeper one is also in Peru and runs parallel to Colca, but the track is windy and at the bottom of the canyon which means only a neck crick instead of the majestic condors. We spent a wonderful night swimming in the hot thermal springs, naturally heated by volcanic action and participating in ethnic folk dancing. I was muchos good but Karon was a bit lame with the whacker slingshot in the Malaria dance. My suggestion of "give it a whack" didn't seem to be taken to with gusto - soft!
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