There are a number of cool things to see around Lake Titicaca, and I woke up with a determination to get to as many of them as possible. I packed, gave my key to the desk at the illustrious hostel Virrey and walked out into the morning rain(Before this, actually, I had some adventures with my soup, which I recorded in verse here, deeming it too stupid to post). After getting fairly lost as a result of three conflicting sets of directions to the collectivo stop, I resorted to hailing a trici-taxi, a three-wheeled pedaled affair, and asking the driver/pedaler to take me to somewhere I could catch a collective to Chuquito. Collectivos are an interesting way of getting around. They are minivans, hollowed out and stuffed with as many seats as possible. They hang out at a stop until they are mostly full, then take off to some predecided destination, dropping off and picking up people as they go. It's a very friendly, where by friendly I mean packed and squished way to travel, but it's cheap, you can always catch one, and they go places too small for buses and too expensive for taxis.
Well, I hopped on my collectivo and headed off to Chuquito, about 20 km away. The aforementioned Chuquito is a small lakeside town that chanced to house a particularly interesting ruin, the Templo de Fertilidad. After a half hour ride, I was standing in the Plaza de Armas of Chuquito. After a search(an old man gave me different directons every time I went of one of his ill-advised paths, found nothing, and came back), I learned to avoid the old man and eventually found the temple fenced off in the middle of town, cleverly disguised as a soccer field. I walked in, paid two soles at the little hut at the entrance, and then was swept away by three eight year old boy who proceeded to give me a tour of the temple.
Ah yes, the temple. El Templo de Fertilidad is a small stone enclosure housing dozens of stone penises, some of them four and a hlf feet high. Women having problems conceiving come to sit on top of them and pray. It was originally a pre-Inca temple, and was then revamped by the Incas when they showed up. I caught all this from the boys as they walked around the temple, leaping from one stone phallus to another in a surrealistic scene, which, had I dreamt it, would probably result in a Freudian analysis sufficient to lock me away in a nuthouse for the next 50 years.
I tossed the boys a few soles and stuck around for a while later, taking pictures. I was particularly amused by the two phalli outside the temple which seemed like sentries, guarding the door. After half an hour or so I headed down to the pista and caught a collectivo back to Puno.
The way back was exciting. Since it wasn't raining, I had some great views of the lake, as well as the fields where they dry the totora reeds--huge starburst patterns of reeds layed out on the ground, in various stages of transitioning from dark green to golden. Oh yeah--did I mention that we had 17 people in the collective? In a space the size of your average bathtub? Lots of new friends.
I hung out at the Puno market for a couple hours, waiting for my next bus. I've been trying all the differenct exotic fruit juices in Cusco, so I thought I'd try some of Puno's. What follows is a story I thought too informative to put up on the main entry, but if you want to be informed, click here. You've been warned.
After the excitement(NOW you want to read the story), I passed an uneventful few hours more in the market and then grabbed my bus to Sillustani.
Sillustani is a small village on the edge of a lake that once, a long time ago, was home to the Colla tribe, a pre-inca civilization. Whenever a Colla member died(and this was often, since their favorite pastime was fighting with their neighbors, the Lupaca tribe), the Colla would pile lots of rocks on top of the body. After a while, they thought they could do better, and so they made rock towers around the dead guy, and filled them with gold and other pretty things for the afterlife. Then the Incas came along and said "That's not stonework, this is stonework! But good idea, guys." They proceeded to build perfect, 12 meter high towers for their dead. The towers are called Chullpas, and I wanted to see them.
After a 45 minute bus ride, I was standing at Sillustani. Then, it promptly began to rain. And thunder, hail, blow, drench, and otherwise unpleasant(verb). I walked around in the freezing, driving rain, taking shelter inside the tombs when it got too unpleasant(noun). I upside of this was that I had the place to myself. And hour or two later I caught the bus back and asked to be let off on the Pista to Juliaca.
On the train to Puno we passed Juliaca, and I caught a few glimpses of a market selling dried llama fetuses and powders "for bad blood." I thought this merited further exploration, so I wanted to spend a night there. The bus that brought me to Sillustani was going back to Puno, which happened to be in the opposite direction on the same highway from Juliaca. I knew there were frequent collectivos running in between Puno and Juliaca, so I decided to test Peru's public transportation system.
Regardless, I still had a moment of panic as I was standing on the highway in the middle of nowhere, 30 km from any city, with no cars in sight. I started walking towards Juliaca. Finally a collectivo came by. I hailed it, but the driver shooked his head, and as it passed I coud see that it was packed to the brim. The next one was full, too. "Peru," I thougt, "You have failed me." I kept walking, but my hopes were sinking fast. Finally a collectivo flashed its brights and pulled over, and I gratefully got in.
I was the absolute last person that could fit in this thing. I sat facing backwards, my backpack on my lap. The car sped off at 100kph over the badly potholed road. As other cars squeezed past us at similar speeds, I became increasingly aware of the one metal bar supporting me, pressed against my spine. I felt quite vulnerable. Once, a car was nosing out onto the road without looking both ways, and our driver leaned equally hard on the horn and brake for what felt like an eternity, until the intruder backed off. No worries, mate. Jes' a li'l Pey-roo drivin.... Hahahahahaha. ha. ha. (profuse sweating)
Ten minutes later, we pulled into Juliaca. I got intro a tricycle taxi and asked the driver to take me to a cheap hospedaje. Five minutes later, I feasted my eyes on the Hospedaje Continental.
Ever wonder what a 2 dollar a night room looks like? Room 215, in all its glory:
After dumping my stuff(and locking my door) I went out to see Juliaca. It's a big city, about 180,000 people, and it's filled with tricycle taxes whizzing by, narrowly avoiding colliding with eachother, the cars, and me. Some of the streets are paved and some aren't, but all are covered in huge muddy puddles and muck, so it's impossible to tell the difference. Despite the poor road conditions, it was very lively, full of bridgt lights and pretty people. It was also different culturally from the more northern cities. I actually had to ask to identify an empanada(whoever heard of putting the cheese on the outside? Puh-leez! Us cusquenos keep our cheese on the inside of the empanadas, where it belongs!)
I went back to my hostal after a while, taking a moment to take in my surroundings. Definitely a bring-your-own-toilet-paper kind of place. Bring your own toilet, too. It made the Virrey look like the Hilton.
I went to bed, got up early, went to the market, saw enough dried llamas, mule heads, bloody flamingo legs, bizarre herbs, and some cat-related products to last me a lifetime. I then walked to the bus station, got on a bus to Cusco, and promptly ran out of things to write about.