machu picchu 2000

Peru and Machu Picchu 2000

THE JOURNEY TO CUZCO The outward journey was very straightforward until we arrived in Lima. We had flown for 14 hours in total, departing Manchester at 11.40 am, Sunday morning, with a 9 hour break in New Jersey which allowed a brief visit to Manhattan. All was going smoothly along until we tried to check in, at 7.00 am Monday morning, for our internal flight from Lima to Cuzco. To our dismay we found that the London agent from whom I had purchased (and paid for) the tickets, had not passed on the transaction to the local airline. So a useless ticket. After checking with all the airlines that had flights to Cuzco, we were informed there were no spare seats that day or the next day. This was bad news as it was essential for us to acclimatise for the scheduled 2 days in Cuzco before hitting the trail. There was no shortage of people trying to help us and it wasn’t long before we realised that all was not what it seemed. Miraculously someone from the official tourist office (at least he had a badge with a photo) claimed he could get us 4 ‘business’ class seat for $120 each (compared to the original $75). I duly purchased our tickets from Lan Peru airline with Dollars, for the normal price and gave the remainder as a back hander to be no doubt distributed amongst the network of people involved in the deal. Needless to say, when we boarded the aircraft in mid Monday morning, they were not business class seats, but we did have a seat, and we were back on schedule with virtually no lost time. The one hour flight to Cuzco ended with one of the fastest landings I have ever experienced , a real “white knuckle” affair. Cuzco is on a plain surrounded by mountains at 3300 metres, so we had to survive a combination of diving down to the runway and a higher landing speed due to the thin air. I was eventually impressed by the braking ability of the aircraft and the seemingly endless runway. CUZCO We were met at the airport by Renoldo Robles holding a ‘John Bradshaw’ sign, ostensibly sent by the Hostal Loreto, our previously booked accommodation in Cuzco. He took us the short journey, by minibus to the Hostal which was very conveniently located just off the main square, Plaza de Armas. He only charged us 10 Soles for the journey (about 20p) – this made us think that not everyone in Peru was out to swindle us. We were given a 4 single bedded ground floor room with one (outside) wall made of the original Inca stonework. The wall was over one metre thick at the base, with a typical inward lean and gradually tapered at the top. The stonework was so precise that no mortar was necessary, but the room had a damp air to it presumably from water permiating the solid non-cavity wall – the Inca’s were more concerned about earthquakes than such luxuries as not catching pneumonia! I had my bedclothes replaced as they felt damp. We very quickly felt the effects of altitude, getting out of breath with the slightest effort, and coupled with the effects tiring journey (not to mention age), we all dropped off to sleep for an early afternoon kip. Bobby, of Inca Explorers, our selected trail travel company, rang us in late afternoon in our hotel and marginally refreshed, we all went to their office which was on the opposite side of the Plaza. We discussed the arrangements, previously agreed by e-mail and fax, and met our English speaking guide, Jaime Vasquez. The only change we had to make to our trail itinerary, was to start the walk from Km 82, and not Km 88, as originally planned. This was unavoidable as there was to be a nationwide strike on Thursday (the day we were due to start the trail), and the train to Km 88 would not be operating. We therefore had to travel by road, and unfortunately the road only went as far as Km 82. It also entailed starting the bus journey the previous afternoon. We were quite impressed by their organisation and attitude, and pleased with our choice of company. Time will tell!! We concuded our day with an evening meal in the Bagdad restaurant, eating on a balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas, partaking non Peruvian food (Pizza’s and Lasagne) and strictly no alchohol! The altitude did not appear to be noticeably affecting my health whilst taking things in a leisurely manner. Gareth developed a headache, and generally our appetites were a little depressed. I did not sleep too well, and after a restless lie in on Tuesday morning, was properly awakened by Glynne Jones from Aberystwyth, knocking on our room door inviting us to join his party that evening for a meal and entertainment by a Peruvian music group. Glynne was walking the Inca trail, a day in front of us, with a party of 60 from the UK, all of whom