So….turns out altitude sickness is NOT A JOKE. Your mind is telling you you can carry your packs and walk normally, and your body is like, you are caraaaazzzyyyy I can´t breathe homie! Also not fun, having a flu while traveling from sea level to 15,000 feet in eight hours and then wasting a day in a beautiful city on Lake Titicaca, tossing on the hardest box spring of all mankind, begging the reception for more toilet paper for your ever running nose, and feverishly dreaming about moths flying in your room while your friends ride a boat to floating indigenous islands and have an awesome time while the only thing on the tele in your room is the Chinese channel. Chinos really have a lock down in CenAm and apparently Peru, too. High five! I´ve been loading up on a cocktail of drugs, we love visiting pharmacies here and seeing what new concoctions they give us for dolor de cabeza y cuerpo, but am pretty freaked out to be sick before attempting Machu Piccu in two days, as I already am pretty sure I´ll already be the one girl at the back of the group, crawling on hands and knees into the campsite after everyone has already finished eating and are setting up tents, and they all stop and clap for me because I survived another day. Hopefully there is like some middle aged couple on our trip…

Altitude sickness, is however a great diet. Your body can´t process food as well when you´re up so high, so I havent been eating anything crazier than crackers and soup for the last two days and have only drank water and coco tea. The coco tea, a controversial drink to some, is pretty yummy! you put some dried leaves in hot water, add sugar to flavor, and sip your sickness away. You don´t get high or anything, just feel a little bit better. However, when I first got to the airport, the desk had a basket of the dried leaves out, and wanting to seem cultural, I grabbed a handful and ate them. Yeah. I ate them. And then felt violently ill on the ensuing bus ride with the coco, pringles, altitude and three hours of sleep combo I was working on….Turns out you chew the leaves into a nice wad in your cheek, and then politely deposit the residue somewhere…NOT eat them like candy. They taste like normal leaves. I mean I dont eat leaves, but how I imagine they would taste, based on smell and such.

The leaves are controversial because of cocaine and stuff obviously, but the history of the controversy is older than that. When the Spanish arrived, they tried to ban the ¨¨heathen¨¨ chew, but when they started working the indios to death in the mines without supplying food, they realized the benefit of the small high of the leaves, started encouraging their production and use, and the King of Spain even accepted them as currency for a while. Neato, huh?

Highlands Peru is fantastically indigenous. Its so rural and rustic…just valleys and rivers and tiny mud hut compounds built kilometers apart, where families live together under thatched roots, the women wearing the huge traditional bustling skirts, shawls, and funny man hats that somehow remain perched on their heads, two huge black braids swinging down their backs. The men and boys herd cows, fluffy warm sheep you want to cuddle with up here in the cold, and llamas across the plains. I also saw wild flamingos chilling in a lake! Up in the mountains, right next to field of cows. Incredible.

Its a patron saint celebration here in Puno, and we were gifted with a really cool parade yesterday and I watched a few more from my window today. We have a knack of visiting cities that are celebrating things, its so cool to see the people out, the men and women in traditional clothes, dancing some random step and playing instruments I´ve never seen, followed by the business men and women in suits, swigging pisco from a flask, followed by the horn blaring drum beating bands. The alpaca and wool clothes here are so warm, and covered in cute little alpaca designs, mittens and gloves and scarves and ponchos. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas?!?! hahaha. I´m definitely going to load up for Machu Piccu. They are not kidding about how cold it is here.

I´m coming home in ten days?! What?! I´m Ron Burgundy??
Love you miss you wish you were here,