Tim and I arrived in Puno, Peru late one evening a couple weeks ago. The sun was setting as we approached the city and we were offered our first glimpse of the beautiful Lake Titicaca from the top of the hills which surround the city.
Puno itself doesn’t really have much to offer other than tourist restaurants and nice views and of the lake but it is a perfect gateway to the many islands we were about to discover. We decided to forgo the tour organized through our hotel (cheapest one yet at $12/night) and just showed up directly at the dock. There we met Francisco the captain, bargained a bit for our journey, which would also include a home-stay at his house, and off we were.
The first thing we visited was a small floating island, Uros, where we were treated to a brief lesson about life on the island. The island was smaller than the average Canadian household and approximately 10 different families live there.
Next up we were off to Amantani, which is where we would be spending the night. The house was quite nice and comfortable and we were served a delicious lunch on the balcony overlooking the lake. Afterwards we hiked up a very, very, very, long path uphill to see some ancient ruins as well as catch the sunset from above. The view did not disappoint, and it was totally worth the hike.
The next morning we woke up really early to eat breakfast and Francisco dressed us up in local attire and we were able to take photos. We were apparently pretty lucky as nobody else on the boat got to do this. I have an extreme amount of respect for the local women as the clothing was really heavy and uncomfortable.
Our next stop was the smaller but more touristic island Taquile. Once again, we hiked up a long hill and pondered why we always seem to be climbing uphill. The answer was obvious once we got to the top and stopped for a tasty lunch in a restaurant that seemed more like somebody’s house than a restaurant. Here we learned about the pro’s and con’s that tourism has brought to the islands. We we’re told that by buying our tour directly at the dock we had not only saved ourselves money but we were also putting money directly into the communities instead of some tour agency’s deep pockets. The tour agencies apparently are very slow at paying the communities for services rendered, if at all. Something to think about if you ever plan on going to Lake Titicaca.
Isa, a sweet German girl we met along the way, asked if she could travel onwards to La Paz with us as she was solo for the first time. We we’re happy to oblige. We went back to Puno for one last night and headed off to Copacabana, Bolivia the next morning, about a 3 hour bus ride away.
Copacabana is a very small, chilled out, backpacker/hippy town. There isn’t much to do here other than eat, sleep, and drink. Luckily for us, this town was really cheap because our ATM cards wouldn’t work and we were quickly running out of money. One ATM even ate one of our bank cards, which is now destroyed. This was apparently happening to a lot of tourists. This didn’t stop us however, from taking a day trip out to Isla del Sol, the biggest island on the lake.
Our boat arrived at the northern side dock and guess what? We hiked up yet another big hill to visit a sacred rock and Chicana, a labyrinth-like temple from the Inca period. The views we’re some of the best we’d seen so far. Since we were getting so good at it, we decided to hike all the way across the island to the south side. The walk took about 4 hours and was quite enjoyable as we saw lots of animals and really got to see every angle of the island.
The next morning we decided it was time to move onwards to La Paz. We hopped on a $2 bus and went on our way. Half way through, we arrived at a ferry and were told to get off the bus and take the passenger ferry across to the other side while the bus got on the vehicle ferry. It seemed pretty simple and easy except for the fact that on the other side of the lake they we’re having a parade and the military was not allowing anyone across the lake. Bolivia is pretty infamous for roadblocks, so we weren’t too surprised by the situation.
After about an hour they finally let people across so we were able to at least enjoy the tail end of the parade. The bus however was still not allowed to cross. Finally about 2 hours later, they reopened the waters to vehicles and madness ensued. Ferries we’re strewn across the water in every direction, blocking each other, and adding to people’s frustrations. At one point some of the people from the parade got on a boat and then stopped half way across the water to sing and dance adding to the insanity. Luckily, we are patient people and we’re able to appreciate the hilarity of the situation. Some of our fellow passengers, however, we’re not so impressed.
Our bus finally made it to the other side and the driver barely gave us a minute to get on the bus before he speed off into the distance. It was time to say good bye to Lake Titicaca and all of its quirks and charms.