As I write this, I'm finding a moment of solitude on a peaceful sunny day. I'm sitting on top of a high hill overlooking the small town of Copacabana, Bolivia and Lake Titicaca. The hills are brown, the lake is blue gray and the sky is bright. On top of the hill is what looks like a make shift church with a cross and various altars. For the first time in some days I feel well, and almost giddish with delight at finally feeling better.
The enormous Lake Titicaca, ( which means gray puma, not what you are thinking ) is the highest navigatable lake in the world, sitting at 12,426 feet. The water is cold and deep, and the air is thin, as it straddles between Peru and Bolivia. It has a sense of magic to it, as I look out across the lake watching the sun set. Steeped in Inca history and myth, the lake is a stunning place to explore. Before leaving Peru we spent two days exploring a couple of islands on the lake. One night was spent sleeping on the island of Taquile.
The first island we visited was a part of a large group of small floating islands, which comprise of reeds piled high enough to create a place to live. The people who make their lives here once fled war and found refuge on the tiny islands to begin a different life. As boats passed and created waves, the entire island would ripple, leaving one to wonder what it must be like to live on a life raft all your life.
The island of Taquile is terraced from top to bottom from the days of the Incas. With no electricity or other amenities associated with modern times, a visit here is an opportunity to experience a day from the past. The had three laws, do not lie, do not steal and do not be lazy. Life in a simple form.
With the high elevation, the nights get cold. Someone said to me, you´re from Nebraska, you should be used to the cold. This is true, except at least in Nebraska we can leave the cold, and find a warm room inside. Here they don't heat the buildings or houses, making a trip to the out-house in the middle of the night memorable experience. A flashlight has a dramatic increase in value in these situations.
Back on shore, in the town of Puno Peru, we found a room with a hot shower. It was the only opportunity to get warm. I allowed the shower to run a few extra minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to warm up the room. The next morning the ice had formed on top of the puddles in the street, serving as evidence of just how cold it got.
My last night in Puno I finally felt well enough to try one of the famous local dishes, cuy or Guinea pig. On my large white plate was a quey, head and all, spread eagle, cooked with various herbs. It smelled much better then it looked. I struggled to push aside my mind that just minutes ago this was a furry little creature that we have as pets back home. Once was enough, their isn't much meat on these little guys, leaving me hungry after-wards. How did it taste? I hate to admit it, but it tasted like chicken with a little extra fat on the skin.
In Copacabana I met a young traveler from Belgium by the name of Amelie ( 23 ). Amelie was traveling through South America for five months and was soon to had back to Europe to begin graduate studies in International affairs. She shared her thoughts about the value of traveling. She said "when I travel, I learn how everyone is not the same and how they don't need the same things as me." This allows me to understand the world better, she said.
Amelie had several things she wanted to share with those back in the Midwest, " open you heart and mind to what is different, learn another language, because it is more than words, it gives you a way to see the world differently and life can be more then just daily needs and wants."