Sunday, December 10, 2006

Eating Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig (Cuy)!
On the night before I leave Peru, I finally get to try one of the national "delicacies" - guinea pig, or in Spanish, "cuy".


In fact I cheated - the chap I had met on the bus, Akira, ordered it. I stuck to trout, and just sampled his, an altogether safer option.

The grimace was well-disguised

The little critter was sprawled across the plate, his head still in tact, two front teeth poking out over the edge of the dish, and body with a thin layer of cheese on top. The skin was very tough.. I was worrying it would take all night to eat, until the waitress suggested using hands rather than knives and forks. The taste? Kinda like chicken, as with most unknown meats! The flavour was more of the marinade used I suspect. Anyway, my trout was good!

Early morning (just the way I like it) bus to Copacabana in Bolivia with TourPeru.

We follow the lake round to the border

It takes about 2 1/2 hours to reach the border, where we all have to alight, visit a currency exchange, as apparently Copacabana (town) charges 1 Boliviano (the currency in Bolivia) as an "entry fee"! Whoever heard of an entry fee for a normal town, and how irritating that it is just by the border, so one hasn't had the chance to visit the bank yet! What a racket! Anyway, I have 1 Peruvian Sol coin left in my pocket, and I get away with changing this into 2 Bolivianos! Result!

So into Peruvian emigration, stamped, walk the 100 yards across to Bolivia, and without issue another stamp. [GPS: 16.22586S, 69.09584W] All suspiciously easy. Back on the bus and another 10 minutes to Copacapana. On arriving the lovely location is apparently immediately - just below several small hills, it sits on a sandy bay, with the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca sparkling in the sun. The chap next to me, who is going straight on to La Paz, laments not breaking his journey here. It's hot, and there's barely a cloud in the sky.

Locals enjoy dipping their feet in the water. No one swimming (bit nippy)


Beats rainy mountains!

After checking into a hotel, Utamu, my second choice (will try to get into La Cupula tomorrow), I wander around town, discover that there is no bank.. at all.. so have to use a dodgy cash advance place, with 5% commission, grrr! I go for lunch by the water. There is an array of restaurants lining the beach, full of mostly locals enjoying trout from the lake. [GPS: 16.22489S, 69.09581W]

One for each day... if I stay here two weeks!

I wander back and forth and settle for the first, and busiest one.

A menu even I can understand

Trucha (trout) al Limon, comes a few minutes later on a bed of rice, with a few chips on the side, washed down with a La Paz beer. Delicious!

Simple and tasty

Incidentally, in terms of currency - Bolivia is supposed to be one of the cheapest countries in South America. There doesn't appear to be any form of industry, and someone said to me that they are always looking for bail-outs from their more prosperous neighbours. The exchange rate is just over 8 Bolivianos to the dollar, so I'm assuming about 15 to the pound. A return day trip to Isle del Sol, which is an hour (?) boat trip away, is 20 Bolivianos.

A post-lunch walk is required
After lunch I decide to climb up the hill behind my hotel. Steep climb which I attempt slowly in the heat.

Popular mode of transport as long as the wind is in your favour

The view from the top [GPS: 16.16151S, 69.09063W] is beautiful, over the town, with its large cathedral, and in the other direction, along the spit of land which leads to the Isle del Sol, and the island itself in the distance.

Beware of the dog!

Next I wander along the spit to the next hill, [GPS: 16.12897S, 69.09158W] with a spooky large cross made from reeds and twigs, for some reason not standing upright either, returning as the sun sets. I had been accompanied on this walk by a girl I met earlier. She has been staying here for a week, and apparently firstly the weather's not normally this good, and secondly there are such frequent power outages that she estimates only 2 or 3 of the days last week was there full power all day. This is a serious consideration given that my hotel shower is electric (one of the death-by-electrocution guaranteed showers as pictured previously). I resolve to switch hotels!

The sky starts to light up

Suspect he´s wandering what the mad gringo is doing running along the shore

The temperature drops rapidly once the sun has disappeared beneath the horizon

Perhaps the town is on fire!

So, my original plan was to come here, head off to the island, and camp for three days or so. This was watered down to come here, head off to island, and stay in hostels as much as possible, perhaps camping for one night. I'm slightly embarrassed to say this has now become come here, stay in Copacabana, and do day trips out to the Island. It's soo nice here, I can't bare to stay out on the island where accommodation is very basic, no hot water, and basic restaurants, when I can be back here by 7pm having spent the day there wandering about. Sorry! Am also hoping to stay here until the day before my flight from La Paz, as I have not heard entirely encouraging things about the place.

Back to Copacabana
The town is very friendly, laid back - no hassle about going on tours! Thank goodness. I´ve arranged my hotel switch now. Unfortunately La Cupula, where I´m going, only has a suite available for tonight. Sigh, the things I have to endure! Single room from tomorrow though. Bit of a nuisance moving between rooms. Hostel has a very good restaurant too supposedly, and most importantly, solar-gas combi showers, i.e. no issues if the power goes. The town has lots of nice restaurants and cafes, which is good, very disproprortionate to the size of the place, as is the beautiful cathedral.

The cathedral from above

One point of note - all the tat sellers here seem to be gringos - hippy types. I´ll monitor their numbers carefully, if it reaches my hippy tolerance threshold I may have to book a private jet to the nearest 5* hotel to escape!

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