Into the Lago

Trip Start Sep 17, 2012
Trip End Dec 06, 2012

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What I did
Lago Titicaca

Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, October 26, 2012

After an unplanned extra day to relax in the hammocks of Rurrenabaque (due to weather difficulties that delayed out flight out of the Amazon Basin), we finally arrived on one of the three buses en route to Puno, Peru. When we eventually reached Lake Titicaca, we stopped in the beautiful shore-side city of Copacabana.  The city was a delightful break from the travel, and a great way to spend our last moments in Bolivia exploring the Bolivian side of the lake.  At the end of the major streets of Copacabana,  we encountered the sandy coast, filled with kayaks, tourists, and peddle-boats. We were all ecstatic at being able to spend our last Bolivianos on goodies such as cake, chocolate, and cookies that this city offered. 

Fifteen minutes outside of Copacabana was the border of Peru! After waiting in numerous lines to exit Bolivia, account for our money, and get the stamp for Peru on our passports, we walked through the Arc´s that covered the border and witnessed a “Bienvenidos A Peru” sign with Lake Titicaca peeking out from behind.  We arrived late that night to our new homes, with local families, in the city of Puno, located on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.

Early the next morning, after all of us enjoyed the classic, petite, Peruvian breakfast ranging from eggs to simply bread and butter, we found ourselves on a boat headed to the peninsula Lachon. After passing the infamous man-made floating islands, that consisted of weaved wreathes, some of us ventured to the roof of the boat to enjoy Jo and Noah´s guitar session, accompanied by group vocals.

The high elevation put a chill into the wind.  But we had a strange desire not to seek warmth available below the boat as the clear water was calming, and the sun's bright and strong rays warmed our hands. 

Later on our awesome tour guide, Estaban, came up to enlighten us on the wildlife of the Lake, the history, and current-day conflicts of the Lake. 
We approached the dock to see pigs roaming in the water behind it. We climbed up the peninsula to our meeting area for food and festivities. Our home-stay families awaited us, dressed up in traditional Uros wear. 

Later that day the team climbed up to the highest point to view the islands around us.  The sunset, made the world seem as if it had caught on fire, and a lightning and thunderstorm approached.

We all congregated to recollect and converse about our time in Bolivia, entailing a “highpoint and low point” activity that everyone participated in. That night, we all left our home stays dressed in traditional garments of the island, and enjoyed a traditional dinner.

The next day, the team decided that the cold weather was no barrier to our opportunity to relax on
the shores of Lake Titicaca and take a dip. As we jumped in, the water instantly numbed our senses, but increased our ability to witness the surreal view of the highest navigable lake in the world from the water.  Later in the day we set back to Puno on the waters of Lago Titicaca. 

The home stays in Puno have been an amazing experience. The urban air of our home stay life in Puno resembled life in Cochabamba, but our families have their own uniqueness. Daily, everyone sets out the door around 7:30 in the morning with their packed snack to catch the group bus. Lunch in Puno is the main meal, therefore our snack holds us over until our return around 16:30, where the family waits for us to eat.  
On the first day of work at the Orphanage, we were all given tours of the homes that the children live in. There are seven houses, where each one hosts a selection of newborns to  twelve-year-olds. The household dynamic´s enforces the aspect of having older and younger siblings, and a closer experience to having a real family.

Right after meeting the "mothers" of each house, meeting the children, and touring the playground of the Orphanage, we all got to work on building the home for pigs!

Marco, our director of the project in Puno, introduced to the local professional Masons and explained our tasks for the week. The team separated to bring all of the supplies to the work site, including: lugging all of the bricks, sand, cement, and rocks. We finally finished and were able to get started on working on the actual building process.  
Our main task was to complete the home for the mother pig, and her piglets. The significance of  building this is an alternative form of income for the Orphanage besides the government´s contributions. The orphanage can raise piglets and sell them to locals in their community to
raise into full grown pigs, which can later become a huge profit.

We started with the plight of making perfect cement to lay the bricks. We all worked together on laying new bricks , and by the third day we had finished with laying the entire house.

The next day we dug up the entire ground, filled with grass ,bricks, weeds,and very strong routes. After we finished this task, one of our masons treated us to our last glass of Chicha Morada. Everyday, right before our lunch break, we all enjoyed a chilled glass of this local refreshment.  

Every day of work three members of our group would separate and join the play group at the orphanage. During the morning, it consisted of 3-6 year olds, where we would help the teacher play with the kids and teach some English songs. In the afternoon, the older kids returned from school and were able to join us. For most of us, it has been a very different experience being back on the playground and remembering all of our favorite childhood games. 
On the last day, we all woke up early in order to finish our work and enjoy the parades that filled the streets of Puno. Once we did our finishing touches on the floor and roof, the masons, mothers, and all of our group came together to celebrate our past week together. We broke the Champagne bottle that hung from the door and shared our thanks with each other over fresh peach juice and animal crackers.  

After returning from work we all were able to experience the different local dances displayed in the parade. All the bright colors, costumes, loud music, and people that congregated created the perfect farewell to Puno.

We now look forward to our new historical, cultural, and physical adventures that Machu Picchu will bring.
- Cruz y Hannah
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