had to raise £2000 for a children’s charity, in order to qualify for the ‘holiday’. We had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel of tea, unrisen bread and orange juice. We were very disturbed to hear from another group of travellers in our hotel, who had returned a little late from a market just outside Cuzco a few days earlier. As it was dark, they took a taxi, which took a side turn off the road, where they were held at knife point. They had their credit cards taken from then, and whilst held captive there cards were taken to an ATM in Cuzco and their accounts emptied. They were given their cards back after their captors opted not to kill them. We decided we had been rather complacent, and should be more cautious in future. After breakfast much time was then spent trying to extract dollars from an ATM. Eventually I was able to draw out $400 and Dylan $200. Supplented with our previous cash we were then able to pay Inca Explorers the balance of our trail fee, which totalled c. $1200. Whilst this seems expensive we all feel we have a quality company and are prepared to pay a premium to keep the group to just our four. We were asked if someone could join us, but we declined. As an introductory walk we decide mid morning to walk up to the Inca fort of Sacsayhuaman (otherwise known as sexy woman), about 2km uphill from the city centre. Whilst it was only a gradual but continuous climb, it proved to be quite taxing, and we had many stops to admire the view! The fort was the scene for final, and unsuccessful attempt by the Inca’s, led by Manco Inca, to rid Cuzco of the Spaniards. The fort, or temple (historians are not certain on it’s true purpose), is an excellent example of the Inca’s use of enormous rocks, shaped without iron, steel or JCB’s, to form the srtucture’s walls..It’s a small world – we met Glynne and his party having a similar ‘constitutional’ to ourselves, except they came up by bus and were just practising walking downhill. Cuzco, in the centre at least, around the Plaza de Armas, has become an unashamed tourist area. It contains all manner of very small shops and alleyways selling Peruvian artefacts and woollen wear. By our standards the Alpaca goods were extremely good value for money. I can’t believe how my colleagues spend their money on presents, as if it was going out of fashion! Renoldo took us to his office to arrange our transport to Puno, which we needed to organise before going on the trail. He kindly booked us on the ‘first class express’ bus, for the following Tuesday, for $26 including transport from our hotel to the bus station. This seemed like a fair deal, until further enquiries at another ‘travel agent’ opened up the distinct possibility that we had paid for a ‘first class express’ ticket, but would, according the timing of the buses, be on an ordinary $10 bus. Rolled over twice in three days is not good news. Stringing up Renoldo was climbing up the agenda. The evening meal was not an unrivalled success. Dylan and I had spotted Guinea Pig , the local delicacy, on the menu during our visit to the Bagdad restaurant the previous evening, and we duly ordered one to share, for our pre trail dinner. Apart from actually looking very much like a Guinea Pig, including some fur, it didn’t taste of anything at all, and the miniscule amount of white meat was very firmly attached to a large number of very small bones. Gareth almost threw up at the sight of it, and Malcolm’s lasagne only just went down. The last morning in Cuzco was spent cashing travellers cheques (the banks would not handle them so we had to use the cambio) and shopping for trail snacks. It rained quite heavily for part of the morning, but by lunchtime the sun was shining and a rainbow appeared – a reminder of the rainbow colours of the Cuzco flag. Malcolm drew our attention to the problem the Cuzco people now face, since the gay liberation movement have taken up, and have had widely adopted, an identical rainbow flag. On cue at 4.00pm we were collected by Inca Explorers in a minibus and, collecting porters and equipment en route, driven to Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba valley, the sacred valley of the Inca’s. The journey of about one and a half hours, took us to the end of the tar road. We climbed steeply out of Cuzco and dropped similarly down to a reasonably fertile, but dry plain. The equivalent train journey is tortuously slow as the train track has to zig zag backwards and forwards to handle the inclines. Ollantaytambo is where the Urubamba river enters a gorge in the Andes which eventually leads to the Amazon. We stayed the night in a very small, clean hotel, the El Albergue, near the railway station, and walked about half a mile