It must be a universal truth that on every journey, be it by boat, coach or train, there is an Australian or American who either
1 has no CONTROL over HOW LOUD they SPEAK,
2 is well meaning but doesn't realise how loud they are speaking or
3 is an obnoxious (insert expletive) who wants everyone to hear the inane dribble falling from their mouths and is actually the devil incarnate and who's every satanic word is slowly but undeniably eating away at all the other passengers' souls.
I've come across type 3 on most journeys so far. In fact it hadn't occurred to me just how much er.. travelling would be involved in er... travelling for a year. Yesterday for example was 3 and half hours on a boat from Amantani island on lake Titticaca to Puno and then a few hours waiting at the bus terminal followed by a coach journey for 8 hours to La Paz in Bolivia (with the biggest type 3 so far) and a goodbye to Peru.
Amantani island is in the middle of Titticaca and was originally populated by those fleeing the marauding Incans many years ago. You can pick up a boat from the local port but they all stop on the floating reed islands of Uros en route to Amantani. Those islands are unique, literally whole islands, including boats and houses made of reeds. Unfortunately whilst the locals of olde were able to avoid the Incans, a far more insidious invader has devastated these islands, the tourist. The only word the locals now appear to know is 'compra' (you buy). Amantani is less effected but well on the way, and it's a real shame. Thankfully there were four Frenchmen we were sharing the 'homestay' with who were very entertaining and made for an enjoyable birthday. The 'homestay' was basic and we weren't afforded quite the same comfort as our French friends who had been allocated the guest bedrooms. We had to make do with a teenagers room with a suspiciously musty smell, wallpaper made of a mixture of old homework and magazine cut outs and blankets that you could have cracked with a hammer.
Prior to Puno we spent some happy days in Arequipa, ate at the excellent Zig Zag restaurant a couple of nights and took a trip into the Colca Canyon, via an unforgettably cramped bus journey and a confusing and vaguely informative evening at an astronomical observatory in Chivray. The canyon itself is said to be over 3000m deep, but they measure it from the top of the mountain as opposed the canyon itself, so whilst nowhere near 3000m, it's still very very big. The only route into it is down a steep dirt track that takes a few hours and is hot and dusty and with cactuses all around, feels very much like the wild west. It ends at the bottom of the canyon at a place called Sangalle. Sangalle is an actual oasis, complete with palm trees, naturally filled swimming pool and bamboo huts. We arrived the day after a national holiday, and a couple of the builders who worked there had decided to turn a 24 hour binge into a 48 hour one and had started on the Pisco at 8am that morning. Their mumbled rants were difficult to ignore and having to listen to them throw up the following morning sullied what was otherwise a real life paradise. Further into the canyon are the towns of Mallata and San Juan and in both towns we met the friendliest and most hospitable we encountered in the whole of Peru. On the last day we left San Juan at 5am to avoid the sun and walked up the path ascending 1400m and reaching Cobanaconda by 9 for breakfast.
We arrived in La Paz, Bolivias 4000m capital yesterday. We checked into a nasty hostel but it was late and we were tired and almost fell asleep brushing our teeth. Today we've found a great place to stay and I've made some plans for the mountains near to the city. Tonight we've experienced that quintessentially Bolivian outing - going to the mega center cinema, watching a American film and eating a Burger King meal with Hershey Bar cake for dessert. And can you believe, they have 'Pizzacones' here. Pizza in an ice cream cone. And who says Bolivia is a backward country?
Colca Canyon photos
Lake Titticaca photos