Published in Spanish in Cruce magazine on November 24th, 2014
Coordinates: 15°50′36″ S 70°01′25″O
“You can’t buy the wind,
You can’t buy the sun,
You can’t buy the rain,
You can’t buy the warmth…”
Transaltion of Latin America, Calle 13 song
It was an awakening. Everything started in the flight we took from Lima to Juliaca; you have to fly to Juliaca to then take a bus to Puno. We were only a few tourists in the plane, the vast majority of the passengers were locals. Upon boarding, I noticed a tiny elderly woman sitting in one of the first seats of the plane. I was extremely moved by the humbleness that emanated from her wrinkles and the sweetness that surfaced through her eyes. However, the flight attendant’s act of helping her out of her seat softened my already amazed heart. The young man walked through the hallway of the airplane holding the hands of the wise woman, who followed closely behind, little by little, following her steps as if she were counting them. Perhaps it was time, what could have easily been a century, what caused the woman to bend forward, almost from the waist, making it difficult for her to walk. However, the woman didn’t seem to live in discomfort with her hunched back. I imagined her having many children, and in her youth carrying them in an uncuña (baby pouch sling); while simultaneously working on the land. The young man’s face was marked with satisfaction and radiated pride; we could see the immense respect for life and for the wisdom that the woman of long braids carried on her shoulders.
El condor pasa
I decided to look away, since my eyes were starting to dampen. From the window, I could see the expanse of fertile land and what we could call “poverty” at best. “Poverty” according to the capitalist world, because in reality, native Peruvians enjoy a greater wealth than those living in the most industrialized countries.
The view was amazing. The houses were extremely distant from each other, by acres and acres of verdant land. All homes the same: brick walls, thatched roofs and a string of clothes drying in the sun. Upon arriving at the Juliaca airport, which also had a thatched roof, only fans as ventilation and a rustic belt through which the luggage passed, my heart finally melted. Perhaps it was the melody, El condor pasa (Peruvian song), being played by the musicians that welcomed us, the impression made by the elderly woman, or maybe just the altitude and its closeness to the sky, but my eyes were definitely overflowing with abundant melancholy.
“Here we breathe effort…”
To get to Puno, you have to pass through the city of Juliaca. Puno is located in the Peruvian Andes, towards the south, on the border with Bolivia and Brazil. It is one of the highest cities in altitude in Perú, and among the most visited.
“We’re moving. Here we breathe effort. We’re moving. I sing because it is heard. Here we are standing…” The images I saw from the bus’ window reminded me of the lyrics to the song Latin America by Puerto Rican singer, Calle 13.
Red sweaters and green steppes
On the hour-long ride from Juliaca to Puno, the scenery was admirable. Red sweaters protruded over the green steppes that surrounded the road; they were boys and girls in school uniforms, walking alone through the fields. According to our tour guide, the children who live in this area take an hour to get to school every day; walking on their own, towards a small rural school.
Women hand washing clothes in the river, shepherds with their sheep and young people working in home gardens were some of the beautiful images I was able to capture during the trip, and keep as proof of the simple riches of Perú.
The narrow streets led us to Hotel Posada del Inca. This rustic establishment in Puno is located on the shore of the Titicaca Lake. The reception table was equipped with teacups, water and coca tea for the tourist who were just arriving. To avoid mountain sickness they recommend mate de coca and Sorojchi Pills®. In addition to eating light, avoiding red meat, fats and alcohol. Rest is imperative upon arriving to avoid mountain sickness. It was a bit intimidating seeing the oxygen tanks in the hallway of the room. It is possible for all these precautions to be necessary to avoid the so called mountain sickness; that maybe is a condition from which only those who are not accustomed to living in harmony with nature, stopping to enjoy the simple riches of life and being so close to the clouds will suffer.
Conscious travel practices:
1. Show respect for other cultures.
2. Appreciate the greatness of every human being.
3. Feel the connection of the energy and the environment.
4. Promote the economy by sponsoring local lodging.