to Ollantaytambo village centre for an evening meal. THE TRAIL After a standard breakfast of tea, orange juice and unrisen bread, we set off in the minibus at 7.00 am for the three quarter of an hour drive along a dirt road, through Chilca, to the end of the road, at Km 82, following the Urubamba river valley. It was a pleasant sunny morning and by 8.00 am we had signed the visitors book at the beginning of the trail and we were on our way. The narrow dirt path climbed gently upstream at the side of the Urubamba river, with an occasional short steeper gradient. Jaime was friendly and informative on the scrublike flora and fauna at the side of the path. He could identify the various plants and shrubs and in some cases demonstrate the how the Inca’s utilised the materials. Examples were the use of the cactus fibre, woven with Llama fat for flexibility and preservative, to make suspension bridges, and the vermillion dye extracted by squashing the ‘white’ grubs which feed on another variety cactus. After about two hours steady, but warm walking, with only a couple of short breather stops, we reached Patallacta, adjacent to Km 88 where we had originally hoped to start our journey. We looked down to a very large Inca site which was primarily an agricultural station to feed Machu Picchu, but also with religious significance shown by the circular sun temple. I added significantly to my water intake at this point and ate my first high energy bar – more as a preparation than necessity, as I didn’t know what was ahead, but I was sure it was going to get tougher. And it did. We now turned left, leaving the Urubamba to take a more direct route to Machu Picchu, and followed Cuisichaca upstream towards Huayllambamba. The walking was gradually up hill, again with an occasional short steeper section, but nothing too taxing. It was all taken a a steady pace as any significant effort resulted in considerable puffing. Less than an hour along this path, I was very pleasantly surprised to find our porters had set up camp and there was our dining table and chairs all laid out ready for lunch. A refreshing orange juice for starters was followed by a chicken and rice maincourse, and completed by an excellent fresh fruit salad of avocado and mango. I had the distinct feeling that this could not last, and I was right. The afternoon walk soon started to have more ups than downs, and the ups were getting a little steeper. It was also raining a little and the temperature was falling. We crossed the Cuisichaca and rested for about 15 minutes just before Huallaybamba. About half an hour further along we crossed over a tributary of the Cuisichaca, the Llulluchayoc, passed by the outskirts of Huallaybamba, and started to climb seriously uphill. Initially the path was a mixture of path, very steep in places, and very uneven steps. We entered a forest with a noticeable temperature drop and an alarming increase in the number and steepness of the steps. I quickly became breathless and had to rest every few minutes. I quickly recovered to a normal breathing rate, which was of some comfort to me. The difficulty in breathing certainly seemed much more of a problem than any muscular discomfort in my legs. After an hours serious uphill walking we were all slowing down significantly, and taking more frequent and longer rests. Malcolm complained of cramp in a thigh muscle which increased in intensity over the next half hour, culminating in a violent bout of sickness. We had by this stage climbed about 300 metres above Huallayabamba, but still had 200 metres to climb to reach our campsite at Llulluchapampa. Malcolm had now lost all his energy and was only able, sometimes with help, to progress a few yards, now entirely up steps, before resting. At rest, he would have fallen asleep if not cajoled into action. Dylan went on ahead to warn the porters we would be late reaching camp. I was seriously thinking we were not going to get Malcolm to the camp, and would have to bring a tent down to where we were. Dylan then came back to meet us, and with his continued (and seemingly endless) reassurance that it wasn’t much further, and Gareth and I encouraging (and shouting at) Malcolm to keep going, we made Llulluchapampa as darkness arrived. The camp at Llulluchapampa had been set up by the porters on some small patches of flat ground, next to the trail. There were two small two man tents, Malcolm and I in one, and Gareth and Dylan in the other, with a single tent for Jaime. There was also a ‘dining’ tent (a walk in frame tent with one open side) and a cooking tent, both of them doubling up as overnight accommodation for the porters and our cook. Having first put Malcolm to bed, we were given a hot meal of home made