Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 24 - What Puno Has To Offer

It must have been the faucet water we drank yesterday. A few minutes after waking up, Nikhil got diarrhea. I was fine until breakfast, when a stabbing pain seared in my belly, refusing to abate. I practically forced the toast and marmalade down my throat. Nikhil didn´t do breakfast. Eating is not a pleasant ordeal when one is in pain.

My stomach pains subsided as we left the hospidaje in Llachon. Nikhil´s diarrhea calmed down for the moment. The bus ride to Capachica was short, while the two hours to Puno were suffocating. We were in the backseat of the combi. The backseat is a bad idea when the windows are shut and people emit an immense amount of body heat. The fact that I was wearing my large winter coat only worsened the situation. When we finally reached Puno, I revelled in the coolness of open air. We promptly bought the 10 pm bus ticket to Cusco. It was noon. We had ten hours to kill.

A few of those hours were spent touring the Uros islands. These structures are an architectural marvel. The inhabitants of Uros built floating islands using a spongy soil and bamboo reeds. An entire community of islands have been created in this manner on Lake Titicaca. The boat we travelled in took us to two islands. It was obvious from the start that these were meant for tourists, locals and internationals alike. As soon as our boat parked on shore, local women hurriedly set up their wares. One woman began grinding a grain with a stone mortar. Another girl started dancing. They were marketting their goods in the twenty minutes they had with us. The whole tour took two hours, a lot of it spent on the second island. There, I didn´t visit the Uros hotel or bar or restaurant. What drew my attention were the floating islands in the distance, the ones we didn´t visit. Families were leading their normal lives, collecting boatfulls of reeds that made their walls, floors, and roofs. The Uros community is a prime example of a people taking a widely available resource and making it their own by utilizing each part of it efficiently.

We walked some more around the plaza. A boys´volleyball match was in session; we watched it through the open doors of an auditorium. As fate would have it, we ran into the three Spanish schoolteachers. They had spoken to Sucharit yesterday in Cusco. As we were about to get on a bus to Cusco, he was on his way to Puno. What timing...

The bus ride turned out to be quite a mess for the first few hours. Actually, it was less of a ride and more of the bus standing in place. This is what I remember of it: Bus leaves station. Bus crashes into something with a thud. I think it was a combi. Hysterical woman gets on bus, screaming something in Spanish. Bus passengers retort with more screams in Spanish. Woman refuses to get off bus. More screaming. Woman leaves, bus moves. Five minutes later, bus stops. Woman has gathered with a crowd at police station. Woman, bus passengers, and crowd are screaming. Police join the screaming. People involved in incident enter police station. I doze off. A few hours later, the bus is on its way to Cusco. I wouldn´t be surprised if we reach the city at 7 am instead of 4 am as scheduled.

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