Early in the last year, I made a a silent yet stolid agreement with myself. I would write as much as possible.
I have always known that I wanted to write. The papers presented to the mr and ms. in partial fullfillment of the course to the stupid little sketches in 8th grade to brit lit. and all the shebers howard. To the jj johnson even though he was a dick. To the shhissel and Mr. Syr.
It was the Timne’s class that was the best. We read Frankenstein and the Romantic poets. She wrote that book when she was 18 with bysshe her bo and the byron lord.
I had so much respect for that monumental accomplishment.
Anyways, I could never commit to writing more than 10k on any given story.
Last year in february I took Christi Kruugs Wildfire Writing class at Clark college. It worked.
Since February last year, I have written 100k+ in freewrites and 65k on my first novel.
As I go through my abundance of Photos throughout the years, there is a pattern that develops. There are a tuuuuuuun (elongated pronunciation of ton) of photos, which is a favorite word of mine lately. So instead of focusing on a photopourri (photographic potpourri) like usual, instead there will be focus on a single location.
Today I would like to focus on Isla del Sol. It is an island on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. It is the largest island on Lake Titicaca home to around 800 families. The island is rocky and has no paved roads, it is home to an abundance of Eucalyptus trees, the leaves are very fragrant. I believe the top of the island is above tree line in altitude, because there were no trees on the highest part of the island. The elevation of the lake is 3,800 meters, while the top of the island is 4,100 meters. Tree line is not an exact figure and varies greatly depending on the terrain, but 4,100 meters seems plenty of elevation for this. Life on the island is quiet and peaceful. Especially when you go to the far side of the island. Tour boats go out to the island all the time, so there is a constant trickle of tourists, but you can still find a great deal of tranquility there. The views of the Mountains are incredible, it is like being on the Mediterranean and in the middle of the Andes. Though it is much colder than the Mediterranean.
The island was first recommended to me by an Argentine travel pal named Javier from B.A. I met him on a Cusco city tour and he could not stop gushing about his visit to the Island. I had already been to the Peruvian side of the Lake and was not sure I could justify going there again, but I kept that in the back of my mind until the opportunity arose later in the trip.
It was after my trip to Machu Picchu when I heard from another friend about the adventure she had on the Death Road in Bolivia. The Death Road is a Mountain Biking expedition down a notoriously murderous road through the mountains and into La Paz. It had been closed off long before and turned into a tourist attraction for daring gringos like us. Anyways, her enthusiasm convinced a few of the other friends in Cusco and we decided to go.
It was a hard decision for me as an American, because they charge US citizens 150 dollars to get in. This is totally justifiable to me, because the US is notorious for dicking people around when they try to visit or move to the country. Still, I was not sure if I could afford 150 dollars, that is about a months worth of money in Cusco, the way that I was living. However, the tales of the Island of the sun and the rumored festival on the island that I could attend clinched the deal. I also ended up saving a weeks worth of lodging by bar tending at the hostel and the rooms on Isla del Sol saved me some money as well. The point is it all worked out and looking back, it was one of the most incredible and unique travel experiences I have ever experienced.
Isla Del Sol Special
When we arrived on the island, we eventually found out that the festival wasn’t really going to happen, so I just ended up staying on the island for 7 days. Hanging out with the other “volunteers” walking the trails on the top of the island to the market for food. Walking to the Ruins and the wifi on the other side of the island, which was a day long errand. It was pretty mind-blowing to live such a calm life.
We also spent many of the days with participating in Incan rituals with some of three Elders. The Island is the setting of an origin myth for the civilization. It is said that Manco Capac the first Inca emerged from the Titikala (sacred rock) on the north side of the island. He is the son of Inti, aka the sun, and so this specific rock is sacred in a very sacred island. In another telling, the people on the island were without sun for many days and became frightened, then the sun emerged from the sacred rock and gave them light again. In still another version, it is said that the sun hid under the rock when during a great flood and when the waters receded, the sun emerged form this location. A temple was built at this location and ruins of the expansion by the tenth Inca Tupac Inca Yupanqui, can still be seen today. (source: wikipedia “isla del sol”)
Subsistence framing and agriculture are practiced on the island, but as with many historical incan sites, most of the income is from tourism.
And now for the photos.
This is the view from the High Trail on the island. It connects the various villages and intersects with the other trails leading people to the ruin sites and the locations for lodging and camping.
The welcome sign and someones coat covered arm. You do need your coat quite a bit since the lake is 3800 meters, Mediterranean views with High Alpine weather.
The Sheep were everywhere and their calls sounded very much like humans at times.
