Having sporadically slept overnight on the harrowing bus ride from Cusco, Peru, I arrived in Puno on the western coast of Lake Titicaca at daybreak. Yet another stolid bus station, weary children asleep on their parents, the wide-eyed vigilance of some guarding their luggage, the apathy of others content to sleep blissfully on the cold, cement floor.
Still half asleep, massaging the seemingly permanent creases in my arms from having bear-hugged my backpack all night long, I stumbled through the bus terminal, physically exhausted from sleep. My legs ached, but I couldn't tell if that was due to my cramped sleeping quarters or the jaunt up Huayna Picchu two days earlier, consummating a four-day trek across the Inca Trail. I'd had porters then—what I wouldn't have given to have had one of those porters carrying my rucksack in Puno.
I was in search of relaxation, but somehow the throng of overnighters strewn about just made me wearier. In 14 hours I had a date with a different bus for yet another overnight adventure down the perilous mountainside to the Spanish colonial city of Arequipa. In other words, given 14 hours to live, how would you want to spend it?
The Inca Lake tour company stood nearby, and a subtle glance toward the orchidaceous display was enough to summon shouts from the attendant. Within minutes, I was in a cab headed to the dock to board a water taxi for a day of exploring Lake Titicaca.
Outstretched on the hull and having been lulled to ...