soup, a main course of meat(?) and vegetables, fruit and coca tea. We were pleasantly surprised to be shown, about 50 metres away down a track, a rather crude but more than welcome toilet block with running water and proper loos. By 7.0’clock the temperature had dropped even further, not helped by the rain and being on a rather wet site, so we were soon in bed. My 2/3 season sleeping bag did not inspire with confidence in these conditions, so apart from changing my socks for a drier pair, I went to bed in my day clothes and had a warm but uncomfortable night rolling from side to side on a very hard rubber mat. The highlight of my night was when I struggled out of the tent to go to the loo, and found the rain had stopped and I was able to admire the Andes by full moon. We were up at 6.0 am the next morning, woken up by a cup of tea being thrust through the tent flap. Whilst it was very welcome, the thought of what was ahead, i.e. another 500 metres of mainly steps up to Dead Womans pass at 4200 metres, added a little bitterness to the taste. The good news was that Malcolm seemed to have made a dramatic recovery, and whilst not very hungry, was remarkably chirpy. After some very chilly ablutions (no hot water here), we were given a substantial breakfast of bread, jam, coca and normal tea and, surprise, surprise, pancakes. Duly fortified, by 7.0’clock, we were on the trail, and the sun was shining. The porters were left to pack up camp, and passed us suitably overloaded, in mid morning. In the meantime, we were staggering up the trail, led by Dylan, who would walk for about 100 paces up the steep track or steps, and stop at a suitable place where we could all sit down to get our breath back. It was incredibly hard on my lungs, but not too much of a strain on my leg muscles, just as I had found the previous day. The summit was in sight for an inordinate length of time, it seemed so near and yet so far, but there was no way we could speed up, bearing in mind our present condition, and knowing we had much more ahead for the next three days. At last, by mid morning we reached the top. Breathless but elated at the achievement. We were joined by another party of four Brits who celebrated their success with us. Much handshaking, picture taking, and including triumphant displaying of the Welsh flag! Looking back we could just make out Huallayabamba 1000 metres below, and looked an awfully long way down. We now had to face a different challenge – a drop of 800 metres down to the next campsite at Pacamayo. The trail was much wider now, but the steps were much bigger. I did not find it as hard on the knees as I had been led to believe in the guide books. A walking pole helped significantly. Malcolm was finding it quite difficult, and when we stopped for lunch about halfway down, the previous days problems caught up with him, he laid out in the sun and went to sleep. After a welcome lunch, in the dining tent, we continued our journey down to Pacamayo, the majority of the way in very heavy rain. It was raining so heavily when we arrived, we had to shelter in lee of one of the Warden’s buildings, waiting for the rain to stop sufficiently to allow our porters to put up the tents. This was a much larger site than the previous night, with two Warden’s buildings, a toilet block again with running water and about 20 other people spread over 3 or 4 terraces. It was very muddy and cold. We had another good 3 course evening meal with another substantial home made soup for starters, and, luxury of all luxuries, a carton of red wine. Dylan and I thought it was worth a try. The other two declined. There was no night entertainment available, and so bed was the only option, with another restless night, fully dressed to keep warm. It was very difficult to know if I was beginning to smell! Nobody was complaining. A cup of tea arrive around 6.0’clock, and by 8 we had been fed and were ready for the next stage. It was quite cold, but the sun was shining as we set off towards the second pass at 3950 metres. We all had to carry a stone with us to give to the Gods at the top of the pass. I took the smallest pebble I could find. The going was reasonable, with mainly a gently ascending path with a few steps at irregular intervals. We paused for a short while just before the summit, at the Inca ruins of Runcu Raccay. This was a small circular structure which was thought to be a resting place, or Tambo, for travellers and the Inca runners, the Chasquis. Having satisfied the Gods with our pebbles, we started the next descent, initially going through our first short tunnel. By late morning we had descended 300 metres to Sayac Marca, a more substantial Inca ruin, where our guide gave us another history lesson. The