Views of the Mountains surrounding the lake. The grander mountains are on the Bolivian side. Bolivia is such an amazing place to visit. All the countries in South America that I have visited have varied terrain, but Bolivia was the most spectacular juxtaposition.
The lambs were heart melting every time I saw or heard one of them.
And the piglets were about as cute as piglet on winnie the pooh. Except the were real.
The view of the village from the trail to the other side of the island and the internet.
View of pretty yellow flowers and the internet. Both of which were very scarce on the island. The rockier climate is not as easy for most flowers to grow into. And I found I didn’t need the internet all that much after all.
A view from the trail partway to the other side. About 45 minutes walking to this point.
A view of the blue, with a little bit of the island mixed in. The colors get very vivid when you get above 3500 meters and at the point we are way above that point. I am more of a mountain type of a person, but this island started to convince me that island life might be a way to go.
Sharing food among friends is one of the best experiences while traveling. It is something that is often lost in my day to day life at home. Where I eat many meals alone in between jobs and school breaks or whatever it is I am doing. Traveling gives you a chance to enjoy those times in a comprehensive way. This was especially true on the island since most activities consisted of walking to get food, returning with food and then preparing and eating food. With some swimming and Incan rituals mixed in.
People, the greatest boon of a traveler. It is the people you meet that are the most important. Life is expressed more fully while on these adventures and so are human relationships. You get to know people better in a few days or weeks than some people you know for years at home. It allows you to open your heart, find common ground and exalt in the similarities and differences between you.
“Through the years a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly after his death he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.” Jorge Luis Borges.
I know it is tuesday again. What can I say? My spirit animals are an owl and a spider. Both dark-liking things. And I know, I was disappointed a bit when I found out. I thought I saw a Mountain Gorilla in a yoga nidra recently and I have always considered myself monkey like. More an animals later, if I get to it. (disclaimer- the owl and spider are very powerful spirits etc. I read about them in depth and can definitely see why).
And now back to the photographic memories.
A Note on the Format. I am working on it. I am more of a writer than a design man and more of a talker than a writer, thus ramblestiltskin.
There are so many memories that I have not shared from my travels. Each of them feels like a lifetime and seems it would take a lifetime to catalog. This is my way of focusing the ADD brain into something constructive. A picture is worth a thousand words, but each of those thousand is different based on whose perspective is shared. Hence, The Photo and snippet style. It also breaks up the 1600+ words into bitable chunks. My copy is often overwhelming in volume. Mainly, this is because I do not edit. If I edited these, I would never post them. I will save that for any future guest posts or books, crosses fingers.
And if you have made it this far, I applaud your tenacity. As a voice/audience finding exercise comment below telling me your favorite memory. The memory with the most votes will get a full 1600+ post delving deeper. Maybe I will be on a limb, out to sea, up a creek etc. but I will post on any of them with the most votes no matter how silly or mundane. I will consider it a writing test of agility.
This is my first post of what will be known as “Remembory Mondays.” I was going through my old photos during a bout of nostalgia and a bit of a delayed Reverse Culture Shock Relapse, when I had a simple thought. A good way to process the experience resurgent travel urge would be to share some of the memories of my experiences.
As I started to compose a photoblog post on my adventure on the Inca Trail, I was distracted with memories from my two separate trips to Lake Titicaca and the islands I visited on both the Peruvian and Bolivian side. Then I was further distracted by some of the photos of daily life in Cusco and then after that Argentina and then a road trip I went on last year etc…
The point being that there are a ton of memories that emerge out of the ether of past experience. They are particularly plentiful with each bout of Adventuritis, an inflammation of the adventure gland located just inferior to the pineal gland, j/k.
With each emerging vista on the memorial plane, it is easier and easier to become lost in it all and do nothing. Instead of doing nothing, either by continuously going through my old photos or being unable to decide what to post, a simple writer decides as so often he does, by not deciding at all.
Remembory Monday, a weekly platform, perhaps evolving, always dynamic, like any good trip, never static. Like any good traveller always a fanatic, rarely pragmatic. Please also ignore the fact that it might be Tuesday wherever you are in the world. Monday, like the pirate code, is more of a guideline meaning sometime after noon on monday and before 6 am on Tuesday, give or take a few hours. Since peak creativity of this writer of yours is usually past sunset and well into moonshine and star-time, you can count on it being a late night post.
Five to Ten to Twenty or Thirty photos with a small Remembory’ed note just below (inferior to) the Photo.
