No caca at Lake Titicaca please!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Flag of Peru  , Puno,
Sunday, May 13, 2012

After getting myself almost back together after being quite ill with altitude sickness and feeling sorry for myself, I then walked to the main pedestranised street called 'Lima' in Puno and saw a folklore mural on the street. People look at me funny here, just as I look at them too! Peruvians also do not like their photo being taken, something to do with them believing that part of their soul is taken from them when you take the photo. So any of my photos are quickly taken or taken of their backs as you will see from this entry.

I walk down in the direction of Lago Titicaca to get a glimpse of what I will be visiting. I walk the pedestranised walkway to the lake, I pass the many meat sellers, ladies in traditional dress, bicycle taxis, moto taxis, the stadium, the basketball court and finally reach the lake.

There are sheep grazing on a tiny grass verge alongside the busy main road. I smile to myself, well almost chuckle out loud. Then I see the pedal powered boats on the lake, two fairground wheels, a group of ladies huddled around. I go and see what is happening with the latter. I stare a while at the group of chatting ladies. A lady has a notebook and pen says Buenas to me. Then says ‘you look’ in Spanish. I say yes. I think it is simply a ‘mother’s meeting’, but I don’t know what for. The lady comes over to me and says hello and puts her hand out to shake, I quickly got my hands out of my pockets and shook hands with her. I was quite surprised at this gesture, no Peruvian had done this before. She said did I like Puno, I say yes, is it cold, I reply yes. I am wearing hat, gloves, two jumpers and a raincoat to keep the cold at bay and it’s only the afternoon. She then asks a trusted question I expect, where am I from. I say England. I can tell by her blank expression, she does not it. I explain Peru is maybe eight times bigger than England and it’s an island in Europe. She repeats what I say, clearly never hearing of England before.

This whole area I visited was clearly very poor area, houses were run down and people were  making-do In complete contrast the supermarket was big, selling TV’s, clothes, mobiles and what must have been very good roast chickens as the queue was big!

One of the other reasons for stopping over in Puno as well as getting over being sick, was to visit the famous Uros floating islands. I booked a day tour that also went to Taquille island. The boat we got on looked run down and unlikely to be that safe in case of an emergency, I checked out how I would get off or escape if the need came and then settled into my seat to listen to the information in English and Spanish from our guide. The floating islands of Uros are made from reeds made into blocks or a tapestry and maintained by putting fresh reeds on top regularly. When we landed at the first island to visit and learn about the place and the culture, it felt so commercial and touristy, I was warned about this. It was a big show put on for us tourists with a walk through the gift shop at the end to buy the crafts that’d made. It was what It was, but none the less very interesting. My memory that stayed with me from this day was of a little family of pigs carelessly munching on their food whilst actually completely detached from the main island and basically floating around. Strange way of life but was their way of life, the Uros people make money from the tourism to buy their food or money to fix their fishing nets. I mostly watched the woman busy in their daily lives here, they all had very large ripe stomachs, apparently attractive for men amongst people living in the mountains and countryside of Peru. They cared for their children, while making handicrafts and cooking. They all looked happy with their life here.  

We continued our journey to visit the other island, Taquille. This place surprised me more than Uros Island, as I knew something of that place, as I felt I was transported to a Greek or Cypriot island.  A large island with old ruins, not many inhabitants and surrounded by beautiful blue clear ocean. Not much to see and especially to do on this island, we walked for some time in the direct lunchtime hot heat and visited the ‘Knitting Men’ and them selling more handicrafts. We had an excellent lunch of soup, followed by fish where I talked to three lovely and laughing, Chinese girls here on their holiday from uni in the states, we exchanged travel stories and laughed a little. We then all headed back to the boat. Where I and most of the group quickly fell asleep on the journey back to Puno.

The next day I started my trip of five hours to La Paz, Bolivia. It was not five hours; this was only the part to the border I later found out. This was my first proper border crossing, I had done all the rest by flight and frankly that does not count! I was surprised with how easy it was, too easy in fact. Our bus waited the other side with our luggage inside and less than twenty minutes later and it was done, exit and entry visas stamped in passport and not a sign of bribery or sketchy people in sight. I was rather smug with myself in fact, especially after reading so many other’s bad experiences of border crossings!

The journey on the other hand was quite a surprise and even a treat! We changed after the border crossing at Copacabana; yep that song comes straight into your head doesn´t it?! And I hanged out in a cafe till it was time to leave, Copacabana is a small beach town stuck in the late 80’s in terms of how it markets it’s beach, I was glad I had not stayed overnight here. The journey we passed beautiful mountains, glimpses of Lake Titicaca, simply stunning. 

We then had to get off the bus and pay for a small ferry to take us across a stretch of water; this was the surprise part for me. I had no idea and no one told us either about this bit. As we crossed the water on the dodgiest rowing boat/smelly petrol powered wooden boat we watched our bus go onto its own little floating boat supported by some wooden planks of wood. The three Chinese girls were here again by coincidence, one was laughing, the other two were not, it was a bit scary crossing as the boat rocked and the waves came over into the boat a little. It has to be almost without a doubt, the most unsafe way to travel so far in my trip. 

Another five hours later and we got to La Paz and I took a taxi to the hostel. There was this crazy vibe again, chaotic traffic, noisy, pollution and a hum to the city nestled in the mountains. Bolivia, bloody brilliant so far. Also a bit colder, I arrived to zero degrees and starting to wear a lot more clothes!
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