Puno and Lake Titicaca

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Dec 10, 2009

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Friday, July 24, 2009

We left La Paz on Friday morning on a tourist bus and we headed for Copacabana on Lake Titicaca.  It took about 3 hours to get there.  We had to cross the lake at one stage on a little crappy boat - we were waiting for people to get on it and as it was moored it was rocking side to side.  When we were on a boat from Lanzarote to Fuerteventura before I was sick on the boat going over but heard the best advice on the journey back - let your body rock with the boat (I would have tried to steady myself) and look at the horizon - all this helps your brain to process the fact that you are on water and it stabilises you and it really works so we got across fine.  Our bus went across on its own little barge.  We decided not to stay in Copacabana and got a connecting bus across the border and onto Puno.  This was another 3-4 hours.  You could see the difference straight away between Bolivia and Peru - the houses were much better (still a far cry from houses at home) and the roads were paved.  We got to Puno which I think is much nicer than Copacabana so I'm glad we didn't stay there.  We went to the main pedestrian street and I went looking in the shops for a new coat - didn't I leave my coat after me in Copacabana where we had lunch - I keep loosing things - its really annoying!  I have lost 2 pairs of gloves so had to purchase another pair!  I couldn't get over how everything was much more expensive than Bolivia - Bolivia is dirt cheap so I have to get my head around the prices now being more expensive.  We booked a tour to visit the floating islands and Tequile Island for the next day and we went out for dinner.

Saturday morning we got up at 6.20am for our 6.45am pick up for the tour.  We went down for breakfast and at 7am they still hadn't come.  We didn't worry so went on net for while - we were still there at 8.45am!  Ror tried ringing the office on skype but it was closed so we went down at 9 but they still weren't open so we went for breakfast in a nice bakery and popped back in at around 10am.  The girls were mortified - there was a mix up and they forgot to collect us.  We were obviously telling her it wasn't her fault but that we wanted our money back or if they could give us the tour for 25 soles (about 6 euro) instead of 30 soles each we would go with them.  They were trying to sell us another trip for that afternoon so our day wasn't wasted but we had decided to just look around the town.  They didn't want to give us a discount saying the tour was 35 soles and she gave it to us for 30 the previous night.  We said fine that we could get the tour for 25 soles in our hostel so we wanted our money back.  After chatting to each other in Spanish they said that they would give it to us for 25 soles and put 5 soles each towards it.  She kept repeating that they would put their own money in and I felt it was a guilt trip..and I have to say it was working on me but I said no feck it we were up so early and would have to get up the same time the next morning and it wasn't our problem.  It wasn't their fault so they could get the money from whoever made the fuck up we said to each other later.  We went back to the hostel and spent the afternoon watching english tv and we were happy out to just relax.  The hostel is cool actually - we had a double room with shared bathroom but we were only sharing with another twin room.  The way the hostel is set up they have little apartments with a living room with telly and 2 rooms all contained in the one apartment...and no one was in the other room that night so it was great!

Yesterday morning we were up again at the crack of dawn and they remembered us this time!  We got a mini bus to the boat.  Lake Titicaca means the Great Puma and our guide showed us a satellite photo of the lake and you really can see the impression of a puma or cat like animal.  The Incas came up with this name so I wonder how they could see the shape of a puma in the lake without satellite pictures?  The lake is one of the highest navigable lakes in the world at around 3800m.  It is about 90km across and 190km long and is owned 60% by Peru and 40% by Bolivia although the border is only imaginary as fishermen from either country can fish on either side - they have a good relationship.  Our first stop was Uros or the Floating Islands.  These islands are man made from reeds.  They are there with 2600 years and up until 30 years ago they were untouched by tourism.  (Sorry now but on a total tangent I am eating a dairy milk fruit and nut while I am typing this and it tastes SO good!  I havent seen dairy milk all the time we have been away and Kathryn your bars were devoured in Rio lol so its a nice treat!)  Anyway the reeds rot after 3 months so they put a new layer down every 2 weeks.  Our boat pulled up to one island and there were really colourfully dressed women waiting to greet us and tie the boat up.  They had really luminous coloured dresses on and bright coloured jackets and pom poms hanging from their long plaited hair.  First step on the island was really springy!  You would seriously feel like you would fall through to the lake.  They use the reeds for everything - they build their boats and houses from them but as I said they rot after 3 months so they have to rebuild them the whole time.  Their main form of income now is tourism and fishing.  20% of the Uros people do not welcome the tourism.  To be honest you can see why as the other 80% must spend every day welcoming boat loads of people and doing the same things for them.  4 of the women put on an act of how they go to the mainland and barter - it was comical to watch.  The 4 of them sat on the ground and we rechattering away and holding up plucked chickens which looked gross and fish etc to barter for milk and other rations.  There was a young Uros woman sitting behind me sewing and she was skitting at them.  When their little show was over the woman behind us took me and Ror into her house - it is tiny with a mattress on the ground and little else to be honest.  Their few clothes are hung from the wall.  She put the skirt and jacket and bowler hat on me which looked comical.  She told me to go out of the hut and look around at the crafts that they had on sale - I was the only one dressed up out of all the women and was morto but said feck it.  We had the opportunity to go out on one of their reed boats for 10 soles each (about 2.50) so we said we would to support them.  The ladies sang us a song to see us off and finished it off by saying 'hasta la vista baby' - it was very funny.  Only 5 more people went out with us.  We got back to the island after about 10 mins and the ladies were there to welcome us again.

