Lake Titicaca - Day 1

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September 21st 2018
Published: October 3rd 2018
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Some facts about Lake Titicaca

• 3,800m above sea level
• Over 8,300 sqm - 5 times bigger than Stewart island
• Highest navigable lake in the world
• Borders Peru and Bolivia

We pack an overnight bag and head off in tricycle rickshaws to the port. It is an interesting was to navigate the traffic, including the speed bumps. We are going to be staying the night with local villagers so we buy some supplies for them - rice, noodles, vegetables, powdered milk and so forth. Then we get on our launch to start exploring the lake.

At approximately 8,300 square km and seems more like a sea than a lake. In many places large reeds grow in a marshy area. This is what is used to make the floating islands that Uru people live on, as we discover when we visit one of them. Our local tour guide and the village leader do a good double act of explaining everything. Basically they cut big chunks of reeds, including the roots systems and soil from the marshy areas, rope them all together and then layer up cut reeds on top. The island is anchored to the part of the lake of their choice - so they don’t float of to Bolivia as they do not have passports! The lake is divided between Peru and Bolivia and the navies of both countries patrol the border.

Islands have solar panels and use gas for cooking but fire is still a major risk. On the largest islands there are primary schools but kids need to go to secondary school in Puno which also has several universities as well. It is compulsory for kids to complete high school in Peru.

Villagers have small motor boats but we get a short tour around our host’s island in a traditional reed boat. The water is very clear and there is plenty of birdlife to be seen. Introduced trout compete with the local kingfish and there are a lot of fish farms across the lake.

We motor on to the peninsular and the village of Tika Wasi where we will stay the night with our local families. They are at the wharf to meet us and we get buddied up. Our Mama, Alexandria is lovely and we head to her house for lunch. We are pleasantly surprised by our lodgings, an adobe bedroom with two rather firm but comfortable beds with lots of blankets. It is expected to be cold overnight. There is even a separate bathroom with flush toilet which works and a shower which isn’t working yet.

After a tasty lunch of quinoa soup (a staple in Peru) followed by potatoes, beetroot and something salad and something similar to halloumi cheese, we are free for an hour or so. With my barely remembered Italian and some good hand waving we learn how many brother, sisters and grandchildren we all have. Her five children have grown up and left home. Mama asks why I am not married, given I cannot explain this even in English, we settle for ‘it’s complicated’ and she suggests that life is more ‘tranquillo’ without a marito.

We wander about the village, up and down hill. It is very pretty, with many of the houses having geraniums planted around them. There are sheep, pigs and donkeys in most yards tooo.

Later in the afternoon we help Mama shell beans and then take the sheep down to the lake for a drink. They also enjoy a nibble on the stumps of reeds and the ‘seaweed’ on the shore. We are luckier than most of our group who get to sort dehydrated potatoes. Mama shows us a scarf she is knitting, her technique is quite different to ours but is basically knit one, purl one. She knits all sorts of hats and scarves to sell at the market.

After doing our chores, we head up to the big house of the village for a game of volleyball which we contrive to lose to keep the locals happy. Then we are dressed up on local costumes and taken to the dining/kitchen area where we ‘help’ make dinner by cutting up vegetables. Another good meal with soup, rice and vegetables. Then it is home to bed. We are presented with a hot water bottle - a plastic water bottle filled with hot water and a cute little knitted bag - to keep us warm. I am a bit nervous that it will split if I roll over onto it in the night so discard it before going to sleep

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