Running on Empty at Lake Titicaca

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Where I stayed
Some hotel, island home
What I did
touring, suffering

Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, October 13, 2011

The 3 nights at Puno and Lake Titicaca have left me drained and a bit over it. Especially yesterday when I was wishing I was home. I am not a camping person and staying out on the island with the local family was like camping and then I got sunburnt while trying to escape the fumes of the very slow boat that was used to get around the lake (the exhaust was actually inside the cabin and no windows). I'm over all the trekking up hills and steps in this high altitude – this tour is not meant to be this adventurous and I can’t imagine how the 60 yr old guys are coping with it.

We arrived in Puno about 4 pm after the 7 hr bus trip and stayed in the nicest hotel of the lot so far. We went to a local grocery store to buy food gifts for the local families that we would stay with out on an island on Lake Titicaca. Just some basic food like oats, butter, juice. Puno itself is nothing exciting; port town with a nice square and that’s it. We ate out at a restaurant where some of the crew got guinea pig for their meal – the verdict is hardly any meat and tastes like chicken...surprising. A few others have now got the gastro bug that I had, so it was a quiet night.

The next day we caught what appeared to be a cross between a wheel-chair and bicycle down to the wharf to start our exploration of Lake Titicaca. The first stop was demonstration floating reed islands to show how traditional island people live. An interesting concept, but geared up for tourists. From there we travelled in the boat for 3 hrs to a proper island (Tequila Island or something that sounds like that). The boat trip was hell – fumes, sunburn, about 5 km/h, boring. When we finally arrived, we were met by our Mama’s who escorted us to our home for the night. Each couple had their own Mama and the only single traveller was put with 2 other girls. The walk up the hill was ridiculously slow and drove me nuts. They rested 3 times; I didn’t need rest, just wanted to get the backpack off my back and have some lunch. The house is obviously very basic, but good to see how they live. I wasn’t so sure about the cleanliness of the sheets so I slept above them. No shower and an unflushable toilet. First up was lunch and we met the 6 yr old son Jimmy (pronounced yimmy) who understands basic English and was a cute kid. Lunch and dinner consisted of a nice soup, potatoes, rice, grilled cheese and more potatoes. Carb central, but better than what I was dreading. A soccer match was organised for the afternoon – tourists versus locals. Pretty intense game and no surprises that I did not partake. We then went on this massive walk up way too many steps to the top of the island to watch the sunset. The sunset was crap, the altitude made me breathless, the cold left my hands without feeling, and my mood was suitably aligned. I was desperate for a scotch, but stupidly left my little bottle of Chivas behind in Puno (we only took an overnight pack to the Lake).

The evening was a dinner with the family (including Grandma) who all loved looking at the photos on my camera, especially little Jimmy who was obsessed with seeing "DVD" (video footage). Following dinner, we dressed up in supplied traditional outfits for the 'disco’ down at the community building. What an experience! We were all sober dancing up a storm. The locals loved it and all the tourists were having fun in our poncho’s and traditional dress. We only stayed for an hour before heading back for the earliest night of the tour so far (930pm).

Wake up call at 630am, quick pancake breakfast with a suspect packet of marmalade (I don’t even like) before the Mama rushed us out the door and escorted us back to the wharf at 10 times the pace of the walk up the previous afternoon. No time to wash, change clothes or even wake-up properly. Hence, I was in a foul mood and stayed that way for the day. We waited at the wharf for a good half hr before the others on our tour group arrived. My theory is that our Mama wanted to chat-up her boyfriend at the wharf given her mach speed to get down there early. We finally left and went across to another island and more walking up steep slopes and shoddy steps. The views of Lake Titicaca are impressive and the lake is huge, but my grumpiness was not leaving me. I just wanted a toilet, shower, fresh air and to rest on flat ground.

Following the torturous boat trip back to Puno, I was finally able to chill in the hotel comfort and enjoy a few glasses of scotch. I was very glad that part of the tour was over. That night was the final night for the full tour group as some headed onto other towns the following day. So, we went to a dinner & show at a Puno restaurant and then out for drinks. The cool people then broke away from the main group and hit a local bar and made it our own. Massive night with 3 litres of vodka, dancing on tables and overtaking the music computer to play ‘Down Under’ about 3 times whilst singing into a candlestick for a prop microphone. Very fun night that went til at least 2 am and made my tough day feel good. Wake up at 6 am the next morning and surprisingly I felt pretty good as we organised for the bus journey to Bolivia. 1 of the other girls had the worst hang-over I have ever seen and any time I felt poo, I just had to look at her to feel instantly better. Bolivia here we come!

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