Lake Titicaca and the Island of the Sun

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Aug 01, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, June 12, 2010

pengs: Cuzco was great but the world cup was about to start and we needed to get on our way. We said a sad goodbye to the Irish, who decided to stay on a bit longer, while we dashed off to Puno to watch the opening match of the tournament. It was early in the morning and we seemed to be the only people aware of the game. But later that day we came across a procession of school children all dressed up as different world cup nations, followed by a marching band. It was brilliant, but when I started shouting "Bafana Bafana" at the South African class, they looked a little scared of me.

One of the strangest things about Peru is the apparent obsession with marching bands. In almost every town we visited, no matter how small, there seemed to be some excuse for a procession with a marching band in tow. It felt like we were exposed to more band music than latino beats. We also loved the twist on vendors at traffic lights - jugglers, tumblers and even fire-eaters provided entertainment while we waited for the lights to change.

Puno is on the shore of Lake Titicaca, which is the highest navigable lake in the world at over 3,800m and the largest lake in South America. It was also one of the first times that we were exposed to such a plethora of coca products. Our hotel had a constant supply of coca tea in the lobby, you could buy coca sweets on the street or simply just stock up on coca leaves for chewing or tea. And in terms of altitude sickness, it's quite incredible how well it works: you immediately feel less nauseous and the headache fades away.

nadya: We took a boat tour out to the floating islands of the Uros on Lake Titicaca. The Uros are a pre-Incan people who still live on self-fashioned islands made of bundles of dried reeds (they were driven off the mainland when the Incans arrived and were forced to adapt to living on the water). The reeds are really thickly-layered, though you can still feel the floor moving gently under your feet! It was interesting to learn about how these islands were built as well as get a glimpse of traditional island life (although these days tourism is definitely the main form of income)... We arrived as the sun was setting, the golden light accentuating the colour and forms of the traditional boats, houses and many sculptures, all made from reeds.

pengs: Lake Titicaca lies across the border of Bolivia and Peru, so after our island adventure, we set off for the Bolivian border. The town just over the border, Copacabana, was tour-riddled and had a lovely cathedral. However we were horrified to discover that there were no ATMs in the town!! This was the first time on our whole trip that we had come across this situation. We had a few emergency dollars on us, but that wasn't going to last long, especially after I paid $50 to enter Bolivia - not sure what they have against South Africans, but at least it's better than the Americans - they pay $135! (Nadya, of course, got in for nothing)! We managed to find a bank that would give us a small cash advance but we didn't encounter a single ATM until we got to La Paz over a week later. Crazy....! (a word we would come to use a lot in Bolivia)

We caught a ferry out to Isla del Sol, the legendary birthplace of the Incan sun god. The island is hilly and does not have a single car or motorbike on it, the only way to get around is on foot or by donkey! We huffed and puffed our way up to the highest point of the island and enjoyed the magnificent views over the lake all the way to the snow-capped peaks in the distance. There was also a festival going on with the inevitable marching band, lots of dancing, chewing of coca leaves and some serious drinking!
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