Lake Titicaca

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South America » Peru » Puno » Lake Titicaca
September 4th 2013
Published: September 12th 2013
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We opted to take the Inca Express from Cusco to Puno thinking it’d be nice to have a comfy bus and a lunch stop along the way. I probably should have read a little bit more of the information on the website before choosing this option as we soon realised after we’d settled into our comfy seats that we’d inadvertently ended up on a tourist bus complete with 5 stops along the way and a ‘guide’ who tested the microphone every single time he used it by saying “holahola *clears throat* amigos”.

10 hours and a whole lot of conveniently located souvenir shops later we made it to Puno which is situated on the eastern edge of Lake Titicaca at an elevation of about 3900m above sea level. We’d pre-arranged to have a home cooked meal at our B&B that night so after yet another run to the ATM (apparently MasterCard is not accepted at many places in Peru..) we sat down for a delicious three course meal. I considered packing Consuela (the chef) into my bag so she could make the delicious passionfruit dessert for me whenever I wanted!

The following morning we were picked up for our 2 day / 1 night tour of Lake Titicaca. At the port we climbed onto our boat with another 15 or so tourists and headed off towards Uros Islands. We introduced ourselves to an American girl about our age and she introduced her husband and said he was French, to which Scott replied “we won’t hold it against you”…turns out about 50% of the rest of the people in the group were French as well… The Uros Islands are floating reed islands about 45 minutes from Puno. The islands are incredibly touristy (in fact it seemed as if that was their only industry), but it was quite interesting to see how the islands are constructed. I doubt that these islands will be around for too much longer as the children will probably get lazy and decide they don’t really want to rebuild their islands every three weeks.

Following the Uros Islands we hopped back on the boat for the three hour trip to Amantani Island. Once we arrived we walked up the hill (slowly because of the altitude) and were appointed our ‘mamas’ (homestay hosts) for the night. There are about 10 communities on the island and they rotate the tourists between these communities to share the proceeds of tourism around. We then followed our mama who was dressed in a beautiful traditional outfit (slowly) up the hill to her house, placed our bags in our room (private room with single beds heaped with very heavy blankets) and then headed to the kitchen for lunch. Lunch consisted of Sopa de Quinoa (delicious), boiled potatoes, boiled uqa and pan fried cheese and conversation in broken Spanish. After lunch we went for a short walk around the house and then met up with the rest of the group ready to climb up yet another hill to see the sunset. The walk up the hill was fairly painless in comparison to the Inca Trail, bit it was easy to forget that you were at such a high altitude as the lake which is absolutely massive looks like the sea so makes you think you should be at sea level. We reached the highest point on the island (~4150m) with time to admire the spectacular view before the sun disappeared and the temperature rapidly dropped. Before the light faded we followed our guide down the hill and then somehow found our way back to our mamas house after the guide walked off without giving directions or waiting for the rest of the group who were still only about half way down..

Dinner was rice and a vegetable and cheese stew which was really yummy, but my appetite had been completely zapped by the altitude so I struggled to eat much at all! After dinner we had a rest in our room (after our tough day..) before our mama arrived with her arms full of traditional costumes to dress us in for the fiesta. The traditional costumes the women wear on the island are quite pretty – a colourful petticoat, with a bright very heavy full skirt, thick embroidered white shirt, black shawl with birds and flowers embroidered on it and a colourful belt / sash for the waist which was kind of like a corset... This outfit was made complete by my thermals, jeans, beanie and sneakers – super stylish. After Scott donned his beautiful poncho we were ready to head to the fiesta to show off our Peruvian folk dancing skills once more. The fiesta venue was full of awkward looking tourists in hiking boots and traditional costumes as well as the mamas and a few papas by the time we arrived. There was a band playing live music and it didn’t take long before our mama had grabbed both of our hands and coaxed us into dancing (if you can call it that..). Our dance moves must have intimidated the other tourists as by the time we left at about 9.30 we were amongst the last few people at the fiesta.

The following morning we were woken up early by a very vocal donkey a few houses away and the sunlight streaming into the room. Our mama cooked us pancakes for breakfast before we headed back to the boat just before 8am, said gracias and adios and headed off towards nearby Taquile Island.

Taquile Island is smaller than Amantani and has been heavily influenced by Spanish (Catalonian) culture. If it weren’t for the miniature people and animals if you didn’t know better you’d probably think you were in the Mediterranean. We walked up the hill from our boat to the main square which was fairly unremarkable (though had an amazing view) where we sat for a while watching a local boy who had tried to make us take a photo for 1 sol play with a Disney Princesses kite.. After a while we headed further up hill to the restaurant we’d be having lunch at which just happened to have the most amazing view of Lake Titicaca. Before lunch we all sat around as our guide talked about the traditional costumes and local handicrafts before wheeling out the local boy puppet and local girl puppet to knit and weave (respectively) on command for a while as people took photos. This part was fairly cringe worthy but fortunately it didn’t last too long. Lunch was fish or omelette with salad, rice and fries. After lunch we hopped back on the boat and headed back to Puno for the night.

Once back in Puno we ventured out for a walk. We stopped off in the Plaza to buy ice-creams at one of the many ice cream shops (apparently Peruvians like their ice-cream). We then wandered towards the market and found a shop selling nuts, chips and various other fried things as well as spices. We bought a small bag of peanuts covered in toffee with sesame seeds and continued walking but had to go back after about 5minutes because we’d eaten them all…yum. For dinner we decided to try out one of Peruvian-Chinese restaurants. We ordered garlic chicken and the waitress said something about it’s very big to which we said yeah that’s ok. When it turned up we were surprised by just how big it was! However it was about 50% cabbage so once you’d pushed that aside it was a normal portion. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as amazing as we’d hoped (strange that) but was still a nice garlic fix.

We headed home fairly early to repack and get a good nights sleep before our three flights the following day which would take us to Iquitos on the banks of the Amazon River.

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