Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Death Road, Isla del Sol, Peru

Quite a bit has happened during the past few days but I haven´t had access to the internet for more than five minutes. At about five this morning we arrived to Cusco, Peru after a very long and uncomfortable ride on a bumpy bus. But before I get to that, let me go back a few days.

First off, I survived the Death Road bike ride. The ride was about 64 km long, mostly downhill and we decended all together about 6000 meters I think during about 4 or 5 hours. The road is known as the "Death Road" because of the extreme dropoffs on the side (of about 1,800) and there are no guardrails. So as a result many people have died driving and riding down that road. Of course today, now that it is a major tourist attraction it is much safer and accidents occur few and far in between. I must admit I was a little nervous to ride downhill so much, but really you are very in control of how fast you go. It was actually a lot of fun. We started riding down a part of the road which is paved, it was easier but a little scary as there were also many cars and trucks on the road. Then we got to the town of Coroico, where the road changed to gravel and suddenly we were in the rainforest. It was very humid and foggy, but the views were absolutely gorgeous. We road through and past many rivers and waterfalls. At the end we arrived to a small village where we had a delicious lunch and hung out by a pool. I did get bitten up by bugs and am still quite itchy, that was the one downfall. It was a pretty awesome experience though, and I´m glad I didn´t let my nervousness get the best of me.

The next day we left La Paz and took a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia, a town that lies on the coast of Lake Titicaca (a name I remember giggling about as a kid, never thought I would actually get to see the lake). We didn´t spend much time there, just long enough to have a delicious lunch, then we hopped on a boat and after about one and a half hours we arrived at Isla del Sol, a very hilly and rocky island where it is believed by the Incas to be the place where the Sun God was born. There are no cars on the island, therefore no paved roads. I was definitely not expecting how difficult it would be just to get to a place to stay.

Now first of all, I must mention the presence of children. As I said in an earlier post, child labor is without a doubt an issue in Bolivia. Well, our boat was captained by a child who couldn´t have been older than 10 and his first mate was probably about 6. Then, as soon as we got off the island we were approached by a swarm of 5 to 10 year olds trying to take us to hostels. We really weren´t sure that we should trust these young hustlers, so we waited until we found an adult to talk to, came to a deal, and then he called over a six year old to lead us to where we were to stay. I couldn´t help but laugh, and I had no choice but to follow him. This part was pretty awful. We had to walk uphill, very steep, on rocks while carrying our huge backpacks. It was really difficult for me, and it definintely put me in a cranky mood. But eventually we made it, I was able to rest, then explore the island. There are many Inca ruins on the island, but most of them lie on the North side. As we were staying on the South side, and it is a four hour walk to the other side, I didn´t get to see these ruins. We tried trekking over there the next day, but we didn´t have enough time because we had to catch the boat back to Copacobana to get on a bus to Cusco, Peru. The views of the lake from the island were awesome, I especially enjoyed watching the sunset over the lake while eating dinner. There are a few villages of people who live on the island, and most of those people seem to be farmers. The fields have been terraced so you can see the long history of farming on the island. There also many animals that live there, sheep, donkeys, pigs, goats, llamas. All day long you see people herding around there animals. It´s a very interesting little island, but I can´t imagine why anyone would want to live there because getting around is so difficult. Not only is it all uphill and rocky but it is already at such a high altitude making it difficult to breathe. Needless to say, one night there was enough for me.

So last night was spend on the bus en route to Peru. Crossing the border was hectic, but not too difficult, and right away you could tell that Peru has a more successful economy than Bolivia. I will definitely miss the wonderful cheap meals I had in Bolivia, but I am ready to explore a new country. So far I don´t have many opinions because I really haven´t seen much, just the taxi ride to hostel. I was so tired I went right to sleep upon arriving, so I haven´t done much exploring yet. I can say that the bed I slept in at this hostel is without a doubt the best I have had since travleing. The pillow was so soft and fluffy, the sheets smelled clean, and there was actually a duvet. After the range in quality of beds I have experienced, this bed was great. This hostel is pretty new, so I think that´s why it´s so comfortable and clean here.

So the new plan is as follow: spend some time exploring Cusco, go see Machu Picchu (probably by train for lack of time) then strating Monday I will be making Arequipa, Peru my home for one month. I will be living with a family and volunteering at an orphanage. I am very excited about this new chapter! I am also a little nervous, I have no idea what to expect, but I am sure it will be a great experience. It is something I have always wanted to do. I am a little sad to stop traveling, but as I will have weekends off, I will be able to explore the surrounding areas. It will be nice to get into some kind of routine, even if only for a month.

So far the new year has been great to me! I hope it has been for you too. Here´s to loving life and living it to it´s fullest each and every day! Peace.

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