Titicaca - Peru has the Caca, Bolivia has the Titi

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Where I stayed
Manoc Inn

Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, November 10, 2006

Arrived into Puno, Peru via bus from Arequipa for a few days on Lake Titicaca. For those of you that don't know, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water in the world at 12,500 feet above sea level. My first glimpse of Puno didn't leave much to the imagination...it is pretty much a crap hole. However, it is on the lake and that continues to bring the tourists in by the bus load. My first stop was Always Travel which ended up being a good thing. They hooked me up with a two day tour of the lake leaving the next morning and a tourist bus ticket to La Paz for the day after my tour ended. The lady working also recommended a hotel close by which was fine too (Manoc Inn or something like it). Checked into my hotel ($6/night) and caught a cab to go check out the oldest ship still afloat on the lake, the Yavari. It definitely has a pretty interesting story behind it and you can read more about it here: http://www.yavari.org/

The ship is pretty far from the center of town so I decided to walk back a bit to avoid the crazy fee the taxis where charging from the Yavari site. Walked through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods unscathed and caught a taxi to the main drag of Puno, Lima street. My book said there was a nice view point up north so I hoofed it up and caught a nice view of the nastiest of Puno. Also watched some locals play soccer on a basketball court for a bit. Headed back down Lima street and had a late lunch for practically nothing. Got a free pass to a bar that night so decided to check that out later. It ended up being sort of a crap bar so was in bed early for my next morning was busy.

Woke up early, packed and waited for my van to pick me up for the ride to the port. Debated on leaving the majority of my stuff at the hotel and just taking a day pack...but didn't like the looks of the luggage storage room so I took it all...a decision that would come back to haunt me. On board the bus I got my first glimpse of my fellow tour mates for the next two days...everyone looked sleepy, but it seemed like a good group. We boarded our boat with barely a world spoken, met our silly guide (Bruno) and set out for the first stop, the Uros artificial islands. The islands are made of reeds which the inhabitants harvest and use for damn near everything. the islands do indeed float and are about 7 feet thick. We got the opportunity to walk around, shop for souvenirs and take a ride on a boat made completely of reeds. One strange thing I saw for sale was a small sculpture of a woman having a c-section birth...no clue why. After the Uros we set out for our next stop, the island of Amantani. Did I mention our boat was effin slow? Bruno took great pride to tell us that our boat was made right here in Puno and was powered by a V8 car engine. While the other boats zipping past us were shipped down from La Paz and had boat engines. Oh well. To pass the time, a group of us got to know each other pretty well...Lara and Andy from NZ/Oz, Josh and Allie from Canada and Emily and Rebecca from Canada. We arrived into Amantani around 2, hiked up a small hill to meet the families who were there to greet us. About 800 families live in six villages on the island which has two mountain peaks, called Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth with ancient ruins on the top of both peaks. The hillsides that rise up from the lake are terraced and planted with wheat, potatoes, and vegetables. There are no cars on the island, and no hotels. A few small stores sell basic goods, and there is a health clinic and school. Electricity is produced by a generator and limited to a couple of hours each day. Some of the families on Amantaní offer a meal or overnight stay to tourists and the families that greeted us were there to take us in. Important point, I had forgotten to bring a gift for my family...crap...more on that later. Another solo traveler (Simon from Denmark) and I were assigned a family and off we went with the family mother to meet her husband and kids for lunch. Here is where bringing my big backpack nearly killed me. My family lived way, way up the hill...so the hike was long and hard. So long that my mother had to carry my day pack for a while. We reached the house which was basically 3 mud brick rectangular buildings built around a small courtyard. I kicked the soccer ball around with one of their 8 kids while lunch was prepared...a couple of time bouncing it off the house each times huge chunks of it would flake off. I really didn't want to knock down the house of my new family for the night. The room Simon and were in had 3 single beds and was actually decent on the inside...you couldn't tell the structure was made of mud. Lunch was in the kitchen building which was indeed dark and dirty on the inside. The stove was wood fed and there was no electricity or gas used at all. Lunch was great and afterwards the tour group met up for a hike up both peaks which ended up being great. That night after dinner everyone's family dressed them up in native garb and we all ventured down to the one building with electricity for music and dancing. It was quite fun and I'm sure amusing for the locals...but we were all exhausted from the busy day and everyone turned in by 11.

The next morning we said goodbye to our families, got back on our slow boat for our final stop, the island of Taquile...which is perhaps the most visited island in Titicaca. We arrived early and set out for a hike around nearly the entire island. There was some beautiful views of the lake, some great opportunities to encounter the locals and perhaps one of the best lunches I've had yet. On the way back down to the boat, a couple of us decided to take a dip in the freezing waters (45 degrees) and I have regretted it every since. One the way back to Puno, Andy, Lara, Emily, Rebecca, Josh, Allie and I all decide to meet at 8 for a final dinner in Puno as coincendently, we were all on the same bus (we thought) to La Paz the next morning at 7:30. Dinner was great (I had trout carpaccio and lamb cutlets for $10) and we all turned in around 11.

The next morning it turns out we're on two different buses going the same direction at the same time...no problem...we decide to meet across the border in Bolivia and make plans there for La Paz.
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