Friday, November 9, 2007

amazing Arequipa and Lake Titicaca

I miss Arequipa already. It seems to be the Texas or Manhattan of Peru. Arequipenos think their city is the best in the whole world, which causes people in other Peruvian cities to resent them, just like Texas and New Yorkers. Everything about the place is special -- when we were in Colca Valley, our guide was telling us that the cows there only produce 5 liters of milk a day, but they have special cows in Arequipa because they produce 35 liters a day. No recognition of the difference in resources; the difference was in the specialness of Arequipenian cows. I like them for that brash pride. It feels familiar to me, and I understand why they feel that way.

Peru is not what we thought it would be, in almost every way. Although it's a Catholic country, they're not at all prudish. (I don't mean that Catholics are prudes, but it is a very religious country.) Everywhere we've been, we see couples kissing, holding hands and holding each other. Nancy said it's most common now for people to live together before they marry, and most families have 1 or 2 children, so they must be using birth control.

I miss it. It's got such a wonderful feeling to it, and the people were so incredibly kind to us. Today we had lunch on a balcony overlooking the plaza before we left for the airport. Sandra, the woman who picked us up at the airport, accompanied us back to the airport and hugged us goodbye.

The flight was only 30 minutes long to Juliaca, over mountains. Juliaca was also much more charming than the guidebooks suggested, and the plains between Juliaca and Puno reminded me of the Tibetan plateau, or Mongolia. (Of course I've never been to either place, but it had that feeling because of the strangeness of the light. You really do feel like you're on top of the world.) As you drive through the altoplano you see mountaintops on the horizon, and it's easy to shift your head a little to imagine that they're just tips of huge mountains instead of the whole mountain in the distance. In the plains are these very low adobe houses, all dark brown with low pitched brown roofs. People drive small herds of cattle. It was a thoroughly remarkable landscape. When we pulled into Puno, we were surprised that it's much bigger than we expected.

the altiplano
altiplano adobe homes
Juliacan women

And OK, here is the final amazing piece for the day. Our hotel is absolutely amazing. It's right on Lake Titicaca, and our room overlooks the lake. It's sumptuous, so comfortable. The lobby has a beautiful fireplace, with lots of comfortable chairs in small groups, and people are actually sitting there, reading and talking. There is a deck overlooking the lake, but it's too cold to eat out there now. And the restaurant is so charming, with a great menu AND it's not expensive.

view from our bedroom
dining room
sunset over Titicaca
the hotel boat dock

So far, this vacation has been absolutely perfect. I thought our Vietnam vacation was the pinnacle, and thought maybe it was so perfect largely because we were in the early stages of our relationship and that made things extra special (which it did, of course). But this vacation is even more amazing than that one. It's true that if anything, we are much closer now than we were even then, but this place is just amazing. I know I keep using that word, but it really is. Marc and I travel well together, and he put together a perfect trip.

2 comments:

Alannah said...

Wonderful!

I'm such a sap....this got me teary.

I love love, happiness and appreciation!

StormySleep said...

It gets me teary too. And as Meister Eckhart said, if the only prayer you said in your life was "thank you," that would suffice.