true purpose of Sayac Marca has not yet been determined. It could have been a fortress as it has a spectacular commanding view two valleys, one of which leads to Machu Picchu. There is also the mystery of where the gold has disappeared to, as it was almost certainly covered in gold, but as it was not discovered and ransacked by the Spanish invaders, why was there no gold present when Hiram Bingham first saw it in 1915? Half an hour further along the trail and just as started to go uphill again, we stopped for lunch at Chaquicocha. We started our ascent to the third and final pass, in very heavy rain. This was not a problem, as our waterproof trousers and lightweight jacket kept out all the rain, but did not interfere with walking. Strangely, I found it very pleasant, with a similar feeling to when you are sitting comfortably in a house looking out on a rainy day. The walk up to the third pass, at 3600 metres was quite spectacular. Initially we were walking through jungle expecting the Viet Cong to jump out at any time. We then rose above the dense undergrowth, as the rain stopped, to the top of a ridge, with incredible unspoilt vistas of the Andes mountains. By way of a bonus to these magnificent views, I was also on a high with my walking – I was almost running up the path, with only a pleasant shortage of breath, and genuinely only stopping to either admire the view, or allow Gareth to catch up with me. This was clearly the most enjoyable walking section for me. No steps, just an inclined path that flattened out in places. We reached the bleak, and rather smelly camp, sited at the summit of the third pass, just above the ruins of Phtuyu Pata Marca. Before our evening meal we walked out a few hundred metres to a viewpoint looking down to the Urubamba and the railway track, making their way to Agua Calientes. This was to be our third and final overnight camp. Not something I am going to miss. Jaime was persuaded to produce another carton of red wine with the evening meal, which we noted was a full one, and not the one we had drunk from the previous evening. Had the remains of that one been contributed to ‘Pachamama’ (Mother earth), or could it have been the porters? It was a cold night, and so I once again took the precaution of keeping all my clothes on, which successfully kept me warm, but did nothing for my overall comfort. My mat was getting harder by the hour. The 6.0’clock cup of tea was a welcome relief. Breakfast time was the last time that all our porters would be with us, so we decided it was the appropriate time to give everyone their tip. Contrary to the advice we had read, we decided not to give one large tip to our guide for him to share out as he saw fit, amongst his team, but to give each person (5 porters, 1 cook and the guide) their own tip. We gave $15, $20 and $30 respectively. They went into a huddle after the presentation, and we wondered if there had been some ‘re-allocation’! After a routine breakfast where much was made of the ‘Fanny’ jam, including a photo for my neighbour Doreen, we walked down a couple of hundred metres down to the ruins of Phuyu Pata Marca. As with Sayac Marca, the function of this site is not clear. It could have been associated with ritual worship of water, or it may have been a guard settlement for Machu Picchu. We now had the choice of taking the new route with 500 metres of steep Inca steps, or the original longer but gentler descending original trail. We chose the latter, with a cautionary warning not to leave the path as were in poisonous snake territory. I was feeling mildly nauseous as I set off in the morning and took a tablet from Huinay’s ‘medicine box’. Unfortunately it was not effective and finished up feeling below par for the rest of the day. We dropped gently down to 2700 metres for lunch under the trees near Trekkers Hotel. I was beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment as I could see the majority of the remainder of the trail on the other side of the valley, and it didn’t look too serious. And so it proved to be. A reasonably straightforward 2 hour walk with a steady incline took us to the ‘Sungate’ at Intipunku, where, in all it’s glory, we looked down on Machu Picchu. It was an unbelievable sight, or even site. It was on a much larger scale than I had anticipated, and rather than just being an amazing man-made edifice, it was a series of structures that fully blended into the mountainous terrain. Along with a few other hikers, including five Catalan speaking guys from Barcelona whom we kept meeting, we sat and admired the view and congratulated ourselves on making the journey. Surprisingly, the walk down past the side of the ruins to the Machu Picchu Ruinas Hotel was further