After a 300 mile day yesterday, skirting hail and rain, we are in Puno. After so many experiences in this beautiful country, two stand out that will seem odd to many.
So much of our time has been spent in areas above 10000 feet where the roads were dirt and the villages were adobes along the main road. The people living in these areas are the brightly dressed "Indians" that Peru is so famous for. Virtually all of these people are in motion at all times or doing work with their hands such as knitting. Even when the women are tending animals their hands are moving. Their trails zig zag across steep mountain roads at even steeper pitches. The men, kids and many women are employed with shovels to fill pot holes or dig out the roadside ditches. They are moving piles of rocks or digging new water and sewer lines in the villages.
And what kept poking me between the eyes is that these people are truly living at a subsistence level. They cannot afford to stop even for a day. In the lower valleys the young kids are going to school; on the upper slopes it appears the kids are learning to tend animals.
And I have to say, when we would stop and talk with them, I could not help but notice how filthy they all are. I know there is discontent among these people and part of the way the government is dealing with it is through road and infrastructure projects. But from what I have seen, I leave Peru feeling a sense of hopelessness--leave it at that.
The view out over Lake Titicaca is beautiful this morning. The sky is clear and everything is as it should be. However, I said I had two reflections. Rick and I have both developed a slight cough. No matter how beautiful the morning air, once we get on the road we will again be breathing the black smoke of Peru. If it is on the road, it smokes. Nothing like a motorcycle to bring this home.
The Peru policia have the reputation of taking bribes at every possible opportunity. I was legitimately stopped leaving Lima for not having my headlight on. No "fine" and we were on our way. Last night we were stopped for a second time and told we were missing one document, although the cop could not tell us what that document was. We stood fast and in time he sent us on our way sans a "fine" for his kid's college fund. In every other case, the police waved, shouted a greeting or otherwise encouraged us. But we never sped through a village; they were there watching.