The highest navigable lake in the world

Trip Start Jun 16, 2007
Trip End Nov 13, 2007

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Monday 9th July 2007 - Friday 13th July 2007

Went to the train station at 7am to catch our train to Puno and found that the trains were not running as the line was blocked with stones due to an ongoing national protest by the teachers.  So we headed to bus station to see if we could catch a bus and there was a company running buses that morning to Puno.  We bought tickets and boarded at 9am but an hour into the journey we found that the road was also blocked with stones, protesters and riot police.  Stones started out fairly small, but soon turned into rather large rocks, with the odd tyre on fire.  We decided after taking our first picture of the stones on the road, that it was best not to take any more photos!  Riot police trying to clear road to let tourist buses through and our driver even got out to hep clear road.  Brave to face the protesters who simply threw more stones back into the road!  Slightly unnerving but the bus only arrived 3 hours late in Puno, and the scenery through the Andes was stunning with snow at the side of the road at the highest points (4,900m).  Luckily we had a big bad of food and water in case of delays!
3 View from bus, Cuzco to Puno

Arrived into Puno at 6pm and lovely hostel with super friendly owners who gave us a hot water bottle (luxury until the plastic bottle leaked!!) for the freezing night and great advice about our trip to the lake.

Protests began in Puno a day after we arrived and so we decided to book our trip onto the lake and leave the protesters behind.  Some bars and restaurants still opened but sometimes when we were inside the shutters were slammed and the door locked as the protesters marched by, only to opened once they had passed.  Again, slightly unnerving and we we pleased to be leaving  soon.  We also discovered we had been really lucky with our journey to Puno as travelers we had met on the lake had had to walk the last 10k in the dark, and some had the windows of their buses smashed. 
4 Puno, Peru
Booked a 2 day trip on the lake.  Left Puno port early on Thursday (12th) morning in a rather small boat headed for the floating islands made entirely of reeds, one hour from Puno.  The families on these islands lived in reed houses, got around in reed boats and even ate the reeds!  This was a fantastic community to visit and we wandered around 2 of their islands and had a ride in a reed canoe.
  8 The Floating Reed Islands on Lake Titicaca

Next stop was the island of Amantani ( a proper island, not reeds!) where we were to stay the night with a local family.  Families greeted the boat as it arrived and we were led off in pairs to our new families for the night.  Any Spanish we had leaned was now useless as they spoke the indigenous language of Quechuyan, and we had yet to master this!

Our bedroom was upstairs in a small stone farm building and we were invited to lunch in the families kitchen.  This was tiny stone building almost in complete darkness (probably for the best!) except for some light through the small door and the open fire on which everything was cooked.  We were given a seat on a wooden bench whilst our hosts sat on the floor and washed dishes and prepared our lunch.  The meal consisted of a first course of quinoa soup, followed by vegetable fritters and potatoes.  Relieved to see it was vegetarian as the amputated sheepīs legs on a shelf behind  Claire (still furry) were not too appetizing!11 The kitchen where we ate with the family

After lunch we met the rest of the group and hiked to the top of the highest point on the island.  This was very strenuous at the such at an altitude - the island was approx 3,800,m and the the highest point was 4,080 - but we were given natural mint to sniff on way up which allegedly helps you breathe at this altitude!  The view from the top was fantastic and well worth the climb as we watched the sun go down.
13 The highest point on Isle Amanti
We then joined the family back in the kitchen for supper (veggie again, thankfully the hooves were still there!) before being dressed by "mum" in traditional costumes to head to the village hall for a fiesta! 
12 Being dressed by ´mum´ for the fiesta

Stars at night on island were fantastic in the clear sky at such an altitude. Village life very traditional and great to experience. 

Next day we visited a second island, Taquile, which was apparently the most commercial island on the lake!  This meant there was 2 kiosks on the island selling coke and kitkats, and a public toilet!  Walked across the island, with fantastic views, and had a delicious lunch of kingfish and chips before the 3 hour boat ride back to Puno.

On arrival in Puno ,we were relieved to see protest was over (for now!) and all businesses trading as usual.  Tomorrow we are to catch the bus to Copacabana, a small town just over the boarder into Bolivia, and still on the shore of the lake.   

Last night in Peru and canīt beleive our first month over!
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