Ear Infections and 12,556' - The Dark side of Peru - 6

 A week into our trip we gathered our luggage and packed-out for Puno. This area is the home of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, large enough to fit the island of Bermuda inside of it (my upcoming blog location), it sits at 12,556’ and it is an area of alpine agriculture with year-round mild temperatures, possible because it sits at 16•S latitude from the equator. (Ouray is at 38•N). This area is on the most southern border of Peru, in fact 40% of the waters are in Bolivia. 

Estadio Garcilaso, 

Cusco Soccer Stadium
But before I delve into the qualities of Puno, I had a very sick son. He had been dealing with a head cold for all of the aforementioned travels. I had packed various medications, but I had run-out of Sudafed. 

Here was my concern, my son woke-up complaining about an earache on the very day we were to fly. If you have never flown with an ear infection or witnessed the agony of a ruptured ear drum...trust me, it is not pretty...at...all. And we were working off of zero decongestants. So, we ibuprofen’d and coca-tea’d the boy and I still worried, because it was Sunday and very few shops are open on this day, in Catholic country. Could we find some sinus meds? Thankfully, John speaks enough Spanish to ask our driver if a pharmacy would be open. Sí. And could you please stop? Sí. 

So we stopped and loaded him up on loratadine and dexamethasone and otomycin. (The other Americas’, except Canada, are the real superbug problem, antibiotics given to us without Rx), along with a couple of menthol cough drops. 

Once upon the plane, we asked for a warm compress and we happened to have a couple lollipops. Not sure what combination of over-medication and alternative therapies worked but he had little-to-no pressure issues! 

Perhaps, it was the pachamama sitting next to me on the plane? She was aged, with deep, sun-kissed creases of a hard life. She had traditional braids with woven hair adornment. Nonetheless, before take-off, she subtly genuflected and chewed the coca-leaf. Whatever works!

The compound, with gardens.
This day was a travel day with no real site-seeing, so, I will take this opportunity to share some observations of modern Peru. At first, I thought it would be similar to my other Southern and Central America’s experiences, dirty, and poverty stricken, with plastic bags and empty bottles littering most of what you can see, and injured dogs roaming the streets. Our impression of Lima, and Cusco to MP was that it is an evolving country with a stable government, fair elections, city workers and maintained streets.

When we landed in Julica, the local airport to Puno, and a mining-based town that turns a blind eye to the Bolivian black-market for gas, electronics and brand named clothes (due to taxes), my eyebrows lifted to “aquì” (here it is). This area is rough and there is little care of the countryside or Puno, despite the University. Electricity wires run overhead to the red brick and mud mortar buildings like a haphazard gymnasium spun together by preschoolers. Getting the electricity run to the various homes as quickly as possible seem more important than a planned community network. 

Dock of Hotel
Had to leave guarded gate and cross train tracks
I cannot describe the area any better than John’s personal friend and author Eglė Gerulaitytė, who wrote in her Moto-travel book Tales from South America: Everyday Life, Legends & People

One bright morning, I rolled into Puno, a sprawling, grey concrete jungle on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The lake lay blue vivid, like some ancient, otherworldly sea against the stunning backdrop of the jagged peaks of the snow-capped Andes. Beside it Puno looked hopelessly out of place, almost embarrassed by its’ own narrow, filth streets, grey cinderblock houses and soot-covered walls, the exhaust of its’ fumes lingering in the cold alpine air.

Chicha Morada

Non-Alcoholic Purple Corn Tea
We arrived to our Hotel: Casa Andina Premium Puno for a late lunch. The grounds are very nice, but in true Americas’ style, it is better described as a compound, with fencing, walls and electric wires. We decided not to venture into Puno and instead rested, and sunned on the terraza facing Titicaca and I caught-up on my blog imbibing chilcano’s whilst sipping the thin alpine air. And my son slept. 

(A chilcano is a pisco and ginger ale with lime, pisco is a distilled wine, most tourists drink the pisco sour, I preferred the chilcano). 

Some other interesting similarities with other central- and south- american countries: they paint their political parties propaganda directly on cinderblock walls and have no obligation to paint over after the election. Wall after wall of seeming graffiti lined the mud-caked streets. The houses are built, at a level of unfinish or abandonment, when in actuality, the steel wires extending-out from each corner is in the event that they wish to build higher for when the bank will loan again, or for extending family. Other times, the interior is finished but the black marketeers do not wish to draw attention to their nice things. Moreover, there is a tax advantage to unfinished houses, which is allowed to remain unfinished. Of course homeowners continue to use the top level “roof” as a drying porch for clothing. And more unique to Peru, as a highly invested UNESCO country, many abandoned buildings are such because the requirements for restoration is beyond the value; not to mention, they may believe it is also haunted. 

Here, we are finding fewer United States English and more European languages. Which, for us, enriches the experience. Nonetheless, the people seem very kind. Within the cities, people buy from food carts, and little ground-floor shopettes. I wonder if this isn’t a more realistic version of capitalism. Here the real person is making a living for themselves. At some point, US American’s have given up their freedoms for convenience; their monies to corporations. Not that the grubby lack of social services is to be romanticized in any capacity; but perhaps, this is why I have always preferred the small towns, the small stores, the small communities. 
Barranco Church of the Vulture

Moreover, in the countryside, the people are so very close to living with nature. While, the earthchild in me is envious of the self-sustaining abilities of these people; they make their own mud bricks, they grow their own food and the ranch their own livestock, I am not at a level of going-off the grid to skin guinea pigs and shear sheep. 

Abandoned Barranco Church left to Vultures
It is a very callousing life and I appreciate that my US American life affords me the ability to see how others live; how very lucky I am to be able to witness the world, the cultures and the hardships. I hope it makes me a more authentic spirit.