Our time in Peru has been limited to Puno, Cuzco, and a trek to Machu Picchu but we have certainly made the most of it. After arriving on the bus from Copacabana to Puno, we took a boat ride on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca to the Isla Flotantes (floating islands) for the afternoon. An indigineous group known as the Uros actually creates these islands using a combination of local reeds and mud, and the people live on the islands. They orginally started this to escape persecution from the Incas hundreds of years ago and today continue their traditional lifestyle, but also make a boatload of money off of the tourism they bring to the islands. An amazing place really, and one requiring constant upkeep--the islands have to be continually replaced with the reeds to keep from sinking.
After this unique visit we took an overnight bus to Cuzco, a tourist town with all the amenities and the main jumping off point for Machu Picchu. We booked with a tour agency which included a 50 km mountain bike ride descending 1000s of meters through the Andes (Tony prided himself on only pedaling approximately 10 times in the two hours it took to get down) and also did some class 3+ whitewater rafting on the Rio Urubamba, in what´s known as the Sacred Valley--of utmost religious importance to the Incas. The rafting was quite a bit of fun as we had an enthusiastic guide and the river was running high after some rain the previous week (probably the same rain that meant we didn´t get a chance for the climb of Mt. Illimani, a silver lining to that dissapointment). After that, we had a three day trek to Machu Picchu, involving long hiking in steep terrain, covering old Incan road, some dirt road, and various locals´ paths. We had an enjoyable group on the tour including Australians, Germans, Dutch, Nepalese, and of course our fearless Peruvian guide, Juan. Highlights of the trek included river stops for visits to natural hot springs, a rather wild evening at a discoteca in Santa Teresa (truly the middle of nowhere), crossing the river on a hand cable, and of course actually hiking the hundreds and hundreds of Incan steps leading to Machu Picchu itself, including an additional climb up Huayana Picchu, a mountain next to the site allowing for additional great views of the entire area. We were blessed with a bluebird day, and it´s quite an impressive place. If I had to come up with any lowlights, the bugs are pretty rough--we´re both covered with bites from sandflies and the cicadas are really big (about 3 times bigger than the ones back home) and really loud (like can´t even have a conversation with the person next to you loud) We took a combination train and bus ride back to Cuzco, arriving exhausted at about midnight yesterday. Today has just been a lazy one, recovering from trip and getting some of the travel essentials taken care of. Peru has been great but we are moving on mañana en la mañana, as they say.