Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
30Trip End Dec 14, 2008
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For dinner on our first night, we hit the jackpot, ignoring all the big gringo-friendly places and going for a fabulous menu del dia in a tiny 2 table place which served us a gourmet dinner Gordon Ramsey would have approved of, and we had the tiny place all to ourselves, almost like being served a posh meal in our own front room..and all for only a few dollars! We tasted our first Inka Cola - the Peruvian equivalent of Coca Cola - which is fluorescent yellow and tastes like Iron Bru, although isn´t made from girders as far as we could find out. Fired up by our positive Peruvian experience so far, we celebrated by going on a mini pub crawl to a Rock & Reggae Bar, followed by a Rock Bar for a fun evening drinking Pisco Sours (the Peruvian national cocktail) and Mojitos, and listening to classic Bon Jovi - Rock on!!!
Next morning, we had a confusing and slightly disconcerting exchange with our bizarre beret-wearing, cigar-smoking host which went something like this:
Host: Morning! How are you? did you sleep well?
Us: Yes, great, thanks!
Host: You probably had problems breathing because of the altitude.
Us: No, we´ve been in Bolivia for a week which is much higher.
Argument ensues and eventually we back down for politeness sake and agree that yes, the altitude was a problem!
Host: You need to move rooms.
Argument ensues which ends in us moving to the room right next door!
Host: Are you going to the floating islands?
Us: Yes we´ve going this afternoon.
After agreeing this is best because the sun won´t be as strong, our host then switches to the opinion that morning is the only time to go because the afternoon tours are the same price for 1 hour less - result: we book the tour for that morning and have 15 minutes to get changed, move rooms and run out of the door, vowing to avoid all future conversations with our host and his schizo tendencies!!
So, 15 minutes later, we boarded a boat lined up with hundreds of others also filling with snap-happy tourists and were soon chugging out across Lake Titikaka with a heap of other tourists - deja vu?? Interesting fact learnt on the journey: Titikaka means grey puma, and if you turn a map of the lake upside down, it kind of looks like a running puma with a rabbit/fish in its mouth!
The Lonely Planet had led us to believe that the people on las Islas Flotantes (or the Islas Uros to give them their proper name), are a poor exploited community and we were expecting to feel terrible for being there and gaping at their way of life. However, although tourism has totally taken over, the tours are done very well, and the islanders we met looked pretty happy with their lot! We disembarqued at the Isla Pachamama (Mother Earth - more on her when we get to Cusco!), and sat in a semi-circle on reed (of course!) benches whilst our guide and the island Presidente gave a very entertaining talk on the islands. We got to try chewing the juicy reed stem which is apparently great for your teeth, and we had a full demo of how the islands are built - reed roots are cut into blocks, floated to where they are needed, tied to their neighbours and then anchored to the bottom of the lake with ropes and 10m reed poles! The root blocks are then covered with multiple layers of dry reeds and the result is a slightly rocking, spongy surface, onto which they place their reed houses and to which they tie their reed boats! They live off fishing, duck-shooting and now tourism, and all look very relaxed, happy and a bit too well-fed!! After the talk, we had the opportunity to buy handicrafts from the local women, and climb a rickety tower to look at the view, and we then resisted the pressure to pay 5 soles more for a ride on a reed boat!
Well that´s all from Lake Titikaka, tomorrow we´re off to Cusco, or Qosco - the navel of the Earth!!