On Saturday the sixth of August 2011, I began a trip 25 years in the waiting. It is a journey that I have dreamed of doing since I was a child. I'm off to South America, specifically Peru & Bolivia with a relax at the end in Buenos Aires. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

This journey began for me in 1985 when I lived in Port Lincoln. It was a beautiful summers day, the sun a rich golden warmth that eradicated the edge that lingers in people after Christmas and New Years. Children were everywhere frolicking along the foreshore and through the waters, jumping from the Jetty and enjoying all that could be from the day. The morning drew to afternoon and my sister and her friends started to wander further than my mother wanted them to. She sent me to bring them back closer to her view.

I stepped into the blue water lapping the shore, took a few steps into the pitiful surf, and fell. Electricity shot through my body, screamed into my skull, nerves became alive like never before. I yelled, but not understanding the pain, thinking it was probably just a stubbed toe, I reached into the water and pulled my foot free and into the air. My mind went white, my voice pierced the golden joy of summer, the water darkened, staining with the rich blood pouring forth from my foot, opened like a baguette.

During my stay at the hospital where they repaired my foot as best they can, I received a gift from my Grandmother. It was a calendar with pictures of places around the world. In the calendar I found two that I had to see – The Pyramids of Giza and Macchu Pichu. I have carried a picture of Macchu Pichu with me since then, and finally on the 21st of August 2011, I will be there after having hiked through the Andes for the previous three days.

Below are the entries for the Peruvian leg of this trip.

August 26 to 27 2011 - The Lukina community

We are greeted at the jetty by some of the local families:

Camasurak (Hello)


We walked with the locals to the school, while they played music (bass drum, snare drum, flutes). At the school we are introduced to the family member who will take us to their home. My host is Wilbur, and as I was the odd one out, I'd be staying with his family by myself. The men here dress in black and wear broad brimmed hats (similar the Heffes from earlier except here it doesn't imply seniority) and the women wear bowler hats.

At the school we play soccer in dying light of day. For twenty minutes we (Ali, Nathan, Mads, Paul, and myself) play against the locals while we wait for another group to arrive so we can play them for the right to play the locals (This is Peru, the logic is different). Well, it would come as no surprise that the locals kicked our arses. 8-0 in twenty minutes.

The new group arrived, substantially bigger than ours, and predominately European. We set about our game and it was quite fun for a while, until the Germans on the other side started to be a little serious and play rough. I'll never understand why people take a friendly match and turn it into something else. Maybe it's something the Germans have against the English or Danes that were on our side, or maybe these guys were just jerks. Anyhow our group won and as a few of us were bored playing after the other side took the fun out of it, we offered to share the game and have all the foreigners who wanted to play able to. Victory is good, and being a gracious victor is even better.

So against a setting sun, on Lake Titicaca, locals and foreigners met on the field and played a friendly game of soccer.

After the game I went with my host to his family's home. At the house I was shown my room, separate from the main house and quite large. It had two single beds and a small bathroom. There was a toilet and shower, although the plumbing wasn't finished yet so there was no flowing water. For the toilet however there was a 50 litre bucket of water for flushing. The beds had quite a few heavy blankets which I saw myself using as there was no heating or insulation. It was a very comfortable if spartan place to stay the night.

Wilbur came and tried to speak to me for a while. His Aymara and Spanish versus my Spanglish. The language barrier is incredibly strong here. The rudimentary Spanish I have learnt and picked up is not nearly enough. This will be very tough to get through. I have an Aymara cheat sheet and a Spanish phrase book, and I know that won't be enough. Even adding in physical gesturing probably won't get me through with any ease.

Wilbur leaves and tells me dinner is at 7. So, at 7 I present myself at the kitchen door and am welcomed in. Wilbur isn't here, rather this is his uncle and aunt's home: Delphin and Nurita.

The kitchen is a single room, connected with the rest of the house only by shared walls. It is simple neat and clean. Nurita works at a small gas stove and I assume she is sitting on a stool. Delphin sits on a chair next to the stove talking with his wife. There is a table with three chairs around it. Behind Nurita is a small cupboard with plates and utensils and a few ceramic pots. I approach her and offer a bag of food I have purchased for a gift (Pasta, polenta, egg noodles, and rice). I introduce myself and they to me, Delphin offers me a seat at the table.

The people of Lukina are vegetarians and as such the meal will be soup and a stew. I wonder what it must feel like for the families here to be invaded by gringos, having to cook for people who understand very little of their way of life, and unable to speak their language. I feel awkward attempting to speak with them in my broken spanglish, trying to structure a sentence from cheat sheets and phrase books.

Do they feel like a museum display?

I'm not their first gringo. This tour is frequent and has been going on for years and they wouldn't just get English speakers either. My hosts are pleasant with regard to my poor communication but I feel as though I am imposing on them in my attempt to learn an alien culture.

I am going to learn more of the language for the next culture I visit.

I listen to the couple speak and wonder what they're talking of. Aymara is tricky language to place. At times it sounds influenced by the Asian languages but then it also has intonations and words similar to Arabic. Linguistically this is fascinating, and it is a shame that I can't tell them why I'm smiling. I wonder if in a bilingual society they combine the two languages for clarity of communication?

Nurita serves up the soup: Potato, Carrot, Quinoa, Peas. Next comes the stew and rice. The stew has the exact same vegetables but the flavours and consistency is different. We finish the dinner with Coca tea. The food is excellent, simple, tasty and very filling. My plate is only half the size of Delphin's, but I am full and satisfied. My hosts sit low to the table carefully spooning the food, not spilling a drop. The Coca tea aids in digestion at this altitude, more the hot water than the coca, but the coca provides other things missing in their diets.

After dinner, I am dressed in a poncho, a bag, a hat and some pom poms on my wrist. It is time for fiesta – They have one every time a group comes to stay. I feel like Marty McFly in Back to the Future 3 and apparently look like a cowboy except that the poncho is pink. We walk through the night back to the school. All the groups arrive with their families. The band is back and they start to play. The music is discordant, chaotic, there is rhythm but it is so far from what I'm used to it feels unnatural.

The locals show us how to dance. It is a simple dance, facing in, turning out, facing in, turning out, moving forward and around the room, swinging the pom poms.

Next we the tourists attempt to recreate the dance, and it is harder than it looks, but then again most simple things are. We have fun and dance with our families for a while then head back to the home. I stay up a while after everyone has gone to bed. The silence is incredible, broken only by a few bleats and snores of animals. The stars are bright and the sky is thick with them. It is easy to feel at peace in a place like this.

The next morning I wake early and sit outside to watch the sun crest the Andes. It is a beautiful thing to sit in near silence with the sky opening up as the sun envelopes the world. Around 7:30 Nurita comes and gets me for breakfast – an egg, some Toq Tos and coca tea.

After breakfast Nurita walks me to the jetty to where my group will travel to Isla Floentes. A few hours from the Chuquito peninsula we made our approach to the Uros people on their floating islands.

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