So where were we... Right - touring Lake Titicaca.
Our boat tour took us out to the floating islands of Uros, which are these islands made of reeds. They are a bit spongy, for lack of a better description but really fascinating. Our tour guide, Franz, gave us a really good overview of the history of how the islands came to be and how they are made. I was surprised at how many islands there are - I thought there would be just a few but there were a lot. It was quite the community, with schools and churches and all sorts of stuff.
After that, it was on to Taquile. We had quite the hike up to the main plaza but once there, we were rewarded with amazing views of the lake and the mountains in both Peru and Bolivia. There was a wedding taking place while we were there and we got to see the exit of the bride and the groom from the church with the important people of the community. From there, we went to lunch, overlooking the lake where Franz told us about the various woven bags, knitted hats and other things that make up the local customs around single people and married life. Different styles of hats or pompoms tell you whether or not somone is married, how good a knitter someone is tells you how good of a husband he'll be, etc. Then it was back onto the boat for the trip back to Puno and an early bed before catching a bus to Arequipa.
Our bus arrived without a problem and we were soon on our way. We expected a long bus ride - we weren't scheduled to be in Arequipa until at least 12:30 even with a 6:00 start. We were told we'd get into Arequipa a bit later than expected since we would have to take a back road. There were some protests going on in the city around a copper mine being opened and the protestors were at the main road into the city. At one of our stopping points, we parted ways with the folks heading on the Colca Canyon and we transferred to a van for our back way into Arequipa. Well, when they said back way... The road was sandy and often very narrow with lots of rocks and wound all around a mountain. Our van didn't seem to really enjoy it's off-roading adventure and at one point, our driver struggled to get the van up the road. So, we all piled out and walked a bit ahead for him to try without our weight. No dice. In the end, it took all five of the gentlemen on board to push the van up the road. I don't think it's what anyone was expecting for the ride. Luckily, that was pretty much at the highest point we needed to go. Then it was literally all downhill from there. And harrowing. The road was so narrow and bumpy, I was quite convinced there would be news reports of a van full of tourists that went over the side of the mountain. I've never been so happy to see a paved road in my life. From there, we had to make our way to our hotel.
The protests were going on in the main plaza, which our hotel was very near to. Because of all the people - and because the protests were getting a little less than peaceful - we had to walk to our hotel instead of being dropped off right by it. The girl accompanying us from the bus company had us wait for a little bit while some of the people marching moved away from the part of the square we were heading through. Soon we were at the hotel - but much later than expected. With the road blockages, we decided it was best to not try to get out of the city so we canceled our hike and explored the city today instead.
We visited Santa Catalina monestary, which was like a city within the city, sitting on five acres. The streets and cloisters were beautiful with such interesting architectal aspects, like stairs leading nowhere all over the place. After that, we stopped for a hot chocolate before making our way to Plaza San Francisco for a free walking tour of the city. Our guide, Carlos, took us all around, telling us about the history of the city and then taking us for a few food tastings - chocolate, potatoes and Pisco sours. It was a great way to see the city and something we hadn't planned on doing. After the tour, we stopped at Casa de Moray, a mansion that was quite lovely before heading off to dinner at a restaurant owned by a Peruvian celebrity chef. Now, we can't move. It was an amazing meal - one of the best of all our travels (and not just this trip!)
Tomorrow, it's an early flight to Lima to spend one more day there before flying back home tomorrow night. Vacations always seem to go by too quickly.