internet shop near Plaza de Armas, Arequipa
temperature: 12 C / 54 F
elevation: 2,520 m / 8,268 f
Lets see if I can do this after two glasses of wine, with no notes, in an internet cafe where salsa is blasting, people are partying, and sirens and honking horns from the street are 2 metres away. I cant find an apostrophe on this keyboard, so... so therell be no apostrophes. My punctuation-happy self apologizes.
Today we hung around Puno in the morning, first taking a tri-clos pedaled cab to one market, then another cab to second market. These were not handicraft markets for tourists, they are the markets where everyone in the area shops.
The first was a rabbit-warren of stalls. Vendors were unlocking and setting up shop when we got there. It was organized in "districts," clusters of stalls selling similar items, everything from clothes and shoes, to clock repairs and electronics, CDs and baseball caps. A few older men were tailoring on old Singers that would sell as expensive antiques in NYC. In the traditional version of the food court, women were slicing meat off bones and boiling soup.
Indeed, it was really a tradition version of a mall, or (more accurately) the mall is the modern market. After this minor epiphany, I asked Allan, so why do I hate malls and love this place? He knew immediately: because its not a bunch of chain stores. Ah, right. Its not homogenized, its not uniform. Its individual people making their livings by supplying other people, people just like them, with what they need. No one is trying to get you to buy what you dont need, but everything you need is available, from your neighbour.
In the Supermercado Central, there were sections for meat and chicken - all sitting out in the open air (although the area seemed to be air conditioned a bit, which would seem to be a great innovation), fruits, produce, grains and, of course, potatoes as far as the eye could see. Weve learned that Peru produces 5,000 varieties of potatoes, with the area around Puno contributing 300 of their own. Our guide to Sillustani said what pasta is to Italy and beer is to Germany, the potato is to Peru. No wonder I like this country.
After two markets, we had had our fill, and thought we would just kill time until our ride to the airport. But wait, didnt we want to buy sweaters, as gifts...? Just a quick look. Oh yeah, a quick look.
How much would 100% alpaca sweaters made in Peru cost in Toronto? In New York? Factor in fine workmanship, beautiful designs. Meltingly soft wool. Buy in quantity, get a discount despite protestations. A sack of sweaters, which we will mail home tomorrow. US $10 each.
A man with a van picked us up at our hotel, then drove around town soliciting passengers. We were the only tourists in the van. One Punoista was going, like us, to the Juliaca airport, the rest were dropped off en route. Another drive though the
altiplano, a last look at the sheep and alpacas grazing, the women in hats and bright shawls selling bottled water and Inca Kola, then into the crazy town of Juliaca, which seems to be part maket and part garbage dump.
At the airport, we saw at least three groups we had seen in Cuzco or Machu Picchu, and an asshole (sorry, theres no other word for people like him) who harrassed us in the train station Puno. On line waiting to check in, Allan noticed the couple behind us were holding Canadian passports. I ventured, "You guys are Canadian?" They lit up. I explained our US passports, and they were even more interested. Theyre from Toronto, she grew up in Brampton and he in Mississauga... And just now, after dinner and on our way to the internet shop, we saw them having dinner on the balcony of a cafe. Small world, this tourist circuit.
The flight from Puno to Juliaca was only 30 minutes over the mountains. On the way, we chose a hotel to try, took a taxi there, and there were rooms available for way under our budget. We think that will be the case for the rest of the trip. Its a huge, rambling, colonial home; we have a large room with a private bathroom, including breakfast, for US $30.
Tomorrow well spend the day in Arequipa, and also arrange our two-day trip to the Canyon Country outside the city. The tours are so incredibly cheap, were thinking we might try to negotiate a private trip, rather than go with a small group in a van. Well see.