XLVII-C. Amantani to Taquile to Puno 11 Sept.
Soon after breakfast we walk with our hostess down to the docks. The harbor is quite active in morning, with all sorts of vendors and boats and people sending things and going places.
It isn’t all that far to Taquile. I ride up top, gabbing with other travelers again and enjoying the bold light on the blue lake.
Taquile’s harbor is far below the town.
Selma is still feeling altitude sickness, and doesn’t even start up. Ragna starts climbing with me, but soon realizes she’s forgotten something and goes back down.
I continue alone. It is a long, slow climb. I enjoy the views back down toward the harbor. Because I was delayed waiting to see what Ragna and Selma wanted to do, I’m way behind everyone else, and thus alone — to my delight. I can see Ragna and Selma alone down there, and later another boatload of tourists maneuvering for space in the little harbor. To the side, the view is of a hillside of fields, then more blue water. The view upward is less appealing, but is the one I need to attend to, so I do.
Reaching the top, I make my way to the left and then toward what looks like it might be the Plaza de Armas.
It’s still a walk to the Plaza. When I reach it, it’s lively. The local people are colorfully dressed. Many of them are knitting or weaving. There are a fair number of foreigners walking around. There’s a church and a huge place that seems to be a textile cooperative. I wander around the Plaza.
On the lake side of the Plaza, several young men sit knitting, and talking animatedly. Dressed in local garb, they sit on the old rock wall beyond which the land drops away sharply down toward the blue lake.
I shoot a few pictures, then greet them and talk a bit. I give them a propina for the photographs, quite sure that’s the norm here, and one says something about buying a coke with it. I feel good sitting here in the hot sun. After a moment I go to get myself a drink — and five cokes for them.
I return with five cokes – shrugging an explanation to the sixth knitter who has now joined them – and a juice for me. They are pleased. I am pleased. We stand there kidding around, in the warm sun. After awhile I fade into invisibility again and shoot a few more photos of them, closer now.
I am far from the only visitor wandering through the Plaza de Armas with a camera.
To my right, other folks are photographing a sign that gives the mileage to various cities around the world.
So many of these photos, although perhaps evocative, seem to me too external to their subjects. A woman, faceless beneath her black shawl drawn tight, sits before the church across the Plaza. , Another woman, expressionless, passes with her child, without greeting the faceless woman. In the corner, a third woman cheerfully spins. If their costumes or colors or shapes evoke some image of an earlier or different time, fine, but we do not see them. We do not even, for the most part, see their faces.
A young girl stands near the Swiss with the long lens. He photographs her, probably a set of extreme close-ups given that lens and that distance. She waits patiently, then approaches him for a propina. He brushes her off like bird-shit on his sleeve.
I call her over, and buy one of the wristbands she is selling for S./ 1 apiece. I do not know who would want them, but now I have bought two of them in as many days. Resolving to keep them, but knowing they will fall in and out of pockets and suitcases long enough to disappear, eventually.
The Swiss man has probably taken a better and more intimate-looking photograph of the young girl, a close-up of her face, sharply focused and properly exposed. I feel very comfortable in my skin, though. Not because I gave the girl a sole and he didn’t. Who cares? [Well, she, for a moment.] He moves with a hint of resentment, even anger. Of mixed and unacknowledged feelings about his surroundings. I see it often. These people live differently and more simply than we. For some of us, that is a terrible indictment we do our best to evade. That the girl asks him for money is outrageous, not because he begrudges her the money but because it interferes in some fashion with his illusion regarding their relationship. He doesn’t need one sole, more or less, or he wouldn’t be here, and wouldn’t own that lens. But he needs something. Whether it is to not quite admit their poverty and need, or to deny his own middle-aged, middle-class circumstances, or to suppose he is Curtis among the redskins, an artist capturing a wholly foreign world, I can’t know.
He is indeed in a foreign land. It makes inconvenient demands on him. It reminds him that whoever he may suppose he is, he just looks wealthy to these folks. Whatever he supposes his camera is, they see that it’s a way he uses them, and a fair source of income for them.
Then it’s time to make for the boat. It’s late enough that I’ll have to move fairly fast to be back on time. I stop briefly to buy a couple of bottles of water, a sprite for Ragna, some peanuts, and a couple of mandarin oranges for her and Selma. Then I start moving, hoping not to be late to the dock.
On the way, I do shoot a couple of quick pictures, and my zoom lens quits on me.
Though I don’t immediately think of it, I may have made a mistake letting the Israeli fellow handle it; but more likely it’s just cumulative wear from how much and how rapidly I’ve used it.
My immediate concern is that we’re a long way from anywhere, although at least there’s some hope that Cusco might have an adequate repair facility.
Meanwhile I rush for the boat, seeing a few pictures I can’t take, cursing when the plastic bag breaks and the oranges and snacks bounce down those big rock steps ahead of me, and hope my knee doesn’t quit on me. It doesn’t, and I get back down, more or less on time and well before a couple of others.
The boat-ride back is not the best part of the trip. It’s hot. Sleeping in the sun is a bad idea because of sunburn. Sleeping inside is a better idea, but it’s very hot there too, and most of the seats are taken anyway.
I take no pictures on the ride back. The camera’s worthless with this lens on it, and the other I brought to Peru is in the hotel in Puno.
When we reach Puno, if it were up to me, I’d rest; but Ragna, whose heart is as big as Wyoming, won’t have it. We have lots of food and other gifts, such as notebooks and pens, to buy for Simon and Clara and their family. We must go immediately to do that. (I agree we need to do it, of course, but would nap or write in my notebook for a while first.) So we do that, even buying a chicken as a special treat. Fortunately my contribution is mostly the driving and the money, so everywhere we go I sit in the car while Ragna and Selma do the real work.