Following a “low” altitude stay in La Paz (at 3,600m) we were going to be back up above 4,000m for the next few days, with a whistle stop tour of the world’s highest navigable lake – Lake Titicaca.
On Monday morning we took an early bus to Copacabana, which sits right by the the Peruvian border, but still in Bolivia. It took about four hours, including a short boat ride over the Tiquina Strait.
Home for the night was Hostel Florencia where we were greeted by our wonderfully enthusiastic hostess who gave us a map and tons of tips to explore the town – a familiar theme as so far everyone in Bolivia has been incredibly friendly. She also introduced us to Pepe the dog – another common theme, everyone seems to have a dog. One thing on our list to finally rectify when we’re back home…The hostel was great though, with a brilliant view across the town and onto the lake from our third floor room.
In preparation for the forthcoming Inca Trail we took two short walks in the afternoon – firstly to La Horca del Inca – an old Inca site used by astronomers – and then up to Cerro Calvario – a hill with a small chapel at its peak. Both provided us with great views across the lake and also left us gasping for breath on their ascents. I’m sure it was the altitude rather than our empanada diet we’ve been following over the last few months…
After a stroll along the water front to sort boat times for a trip to Isla del Sol the next day (the biggest island in Lake Titicaca) we wandered about the town and to the surprisingly beautiful main square and church – Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana. We also did our good deed for the day by helping an old lady pack up her stall. She thanked us in some form of dialect which we presume was complimentary.
For tea we went to La Orilla – a recommendation from the hostel – which didn’t disappoint. Google told us the restaurant had closed down. So Phil added another good deed to the day by getting its status changed to Open.
Isla del Sol
Tuesday was a long day. We took an early boat to Isla del Sol, which first thing in the morning looked a bit touch and go as there was a huge thunderstorm. Luckily it had passed by the time we boarded the 20 seater boat, which was possibly one of the slowest boats I’ve ever been on (Phil overheard some German girls commenting that it was travelling at 11km/h). The slow speed meant the short distance took about two hours and the boat was rocking all over the place.
When we finally arrived we continued our high altitude training with a steep climb up to the town of Yumani at the south of the island. Unfortunately the north and the south of the island are in some sort of a squabble at the moment over tourism which meant that it wasn’t possible to head to far north. We found this out for ourselves when, after walking for about an hour, we were greeted by four local men who asked us to turn round.
Fortunately there was loads to keep us entertained before our boat back in the afternoon:
- Back in the village we watched a few donkeys run wild down the small streets and a poor old lady trying to round them back up.
- Mirador Keñuani – A fantastic lookout point across the island and back out to Copacabana, which included passing what must be one of the highest five a side pitches in the world which made me quite jealous.
- Templo del Sol – ruins from an Inca Temple which included a few llama’s en route.
After a much smoother crossing back, we rushed back to the hostel to grab our bags ready for a three hour bus trip to Puno in Peru, home of the floating islands. Just before boarding the bus we managed to squeeze in the best cake of the trip so far from Pit Stop – a small bakery. Phil was delighted.
Rene greeted us on our arrival at Intiwatana Hostel in Puno. An absolute ledge. We’d paid about £12 to stay there (with breakfast), where we had the treat of our own private bathroom for the first time in about a month.
Rene helped set us up with another boat trip the next day – to Uros (one of the floating islands) and Taquile (a non floating island). He also offered to let us keep our room until we got our night bus to Cusco at 10pm without any further charge. So kind of him, so we made sure we left him a bit of a tip.
We’d toyed with the idea of coming to Puno to see the floating islands as we were worried we trying to do too much. But I convinced Phil it would be worthwhile and I think in the end she was glad we did.
A quicker boat than at Copacabana allowed us and our small tour group of about ten to reach Uros in about 40 minutes from the Port. We’d read that Uros was a bit commercialised – which is true to extent as some of the locals no longer live on the islands. But nonetheless, it was so interesting to see how the locals had managed to escape the Inca’s by building islands made from reeds and soil taken from some of the shallower parts of the lake. There are 42 islands in total with some locals continuing to live their permanently, only returning to land for necessities.
After an hour and a half or so of a talk from our guide and mingling with the locals, we set off for Taquille. Our guide was born on the island so he was really excellent in walking us through all its history and also showing us some pretty cool vegetation – like one plant which the locals used as soap – you just take off the leaves and add some water in your hand and your left with foam.
It was similar in scenery to Isla del Sol, but felt a little bit more developed in its pathways and structures. The people here have a lot of unique traditions which include a seven day wedding. They’re also renowned for their weaving and we passed quite a few old ladies walking along, spinning thread.
Before heading back to Puno we had our first taste of Peruvian food. We’d met a lot of people en route saying how they’d had the best food in Peru, and it didn’t disappoint – an Italian style fritto, quinoa soup and fresh trout from the lake.
Back at the hostel we were absolutely shattered so we just chilled, watched a bit of Barca beating Chelsea and grabbed a quick pizza for tea from Machupizza before our night bus to Cusco.
Songs in my head out on the lake: