Trip Start Jan 16, 2005
24Trip End Ongoing
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Amantani on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, for those of you who were asleep during that particular geography lesson.
But we hadnīt reckoned on two things. First, that dancing at an altitude of some 4,000 metres is rather more draining than a boogie down the local disco back home.
And secondly, that the folk songs on the island drag on for about 15 minutes, leaving us exhausted.
Still, it could have been worse. At least the blokes got away with only having to wear a woollen poncho and hat, while the girls were trussed up like a Christmas turkey in traditional dresses.
It was worth the effort though, as was the rather cold night staying in the house of Don Julian and his family, and the basic meals of rice and potatoes.
There is no running water or electricity on Amantani and nighttime temperatures drop to freezing even in the summer. But if you donīt mind roughing it, you can catch a glimpse of an Andean agricultural community that has maintained the same traditions for centuries.
I had travelled to Lago Titicaca after a couple of weeks in and around the former Inka stronghold of Cusco, hiking the Inca Trail, overdosing on ruins and doing more damage to my liver in the local bars and discos.
One of the main attraction of Lake Titicaca is a visit to the Uros, floating islands of reed named after the Indians who inhabited them.
The Indians who now inhabit this island - a mix of Uro, Aymara and Inca descendants - still follow the Uro ways, though mainly, one suspects, to ply their wares to the hoards of tourists disembarking from a small flotilla of boats visiting every day.
On dry land, you can also stay with a family on one of the larger islands, where the locals dress you up for dancing at night.
After the lake, I had been planning on crossing over into Bolivia, but some pesky peasants had been starting a minor revolution to overthrow the president, and many travellers were finding themselves stuck in the capital or elsewhere around the country, unable to move on, or even being having their bus pelted with stones by angry protestors.
So instead I decided to head back down into Peru to the city of Arequipa to visit the Colca Canyon, the second-deepest in the world (the first is also in Peru) and supposedly the best place in the world to spot condors. We were rewarded with a close up view of about 15-20 of the big birds, which rose from the depths of the canyon on the columns of hot air and flew around us for about 40 minutes.
Then it was back on a bus for 15 hours to Lima, to try to sort out a working visa for Japan, as I had just received and accepted a job offer from my company in Tokyo, and so would only be going home to England for a couple of weeks before packing my bags again.
From Lima it was another 19 hours on a bus to the southeast corner of Peru, where I managed to make it across the border in a shared taxi, despite falling prey to a mysterious illness, with headache, blurred vision and dizziness.
Luckily, it later appeared to be nothing worse than having eaten something dodgy, and after 15 hours in bed and 24 hours of eating nothing, I fled the Chilean city of Arica, which reminded me of a Latin version of an out-of-season seaside retirement resort, and caught another night bus south to the Chilean altiplano.