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Flamingos, Manco Capac, and Santiago!

With Santiago on Lake Titicaca
With Santiago on Lake Titicaca
Today is a travel day. We will take our van with Liliana to Puno, about 6 hours away. We pack up, grab breakfast and leave by 8. By then we are the last guests at the Lodge. Apparently most tourists only stay 1 night, just enough time to go to Condor Cross. Then they make the long drive to Puno afterward. Adventure Life arranged for us to have 2 nights at the Lodge instead, and we were really glad they did. While we didn't do a lot yesterday after seeing the condors, it was nice to have time to relax. Our goal is to see flamingos today! Liliana is wearing a pink top and says she will stand in the water on one leg if we don't see any real flamingos! Andrea says she is fairly certain that we will see 50-60 flamingos, and Liliana says to expect more like 5 or 6. We come to a marsh where there are a lot of them, more than 30! We have to cross a field where alpacas graze in order to get close enough to take pictures. The flamingos are beautiful, especially when they open their wings. The color is a bright salmon pink. We determine with Liliana that we are seeing both Andean and Chilean flamingos. She tells us that there is another spot up the road where we might see some more, a bit closer. Unfortunately, it's on a bridge where we're not supposed to stop. We do anyway, and Liliana even lets us cross the road to get a better look. There must be another 20 flamingos here! We can't stay long--the trucks passing us honk their horns and we need to move along--but Andrea was right. We saw 50 or 60 flamingos! When booking this trip, we arranged for Santiago, our guide from Machu Picchu in 2011, to guide us at Lake Titicaca. We thought that we would meet up with Santiago in Puno, but instead he contacts Liliana to pick him up in Juliaca, the largest town in the area, about 45 minutes from Puno. When we arrive at the town square in Juliaca – a very busy, noisy, crowded city -- Liliana tells us to keep a look out for Santiago. I spot him and wave, and he waves back. While I wait with the driver, who has rounded the corner to find a place to pull over, Andrea and Liliana go get Santiago and bring him to the van. It's so good to see him and his smile says that he's happy to see us too! We arrive in Puno, which is much bigger than I expected it to be (population of about 100,000, I think). We hug Liliana goodbye at the hotel and then check in. It's about 2 and we are hungry, so after freshening up we walk to a nearby restaurant for pizza and to catch up. After lunch, we change some money for the next couple of days, and then Santiago suggests we go the market for some food for the family we will be staying with tomorrow on Amantani Island. He feels we should plan to cook dinner for them, and maybe even breakfast as well. This enables us to do something nice for them, fills the time, and ensures that the food is prepared to our standards of cleanliness. Sounds like a good plan! We decide that we will make spaghetti for dinner and cereal and hot chocolate for breakfast. We take a moto taxi to the market, an open-air affair with fresh foods and packaged foods for sale at various kiosks. We buy spaghetti, tomato paste, onions, garlic, a box of cookies and some fruit. Then we go to the supermarket for everything else we need: canned milk, packaged cheese, water, chocolate, etc. We also purchase bags of rice and beans and pasta for the family to use after we leave. The supermarket is exactly like going to Walmart in the States! We are loaded down with bags and return to the hotel to stow them until tomorrow. In the evening we take a cab to see the statue of Manco Capac (the Inca chieftain believed to be a direct descendant of the sun and who rose from Lake Titicaca to found the Incan empire), and then to a city park with a huge statue of a really skinny puma. After a light dinner we return to the hotel and get ready for our trip to the islands tomorrow!
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