Puno, potato, puking
We interrupt normal programming to bring you a health announcement. Callum thought up the title for this post as the last is what he spent the night doing. We had a horrible night suffering from altitude sickness. Declan managed to sleep the night through. Callum vomited on a regular basis. Jennifer got up for him the second time and then there was a thud and Cal screamed from the bathroom – Jennifer had fainted and collapsed. It was all very fraught. This morning Dec, Jennifer and I were getting better; Cal seems to be lagging a few hours behind us but heading the right way. We will now resume normal programming.
Puno is a fairly poor city. The local markets are filled with women sitting on corners with a blanket displaying a few carrots and potatoes for sale. The vegetables are all very small compared to what we’re used to. I hadn’t realised that potatoes were first domesticated in this area 5-10,000 years ago. Potatoes frozen underground can be stored for years are were the staple of the Inca empire and its predecessors.
Prices are commensurately cheap too. A large bottle of water costs 1 Sol (about 30 cents) a bottle of coke is only marginally more expensive. That’s about a fifth of the price we saw in Lima and a tenth of what we’d pay back home. We had two great restaurant meals today for around $50.
The local taxis are like rickshaws but the other way around, the passengers sit up the front and are pedalled around.
The town sprawls up the surrounding hills, testament that it is growing as the tourism industry expands. Many of the buildings have ragged tops with rebar stretching up to the sky, just like in Egypt. And for the same reason: finished buildings attract taxes.
It’s quite noticeable here that the more modern the service being offered by the little shops around Puno the more pale and less dressed the women the in the advertising are. To sell photocopies, computers or mobile phones it seems necessary to have pale bikini-clad women on your signs. I don’t know whether it is the epitome of this trend or is something else again but the doctor’s surgery advertising mammograms has a picture of a swedish blond on it.
The advertising is in stark contrast to the actual people around. The women are largely short, round and very dark-skinned. They appear to have a tough life but there seems to be a ready smile not far from their lips. Once again the boys’ hats have given rise to lots of positive comments; although given the women all wear hats of their own we think these are the comments of true aficionados.
Height, or the lack of it, has been noticeable in Peru and especially here in Puno. There are numerous adults who are about the same height as the boys. The average male height in Peru is 1.64m (5 ft 4 inches) but that’s an average and I think in a poorer farming area like this it’s pushing the bottom end of the scale.
I feel like I’m towering over the crowds as we walk down the street.
As we had dinner tonight (with everyone feeling much better) we sat looking out over the main square. There was a religious festival going on with people marching along after an icon. We’ve seen similar things in Sorrento and in Seville that involve serious people in stately procession. It came as quite a shock that the festival here, while clearly based on the same music, was very upbeat and people moving along in a great poncho-swirling dance. It was all very uplifting and quite matched our mood as we hope to have put the whole altitude sickness thing behind us.
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