Friday, March 2, 2007

The Road to Puno

Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right in the eye and says, "Give me your best shot. I can take it."

-Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China

The quote above kept repeating itself in the back of my mind last night as Sarah and I sat in our bus which, in turn, sat stalled in the middle of a muddy street in Juliaca. Behind us, cars and trucks horns honked, while above us the sky rumbled with thunder, crashed with lightening, and dumped rain and hail down upon the bus and surrounding city.

For some reason, the Peruvian woman (dressed in her traditional outfit) sitting behind us had decided to get off the bus at the Juliaca bus stop. Then, once the bus started moving again, she ran out into the street, flagging it down so that she could get back on. The bus stopped to pick here up, only to stall in the middle of the street.

But, unlike the storm, the stall passed quickly, and we were back on the road again. Since our first couple bus rides, Sarah and I have quickly become bus riding pros. During the eight hour drive from Cusco to Puno, there were numerous similar incidents (ranging from having the police stop the bus, to having the bus pick up whole families in the middle of what appeared to be a barren wasteland with no sign of habitation for miles around). But, all Sarah and I could do is shrug or shake our heads.

Still, we´ve also learned that there are "good buses" and "bad buses." The good buses, head directly from Point A to Point B. While the bad buses take the, shall we say, scenic route... stopping to pick up and drop off people at random intervals, veering off course to detour through random towns, stopping for extended intervals for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, we´ve yet to figure out which buses are good buses, and which are bad until after we´ve bought our tickets and boarded them.

I´m not complaining mind you. It´s all part of the adventure. And, I firmly maintain that the set-backs, misadventures, and troubles are as important as the sites we see and cultures we experience. Possibly more so. At the risk of being a completely cliched dork, I´ll mention a quote by Tyler Durdan from Fight Club: "How much can you know about yourself, if you've never been in a fight?"

And, while I´m not going to go around picking fights with Peruvians. I also think that it would be fair to modify that quote to read "How much can you know about yourself, if you've never been in a stuck on a Peruvian bus in the middle of a near biblical electrical storm?"

Sadly though, tomorrow will be our last ride on a Peruvian bus. Here´s hoping its a Good Bus. And, I´m looking forward to experiencing the Bolivian buses next.

So today, in Puno, we took a tour boat to see the islands on Lake Titicaca.

First up was the famous Floating Islands. Constructed entirely of reed beds, and still home to over 1000 people, the floating islands are something to behold. Sadly, they´ve also turned into a bit of a tourist trap. The tour boat pulls up to one, and everyone unloads onto the island. We get a chance to peak around, they explain a bit about their culture and how they build and maintain their floating island homes. Then, out comes the handicrafts and you spend the next 15 minutes stuck on the island as they try to sell you mobiles, woven rugs and other Peruvian tchotchkes.

The islands and lifestyle are impressive and unique, and worth the trip. But it was also just a little sad that what had once been a lifestyle has now been reduced to a way to make some cash off tourists.

Next up was the island of Taquile Island. Neither Sarah nor I have ever been to Sicily, but we both agreed that Taquile reminded us of Sicily, with its steep cliffs, winding stone paths and people dressed in traditional black, white and red outfits. Tequile, which I don´t think Sarah and I had either been particularly excited about visiting (it was just part of the tour), turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was warm, quiet, and had a ralaxed feel to it. We both wished that could have had more time there... especially without our tour group (there was literally a group of four teenage, American girls wearing their pajama pants on the tour. I mean, what!?). But, soon we were herded onto our tour boat again, for the long trip across Titicaca and back to Puno.

Anyhow, as I mentioned earlier, we are off to tomorrow morning for Boliva. I know Sarah is planning a "final thoughts on Peru" entry, but I thought I´d mention that I´ve really enjoyed our trip here so far. At several points, Sarah and I have both commented to each other that we could happily spend a month or more here (as opposed to the 2 weeks or so we´ve given it). But, at the same time, I´m looking forward to the next leg of our trip.

Boliva, here we come!


Timothy said...

It's difficult for me to express just how happy I am to see that you're experiencing the joy of things going wrong.

Rick said...

There is nothing wrong with cliches and quotes especially when you are quoting some of the great philosophical minds of our time...such Jack Burton. I remember that scene