Friday, July 22, 2016

Crash Recovery = Exploring the Floating Islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca

Packing up the bikes in our canyon campsite.
(Azure's back for this post - Roel has some steering head bearings to replace)
 (Azure's back for this blog - Roel has some steering head bearings to replace.)

(Azure's back for this post - Roel has some steering head bearings to replace(Az
We wake up in our canyon campsite to a beautiful sky and delightfully warm temperatures. I do an interview with David about his journey. It’s inspiring, funny and I promise once I have a few spare minutes, I’ll post it. The best part was, somewhere in all of this, David decided to continue riding with us in Bolivia.

With big smiles, we head out and I manage to look in the direction I don’t want to go (towards some jagged rocks next to a slope) and I have a whopper of a crash. (Thanks to David for the video that provided the stills below. My parents read this blog, and I figured it would be best to spare them the video.)
Uh-oh!! These two guys showed up to look for special rocks in the canyon right as we were leaving... they got more than a show than they bargained for ;) But they did kindly help pick up my bike afterwards.

I think I deserve points for style on this one - twisting mid-air is not easy to do! If I had on a pair of ice skates, I think it would look like a triple-toe-loop.
But it meant I landed on my back instead of my face - here you can see where my legs are about to go over my head backwards. I think I deserve a "10"
It’s the first time I’ve actually felt any concerning pain after falling off my bike. My right thumb is strained or sprained, so is my ankle, and I’m super grateful my Arai helmet was between my head on the massive rock it landed on. A scratched helmet is much better than a broken noggin. 
At some point during my crash, my SENA 10c was snapped off of it's mount. Fortunately we have extra mounts, so after a few minutes, we're ready to go.
With a lot of pain in my thumb and ankle, we continue on the curvy roads that lead up. 

We ride through the Peruvian altiplano and marvel at the changing landscape and brilliant skies. We arrive in Puno well before sunset and try to figure out how to accomplish what needs to be done in this city: We will be crossing into Bolivia tomorrow. We need to find a copy shop to make copies of passports, etc. for immigration. Can we find Bolivian insurance here? Roel needs to have something welded. “And what about visiting the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca?”, asks both the anthropologist in me and the girl whose throbbing thumb is begging for a break from the bike.

We decide we’ll stay a night and split up the next morning to accomplish everything. We all hunt for hotels with parking but have difficulty finding anything affordable with parking until Roel returns and remarks that he’s found the jackpot - a 3-star hotel with actual queen beds and bathtubs! Somehow, it’s only 100 pesos and even though the parking is in a lot down the street, we jump on it and all enjoy cleaning up before we treat ourselves to our last Peruvian meal.

The next morning, David dutifully updates his Ride Report and prepared for the border crossing. Roel copies our paperwork and gets his welding done. And I am picked up and brought to the marina at Lake Titicaca for my tour to the Uros Islands.
Lake Titicaca: (despite what many would like the translation to be), in Quechua is: Titi = Puma and Caca = Stone... so,  "Stone of the Puma" is the literal translation.

The Uros Islands are a group of man-made reed islands that float about 5km from the shores of Lake Titicaca near Puno. Today’s Uros Islanders are descendants of a pre-Incan civilization that initially created the islands as a means of defense. Some articles online state that hardly anyone actually lives on the islands anymore and they are just a tourist trap.
We arrive on an island with several reed huts, a few with solar panels connected to them. As we step off the boat, I immediately realize how springy the reed surface of the island is under my feet. It’s like walking on soft moss. The central area is set up for tourism with a few bales of reeds staged for tourists to sit on around a cross-section of island where they show us how the islands are built with totora reeds that are layered between wooden stakes strung together by ropes. It’s actually pretty interesting and our guide explains that new layers of reeds need to be laid every 3 months. 
Immediately after the demonstration, the tourists are “adopted” by Islanders and I am invited into the “home” of Elvira. She invites me to sit on her bed, which is surprisingly comfortable and she settles onto her heels to tell me her story. She is 67 and tells me that she and her husband still live on the island. She was born here and doesn’t plan to leave. They fish and eat birds of the lake. And once a week they go to the mainland to buy fruits and vegetables. Her children live on other islands and she says her grandchildren attend school on the mainland. 
These tiny fish are a staple of the Uru diet.

Elvira takes me out to see the crafts she makes and sells in order to buy fruits and vegetables from the mainland and contribute to her grandchildren’s education.

We are rowed to another island on a traditional boat.
After a little while, we return to the boat that brought us and head back to the mainland. This was definitely a touristy experience and while I would say that 90% of it was sheerly for tourists, there are many islands and it seems tourists only visit a few of them. Also, if no one actually lives here, why bother with all of the solar panels if everyone just goes home to the mainland at night? Ultimately, I decided I didn’t really care… Even if it might be extremely touristy, what I saw is a pre-Incan civilization that has found a way to survive and thrive in an ever changing world. They have maintained some customs and adopted new ones… But they’re still healthy, significant and recognizable which is sadly more than can be said for many ancient civilizations.
Soaking up the peace on Lake Titicaca

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