Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Southern Exposure

Waking up was hard, not the actual being awake part – that was easy thanks to our very full bladders. But the getting out of bed part. The temperature under the blankets it was toasty warm but just outside, it was frigid. Eventually, our bladders won and we jumped out of bed for the trip to the loo down the stairs and across the path in the other building. The good nights sleep had helped improve our opinion of the Palla Kasa hostel as did the view when we stepped outside. As we stepped out the door we could see the deep blue of Titicaca and a perfect sky. Last night we’d suffered through the cold, the dark and bad food. But this made up for it. However we were here for another three nights and as nice as it was to just stop and take in the view after motoring through Peru, a view wasn’t going to keep us amused for two more days.

We decided to walk into town. It was a 10 minute walk along the west side of the mountain that made up the island and when we got to the top of the hill we were surprised that it was much bigger than we had expected. Yumani ran all the way down the east side of the hill and most of that was small hostels. All the guidebooks talk about watching the sunset from Yumani, very few overnight visitors actually get to see it from their hostels. We passed through the town in search of the path that would take us to the southern ruins of Pilko Kaina we had seen from the boat on our way in. It wasn’t easy. The path we found took clambering over the terraced fields and when we passed more than a couple of donkeys and sheep, it became apart that this foot path was more of a hoof path. The altitude didn’t make it any easier today either. But the donkey path eventual led us to the actual footpath although there were just as many donkeys there. We followed the foot path passing the faux reed sail boat doing its tourist loop of the island and arrived at the ruins. They were small and as we went to enter them, Adrian remarked that it smelt like shit inside. Once I stuck my head in, the cause of the smell became obvious; some goon of a tourist had left a turd and toilet paper there (no I did not take a picture although Adrian thought it would be a good one). I was shocked and disgusted not just because it was gross but because these are sacred ruins. Plus there was a small guesthouse just below that a truly desperate person could have used. We hurried out of the ruins and paid our entrance fee to the attendants who had now turned up. I considered telling them about the turd in the ruins but with my poor Spanish (especially when it comes to bodily functions) I didn’t want to risk a miscommunication and ending up getting the blame for it.

We smiled and walked away quickly putting as much distance and blame between us and the offending deposit as possible. Although Adrian appeared to be heading in the wrong direction. He was walking towards the tip of the island rather than back to the hostel. As I tried to motion him back, he motioned more vigorously in his direction. Eventually he won and I followed him as we walked to the end of the island and the footpath. The path took us all the way down to the shoreline. Adrian attempted to forge his way back to the hostel on the west side. I sat down refusing to rock climb. This time I won and after a few minutes of fumbling and tripping on rocks he came stumbling back.

The walk back to town (and the hostel) was a bit daunting at first because we had to walk up. That’s right back up the same mountain that we cursed the first time. Rather than scramble up the donkey path again we continued on the footpath. That was almost a mistake as it led us to the mid point of the 1000 Incan stairs which meant we had to walk up 500 of them. Oh boy. When we had huffed and puffed our way up to the top, we decided that we wouldn’t be making our way back down them willingly again.

We explored a bit more of Yumani finding the small church and a couple of girls willing to pose for a photo (for a fee) with their pet llama. Sidestepping the numerous stalls selling colourful crafts to the tourists we found our way back out of town – not that easy without street signs or even um streets. Two women were sitting at the entrance, erm exit gate collecting the community entrance/exit fee. I guess we had been up rather early. So we handed over our nominal fee and were allowed to pass. We made it back to the hostel just as the today’s boat load of tourists were coming around the bend. Today the tiny little manageress and her sister were able to convince a French man and his guide as well as a young German guy to stay the night. We invited the young guy to join us for dinner. Jonas was on his way through South America before heading to the west coast of Canada to work and be close to his girlfriend who was in Portland, Oregon. We were able to warn him about the food, lights and cold. And in return we got to enjoy his company until the sun went down and we were distracted by the beautiful sunset (photo above) that we had read about.

But the show wasn’t over once the sunset was finished we were treated to the most amazing stars I’d ever seen. The sky was so clear and we were so high that we felt in the midst of the bazillions of stars. We could even clearly see the Milky Way that we first mistook for a glowing cloud. Now I was finally glad that we were staying here for three nights.

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