Friday, November 12, 2010

Some links..

Here's a link to the Masanugudi travelogue i wrote on MustSeeIndia.
....And the link to the article I wrote on Jew Town in Cochin 
Pretty excited :)


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crossing Over.. (From Peru to Bolivia)

Its not often that I've crossed over from one country into the next.. A pedestrian bus, halted on the border its passengers getting off to have their passports checked. The border control a small dimly lit office, with two guards not very menacing looking standing outside ushering the lines of tourists shuffling in..
We took the bus from Puno in Peru, having visited the floating islands of Titicaca and not wanting to linger on in Puno any longer. Puno save the islands did not have much to offer. It was extremely touristy and small as it was, we were done walking the few streets the previous evening..

The drive to La Paz was beautiful. We wound our  way round roads hugging the mountain side , never once steering clear of the beautiful waters of Lake Titicaca.  Her mood was definitely a different shade of blue to what we found in Peru. We caught some pics on the mobile , as the camera had lost charge..

Lake Titicaca..
We were in and out of border control in half an hour. We had to change buses at this point. We hauled our luggage and hurried to the bus stop. I was already panicking as we were a little late.. The better half assures me that the bus will not leave without us.. This only makes me walk faster.. :)

Border Control - Bolivia

We board our bus in Copacabana on the Bolivian border. Pity we don't get to see much of this city. I've read and heard so much about Copacabana, that I feel sad that our encounter with her is barely fleeting.
Our journey inside Bolivia was fairly uneventful until the bus pulled over and we all disembarked...
We were told we would have to take the ferry and our bus would be ferried too..
I have never seen anything like this before. It was chilly and pulling our jackets closer for warmth, we hurried to buy tickets. We got onto the ferry. It was dark. The ferry was packed. There were about 8 life jackets for the entire boat. The motor roars to life and the boat moves swiftly along, its noisy passengers punctuating the otherwise silent night..
And then the boat stopped. A problem with the engine we are told. At this point there nothing much we can do but sit and wait...
Ten minutes later we are on our way..

Crossing Lake Titicaca

Once on the other side , we await our bus. The scenes unfolding are intriguing. As we stand a truck is ferried across in a what looks like  a huge flat boat being rowed across the river. Take a few pictures.
Its freezing . There's nothing much around this place.  After what seems like a looooong time our bus arrives. And we are on our way to La Paz..

Meena Venkataraman

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca..

Travel Diaries: 8th Oct

The Reed Islands of Titicaca

There are plenty of tours on offer...and the thing to do in Puno is visit the reed islands of Titicaca.
We haggled a bit and got ourselves what we though was a good good deal for 15 soles each.
We were picked up from our hotel and found ourselves waiting in the port.  The port is incredible, crowded with boats,  and to the naked eye looks like they are encroaching on the land beyond into the Hilly city of Puno

The Port in Puno
Our boat was soon ready. And before we knew it we were off on the ride. The invigorating breeze  carried the smell of the water as the boat sped through the clear waters.  Our first glimpse of the Islands of Uros was when we saw cows eating grass on what looked like land....
 Our First glimpse of the Uros Islands
The Uros are an ancient  tribe. Legend had it that there were here on Earth even before the Sun , the sustainer of life warmed it. Every civilization seems to have a tale very like the Garden of Eden...
And in this culture it is believed that the Uros, once so mighty that they could not even be struck by lighting lost their super human powers on account of disobeying the law that they should not mix with humans. The condemned tribe became the Uro Aymara.

"History becomes legend and legend becomes myth" - JRR Tolkein in the Lord of the Rings

Whatever the legend has to say may seem impossible to believe, but this is known for certain that the Uros predated the Inca Civilization. The Reed islands are masterfully built and speak volumes of what the Uros were capable of. They once payed taxes to their Inca conquerors and were even taken as slaves.

The Reed islands of Titicaca
We got of from our boats to a traditional welcome from the Woman folk of the Uros and then sat around listening to our guide talk us through how the islands are built
Earthern Pots

Woman of the Island Cooking..

Handicrafts made on the island..
Cooking fires are always built on a layer of  stone or clay. This is done to protect the highly inflammable reeds from potential fire accidents.
The Reed Boats
The reed boats are one of the oldest known boats in the world. They take up to a month to build. These boats called Tatora are the principle means of communication between the islands.
Model demonstrating how the islands are made
The islands are made from what is called 'Tartora Reeds'. The reeds are native to the ecosystem here . The dense roots of the reeds form the base of the island. It is this base that supports the layers of reeds put out on top. The reeds rot and so have to be regularly replaced. The reeds are even eaten and are believed to keep teeth and gums strong. We were given samples. Lets just say its an acquired taste :).
You bring out the Peruvian in me :)
The people here turn to the sea for a living, in recent times supplementing their meagre incomes through tourism. We were welcomed warmly into their houses. It was fun trying on the local attire. :)
The Reed Boats of Titicaca
We took a small boat ride through the island. It was lovely. The short ride took us to an island on the opposite side , a much bigger and more touristy proposition.
The Island of Titicac
There are close to 40 islands in this area. Our guide pointed out to solar panels. There were schools on the islands. But the closest Universities are all in Puno.  There are close to 2000 people who live here.  Only a few actually live in the island. Through the years , through marriage there has been intermingling between the Uros and the people from mainland Puno. The original language Aymara is no longer spoken. Through the years it has been linguistically eroded and has consequently almost disappeared.

It is amazing that the people of the Uros have managed to maintain their culture in the midst of all huge challenged , the chief among them being loss of livelihood to commercial fisherman. Tourism has provided sustenance and thrown in some sort of a lifeline. No matter what hurdles they have left behind over  the present century will present bigger challenges. And here's hoping that this ancient people show the same resilience they have shown over the past 500 or more years.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Passion Flower (Flowers of Peru)..

The passion flower is vividly beautiful , deeply revered and rich in symbolism. The 10 petals are the 10 apostles present during Chsirt's crucifixion, the filaments The 'Crown of Thorns', the anthers the wounds and the stigma the nail...

Driving Down (From Cusco to Puno)..

Travel Diaries: Oct 8th

We left early to Puno.  The sun had just risen. Still tired after the trek, we relished the slow pace we had set ourselves that day. But strangely we got on the bus ruing the loss of an entire day in travel. Its so much more convenient travelling overnight. But this was the best we could do. We decided we would catch some sleep. Half an hour into the ride we realised how wrong we were. The scenery was in some ways overwhelming , nothing like what I had seen before.
In a bit I was wide awake , camera in hand, not knowing but hoping that  my lens would somehow obliterate the reflections from the glass windows in front of me (No the windows could not be opened , if that's what you are wondering about :))

We drove along sides tracks laid deep into the gorgeous tawny brown ground. A sprinkling of houses provided the right amount of detail. The rolling hills in the background, gentle and all observing stood back silent enjoying the gentle sun. There were no trees. But inspite of the dry earthy colours of the landscape shifting rapidly past us, the mind seemed to conjure up images of the rich earth lying beneath suggesting life and continuity rather than  the opposite...

The railway line foretold our journey, almost prophetic, withholding just enough for us to savor the experience by ourselves, but travelling with us a fair distance before vanishing behind the hills.

Llaamas graze, their heads bent. Some it  seemed were also keeping watch as they others devoured the warm grassy earth beneath :)

We stopped at a place. There seemed to be a lot of activity ahead and around us. We got off to explore. It was a street Market; Alpaca shawls, sweaters, bags, gloves, local musical instruments all on display, Passersby busy haggling out a good deal..
The mountains stood out in the background, stark against the vibrant hues all around

A bustling Market by the roadside..

"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
    Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, 
    Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone" (John Keats in Ode on a Grecian Urn)

We departed. The sun was beginning to set. Grey waters of a sullen river flow past. They seem to catch the light of the setting sun. The sky is overcast casually threatening rain, holding back probably just for the fun of it or so it seems.

Our first glimpse of Lake Titicaca

Our first glimpse of Titicaca was breathtaking. Stretched out in infinite blue she almost looked like the sea.
All around we could see millions of rooftops...

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all 
       Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."  (John Keats in Ode on a Grecian Urn)


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