Day 2 & 3, Lake Titicaca- Walking On Water, The Ball Drops, We Discover A Miracle Drug, Rocky Defies The MPAA
New Year's Eve. Parties, fireworks, the ball drop, Ryan Seacrest. That's how we do it up in the States. In Peru, we were to have quite a different experience... staying with a family on tiny Amantani Island, 2 hours from the mainland in the middle of Lake Titicaca.
That morning we visited the Uros Islands, floating islands woven out of reeds by an indigenous group that was forced into the lake hundreds of years ago by encroaching civilizations.
Walking On Reeds
The Uros still live on these overgrown lilypads, in simple teepees and shacks. They have to maintain the islands with new reeds every few weeks, otherwise, the ground rots and it becomes very easy to step through and end up in the lake. When we were sitting listening to a family on the island sing a traditional song, a wave rippled through the lake, causing the island to buckle briefly. It was pretty cool.
They not only use reeds to build their islands, homes, and boats, they also eat them, peeling back their green sheaths and munching on the white, waterlogged stalks underneath.
We thought we'd be staying on an island like the Uros, but Amantani was a lot nicer. First, it's a real island. Most homes have solar power, and clean beds they make available to tourists. While they live a simple lifestyle, it's far from sleeping in haystacks under thatched roofs, which we thought it was going to be.
On the way to the island, we started to feel seasick-- in addition to our lingering health problems. By the time we got to Amantani, Jay was in bad shape, barely making it to our host family's house, passing out the moment he collapsed on the bed.
Before we left on our trip, I got a prescription from my doctor for Cipro, reccommended in case of anthrax attacks and also a powerful antibiotic useful for fighting funky bacteria introduced to the body via bad water or, as it was in our case, bad food. There were ten pills, and the instructions very clearly said to be sure to finish the whole dose, or risk creating a superbug that could wipe out humanity 12 Monkeys-style. (Do you want your future in Bruce Willis's hands???)
When we came down with our illness, I considered taking the pills. Why didn't I? Well, I felt a bit guilty that Jay didn't have any. I reasoned that if I took them and felt better, Jay would still feel like shit, and my trip would be ruined cause I'd be wanting to go out and do things while an ill Jay would hold me back. Better for us both to be suffering than just one of us. Also, I wasn't quite sure what the antibiotics would do. I already witnessed the effects of the Australian antibiotics on Jay, and was not impressed with the results. So we suffered, while the bottle of miracle pills went unused.
Until New Year's...
I decided to fight off my desire to sleep and hiked up to the Temple of Pachytata with some other members of our Lake Titicaca group. Then I ate dinner with our host family. Thankfully, it was rice, potatoes, and a thin broth. That was about all I could handle. The family was very nice, although I suspected the little girl hated me.
"Tonight," our guide told us, "The villagers will be hosting a New Year's party for you." The dress code, he explained, would be traditional Amantani clothing. Dancing and music would be provided. Beer would be available for an additional charge.
Even though I wasn't in the best of shape, I sensed that this was an experience not to be missed. Jay meanwhile pondered his own funeral arrangements. The family kept offering him herbal tea, which Jay had little faith in. One person on our tour was a Dutch pharmacist. He gave the family some pills to give to Jay. The fact that Jay took them with little hesitation should show you how sick he was feeling.
I think however, his spirits were somewhat buoyed when he saw me dressed like this:
Me, In My Normal Clothes
The youngest girl of the family led me down to the rec hall. There were the other 20 or so members of our group, all dressed up like natives. I hung out with an Irish guy who was here with his Chilean fiancee, who he had met online (what's with all these long distance internet relationships??). Also chillin with us was a very nice French guy, the Dutch pharmacist and his mistress/girlfriend/fiancee, and a 40 year old American woman who was spending a college semester abroad in Peru. Yes. Everyone we met on our trip led more interesting lives than us.
I Left Before The Ponchos vs. Skins Limbo Contest
The band consisted of drummers, two pan flutists, a guitarist and guy playing a ukelele (a ukeleist?). They opened up with a rousing traditional number, which they proceeded to repeat, with minor variations, throughout the night.
Ashlee Simpson Was A No-Show
After a few awkward dances with my host mother and the host daughter, I decided I needed a beer. One beer turned into two, and in the high altitude, two 22 oz. bottles was all I needed.
"Estas borracha," my host mother said.
I knew enough spanish to know she was calling me a dirty drunk.
The dancing was pretty fun. I especially enjoyed my dance with an attractive Argentinian girl. Had I not been suffering from fourteen different intestinal parasites, I maybe would have made a move.
But as it was, I was drunk, sick, and tired. I didn't make it to midnight. At 11, my host mother led me home (much to her relief, I think) and I collapsed onto my bed.
"I'm not doing well, man," Jay says.
"Neither am I," I reply.
"Maybe we should just fly back to Lima early," Jay says.
"Maybe we should just fly home early," I say.
There's a silent pause. "Adam, I'm serious about this. If I'm not feeling better in the morning, we've got to take a boat back to Puno and maybe look at flights to go home."
It was the moment of truth. Minutes to midnight, minutes to a new year of hope and promise, and we were at our most desperate hour. I reach into my bag and pick up the Cipro. Future of humanity be damned, this sickness could not go on.
"I have ten pills," I hear myself saying. "We have five days left. It's one pill per day. If we split the dose, we can get new prescriptions back in the states."
"Maybe we can have a doctor meet us at the airport."
"Yes! That's completely possible!"
We decide to take the pills the next morning. "Happy New Year," I say to Jay, even though its only 11:30. "Happy New Year," he says, and we both pass out until the bah-ing of our host family's sheep wakes us up the next morning.
Cipro, Breakfast Of Champions
One of the first things we do is take the pills. Only afterwards do I look at the label. Take TWO a day. Not one. I ask the dutch pharmacist if I've inadvertantly doomed myself and mankind. He assures me we should be fine.
Traveler's Tip: Bring Cipro or a similar antibiotic. A lot of it. If you don't, however, it can be purchased without a prescription in a Bolivian pharmacy for a little over 2 bucks for ten pills. Something we found out later.
We tour the island of Taquille (see the video above), have lunch, walk down the island's giant staircase, head back to Puno. The views around the lake are beautiful:
I'm Accepting Photography Awards...
We both feel a lot better already. Our boat rescues another boat that's stranded, and together, our tied together boats slowly eke towards shore. Another boat speeds past us heading into the harbor--weirdly enough with the two Irish guys we met on the bus from Cusco on board.
Jay Participates In The Rescue Effort
We get back to the Qelqatani and watch USC clobber Michigan (hey, um, Michigan, might wanna use the Shotgun formation). We flip through channels, and see one of the Rocky movies is on. "Which one is this?" we wonder. We figure it must be Rocky 4. Later, when we flip back, we realize it's the brand new Rocky that's just been released in theaters. That can't be legal. Great TV in Peru!
We get some more lomo saltado room service, and I finally get in touch with my parents, who I find out had called every hotel in Puno looking for me (no cell phone reception on Lake Titicaca). Ah my parents, such worryworts.
And that's 2 & 3 in Lake Titicaca. The next day, we planned to travel by bus to spend two days in Copacabana, Bolivia, primarily because we wanted another stamp on our passports and wanted to relax at "Bolivia's Largest Beach Resort." In a land-locked country, I can assure you, that claim is boldly misleading.