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Journey to La Casa de Felix

Visiting the Capachica Peninsula in Lake Titicaca in southern Peru was easily one of the highlights of the last 5 months.  Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and, at 12,507 feet, is considered to be the highest navegable lake in the world.  I went there at the end of a bus trip that took me from Lima to Paracas to Huacachina to Ica to Nazca to Arequipa to Juliaca to the Capachica Peninsula to Puno then back to Lima, where I am now for my last few days, writing this.  But I think one of my favorite things about my trip to the Capachica Peninsula was the adventure that was getting there.  I’ll begin my story with Juliaca, a large town near Lake Titicaca that is theoretically also quite close to where we were staying (Felix’s house) on the peninsula.  I arrived there with Koby and Koby’s brother Saul at around 1 or 2 pm after a 6 hour bus ride from Arequipa on a bus full of local rural people.  This guy, who apparently thought he was some sort of Peruvian Billy Mays:

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was aggressively trying to sell us shit for at least two of those hours.  He went around putting samples into the laps of people who weren’t paying any attention to him, or rubbing his amazing healing coca cream on people’s hands when they looked away.

But ultimately, after some spectacular views of the countryside in between Arequipa and Lake Titicaca

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we arrived at the bus station in the town of Juliaca

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and after asking directions on how to get to the Capachica Peninsula, took a taxi here:

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The Quechua accents were getting thicker, so we knew we were in the right place (Quechua is the language of the Incas and is still spoken today in many rural areas of Peru and Bolivia).  Those vans you see in the picture above are called colectivos, and they are basically carpool-buses.  One had just left, and so we were the first ones to wait for the next van to fill up.  The wait was only about 40 minutes, and it gave us time to go by some bread as a backup dinner, in case we got stranded somewhere.

I should mention that our friend Felix, at whose house we were planning to stay that night on the beautiful (and very rural) Capachica Peninsula, was not actually expecting us.  Koby read about him in a guide book, which said that he was a “community leader” who provided beds and food to tourists.  He narrowly won out against another guide book suggestion, “local legend” Valentin.  Koby had emailed him asking about pricing and received a response that he would be happy to have us at the rate o 60 soles per day.  The night before we left for Juliaca, Koby sent him an email confirming that we would be coming, but we doubted that Felix had received the email, as he was almost certainly without internet at his home, and probably in his entire hometown.  Nevertheless, we thought it was safe to assume that he would welcome us in, and if not, would at least be able to help us find alternate accommodation.  But, in case he didn’t, now we had the bread.

We were in the colectivo for another 40 minutes of driving to the town of Capachica, at the base of the Capachica Peninsula:

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Normally there was another colectivo there that could take us to our final destination, la casa de Felix in the town of Llachón, but it was too late in the day, and so there were only taxis.  The taxi was charging 9 soles for the We shared the single hatchback taxi with 5 other people from the colectivo headed to the Llachón central plaza, a 40 minute drive that would cost 25 soles between the 8 of us.  We offered to sit in the trunk, but other people insisted they take it instead, seeing as all three of us were well over 6 feet tall.  As we got deeper into the peninsula, we had more than a few livestock-related delays:

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But were able to enjoy a beautiful high-altitude sunset

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before shit started to get real.  We had to get out of the car and push three times over particularly steep or bumpy places in the road (I don’t know what the circles in the picture are, but it’s not snow or rain):

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One of the men we had been talking to on the colectivo told us that Felix’s house was just up the road, and that the taxi would be able to take us.  Everyone else paid and left the taxi.  The taxi driver drove two more blocks and then stopped to renegotiate the terms of our agreement.  He said that, rather than paying 3 soles each and splitting the 25 soles with everyone else, we had to pay 25 soles between the three, because of the extra strain on the car caused by the other 5 people that we had single-handedly coerced into the car, against the will of the taxi driver.  Also, it was going to cost an additional 10 soles to continue on to Felix’s house, which was in Santa María, about 20 more minutes down the road.  We felt cheated, and we explained that to the driver, but eventually the argument ended when the driver said that if we didn’t like what he was proposing, we could take the next taxi to rumble down this unfamiliar dirt road in the middle of rural Peru at 8 pm in the dark.  We got him down from 35 to 30 soles, but this was instead of the 9 soles we had originally agreed to pay.  More than the money though, it doesn’t feel good to be cheated when you are vulnerable.

Our taxi driver, in an amazing display of speed, agility and navigational prowess, was able bring us to to la casa de Felix, supposedly 20 minutes down the road, in under 5 minutes.  And so we arrived!  Felix, though he was not expecting us (as we expected), was happy to have us.

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Stay tuned for more.

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