than I had anticipated and by the time I had arrived at reception, I was totally knackered, and without waiting for the others, I checked into the room I was sharing with Malcolm, and collapsed on to the bed. There I stayed, feeling not only exhausted, but also very queasy. An hour later I was violently sick, and then although quite weak, feeling almost human. I declined to join the other three for an evening meal, and thankfully went to sleep on a wonderfully comfortable mattress. What luxury! The next morning we were up at 6.0’clock, packed (again), and met Huinay at 7 in reception. By this stage it was Dylan’s turn to feel ill, with Malcolm also below his best. I had completely recovered and Gareth was his usual ebullient self. Jaime then took us for a three hour tour of the ruins. With Dylan honking in every corner and eventually returning to his hotel room, Malcolm below par and concentrating on taking photographs and Gareth always anxious to keep moving, it left Huinay with an unenviable task. He stuck to it valiantly. Machu Picchu for all it’s worldwide publicity, is still a mystery along with most of the other Inca sites we saw on the trail. Jaime’s explanation, due to an early discovery that 80% of the bodies found were women, was that it was some form of convent where the nuns had caught VD, and hence the place was abandoned as it was cursed. This has since been disproved as there were as further investigation revealed as many men as women were buried here. It is more likely to have been of religious origin as shown by the religiously significant curved wall Sun Temple where a window is aligned with the winter solstice sun highlighting a rock in the middle of the temple. Whatever it’s origins, it is a magnificent example of both unbelievably accurate stonework (with ‘stones’ weighing up to 200 tonnes), and intergrated landscape design. We completed the tour of Machu Picchu at 10.0’clock and we returned wearily back to the hotel to wait for a bus to take us down to Agua Calientes in the Urubamba valley. The small coaches, which operate about every 15 minutes during the main part of the day, take about 30 minutes to traverse the mountain on a dirt road with serious hairpin bends, alternatively left and right, no barriers, all at breakneck speed. As we started the journey, a Peruvian guy on the front seat next to the driver, opens a case, puts on a traditional woollen hat, hangs pan pipes round his neck , takes out his guitar and proceeds to entertain us with Peruvian music. I was more amazed by his incredible balance as the bus lurched and swung round the bends, than his talent for music. Rather incongrouously, shortly before we arrived in Agua Calientes, our roving minstral produced his CD’s for sale. Lunch was a mediocre omlette and beer in the towns main thoroughfare, which is the railway track, not a road. The entertainment, while we ate next to the track, was provided by Peru Rail, shunting their ancient rolling stock back and forth for no apparent reason, with clapped out, smelly and equally ancient Diesel locos. Agua Calientes has nothing to commend it. It is no more than a large village densely populated with stalls selling the usual Peruvian wool wear and trinkets, interspersed with inexpensive restaurants. The only traffic are the trains as there is no road for the buses to travel on inside the town. After lunch we walked to the outskirts of the town where I was surprised to find a modern railway staion, where we boarded the Cuzco train. The track ran closely alongside the Urubamba river, downstream, passing the point where we had started our hike a very long five days ago. The scenery was spectacular, changing from the rugged mountains as we left the town, to the fertile maize valley as we approached Olantaytambo. Here we left the train to take a quicker, but less comfortable bus, for a one and a half journey to Cuzco. By 6.0’clock the bus arrived in the Plaza de Armas, to drop us off, in the rain, very conveniently outside our hotel. Not one of us had the energy, despite some brave talk, to accept an earlier invitation to join some fellow travellers for a meal and drink. Boringly, we had a very early night. The next morning was another crack of dawn start, with an early breakfast at 6.30 am, and much to our relief, a smiling Renoldo walking in at 7.30 to take us as planned to the bus station for the Puno Express. And who did we meet there but the Catalan group we had last seen at Machu Picchu. There was a half hour delay whilst (alledgedly) they cleaned the bus, but by 8.30 we were on the road to Puno in a modern air conditioned coach, with comfortable seats and plenty of leg room. R R had assured us we would be given a ‘boxed’ lunch, and so when