Jan 22nd 2011
We had booked a full day tour leaving at 8am and returning around 5 or 6pm including lunch for 65 soles ($23 US). This sounded great to us but we later heard of cheaper prices, oh well. Cathleen had been suffering another bought of Bolivia’s revenge (something ruined her stomach while she was traveling there), but luckily I had some of my traveler’s diarrhea tabs and that combined with some immodium did the trick… for 2 days at least. I made sure she got some gatorade when we picked up drinks to rehydrate her.
As we sped away from the stinking harbor that was Puno and headed into the lake I started to see why it was such an attraction. Bird life was every where and the water got progressively cleaner as we left the city. After about 20min we reached the community of Uros. Here the people make islands out of reeds and live permanently with about 5 families. Each island has a president and a set of rules. It is quite incredible at what they have put together. We stopped and visited one island and the president gave us a run down of how they make the islands, ingenious I tell you. Then we got to walk around and buy some handmade products. There was a large water bird that seemed quite content with people around and made an excellent photo op. On a smaller island I noticed they had pets, guinea pigs… then I realised that was actually the pantry. They also had a small “lake” in the middle of their island where they kept fish captive in a net, makes sense.
After spending about an hour and just as the rain started falling we got back onboard and headed off into the heart of Lake Titicaca. It would take us almost 3 hrs to reach Taquile Island, our next stop, and so many of took a nap, some stood outside (when it stopped raining) and others just chatted. Our guide gave us a brief run down on Lake Titicaca with facts such as
– it is the highest navigatable lake in the world at 3827 meters (12628 feet)
– It is the largest fresh water lake in South America
– 60% is in Peru, 40% in Bolivia
and my personal favorite
– the Titi part is in Peru and the Caca part is in Bolivia.
When we arrived at Taquile Island the sun was out, the water was a stunning sapphire blue and the air was clean. It promised to be a good day. We walked up the hill to our restaurant (each day the island decides who will feed the tourists so as to have equal share). Please note this hill was very steep and as all of us are huffing and puffing the locals are running circles around us carrying heavy packs, just crushes your ego. But then again I lost my ego with the altitude in Cusco, so all good.
I think the food we had today was some of the best I have ever tasted. Reminded me of the home cooked meal in Lesotho that I shared with a family. It was all made in the family kitchen and consisted of quinoa soup, fresh fried fish, fried chips, rice and a special tea of coca and some kind of mint (good for stomach and altitude). Then the family did some local dances and at the end we got to join in, great fun. The community there has such a unique culture and I would love to spend more time on the island and learn more.
Kids and photos
When we got to the island’s main square there were little kids trying to sell us bracelets, which you try to avoid as you buy one and then you have to buy more. When you have someone take a photo of you, you find the kids edging their way into the picture, but if you say no they go away. I decided to have a photo with the stunning view of the islands behind me, but when 2 little girls edged in I didn’t object, next minute there was an onslaught of children, as one brit said “they must have been climbing out of windows as there weren’t that many in the square to begin with”. After the pic was taken the bracelet buying started, I managed to get away with only buying one each from the first 2 girls who had stood with me, and I gave one to Cathleen and kept the other. When we looked at the picture someone remarked that it looked like the “Peruvian Sound of Music”, I was just missing one boy.
Heading back to Puno
A nice long leisurely walk down the other side of the island led us back to the boat. It was so truly beautiful here that I would have stayed had someone offered. But for now it was time to head back to Puno and take the night bus back to Cusco. I managed to get in a nice nap in the sun as we sped along dreaming of the islands and the food.
Back in Puno we were transported back to the hostel and went to make some dinner, instant noodles and left over pastries.
Thunder and lightening very very frightening
While we waited to get our taxi for the 9pm bus ride it started to rain, then hail (which lost the signal for the tv right near the end of when Tom Hanks is about to get off the island on Cast Away). Not only did it thunder and lightening and rain and hail, it did it so much that it looked like it had snowed by the time the taxi came. The hail was fine and at least 2″ thick in some places.
Bus ride 2
The bus ride was 6.5hrs long and again I got the window seat. The movie was an independent movie from Afghanistan dubbed into Spanish with English subtitles. Interesting and yet disturbing all about the start of the war. Fairly soon I realised I would not be able to sleep, the heat blasting next to the window didn’t help and I needed to pee. Cathleen on the other hand had past out before we were out of Puno. At 1am I finally woke her up with a look of desperation. While waiting for the loo to be free, the 2nd driver had a fight with the guy in the loo as he thought he was maybe doing something he shouldn’t, in other words taking a dump (which is forbidden on these buses). eventually I got to pee and then convinced Cathleen to let me have the aisle. We pulled into Cusco at 4am and were back at the hostel by 4.30am. The dorm we were supposed to be in was missing the key so we went into my good old room and I got to have my bed. I think they should just label it “Kathy’s bed” for when I return.
All in a good day, a crappy bus ride, but a happy ending with my soft comfy bed. Stay tuned for a return to Lima and preparations for the epic bus trip