Taquile Island

Trip Start Mar 08, 2005
Trip End Mar 29, 2005

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

We woke up bright and early on Saturday. I slept like a champ on my reed bed. Actually I had brought my sleeping bag which was a brilliant idea. It wasn't brutally cold that night, but cold enough.

Doreen and Stephen joined Bev and me at our breakfast table for...actually we had some fried pastry type stuff. Almost a donut. And instead of the local tea which was a lot like coca, we had her just bring us hot water. Why? Because the English always carry "proper tea" around in their backpacks. Don't you just love when stereotypes work out? So we had tea and pastry and chatted a bit. It was really nice. We had all been to a lot of the same places in England, and Doreen and I both had an affinity for Scotland. It was nice chatting with other travelers. With only 4 days left in the trip Beverley and I were thoroughly bored with one another. So the English couple really saved the day.

Side note: It is customary to bring a gift to your host family on the island. The tour operator and our travel guides suggested fruit. So we brought fruit. But Doreen pointed out that there are a number of gifts that would have been much more practical. We noticed this when Gloria came in after breakfast and asked to borrow some toothpaste. Now, I don't know how to say toothpaste in Spanish. It's never come up before. But when she pointed at her dilapidated toothbrush it was pretty obvious that what she needed was toothpaste. She also desperately needed a new toothbrush. And as we started to look around there were several things that would have proved handier than fruit. The kids could use some coloring books and colors. I bet a bar of soap or some shampoo would have been nice. But we had brought fruit. Stephen and Doreen gave her some cash. I think Gloria liked them better.

At 7:30 we all met at the dock to head over to Taquile island which was just an hour away. All the people on the tour said their goodbyes to their host families. Some of them had evidently made much more of a connection with their families than we had made with Gloria. I think I saw a tear or two. I just gave Gloria the customary tooshie squeeze and open mouthed kiss and we were off.

Taquile was nice as well. We all took the two kilometer hike to the plaza and waited for further instructions. The plaza has a cool, multi-citied street sign that shows how far the island is from various places around the world. New York, Buenos Aires, Mexico City. I think it's nice to have a sign that alienates the local population and reminds them of far off places they will never see. They also had a stick with a dangling carrot that was always held just out of reach.

So our guide gave us a half-hour informational speech on the local culture. They all wear hats which depict their marriage status. They have a certain color for single, one for married, then another for people of prestige. And here's the coolest part of the whole thing. Depending on which direction you have your hat turned, this lets member of the opposite sex know if you're looking for love or just hanging out. I think this applies only to single people. You can't wear the married hat in the aforementioned "looking for love" way. The Inca don't swing.

We also learned how they greet one another. Depending on his/her status, it is either the giving, receiving, or exchanging of coca leaves. This is because coca leaves play intricate roles in both religious ceremonies and every day activities.

After the talk we had a lovely lunch of either fish or omelettes. I don't know. Those were just the choices. After lunch we walked up to the top of the island for some photo opportunities. From there we walked down the other side and found our boat waiting for us. Then we had a lovely afternoon boat ride back across Lake Titicaca. The last hour of the trip I sat on top of the boat and just watched the world go by. It's a magnificent and lovely place. It really is.

That evening we hung out with some of the other people on the tour. Stephen had us scowering Puno for a place to watch the England/Ireland soccer game. But Bolivia and Argentina were playing. So no British football. They settled for having a few beers. I was still hating life from the La Paz night out. So I was a spectator.

Then we met up with 2 other couples, also from Britain (they were everywhere), and had some dinner. So Bev and I represented America, there were 2 couples from Scotland, the English couple, and a guy from England on his gap year. Dinner was fine and then we hit the town for some drinks. Every bar in town was giving us free drink coupons, so we used them. The first bar was kind of cool and we sat on straw mats, drank cuba libres, and listened to Bob Marley. People in South America have a Marley fetish. Then a local band started doing cover songs. I don't remember the first song, but it was tolerable. The second one was Radiohead - "Creep." I don't know exactly how to describe it, but if you've ever heard someone sing in a language that is foreign to them, and it is abundantly clear that they don't know what all the words mean but have simply memorized them, then they make odd vowel sounds that don't belong in said language, and then make some pronunciation error that makes an otherwise decent performance utterly ridiculous...If you've heard that, then you know just what I mean. If not, you'll have to fly to Peru and listen to this guy sing "Creep." He was fantastic. And each time he made it to the chorus, he consistently said "I'm a crap." So we all laughed out loud and had to make an exit.

Next bar, next round of free drinks. At this point it's probably 10 p.m. and we were all feeling pretty lovely. I was thinking we might make a short night of it. I hadn't really wanted to drink at all. I just wanted to hang out with the cool kids and fit in. But more drinks came, then more. Then the music really got good. It's cool. It's like every night in Peru is retro night. Only, they don't know it's retro. I think if Peruvians came to the states and found out that Vanilla Ice, Ton Loc, and numerous 80's ballads were no longer on the radio waves, they would be completely shocked and heart broken.

So at some point in the night we started doing the running man, and people thought it was COOL!!! And since the music was old school and I had enjoyed several drinks of varying mixtures of gasoline and coca cola, I had to insist that I was the only one in the bar that could do the Kid N Play move of jumping through one's own leg. For those who know the move, it's not hard to picture this fantastic display of dancing prowess. For those who do not, it is impossible to explain. I will also mention at this point that Beverley remembered the Kid N Play move from House Party where Kid and Play would move toward one another, tap feet, retreat, repeat. We were all terribly cool. And it's the kind of uninhibitedness that can only be brought on by simultaneously being intoxicated, listening to music from 15 years ago, and being several thousand miles away from home. Everyone should know such freedom.

Later in the night (about 2 a.m.), we ran out of money and tried paying for an entire round using only free drink coupons. All of which expired at 10 p.m. Most of which were from other bars. This did not please the owner who had liked us surprisingly well only minutes earlier when we had had money. But someone found money in a pocket and handed it to the owner. Guess what? We were all best friends again!

The other problem with Peruvian bars - I mean other than the horrifically unattractive women, the kerosene they call liquor, and the fact that they are lost in some sort of space/time continuum - the other problem is that they don't close. Even bars in Juarez close. Eventually they inform you that you must go home, or to boys town, or somewhere. Many Peruvian bar and restaurant owners actually live in their establishments (this is true and not funny), so they're perfectly willing to hang out as long as you have a Sol or two left. So we finally decided on our own that it was time to leave. It was about 4 a.m.

The great thing was that street vendors were setting up for the following day. Which I believe was Easter. So Stephen, Doreen, and Tom all enjoyed an Easter breakfast on the side of the road. Bev and I decided to crash. We had big Easter plans.
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