After a few quiet days at our hostel in Cusco with our new friends from Machu Picchu we (finally) left for our last stop in Peru: Lake Titicaca. The world’s highest navigable lake (still not entirely sure what that means), at 3808m, it straddles both Peru and Bolivia making it a great place to cross the border.
We’d read mixed reviews as to whether the Peruvian or Bolivian side was best to stay, but luckily we found a (very touristy) bus company called Bolivia Hop that would let us see all the sights – just like one of the hop on hop off buses in London.
Puno, on the Peruvian side, was our first stop after an eight hour night bus from Cusco where we were welcomed by a very basic breakfast in a very cold shed before our fleeting two hour trip onto the lake before hopping back on the bus. The two hour trip took us to Uros, a collection of floating islands that I was particularly keen to see.
We had a nice helpful tour guide who explained the history and concept, so as usual, a few facts for you here:
– The lake is hugely important place for Peruvians and Bolivians. It’s a meeting point between two of the main languages, Aymara and Queuchua, and it’s where a lot of the tribes originated from.
– The lake is shaped like a puma (at a huge stretch according to us, we thought it looked more like a frog). As we learnt in Peru, the tribes believe in a three world system: heaven (represented by the condor), underworld (represented by the snake) and our living world (represented by the puma….)
– Katie really wanted to swim, but we were told the water is constantly between 9-12 degrees (Celsius) so a bit cold. However it’s possible to drink as it comes from mountains!
– The floating islands are made out of dried reed and look like huge bundles of straw above water. As you can imagine they’re not very resistant so every 2 weeks the islands’ inhabitants need to lay down a fresh layer of reed so they don’t disintegrate or sink.
– The people of Uros escaped to the lake and built these islands around 1000 years ago as the Aymara people tried to make them into slaves on mainland so they fled to the water and created the islands
– The section we visited has around 87 islands, each with 7-8 houses (usually one family per house)
– They go to land 1-2 times a week, each island cooks all together. Their toilet is on a different island close by, they poo into earth bundles and when it’s full they let it dry and then burn it (you’re welcome for that)
– They have primary school and kindergarten on the islands but go to Puno for high school. They also have doctors and nurses on islands but they’re only open twice a week
The islands are now fully dependent on tourism sadly, so they tried to sell us lots of trinkets and boat rides, and charged us 1 sol to get our passport stamped. However we did get to meet the sweetest of kittens.
We headed back to the mainland and straight on to the Bolivian border, and on to Copacabana (the Bolivian one!) where we would spend two nights. We thought we’d treat ourselves (again…) to a nice hotel room, luckily, as there wasn’t huge amounts to do in the town itself. We’ll let the views speak for themselves:
A lovely evening meal in the hotel restaurant and an early night, we were ready for a day exploring Copacabana, which took all of 1.5 hours. With a lunch of trout, a speciality of lake titicaca, in our bellies we climbed one of the hills overlooking the lake, which led us to some fantastic views of the lake. It feels more like an ocean, it’s so vast.
We headed to the ‘port’ for sunset drinks and dinner, before an early night as we were up early to head to Isla del Sol, one of the lakes most popular islands, for a night and the boat left at 8am.
Isla dal Sol sure did live up to its name – the sun here was very strong but softened slightly by the cold mountain air. We were staying in the southern town of Yumani, but decided to start at the north and make our way down. There are no vehicles allowed on the island so our only way was to follow the rocky footpath, on which we past no less than three ‘toll booths’ collecting money for who knows what. The toll booths consisted of little old men and a little book of what looked like branded raffle tickets. Tourist tax much?
We had brought along a picnic which we enjoyed on a great rock on the cliffs. My highlight was that Katie had even brought her own dressing of balsamic vinegar, oil, salt and dried chillies (could she be more italian?) which prompted a fellow rambler to ask if we were French (shock horror) as we had such an elaborate picnic.
4 hours of inca ruins, fabulous views and a few sunburnt faces later, we arrived to the town of Yumani, one of the three main original settlements on the island. We checked into Hostal del Sol before searching for dinner, which was taken at Las Velas, trip advisor’s best suggestion. We were the first to arrive, just in time for sunset so the owner/chef/waiter (yep, all the same guy) suggested we sit outside to watch the sun go down, which we did with a local hot wine drink – singangi. It was probably one of the most beautiful sunsets we’d ever seen, which we enjoyed with a local stray dog, whilst discussing how lucky we are, that our days consist of walking, sitting and eating. Could really get used to this nomadic life.
The restaurant had no electricity, so we sat down to candle light, and again luckily were the first to order as the guy makes every meal from scratch as soon as its ordered (with just a head torch as light!) Some 2 hours, several glasses of Bolivian wine and games of uno later we enjoyed a family sized pizza to share, which was amazing! One of the best meals by far so far (that may be the wine speaking though)
We walked through the forest back to our hotel under the biggest blanket of stars I’ve ever seen – you could see everything, even the cloudy Milky Way. It’s just a shame iphone cameras aren’t good enough to capture its beauty!
The next morning we wandered down to Yumani harbour past some waterfalls and gardens, and sat by the port for a few hours reading before our boat back to Copacabana. A really great couple of days which at least made me really appreciate this trip were on, life is good guys!
We got back just in time for a pisco sour before our 4 hour bus ride to La Paz, Bolivias defacto capital where we were to meet up with Han and Jen, our two friends now travel buddies from Machu Picchu who we’ve discovered are doing the same route as us through Bolivia!
Bye for now X