Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reed Islands-Puno, Peru

January 25

Having the blown fork seal on my mind I got up and had my coffee and complementary bread and drove the bike down the hostal steps in search of a garage to work on my bike sheltered from rain. I hit 3 places who had signs on the door saying that they were mechanic's but no one would let me work on my bike. Finally I drove right into a oil soaked parking lot with corrigated tin acting as a makeshift roof sheltering the mechanics from the rain. I interrupted the fellow working on a head with all the valves and cams laid out on a steel table. After I asked in broken spanish ( Please, me, mechanic, motorcycle, here) He also said no. I was getting pretty wet in the rain and didn't want to ride around any more. I asked again ( How much cost, Please, me , mechanic, motorcycle work) The sound of money was the secret recipie for understanding. He mentioned a few words to his boss and immediately 3 men went to work clearing me a small area. I got the fork seal replaced in a jiffy using transmission fluid as a substitute (remembering Rob Arsenau telling me back in the days of single trax cycles that it could be used as a sub) and headed back to the hostal to meet up with Julie by noon.

January 26

It was an early start to the day at 6:00 am. We planned to have lots of time before our 7:00 am pick up. At 6:40 sharp our hostal owner came running up the stairs to our room to tell us that the bus was here to pick us up. Luckily we had already eaten breakfast and were all packed up for the day.

We were whisked to the docks where we met our tour guide along with several other folks from all over the world. Immediately we made friends with a fellow from Norway named Kristian. He was one of the first people in a long time that I met that had a half decent sense of humor...what's wrong with everyone else?

We took off for the Islas Flotantes (Uros) and Isla Taquile after being entertained by a local musician who sang and played the pan flute and ukelale. We were caught off guard at first by such a kind prelude to our island excursion. We handed him a Sole for his musical ambitions, and then the engines fired up in gear. At once we were heading to the isla's.

Along the 15 minute passage through the reeds our english / spanish speaking guide gave us a brief intro to the history and culture of the floating island people. Apparently the Lago Titicaca people who first began making the islands (which take up to a year to construct) we in actuality fleeing the Inca. These people we pre-Inca and spoke an entirely different language to the Inca.

The visitation to the islands was kind of entertaining in that the islands were all constructed close to the city of Puno. Thus I am under the impression that everyone who was "employed" on the islands lived on the mainland and only took a short boat ride to the islands before all of us tourists arrived. ( I wonder how else they'd pay property taxes). We were suckered into buying a small tapistry from some woman who said that she made it all herself. The only conflicting evidence against her claim is that you can find her identical rug in every corner store catering to tourists.

We were offered a reed boat ride to the next neighboring island so about 15 of us piled onto the reed boat. At about 10 feet from the island the boat stopped and the paddling captian announced that the ride that he offered was not part of the tour but would cost the equivalent to $1.50 each. It was pretty funny watching all the people rifle through their pockets looking for exact change since in these lands any bigger demonation will do just change given.

After unloading from the reed boat we reboarded the main tour boat and began heading across lago Titicaca. Once we were in the middle of the lake, the size of this lake gained some perspective. Lago Titicaca is the highest Navigatible lake in the world that borders Bolivia and Peru. In the late 1880's Peru ordered two steam powered ships be sailed from Brittian around Cape Horn to the Pacific coast. Here the 2755 parts each were loaded onto a train and shipped 60 miles inland. From this point the ship parts were carried by mule, donkey (burrow) and by people the remaining distance over the Andies to Lago Titicaca at 3800 meters. The ships are now restored and one belongs to a British woman and the other to the Peruvian Navy.

Our tour boat was navigating toward an island inhabitated by locals who were actually authentic. Men wore brightly colored hats and belts which signified whether or not they were marrieds as did the woman. We toured the island which had a population of about 2700 people. There was alot of agriculture including the cultivation of the all important potato, corn, millet etc. We also saw sheep and cows, however no alpaca or lama were allowed as they were considered unholy by the early conquistadors as the locals worshipped them and considered them most important.

I guess going to these places is kind of cool in a way in that we've all seen it on tv, however, I believe that I'm 20 years too late and now when you roll up there are 30 kids who should be in school begging you to buy useless crap and pushy parents pleading with you to part with your money. I know it's all a show and they probably live confortably. The only thing I appreciate is he reconstruction that these people have done to help me imagine what it must have been like 50 years ago before 30 boats with 30 people each left at 7:00 am sharp every morning from the dock.

January 27

We finally left Puno and crossed into Bolivia, it has been raining on and off for nearly 6 days. We arrived at the Bolivian border and I checked out of Peru in less than 10 minutes. As we crossed over into Bolivia we lost an hour due to a time zone change. I got my passport stamped and headed over to customs for the bike. 10 minutes before lunch they saw me coming over and closed the door. Alas we had to kill an hour so we went for lunch over at a local little restaurant.

Once the Customs door reopened at 2pm the stamp and entry into the computer took less than 5 minutes. The bike was operating poorly and the crux of the decision to chance carburetors was when Julie had to make an emergency exit off the back of the bike as we ascended a steep hill. The bike stalled and I had to lock up the brakes to prevent us from sliding backwards.

I saw a beautiful Vista and pulled over. I yanked all the gear off the bike and in order to keep Julie from getting bored I put her to work removing bolts from the bike after I loosened them and putting tools away Etc.

My fingers were crossed that my decision to move to the next smaller jet in order to lean out the fuel - air would actually work. After reinstalling all the parts...hands covered in oil and gas »I fired the bike up and it worked wonderful. We hopped on the Black Stallion and took off over the 4300meter mountains with vengence. A short ride and we were at a ferry crossing much like the one we had in Guatemala. We got dropped off on the other shore and made our way to La Paz.

La Paz is a huge city and it was completely congested with caravans (Toyota & Nissan vans). La Paz seems to have public transit figured out. Everyone just walks up to a van in grid lock, gets into it, and gets out of it at an intersection where they need to turn and simply gets into another bus heading in that direction that they require.

There were so many people walking on the street and side walks that it was like getting stuck in the middle of a river of people. As I was parked while Julie inquired about a hotel room. My bike was being bobbled from side to side as people brushed by it. ( I was parked on the shoulder of the street)

The hotel offered us tickets for drinks at the hotel discotecka so we were sold! We unpacked our gear showered and headed on down. Unlike the hopping and bouncing of our typical dance floors where the token dancer is usually pickled to the toxicity limit....these pĂȘople were trained dancers and all had steps and rhythem. Every new song that the DJ played, they had a new step. Julie and I watched and considered taking dance lessons for fear of being asked to dance some time in the future.

We crashed pretty early in anticipation of heading south in the morning to Potosi ...the highest city in the world and once the richest silver mining town in South America.

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