We left the island and got back on the boat for a 3 hour journey to Taquile island.  Taquile island is huge and we made our way up the steep paths to a house for lunch.  Trout or omelette was on the menu.  I am not a huge fish fan but said I would try it as it is a speciality over here and it was yummy.  We got quinoa soup to start and it was just like veg soup.  We got some kind of fried bread with it which was also really good.  With the trout was rice and chips so it was devoured!  The lunch cost us 20 soles (about 5 euro).  After lunch our guide was telling us about the island.  The average life expectancy in Peru is 60 but on Taquile Island it is 75 - I wonder what their secret is!  There is also no crime on the island.  The last crime our guide heard of was in 1987 when an 18 year old man tried to steal a sheep.  He was whipped in front of the whole island (about 2000 people) and banished.  The men all wear special hats.  If the hat is all red it means he is married.  If a man is wearing a hat which is red but has alot of white at the bottom it can mean a few things - if the tassel is to the left he is looking for a girlfriend, if the tassel is to the right he has a girlfriend and if the tassel is towards his back he has no time for a girlfriend!  The women wear back shawls with pompoms on them.  It depends on the size of the pompoms as to whether they are married or not.  There is also no such thing as divorce on the island - before they are married they must live together for a length of time to see if they are compatible.  If say they do not get on they can break the bond but if they get on and marry it is for life.  And if one of them should die they are not allowed to marry again.  The family that hosted us put on a dance for us - it was the grandad and grandson, mother and daughter I would guess.  The granny was clapping away as they were dancing - it was hilarious.  Lets just say the choreography left alot to be desired!  The girl came over to our table then and tried to get Ror up to dance but he wouldn't.  There was a little girl of about 4-5 and she took my hand so I got up.  She was the cutest little thing and was just mad to swing her skirt around.  I'd say 4 other people got up dancing with the other people in the family - it was good fun!  After this we went up to the top of the island which was a steep climb for about 10 mins to get to the square where there was a festival of the handicraft market.  It seemed the whole island was there all dressed up and putting on a great show.

We got back in the boat for the 3 hour journey back to Puno.  The lake got quite rough and it was the first time in weeks that there were really dark dull clouds.  I was dozing at one stage and a big crash woke me up - one of the windows up front smashed and the glass fell on a couple.  Thankfully they were okay and I still don't know what made the window break.  I'd say we were all looking forward to getting back at that stage.  We were near Puno, about 15mins away and our boat stopped.  Our guide told us not to worry that they were going to change the fuel but they were trying to start the engine for a while and it didn't sound good.  Thankfully they got it started and we got back to Puno.  We went out for pizza and went back to hostel to watch tv and had an early night as we were wreaked.

We are going to Arequipa today but when Ror got up for breakfast he met the couple who were staying in the other room in our apartment last night.  They were getting a 7am bus to Arequipa but it was cancelled due to snow and ice on the road.  Our bus leaves at 3pm so we checked with the bus company and she thinks it will go at 4 or 5.  Hopefully it will go today.
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