Lake Titicaca, and other observations

Entry #5

Today I had my first travel planning snafu. The train only leaves from Orouo, Bolivia once a week for Uyuni, which is where I begin a tour of the salt flats for 3 days. But I’m one day early! I thought the only train left today at 11 a.m. which is why I took a 12 hour bus ride to Orouo last night with only a 2 hour stop in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.

La Paz looks like Quito (or at least from the 2 hours I was there it does.) It is built in a valley between two steep, snow-capped mountain ranges, and at the heart of the city is an old colonial Spanish section, which is very pretty. Now I wished I spent the day there instead of rushing here to find out the train doesn’t leave until tomorrow. (Don’t worry I can take the bus today too but the views on the train are supposed to be incredible) So now I find myself in Orouo a city that is like Lowell...not much of a vacation spot, and very few things to see or do...although since it is off the beaten path the markets are very rides are $0.50 breakfast today cost me $0.18 and my hotel last night was $3. So killing time here is cheap, albeit boring.

And since the internet cafe here is also cheap, I can babble on a little longer than I would normally.

Sean’s Peruvian Culinary Adventures
Part of the fun in traveling is tasting the local foods. In Peru Guinea Pig, Alpaca (its like a llama), and mate de coca are local specialties. Here are my reviews:

Guinea Pig: tastes like chicken, but with more bones and not much meat plus the skin is thicker. Oh and they leave the head on it too so it gives you something to play with when your done with dinner. I won’t be going back for seconds.

Alpaca: tastes like really overcooked tough beef. And overall it was OK. Not something to seek out, but if you are in Peru, it's not a bad option it your tired of empanadas.

Mate de coca (coca tea): the coca leaf, which is what cocaine is made from, is often used in tea and (supposedly) helps with altitude sickness and energy. I tried it, (I’m not much of a tea fan usually), but I can’t get enough of this stuff! It’s amazing, and you feel euphoric after drinking it. It increased my energy, decreased my appetite, resulted in decreased birth weight of my children...Oh wait that is the effects of cocaine...I just put a lot of sugar in mine which surprisingly has the same effects of cocaine, but without the need to sell my body on the streets. Seriously, the tea is just tea and I think it helped with my cough, as would Earl grey tea.

Other Observations
So, after two weeks in South America I have noticed a few things:

-The Atkins diet is not popular in the three countries I have visited. Every meal comes with potato of some sorts, either fries, baked, mashed, or chips, and/or rice.

-City planning: if there is a city of any size, you must locate the highest point in the city, make it a park, and place a statue of the virgin Mary, Christ, or the patron saint of the city on top of the hill overlooking with city.

-Diversification: a concept that hasn’t made it to the local street market vendor. In every street market I have been to so far there will be 10 to 20 stalls and every stall will offer the same exact items. You would think someone would offer something different, but they don’t, it’s a wonder they can stay in business.

-Environmental issues are not valued. Trash is everywhere; the cars, busses and trucks just pump out exhaust. Surprisingly it makes you take pride in the EPA, DMV and other government agencies that regulate and do cleanup. It doesn't really seem to bother any of the locals though.

-Hot water happy hour: in many hotels they only have hot water between certain hours…I call it hot water happy hour...or aqua clients horas bueno in Spanish.

Speaking of Spanish, I have made up my own language mixing English, Spanish, a little French, a touch of Italian, and charades to try to communicate with the locals. So far it’s worked, but sometimes I come up with ridiculous made up words that would confuse anyone of any language.

-Lake Titicaca: The reason it’s famous is not for the floating islands, but because of its name. I only took a few photos because aside from the floating islands (the people take reeds and weave them together to make a 3 foot thick floor that floats and they make it large enough to build a couple of houses on) which is fascinating for all of about 15 minutes, once the first big wave comes by and the whole island rises and falls with the wave, then the excitement is over. The people have solar panels, telephones, DVDs, etc, so now the islands are just a tourist trap...its Sturbridge Village on water...and when was the last time you went to Sturbridge Village?

Sean McGrail at lake titticaca

That’s enough for now...I’m going to try to find some Bolivian lunch.



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