Lake Titicaca: The Peru Version

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Quechuas Backpackers

Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, August 19, 2012

The red Tour Peru bus out of Cuzco was comfortable and mainly occupied by a couple of tour groups. We passed through several small communities with adobe homes in various stages of completion as we ascended higher into the mountains again.  Golden brown Andean grasses vegetated the rocky slopes.

At almost 4,400 metres, magnificent snow covered mountains appeared on our left.  Vicunas and alpacas either roamed the plains or lazed on fenced-in fields.

At one checkpoint on the altiplano the road was blocked by protestors of some sort.  They banged on the bus and painted messages all over it but eventually let us through.

The bus ride took an hour longer than expected but in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter much.  Near the end, Lake Titicaca finally emerged.  In a land with so little fresh water, its enormity wasn't so much measured in size as in importance.  It is also one of the world's highest altitude lakes.

We were well received in Puno with our first free taxi transfer from the bus station to our hostel.  Our hosts at Quechuas Backpackers were very helpful with providing information about the area.  We decided to stay an extra night and negotiated a lower price ($25 per night).  We booked an island tour for the following day and no sooner had we arrived than we had also booked our bus out of town, bound for Bolivia.

In Puno we had more trouble withdrawing so we had to call the banks back home again.  This time we were connected to the right people and were able to resolve the problems.  We walked a few streets away from the main tourist strip and managed to find a two course dinner with tea for 3.5 soles (~$1.35) each.

The following morning we were picked up promptly for our island tour on Lake Titicaca.  With sub-zero temperatures overnight, it was a chilly start to the day.  The first stop was the Uros peoples' floating islands (Islas Flotantes), innovative refuges sought six hundred years earlier to escape the Incan tyrants.  The people greeted us cheerfully in their brightly coloured clothing, a notable contrast against the green and brown reeds and blue lake.

Blocks of mud with reed roots growing through them are anchored to the bottom of the lake.  The reeds themselves are then piled on top in a crisscross pattern.  The houses are also made of reeds and sit atop more layers of reeds to prevent flooding.  They even make boats from the reeds to travel between islands and to the mainland.  We skipped the overpriced option to ride one of these boats across the channel.

We roamed around on the reeds, went into the simple huts and Jason climbed one of their flag communication towers predating the age of cell phones.  Attempts were made to sell us souvenirs but we simply couldn't add to our baggage.  Then it was time to board the boat again.
The motor on our tour boat tangled and cut one of the anchor lines for the second island we visited so we had to wait while they cut it loose.  Then we were off to cruise the lake en route to Taquile.

The San Salvador was a sluggish vessel.  We intermittently read and napped in the warming sun.  Runny noses were the main symptoms of our shared head cold.

Disembarking the boat we caught our first panoramic view of Bolovia's Cordillera Real.  We walked through the island's welcome archway and stared up at a steep stoney slope leading to the main square.  We were breathless by the time we got to the top.

A large building housed a cooperative selling items knitted by the local men.  The island's inhabitants wore their traditional dress with specific colours and patterns indicating whether they were married or not.  We wandered through a few of the laneways but the most appealing scenery was still over the lake toward Bolivia, the next country on our itinerary.

Our group had lunch on the roof of a restaurant, overlooking the lake and mountains.  The food was a bit pricey but expertly prepared.  It was a postcard day and we tried our best to absorb it all.

We descended down to the pier and slumped into our seats, heavy-headed from congestion but fully prepared for the slow ride back to Puno.

Planning for Bolivia occupied most of our final night in Puno.  Since each country has its own quirks and potential pitfalls to avoid in the attempt to get to the sights that draw people there, entering a new one always adds to the complexity of travelling.  We took a break and dined at the same restaurant as the night before.

Episodic laboured breathing made for an interrupted sleep for both of us.  We rose early again and shared a taxi to the bus station with two young male Swiss students.
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