And so it begins…
The View from the high trail on Isla Del Sol. We kept trying to get a picture that showed off the mountains in the background. It was really hard to do that view justice with a person in the frame. Real experience note, the water wasn’t clean, the ceramic filter and bucket didn’t work as well for me as it did for others. Had the travelers sickness all week aka diarrhea. The key is, that is now what I remember!
The actual view of the mountains without people is way better, I spent 7 days in December of 2012 on Isla Del Sol on the Bolivian side of the Lake. It was incredible and all of the views from mountain to meadow to water to wood and temple to tableau were epic. I had the chance to experience Incan Rituals and exist in serenity in one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. Thank you Javier for telling me I had to go there.
My friend Enrico’s boot could not withstand the rigors of the Inca Trail. The worst part is it came apart after lunch on the third day at Phuyupatamarca “City Above the Clouds.” The Good news, we only had half a day and the morning left. The bad news, 2,000 plus stair descent to the last camp near Winaywana. The boots made it through though and we all got to the sun gate the next morning where we were both winded and in awe at the picturesque tableau unfolding under the first rays of the sun. That Picture will be for another monday.
Day one of the Inca Trail, something like hour 4. It rained almost the entire first day. It got to the point where we could not even stop to see the first set of ruins, because it was so bad. The Poncho I had did not fit well at all. Hint- Make sure your poncho fits over your backpack. I was okay though, with waterproof shoes, a waterproof back cover and my showers pass jacket I used for pedi-cabbing in the rain it was all right. It cleared up for the most part for the next few days. I admit it would have put a damper on my enjoyment of the trail.
Yoga on the Inca Trail. Showing one of the Germans in our group Eagle Pose. Thanks to Enrico for catching this little gem. Yoga on the trail helped easy the rigors of the hills and valleys. Also pack light, I packed way too much on this trip. I had gotten heavily into Yoga earlier that summer, after I had a muscle spasm that saw me unable to do any physical activity for three weeks, I received a Chiropractic adjustment and then was shown some stretches. All of the stretches were yoga poses, so I found a groupon and jumped in headfirst. After practicing three-four times a week for 3 months. I went back to the Chiropractor for a follow up and they said I was stronger than I was before the injury. It was a game changer. I continue to practice 2-5 days/week. I have now tried many styles, Bikram was how I started but I have moved onto more meditative types since then.
The Flamingo lake ruins about an hour outside of Puno, after my first trip to the Lake. That isn’t the real name, but that is how the trip organizer sold it to us. Yeah lake full of flamingos and ruins on the hill. When we got there, it turned out that the Flamingos are only there in the morning, but it was still interesting to see the ruins. We did see a little cuy though. Guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru. After we got back the car wasn’t there, so this was my first experience of Panic in Peru. But we figured out by calling the organizer, it just ended up being another one of those experiences in the difference in time. Most arrangements in Peru run a few hours later than they schedule.
While in Bolivia I had the experience of realizing I was almost out of money. This unfortunate scenario led to the discovery of bartending in exchange for my stay at the Adventure Brew Hostal, just a few blocks from the bus station in La Paz. The work was pretty simple, the beer was the best I had in South America , though the tap was overly foamy, it was a welcome change from the Cusquena and Pilsen I usually had in Cusco. Hands down best part, other than the people of course, was the Drunk food Sandwiches. While Pouring the two kinds of overly foamy beers, I got to know the other bartenders and a few of the patrons. Three of them could not stop talking about these amazing sandwiches, I think they were called Inguitos or Honguitos. Check out the picture of the sandwich next to me. My face looks like I am regretting biting into it, but that is just my habitual wide mouth teeth bite that avoids getting the mess all over my face, chin, beard, mustache or whatever. Sooooooo goood!
The moon over Amantani on Lake Titicaca. This is where my group stayed on the boat trip on the lake. You cannot imagine how peaceful it was. It was even quieter than isla del sol. This kind of peace is so rejuvenating, I found myself refreshed on only about 6 hours of sleep. And that was after the all night bus ride from Cusco to Puno and then all day on the boat. And the moon was so bright it lit the path when we walked back from the high point on the island. Cold, Quiet, and beautiful.
I meant to use this method to keep the post short, but alas as soon as I start typing the levee breaks.
Comment below to hear more about your favorite memory, I will choose one photo to expand upon for a post of it’s own in the coming weeks. And If you liked any of these memories, check my Peru, Bolivia and Argentina categories for more posts of this nature.
