Titi Titicaca

Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
Trip End Apr 03, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, December 5, 2008

From Arequipa, Puno (on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca) is about 5/6 hours by bus. Uneventful enough except that the bus Iīm on is pretty snazzy - has a waiter type dude who serves us drinks and something to eat. Iīm well impressed. Traveling with a dude from Portugal who stayed in our hostel in Arequipa. Sound bloke but bizarely enough he likes to wear bright orange which is a tad strange. Takes all sorts (I should talk) I suppose. In Puno its an overnight tour to the islands of Amantani and Taquile on the Peruvian side of the lake. The lake spans part of Bolivia as well - its over 9,000 kmīs squared - bloody enormous. Just checked it up - thatīs about Cork and Waterford put together.
       It looks like a sea too when you see it from Puno - itīs like it has got a coastline itīs so big. First part of the tour goes to the Reed Islands (Uros People) - called the Floating Islands. Strange place - the islands are just layer after layer of reeds built upon each other. On top they have built their own little homes and live in a community there - all built out opf the same reeds. They also build the boats out of these Tutora reeds. There is a shocking level of commercialism here but it is still interesting in a weird sort of way. The islands are tiny as you might imagine - takes about 45 mins to see and hear all you would want to know.

Next up is Isla Amantani. Takes about 3 hours to get there from the Uros and have a great chat with an Australian who was born in Belfast. Tells me a horror story about a bus that he was on in Guatemala that was robbed at gunpoint - his son had a gun to his head for a about 30 mins or so. (Had been thinking that Central America would be the next logical trip travel destination but that story has me thinking twice). On Amantani we are all staying a night with an Indigineous family. I got paired up with a dude called Charlie - French guy who spoke no English and only a very little Spanish. Now thats a bad mixture as I canīt speak French worth a shite and my Spanish isnīt much better. Meant that other than the initial bits we both knew in Spanish, there wasnīt much chit chat. Quietest meals Iīve ever had.  Staying with the family like that is a bit weird anyway to be honest - you kinda feel like you are always in the way.
    Couple of highllights though - we all go to a religious site on the island that evening. On the way, this Dutch guy and I play a game of soccer against some locals. I should say try to because at 4k/4.5k metres above sea level, any decent sprint leaves you almost collapsing. Unbelieveably hard to run up here. We do win 2-1 - well we quit due to exhaustion after scoring the second goal and the lads were prob about 12 years old so I donīt think we will be boasting about it any time soon.
     The second highlight is a night out at the local dance. Itīs cheese city and touristy like you wouldnīt believe but itīs definitively good craic if you can put that to one side. Have to dress up like the locals - ham factor 10 which I would usually avoid but this is good craic. Like the first section of wedding dancing at home. Once you get over the fact you are doing old traditional dances which you probably hated doing when you were younger, you end up having better craic at that point than the rest of the night.

The next morning we head to Isla Taquile which isnīt that noteworthy except for some spiffing good views of the lake. Then its back to Puno - end of the tour. Not the best tour to be honest so I was a little concerned about what the Bolivian side of the lake might offer. It didnīt disappoint though and if you are ever in this past of the world and Titicaca is a possibility, then make sure to check out the Bolivian side - it is much more visually attractive and has some great hiking.

To get to the Bolivian side, you have to take a bus from Puno to Copacabana which is just over the Bolivian border. From here you can take a boat over to the islands or you can do the much more interesting option of a 17km trek to Yampupata and cross there. The trek took me about 4hrs going at a pretty handy pace walking along the side of the lake mostly with the odd piece of inland trail. Very cool and defo worth doing. Part of the trail is old Inka trail (getting a bit suspicious about the legitimacy of some of thes claims now to be honest) and is impressive. The best thing was the boat ride across to the islands though. Too expensive to get a motorised boat so instead I plumbed for the row boat. Had to laugh though when it turned out that the person who was rowing me was the same farmer I had met up the road earlier herding cattle. Entrepreneurial chap making a few squids for himself. No problem with that so off we go. My problem is the fact that the guy is 68 years old so I feel a little ridiculous sitting there while he rows but he wonīt let me help him. In fairness to him, he was well able - I wouldnīt have been able to do half of what he did. But while Iīm trying to get across the point that I want to help him in my broken Spanish, I miss the view. Out from behind the mainland to my right is the spectacular view of the Cordellera Real and its some view. You can see Illampuīs (6,360m) snow capped peaks (it has got two) in the distance. Its defo one of my fav things so far - a real wow moment and made the whole day worthwhile in those few seconds. My buddy finally left me row for a while and we soon reached our destination of Isla del Sol - the birthplace of the Sun in the Inka civilisation. Its a fantastic place to see the sunrise/sunset with that aforementioned view. I had a super day just trekking about and seeing the sights. Some important old ruins here but some even better views of the lake with the mountains in the background. Word of advice though - stick to the track - otherwise it can be quite painful literally trying to make your way back there with the local scrubbery. Also, at this height, any hill is bloody lungbursting stuff so try to keep them to the minimum.

    That evening I took the boat back to Copacabana (Bit too far to row all the way back there) and bused it onward to La Paz. So that was Lake Titicaca. Peruvian side is not that outstanding to be honest - the Uros are interesting in a weird, comical sort of way and the local dancing is defo fun if you let you hair down. But it is all about the Bolivian side - the views here are up with anything Iīve seen so far. Hopefully the rest of Bolivia can live up to this.
  Hasta Luego, Amigos.
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