we were given coffee and croissant within five minutes of leaving the bus station, we thought it was a good start. It was also the finish and there were no more refreshments for the remainder of the 7 hour journey! It was a pretty uneventful drive with the only memorable part being through Juliaca, which looked uninvitingly desolate with pools of stagnant water everywhere. From what we saw, at least 75% of the buildings were in the process of either being built or falling down. I couldn’t tell which! I made a mental note that we needed to minimise our contact with this town when we were due to return here in a couple of days, to catch our flight back to Lima. Puno turned out to be entirely different, with a bustling more prosperous air than anywhere else we had seen in Peru. A taxi organised by Renoldo was waiting for us at the bus station, to take us to our hotel. We had clearly moved a little upmarket in hotel class – the Sillustani was in colonial style with panelled walls and tiled floors. But it wasn’t very warm. The pedestrianised main street was full of well dressed, mainly young, people, in the early evening, as we had a stroll to find somewhere to eat. I chose a mixed grill for my evening meal, as for the first time, I was really hungry. It was an enormous plateful, which even with some respectable red wine to wash it down, proved too much for me. At least it ensured that, despite a cold room, I slept well. Next morning, after a continental style breakfast, we were collected by taxi, and taken to boat on lake Titicaca, organised for us by Bobby back in Cuzco. As agreed we were just the four of us with our own guide, on a 25 foot boat that could probably have taken 20 passengers. We were first taken out, through very green algae covered water, to meet the Uros people who live on the famous reed islands. Here we disembarked onto what was effectively a floating market, with all the tourist goods laid out for us on the reeds, and some very vociferous and persuavise islanders. The island we landed on, no doubt selected by our guide for the kick-back, was roughly oval shaped, and about 40 metres long. The reeds were used both for the base and for constructing there small houses. It was Dylan’s view that they had all just come out on an earlier boat, and would be returning to the mainland, when we and the other tourists who arrived with us, left with all our purchases! This may not be too far out, as we discovered later from our guide, that the original reed islanders live further up the coast, would not allow tourists to land. Leaving the islands behind, we headed out into the lake. At 170 km long and 3800 metres high, Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. The border between Peru and Bolivia runs across the middle. Legend has it that Manco Capac, the first Inca monarch, came out of lake Titicaca. We set a course for Taquile island (made of rock this time) about one third of the way across the lake, and a two hour boring journey. The sun was shining, the water was calm so we could at least sunbathe on the top deck. Taquile island rose quite steeply out of the lake, and appeared to be deserted. Not so. To our horror we were informed by our guide that the restaurant and probably at this stage more importantly the bar, were over the other side. Once again we had to trudge up endless steps – we were told there were 1000 and I believed it when I staggered to the top. Why was it only Dylan and I wanted a beer? The Taquile islanders have maintained a strong identity and sense of community, and rarely marry outsiders. The dress very colourfully, and, so we were told with married men wearing red hats and single men wearing white ones! A satisfactory soup, chicken and rice was provided in a small restaurant on the top of the island, in the company once again of the Catalans. The return journey was another opportunity to sunbathe, and for some people, to have another kip. Our guide for the trip was a student who was trying to earn enough money to take him through a French course, and with his previous tourism qualification, eventually hoped to get a full time guide job. We landed back in Puno soon after 4.0’clock and took are rather precarious ride back to the Sullustani on a tricycle ‘rickshaw’. We dined out that evening in a pizzaria on the main street. As we wandered around afterwards we came across some street celebrations and a religious procession. We were unable to find out the purpose behind it. Strolling further down the main street, we met our boat trip guide and his girl friend. Unwisely seeking advice from him on what to do, we were led into a very noisy disco. Not a good idea, and after a few drinks we left them to enjoy themselves on their own.