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Global Warming, Up Close and Personal

July 28, 2013

After a spectacular visit to Machu Picchu, we took the train back to Cusco to gather our belongings we’d left behind and get a quick sleep in before an early morning drive across the Altiplano (the high plains), to Lake TIticaca (go ahead, laugh. Get it out).

As we left the town of Cusco, though we were still in the Cusco region, we passed through a number of small towns, each with its own gastronomic specialty. Peru is highly rated for its cuisine (considered among the best in the world) and Juan is a foodie of the first order – his wife is also a restaurateur. It is a quirk of Peru that each town does its own thing, but that is how it works. For one its guinea pig, the next chicken, then duck, beef, there’s even a town devoted to bread. If you want duck, don’t go to guinea pig town and expect to get it. As we drove further, town specialties became less about food. One town made roofing tiles, then next little ceramic bulls. We stopped to look at a few more Incan ruins and then forged forward on the 8 hour drive across the plains.

They are dull. Wide fields sometimes with sheep or llamas, surrounded by mountains. Everything is a kind of straw yellow color. THe scenery never really changed.

What was significant though were the mountains. Yellow with specks of green, they were once all somewhere between snow-capped and snow-covered. And not that long ago. In some cases only a decade had passed since the desolate peaks had been glaciers. You hear about global warming, and certainly the weather has been weird, but folks in these mountains are watching it happen right in front of them. It is shocking to see.

We crossed the Continental Divide separating the east and west mountains and eventually came to civilization again. Such as it was. We entered the town of Juliaca in the Puno region. Juliaca is a wild west town, known for its smugglers (its close to the Bolivian border and things are much cheaper there), its knock off jewelry, and its tendency towards alcoholism and violence against women. We were all happy to pass through and out-of-town.

I’ve spent my life visiting New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. As you come off the highway, there is a round-about which, halfway round, reveals the first site of the lake. We had a game in my family to shout “I see the lake” as soon as you did.  To this day, if I don’t say it out loud, I definitely still think it, as I go around that bend.

That’s what it felt like as we entered the town of Puno and there she was, Lake Titicaca.

We arrived at our hotel in time for dinner in town (another wonderful meal, capped with pisco sours at a Juan suggested restaurant), and then off to bed. The next day was the day I’d been looking forward to the entire trip – our day on the Lake.

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