Puno is a lot cuter and more colorful than I expected. It is >12,500 ft so we were feeling kind of swimmy and fatigued. We went out from our hotel to bring home dinner and left Gus to sleep (with a fever now).
BRUNO, above in Uros and below in Tequilla, the last island we visited. Here he explains the differences in the colors and styles of hats and what they each represent; white on top means “single”, red means “married” and the brightly colored one in the next photo, and in the one on Gus, is worn by the town leader.
Ooh my, this place has been both our savior and our bane. Given that you risk your life to try to jog here and that this place is 2 blocks from our house, AND our host family are members, we decided to “apply” to the CLUB International. Gus was SUPER psyched because they have archery! and some kids playing soccer, etc., so we went in with our passports and money. Oh no, you silly, we need to see your :
Anywho, after 6-7 attempts and rejections, they accepted us as members and so we try to go most days, just to upset them. Naw, we’ve now become a bit of a fixture around Arequipa, and the CLUB. People don’t stare quite as long and we’ve actually made a couple of friends. But the Club… not sure these are my people, then again, how would I know given my spanish? I do know that I love yoga on T/H and think of my sweet yoga friends, Theresa, Alessandra, Paté and others. I love the way I feel when PUMP is over and Cliff likes the safety of the track. I love that Gus is taking Archery and Kung Fu and he can walk there safely. But the vibe is a bit too elite for me. I’m really looking forward to a nice bike ride or a jog on Mount Tabor.
The Trip Up
Taking a bus up to the Colca Canyon. Heading to Chivay and then to Yanque where we will stay 2 nights.
Later that day, nice hike outside of Yanque with a great guide , Fredie , hiking through terraced farmland and old ruins to wind up at a cool bath house along a river.
At Condor Cross
“Swoop and Pummel”
At The Killawasi Lodge: Fredy, Awesome guide and Jose, lodge manager practicing their throws with their new disc.
They do it differently and I think we should mimic it in the US. When you arrive and pay you choose your seat on a screen, (if you knew how to, you could’ve done this at home before you left). It’s traditional to get soda and a meal and/or ‘pocor’, Peruvian slang for popcorn, but they only have salt- no butter (what!). You carry it on a large tray which attaches to your seat which is pretty slick once you figure it out. Cliff had a hard time at first… “clean-up on row 8”.
Days 5-10: Landing on San Cristobal Island, instantly SO hot! It’s a bit of a ass-pain (airport) to get into the Galapagos as I suppose it should be since it’s a National Park, Marine Reserve home to so many extra-special animals. Once there, you really only have 2 choices on a modest budget: 1). to stay in one spot in a hotel and take a very fast and bumpy speed boat ride every day to an island for your adventure…OR 2).to stay on some sort of a “big” boat/ship where they sail you during the night to the next destination, saving you the time and back pain of the speed boat ride which are over 2 hours each way. I was afraid of the big boat option due to my propensity to get car/sea sick so easily, but after calculating the options, it made more sense to cruise…so Cruise we did! But first, one night in a harbor-side hotel.
After settling in at our hotel, we decided to go on an adventure to a beach that we could see on the map, but could not find a road to. We bushwhacked a little, much to Cliff’s chagrin, and when we arrived at this beach it was truly awe-inspiring. As the path opened up we can see through a clearing that the beach was covered in marine Iguanas, August’s first choice “animal to see in the Galapagos”. They are draped all over (rocks, sand, your towel if you let them!) & SO close to us and because they have no real land predators. They really do not avoid you, it’s our responsibility to stay a respectful distance. Later, just swimming around there, we missed a good view, but others saw several sea turtles swimming around with us, again, so close. Unfortunately, we only brought goggles..they had mask and snorkel- snap!
The cool thing about these Islands is that the culture has shifted to respect the animal, I mean really shifted, in part I imagine because there is enough money made from it, but the local people have a different kind of respect for the animals here. It’s hard to believe that some species first had to be pushed into extinction; or that only a few hundred years ago the Tortoise went from hundreds of thousands to less than 100. The G-Islands are home to the only remaining Giant Pinta tortoise on earth. These giants can easily live up to 150 years and weigh 595 pounds. The last one was named Lonesome George he was considered the ‘rarest creature’ on earth and died in 2012. He was thought to be~ 90 years old and seemingly unable to reproduce when all the mating attempts had resulted in infertile eggs -until Diego came along. Diego, another male seemed to shift (the mood?) something and the results were wildly successful. At rock bottom there were only 30 left! Apparently >100,000 were killed off by the Pirates in the 16th century while they hid out in the Galapagos and used the tortoises as a source for food. Later whalers did the same. Now, thanks to Diego and Lonesome George and a huge conservation effort, there are over 15,000 but still threatened by invasive feral animals eating there eggs. We are grateful to have witnessed these enormous, gentle giants and to see a real symbiotic relationship with the people on the islands. Spanish sailors who discovered the archipelago in 1535 actually named it after the abundant tortoises; the Spanish word for tortoise is garlápago (says National Geographic.com)
Heading North for a day w/Xavier, Taxi driver extraordinaire. We met him from the hotel (Casa Joaquin), which was a great boutique but in the heart of gringo-land, which I wouldn’t recommend due to the noise and distinct sense you are in a tourist area & because it’s very expensive.However, to us it was worth it because: we met Xavier, The breakfast is great (a blend of N American &Ecuadorian food and safe to eat) and the staff was excellent (especially once we all came down w/a bug) AND they held our stuff safely for a week while we traveled in the Galapagos! Overall, I found Ecuador in general to be very expensive. It’s beautiful though, such diversity and really rich colors, but their currency is the dollar and their economy is not great, though apparently much better in this last decade.
Xavier is in the middle. Excellent to meet such a good human early on our trip. It’s also one of the most important security concerns in that the taxi services are not regulated in most countries and it’s a real legitimate risk. We read/hear about horror stories (really just tourists being held hostage or at gun/knife point until they give over their PIN number and have their bank account emptied),& then the policia ‘unable to help’. So arranging transfer and land travel ahead of time with your hotel/hostel is really important and a solid source of income for the local community.