Lake Titicaca

Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
Trip End Apr 01, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Puno,
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

If all had gone to plan, I would have arrived in Puno from Arequipa around 6pm, therefore being rewarded with my first glimpses of Lake Titicaca as the sun was setting... This was not to be though as the bus eventually left Arequipa about an hour late (Julsa - mas economica company but sadly lacking in punctuality or cleanliness) and then was further delayed by hail and thunder storms along the way. It was also pouring with rain in Puno, and not wanting to ferret around inside my rucksack inside a very small and dark Terminal Terrestre meant I had to stand outside waiting for a taxi without any rain jacket. This is the first and only time I have had to wait for a taxi at a bus station - and the only time I have arrived in the dark and when it's been raining!! Sod's law I think...

Despite the dire predictions of both the taxi driver who eventually took me to my hostel and the hostel owner, when I woke up the next morning at 6am it was a clear day with no sign of rain. Thankfully for me, as I was then picked up at 7am for the full day tour I had booked on Lake Titicaca - the highest navigable lake in the world at around 3800m above sea level - to visit the islands of Uros and Taquile.

First stop was the Uros Islands, famed for their floating construction from the tortera reeds which grow in the lake. Reaching them only took about 25 mins in the boat, motoring through large expanses of reed beds before opening up into a much wider channel lined by small clusters of islands with their houses. The channel is full of smaller boats being rowed by the Uros people, some with children making their way to school, others men off to fish for the day, and more still with women who are visiting or running errands between the different communities. Each of the tourist boats gets allotted a certain village to go and visit, and so we found ourselves being greeted by the ladies of la Isla Mama'qota. There then followed what can only be described as a very contrived introduction to the way of life and the people of the Uros Islands, including a description of the floating construction (most interesting for me), an opportunity to walk around the houses and try on the traditional brightly coloured outfits, folk songs in the indigenous language, and the opportunity to buy souvenirs depicting life on the islands. Walking around the island was really weird as the reeds felt very springy underfoot, and in some parts definitely like the lake was soaking through the reed raft foundations. The guide warned us that some of the edge areas were very thin and if we got too close to them we may find ourselves enjoying a dip in Lake, no thanks!! There was also a very distinctive smell on the islands - sort of eggy...

A group of the ladies then proceeded to sing in Aymara for us, before requesting songs from each of the countries represented in the group. I thought they were kidding at first, but no...the guide then went around and split us into our respective countries. I was the only person from the UK and was suitably concerned that I would find myself having to sing alone. I mean, what would I have chosen?!?! God Save The Queen?? Or maybe Flower of Scotland?? Whatever, it would have been AWFUL!! I was therefore pleased when I got put in with the other English speakers from the USA. Safety in a group definitely, and we eventually decided to sing Jingle Bells. So unoriginal, but I guess they could have made me sing the Star Spangled Banner as I was well and truly outnumbered!!

The visit culminated with us being given the opportunity (S/10 additional) to be rowed in a traditional ceremonial reed boat from one side of the channel to the other - our departure was accompanied by the ladies singing a rendition of 'Vamos a la Playa' and finishing with 'Hasta la vista, baby'. I now appreciate why there are scathing reports written about the impact of tourism on the Uros people, and the likening of it to a human zoo...and yes, I appreciate I have also contributed to this by taking part in one of these tours...especially as I stooped low enough to get the stamp in my passport...

Taquile Island required a further 2 hour journey across the lake with stunning scenery especially as the sun was now fully shining and it was possible to enjoy the viewing desk on top of the boat. This was a completely different experience to Uros. Although tourism has clearly had an impact on the island, it appears to be subtler and perhaps more managed than on Uros. A steep hike of about 45mins was required to get to the main centre, the route taking you through many areas of agricultural terracing which produce the staple foods of the local's diet. The views over the lake were stunning as you make your way along the path, giving you plenty of excuses to stop and admire them whilst of course also catching your breath from the altitude!! As we made our way back down to where the boat was waiting, the lake appeared so still in the afternoon sun with the most amazing cloud formations in brilliant blue sky. I don't remember seeing such clouds before - I'm sure there's some sort of explanation to do with altitude and temperatures but I haven't got a clue!! Anyway, I did my best to capture them with my camera before we started the 2.5 hour journey back in the direction of the dark clouds which were hanging over Puno...

I intended to walk around the centre of Puno after the tour, but as the heavens opened just as the boat arrived back I ended up quickly finding some food and then heading back to my hostel as fast as I could. This wasn't particularly fast though as the steep climb from the centre left me out of breath and with an awful headache due to the altitude!! Somewhere along the way I hope I manage to acclimatise myself to these high's been much harder than I anticipated!!
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Pigwig on

Perhaps not the eggy smell, but these Islands are my favourtite place you have been so far. I love the folk influence and the outfits and cutie pie kids.

curlsandtales on

It's a bit too Disneyland to be honest...but the outfits were certainly colourful and kids very cute!! I preferred the other island as less of a theme park. Xx

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