It is the common practice for many avid travel bloggers to focus on and highlight the amazing, unique and adventurous experiences they seek out while abroad. This is understandable, they make for great stories. The unique and fantastic adventures like diving with whale sharks, watching the sunrise from one of the peaks in the Cordillera Blanca, or hiking to Mach Picchu on the Camino Inca.
These are certainly moving and awe-inspiring tales. They deserve to be told. These are the moments that inspire others to get a pack, stuff it way too full, buy a ticket and take the plunge. However, these hallowed and magical moments are rare. Wait, check that, not really rare, for any traveller will experience many of them. However, when you look at the daily life of a traveller, they are few and far between. There are so many other notable moments. While Machu Picchu may be the reason you go to Peru, the laid back lifestyle and the ridiculously fresh fruit may be the reason you stay.
It is the little things that both cause the most discomfort (carrying around your own toilet paper) and bring the most joy (sipping freshly bended juice while walking the streets of Cusco.)
On to my ordinary adventure
I have been looking for the chance to get a straight razor shave since before I could sustain a beard. Perhaps the inception of this desire was caused by my viewing of “Gangs of New York” when I was in high school. The scene when “Priest” Vallon, played by Liam Neeson shaves before the opening battle scene. He then hands the blade to his son who begins to wipe the blade clean, but stops his hand saying, “the blood stays on the blade.” For some reason the gravity of this scene inspired a desire to experience a straight razor shave. And luckily for me, none of my blood ever touched the blade.
The desire to find this experience came about a year after I saw that article in Blue Magazine which inspired the dream of visiting Machu Picchu, you can read more about that here…
…it is a 4 part post with lots of photos for your viewing pleasure.
Since both of these dreams were inspired around the same time, and so long ago, it is fitting that I would fulfill them both on the same trip.
My first international haircut was in Salta Argentina by a guy who was so fast I could have sworn he had scissors in both hands. he didn’t even use clippers, just scissors for a cut that was pretty short. An artist indeed, he even had trophies on his walls, Barber trophies. I asked for a shave, but didn’t know enough spanish at the time, so i couldn’t get the straight razor shave here. So my face would have to wait for that immaculate feeling, I had only dreamt about.
A little more than a year later, on the later stages of my trip to Peru and what would turn out to be Bolivia, another opportunity arose. A friend of mine had the idea to get mustaches for the upcoming trip to Bolivia and the last few days of Movember. We found a place a few streets from Avenida del Sol and had it done.
My beard was getting long and itchy anyways, and though I have never been a mustache man, I figured I might as well get one where I knew very few people. It would be less embarrassing that way.
The feeling was amazing. I have never had a shave that was so close and smooth. The blade feels like a massage and the shaving cream is incredibly soothing. I had expected it be mildly painful, but it was more of a soft caress. At the end the Peruvian barber rubbed my face with a moisturizing bar of…something and there was also a hot towel involved.
A week later I got the chance again in La Paz, Bolivia. There is a much smaller tourist to local ratio in La Paz and I was able to find a nice off the path Peluqueria for a 10 boliviano mustache ridding shave. After a week, I couldn’t stand looking at myself without cringing and I also wanted an excuse to get another straight razor shave before my trip was over. There are some differences between the one I found in La Paz and the one in Bolivia. Mainly it was how the skin was handled after the shave. In La Paz, the peluquero rubbed my face with alcohol afterwards to sanitize it. There was no hot towel, but he did rub my face with lotion which was an interesting experience.
It was a fine shave, and while the loss of mustache may have saddened a few patrons at the Adventure Brew Hostal, where I was bar tending, its absence made it a lot easier to look in the mirror.
It is this kind of daily difference that makes life exciting while abroad. Each locale will offer its own unique eccentricities and variations on the common experience. Like the San Pedro Market in Cusco, with everything including the butchers under one giant tent, to the markets in La Paz in the middle of the street, there is always a new way to experience daily life.
Note on Straight Razor Shaves
Unfortunately, for the majority of the last ten years, most places in the United States that I searched had lost the art of the straight razor shave at the barber. It is risky and can be dangerous. Recently, I discovered that there is a surge, a renaissance of sorts, for this time honored tradition. I discovered quite a few places in Portland that are bringing it back.
The Modern Man Barbershop – themodernmanpdx.com
Hair M hairmgrooming.com -includes a face massage
And check out this post from “The Art of Manliness,” blog that waxes philosophical and photographic on the experience.
It is perhaps the best kept secret, from US citizens, in all of South America. There are many reasons why people, especially United States citizens, choose not to go to Bolivia. There are many other interesting places to see, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia. Bolivia has the touristically unlucky proximity to Peru, one of the most famous destinations in South America and Chile and Argentina are two of the most expansive. This makes it easy for people to skip over Bolivia. A visa for US citizens costs 135 dollars. This is a lot of money when traveling abroad. It is more than the weekly allowance of most travelers and it can make it hard to justify the expense. They also have a rarely enforced requirement of a yellow fever vaccination certificate. This is a rule that I have never heard of enforced. For these, and other reasons, people tend to pass over Bolivia when anointing destinations worthy of travel.
This is madness.
Bolivia is home to some of the most beautiful mountainous regions in all of South America. The gigantic city of La Paz sits in the shadow of Huayna Potosi and the Codillera Real unchallenged by altitude. The city itself stands at 12,500 feet or 3640 meters.
La Paz is a city built for trekking tourists. The food is not as good as Cusco, which isn’t really a fair comparison, since Cusco has some of the best food in the area. It is the trekking that you need to take advantage of. Like Cusco, there are agencies everywhere.
Unlike Cusco, the agencies are actually affordable. And the variety of experiences is vast. You can mountain bike down 3,000+ meters, thats right 9,000+ feet) in about 3 hours ride time on the Death Road just outside La Paz. They even have single track mountain biking available for real mountain bikers.
You can climb Huayna Potosi about 6,000 meters.on a multiple day trip.
Also just outside of La Paz. The salt flats at Uyuni beckon, with 1-4 day options. You can paraglide, rappel, and bungee jump all in the same day. There are options to add ziplining and visits to animal refuges to a death road package. Jungle treks are available as well. Let’s not forget a visit to the Island of the sun, the most beautiful island on Lake Titicaca.
Each of these experiences can be done for half or less than the average trek that originates in Cusco. So if you are planning a trip to Peru and you have adventure in mind, visit La Paz. There are many options for Hostals. and your stay will be cheap. You can get by in Bolivia for about half or less of what you would spend for the same things in Cusco. And much less when compared to Chile and Argentina.
I spent the great majority of my 10 week trip in Cusco, but the two weeks I spent in Bolivia were worth it. I spent a week in La Paz. A few of my friends from Cusco came with for the weekend and we had a great time doing the death road trek. We rode mountain bikes from 4,700 meters to about 1,100 meters.
It was incredible. We started in the snow and ended up in the jungle below. The ride was easy and the bikes were pretty decent for the price we paid. With this trek you don’t have to be extravagant, but you can definitely ensure enough safety with a middle of the market priced tour company. The bikes at the bargain places may have issues, so steer clear of those.
While safety isn’t number one on this trek, they do give you plenty of gear to protect you in case of a fall and the guides take picture while you are riding. Tourists are banned from taking photos, because a few unlucky riders have tumbled off the road in the past. But as long as you aren’t an idiot the trek is very safe.
The death road got its name when it was the only road out of La Paz and was used by cars, which it is quite narrow for. There is plenty of room for bikes and there are no cars on the lower half, which includes the old road.
It was nearing the end of my trip, because this was the beginning of December. I was almost out of money. I needed something to help me out a little and I got pretty lucky. As it turns out the hostel I was staying at, The Adventure Brew Hostal in La Paz, trades rooms for bartending service. It makes a lot of sense, because they need people that speak english and a lot of business is done at night in the bar. The hostal is also unique as one of the few places that has a microbrew. The brew, called Saya, is pretty decent when it is not too foamy. It reminds me of simpler NW brews. They have Amber, Negra, Dorada (sort of like a Kolsch), and a lager. When I was there they only had Amber and Dorada. But it was the best beer I had in both Peru and Bolivia. And it actually came from the tap instead of a bottle like the beer in Cusco.
I worked for a week in the bar which made my trip a lot more cost effective. I had 3 night shifts and 2 day shifts, easy. The work was simple, the night shift could be pretty busy, but the day shift was slow. I usually spent most of the day watching movies or UEFA Cup matches. This is a great trade for anyone looking to stay in La Paz for a while longer. You can’t do a lot of trekking because you have to work, but it makes exploration of the city pretty easy. And you meet literally hundreds of people.
After my week in La Paz. I met my food buddy from Cusco, Amy, at the Bus Station and headed to Copacabana with Isla Del Sol in mind. My friend Javier from Argentina was the first person that told me about the island of the sun. After visiting Amantani on the Peruvian side of the lake, I thought that I wouldn’t get the chance to see it. My trip to Bolivia made this small dream a reality. And so I after arriving in Copacabana we ate some food, visited the ATM and boarded the 2 hour boat ride to the island.