Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 91 On the Shores of Titicaca

At high altitudes, it's probably best to be aware of your own loopiness... I crossed a pass at nearly 5,000 meters - over 16,000 feet - but for the last three kilometers, I felt like I was half in a wonderfully blissful sleep.  Being aware of the sense of sleepiness, I sat for a quick rest every few hundred meters or so, but was careful not to curl up for a much-desired longer rest.  Not many folks out four-wheeling on the single lane dirt 'highway' to rely on for assistance.  I was in the company of hundreds of cuddly alpacas, babies, too, all adorned with brightly colored tassles at the tops of their ears for identification.  Once at the pass, I overlooked broad grassy valleys far below with fierce black thunderstorms passing through, and made quick time down, regaining my full wits.

I passed one night in the sparsely populated high country on a soggy bed in a municipal building; five or six workers stringing streetlights in the village slept on mattresses in another room.  Another night in another municipal building in another village.  Finally, another night at the home of the local Baptist pastor, very antiCatholic at first, but he warmed up after a long and gentle conversation.  Though a potable water delivery system is being installed, there are only external faucets of cold water, and I was offered no water to wash for the three nights spent above.  Personal hygiene seems low on the priority list.  There are no fireplaces or heaters in the little houses, to endure the cold nights, more heavy alpaca-wool blankets are piled on.  Alpaca meat was in the soup, no surprise in the alpaca-based society, but what is a surprise is that they don't eat much bread.  Potatos and thick boiled corn kernels make up the starch.  Root vegetables round out the soup.

Very interesting cultural experiences through very pretty countryside of high-altitude alpaca ranchers.  Some of the girls and women wear the traditional colorful puffy dresses to the knees and wrap themselves in brightly colored blankets, topped off with formal tall felt hats, two long braids coming down their backs terminating in complex knots of colorful wool tassels.  Others were more modern clothes, even in the same families, by personal choice.  The houses are generally all timeless and ever-renewed adobe with either grass roofs or corrogated metal.  Walls of abandoned houses stand melting back into the ground.  Stone walls mark grazing areas for the alpacas, and at slightly lower altitudes llamas and sheep.  Terraces requiring an incredible effort to build extend high up the steep slopes to extend the grazing areas.

There are few Catholics in the area and no awareness at all of pilgrims or pilgrimages.  To all, I'm just a tourist, though tourists are pretty rare in this part of Peru.  Cusco is the touristic center.  Unlike the influences of European immigration in Argentina and Chile, here, I stand out even more noticably as a gringa and get the mild harrasment of frequent invasive photo-taking and horn-beeping, both of which I find irkingly unnecessary, all the moreso as I descend into the more populated areas.  I'm wanting to say to these morons pointing their fingers and gawking at me, 'didn't your mother teach you it's impolite to stare?', there's the mother staring right along with them.  On the flipside, there's tons of history all around, interesting architecture, lots of folklore, and some polite and helpful people.


Dans un village français said...

What a wonderful description! Thank you for taking us along with you virtually.

Michèle (Ottawa) CA

Anonymous said...

I guess the invasive photo taking is a kind of rough justice for all the gawping tourists who annoy the locals! I don't mean you.

You usually seem to have some sensitivity to local cultures, but here as you say they don't know of pilgrimage.

Most poor people as you know don't have the time or money to do long walks for no obvious gain, so it's unreasonable to expect them to tune in. As it is I think they do well to accept it at all.

Sheila Phelan Wright said...

I think we all need to be aware, at all times, of our own loopiness.
Glad you arae surviving the municipal sogginess and long times days without much conversation.It's a dry winter here. I'd have hopped off trail by now for a good mattress.

Anonymous said...

I'm no different from the poor people you ask for shelter. I say 'Welcome'.

Then I must ask how do you afford the time to do the long walk? Have you a rich source of income? I know you walk spending little, thats not the point.

I think its great that you can do what you do and many of us do similar things.The whole world should! Whats your story? Not that I'll ever get a reply!!!!!

Amy R said...

Just had a chance to read this post, and the one before it, where you walked into Peru. That sounded so lovely!