After a long day of travel, we finally arrived at our hotel in Lima at 3:30AM.
In the morning we opened the French doors to the balcony and beheld
the vast ocean below. This
hotel is actually the home to an 82-old artist whose artwork dominates
the premises. The walls are lined with his work done in various
media: oil, carved wood, and mosaic, while the floors and the grounds
display cast, sculpted, carved, and papier-mâché animals, humans,
and other life forms. The house has a Latin colonial charm, and even the
musty smell is somewhat sweet and fitting the scene. The beds have ornamental
cast iron headboards and the doors are the artist´s midsummer dream.
The artist´s daughter gave us a tour and breakfast in a homey kitchen.
After breakfast we went to the local airport and flew into Juliaca. Armed with the
altitude sickness medications in our blood and bottles of water in our
hands, we stepped off the plane and onto the 12,600 foot above the sea
level. To my relief, we were not hit with an oxygen-starved air,
as I was afraid we would, and continued breathing as if still on the sea
Juliaca is a peculiar town. It is a would-be offspring of the union
between an Arizona frontier town and the Bronx. Most of the buildings
in the city are devoid of roofs or parts of the upper walls and all have a look
of deserted brick warehouses. The unfinished construction is intentional
to reduce the real estate taxes. The main industries in the city,
we were told, are counterfeiting and smuggling. Leaving this lovely
urban blight behind, we rode into the open desert dotted with stone
housing compounds. Those were farmhouses specializing in raising
llamas, alpacas, and sheep. Nothing much grows out of this arid land.
We stopped at one of these farmhouses and desperately tried to
befriend the cutest alpaca named Pepe who turned down all our
advances. We toured the compound where the lady of the house cooked
potatoes on top of a mud-n-brick stove feeding the fire with cow
dung. We sampled potatoes with clay (yes, clay) sauce – Lisa, bravely, went first, we
reluctantly followed. After that, we inspected a bedroom and a coop of guinea
pigs raised for future meals.
The next stop was an ancient burial ground of the Incas and pre-Inca
Indians. The round structures of rough stone (pre-Inca) and polished
stone (inca) were the Latin America´s answer to Egyptian pyramids.
The burial ground offered a fantastic view of the lake Umayo framed by a
chain of sculptured mountains and studded with strange flat-topped
islands, not unlike the Arizona buttes. All of that devoid of color
but in a thousand shades of grayish-brown.
We loved everything today, from the artsy hotel in Lima and the rough
farmhouse with a Ketchua family greeting us to the breathtaking view
of the mountain lake and the desert around it.