Thursday, October 24, 2019

Lake Titicaca

We were the first to arrive to the PeruHop bus terminal in Cusco for our PeruHop night bus to La Paz, Bolivia with stops in Puno and Copacabana. We arrived an hour and a half early before our 10pm departure. We had planned to be early but not that early. Our taxi driver showed up at our hotel a half hour earlier than requested. One thing I noticed is that the Peruvians we have dealt with are usually early. Other travellers have noticed the same thing.

We sat on the lower level of the PeruHop bus. I found the seats to be wider. We travelled overnight, leaving Cusco at 10:00pm and arriving into Puno  Peru at 5:00am. I actually managed to sleep.

Upon arrival in Puno, we had breakfast...yep, scrambled eggs. Then at 6am, we went for our boat tour of Lake Titicaca. In Incan language titi means puma and caca means stone. Unfortunately, in Spanish caca means poop.

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. I The lake is shared by Peru and Bolivia, was formed by volcanoes and is up to 270 meters deep.

There are a number of different fish in the lake. There is a small fish that is native to the lake and they imported trout from Canada. They now farm the trout.

There is a lot of birdlife on the lake because they have no predators but it is very cold.There were many cute looking ducks. When they got spooked, it looked like they were running on water.

There are 87 man-made floating islands on the lake known as the Uros islands. We took a boat  tour out to visit the islands. On average 20-25 people live on each island. They dig up the large floating roots of reeds, tie them together and over time, the roots grow together making a floating island which they cover with many layers of reed stalks and then they anchor the island.

Originally people chose to live on these islands to avoid paying taxes.

They have these boats that can carry around twenty five people. Originally they were made from a reedy type grass and wouldn't last very long. Now they use over 2000 water bottles and they last about three years. They also now use solar panels on their islands.

The tour was very interesting and the islanders very friendly.  We took one of the reed boats across to another island before taking the tour boat back to Puno port  I am glad that we went on such an early tour because as we were returning, lots of tour boats carrying tourists were making their way to the islands.

We drove 2 1/2 hours to the Bolivia border and had to get out of the bus, walk across the border with our luggage and get back on a different BoliviaHop bus. Dragging all my luggage uphill in the now hot sun, at this high altitude was total hell. At least everything went smoothly through immigration.

The bus drove fifteen minutes into the harbour of Copacabana. We had an hour to have lunch so we went to a restaurant that had an upstairs terrace overlooking the harbour. I waited up there for John while he went to a bank machine to get Bolivian money. By the time he got back, we had to order something that was quick to prepare so we had nachos and beer. The sun was shining and Bob Marley was playing. It was a cute little port town.

We met up and took a slow boat to Isla del Sol. The waves rocked almost everyone to sleep.

Once we arrived, we were given an hour to walk a donkey path interspersed with Inca stairs up to the top of the island. We passed the ruins of the Temple of the Sun...which was rather ironic since it was dark inside. We continued to walk up up and up the stone stairs. It was gruelling and I was breathless...and crabby.

The views were great from the top. We could see snow capped mountains in the distance. Then it was time to walk down. The stone path was uneven and I really needed to pay attention so that I wouldn't go over on my ankle.

Some young girls were playing at the side of the road  and some alpacas were chewing grass a numbeur of feet away. As soon as I heard John's camera click, I knew what was going to happen.Two seconds later one of the girls comes running, "Picture baby alpaca. Pay money".

The boat ride back was equally slow and once again, everyone was rocked to sleep.

We got on our bus and I watched the sunset as we drove on winding roads with steep drop offs, no shoulders and no guard rails.

It was now dark. At one point the road crosses a narrow part of the lake where there is no bridge. We stopped in a small town and all got out of the bus to get onto a small boat to cross the water. Boy did the boat rock and not a life jacket to be found. We were across within ten minutes. Meanwhile our bus was put on a wooden ferry and crossed on its own at a slower pace. Then we all got back on the bus and headed on to La Paz.

At 3,640 Metres (11,942 ft), La Paz is the world's highest capital city. Driving into La Paz in the dark, my first impression was that it is a bit run down. There are lots of dogs on the street, so I expect I'm going to have to watch where I step.

Our hotel is great, I took full advantage of washing some of my clothes in the sink before noticing the "do not wash clothes in the room" sign at the back of the door. Oops.


PeruHop bus- still our original ticket
Uros islands tour- $10 US per person
Isla del Sol tour- $10 US per person

Tip: if going over night on the Peru or Bolivia hop bus, go on the lower level cause the seats are bigger.

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