Monday, December 1, 2008

Plans Change: Scratch Bolivia; Sillustani to Arequipa - Dec 1

I was planning on going to La Paz, Bolivia, and then on to cross the Uyuni Salt flats into Peru. Mo and I had talked about doing this together since riding across the Uyuni alone is not considered to be a particularly bright thing to do. Unfortunately, Mo was probably partying somewhere and couldn´t find his typing finger: I hadn´t heard from him for more than a week, so had been having some concerns about riding this particular stretch alone.

But when I woke up in the morning health took the decision out of my hands. I was having a lot of trouble breathing. Remember, I was at more than 12,000 feet altitude and there is about 40% less oxygen there. I was feeling panicky from lack of air and felt like I just had to get to a lower altitude... FAST. La Paz is even higher than Puno, so that wasn´t going to do it. I had also wanted to see Arequipa, so there was some consolation to the sudden change of plans.

Aside - Fast Forward on Health: I found out a few weeks later (yes, this continued at lower altitude) that the problem wasn´t lack of oxygen. A local doctor in Caldera, Chile, examined me and found that I had a sinus infection. My nasal passages were so swollen I couln´t breath. It was probably an alergic reaction to some things in the desert, and antibiotics, decongestants, and antihistamines cleared it right up.

After leaving Puno I stopped at the town of Sullistani. The homes around here are different than other parts of Peru.. very interesting. Made of rock instead of adobe, and generally round. Lots of llamas outside.

Many had a special place for raising cuy... roasted guinea pig. Looks real cozy until you realize their ultimate destiny.

After the village I visited the pre-Incan funeral towers that make the place famous. These people were incredible engineers. They formed the blocks in such a way that they have withstood centuries of earthquakes. The blocks are even different sizes so that they won´t set up a harmonic vibration... ingenious!

Leaving Sillustani, back in the village, I came across a parade. Lots of local color, and men parading around as bulls. Everyone was very enthusiastic until the heavy rains started.

The ride from Silustani was again across the Altiplano, mostly at 13,000 to 16,000 feet. It was barren, lots of llamas and vicunas, and COLD! Just to make sure I wouldn´t be too comfortable, someone threw in some high winds and rain. It was the first time on the trip that I had to break out the electric jacket and gloves, and was I ever glad I had them!

Finally arrived at Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, fought the traffic, found a hotel, a HOT shower, and had a great Turkish dinner. Go figure!

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