Had a funny bus journey from La Paz to Copacabana, Lake Titicaca. When we got to a narrow part of the lake called Estrecho de Titicaca that we had to cross, all the passengers got into small motor boats while the bus got ferried across on a very dubious looking platform. Once on the other side the bus took us to the small town of Copacabana which is nestled in between two hills and perched on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca.
Lake Titicaca is South America´s largest lake and adds a beautiful splash of sapphire to the dry altiplano landscape. At an elevation of 3820m, more than 230km long, 97km wide and 300m deep in parts, the freshwater lake (from rain and glaciers) sits in between Bolivia and Peru. Apparently they share it 50:50 but each country says they have 60% and the other has 40%!!
We stayed at Hotel Utama (double, ensuite, brekkie and a lake view for a tenner), had lunch at Pueblo Viejo and then climbed up Cerro Calvario (3966m), the hill north of the town, which took 30mins of huffing and puffing, to watch the sunset over the lake. For dinner, at La Cupula, I had the local speciality - farmed Lake Titicaca Trucha Criolla, one of the world´s largest trout. Jem ordered a lovely piece of dry chicken that ended up upsetting his stomach - should have gone for the lovely fresh trout I had!!!
On Thursday, after watching BBC World News and remembering that it was September 11th, we caught the 8.30am boat to Isla del Sol.
Isla del Sol, the Island of the Sun, is the legendary Inca creation site and the birthplace of the sun in Inca mythology. The very slow, 2hr boat journey took us to the north of the island, to the village of Cha´llapampa. From there we walked to the inca ruins of Chinkana along the uphill trail passing Piedra Sagrada (Sacred Stone), Roca Sagrada (Sacred Rock), where the Inca creation legend began and Meso de Sacrificio (Table of Sacrifice) on the way. From chinkana, in the north, we followed the very steep uphill and downhill path to the south. On the way we passed different people selling tickets for 5/10 bolivianos each, which we had to buy in order to pass (the money goes to the local village). We realised, when we got to the offical ticket seller with photo id, that one of the ticket sellers was a phony selling fake tickets and because we were one of the first people to walk the trail that day, no-one knew he was doing it. As soon as the offical guy found this out he got his friend to run back to where the phony guy was and stop him. Unfortunately for us we had to pay again! The landscape on the island is very dry and hilly with little stone houses dotted around. There´s not much to look at but the gorgeous view of Lake Titicaca makes it all worthwhile. After three hours of walking at altitude in the baking heat we arrived in the southern village of Yumani. We walked down the thousand steps of Escalera del Inca (Inca Stairway) to the jetty at Fuerte del Inca where our boat picked us up. On the way back to Copacabana the boat stopped at the island´s southern Inca ruins - Pilko Kaina.
Yesterday we visited the local market and the sparkling Moorish-style Cathedral which was built between 1605 and 1820. We paid a visit to the famous wooden Virgen de Copacabana statue, housed upstairs in the Camarin de la Virgen. We also lit a candle in the dark and creepy Capilla de Velas (Candle Chapel) where thousands of candles illuminate an arched sepulchre and wax graffiti cakes the walls. While Jem got another dodgy hair cut and beard trim, I sat in the main square in front of the Cathedral and waited for the colourful Benediciones de Movilidades 10am Cha´lla - blessing of automobiles. All the cars were parked outside ready, there were lots of locals milling around, some with miniture vehicles to bless but at 11am when nothing had happened I decided to leave - typical Bolivian time!!
At 1.30pm we caught the 3hr bus to Puno, a small port in Peru on the otherside of Lake Titicaca, via the border at Yunguyo. After checking into American Inn we had a wander round town, past the Cathedral which overlooks a pretty square. We had a drink in a cool bar called La Hosteria, another in Kamizaraky Rock pub and then had a lovely meal at La Casona. Here there are the usual women dressed in pleated skirts, shawls and bowler hats and surprisingly there are lots of Tuk Tuks and Cyclos.
Today we took a 20min boat trip to the Islas Flotantes, the man-made floating Islands of the Uros people, located in the Bay of Puno, Lake Titicaca. There are around 60 islands, 20 of which don´t have tourists visiting them, which are built using blocks of roots and the totora reeds that grow in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. Three to ten Uro-Aymaras families, who speak Aymara language, live on each island and they make their homes, boats and crafts using the reeds. We had a look round an island called Qhantanti, got to taste the reed (taste a bit like cabbage) which they eat and saw inside their homes. The community has a medical centre, a church, a nursery school and three high schools. Their diet consists of fish, birds eggs, they can grow potatoes in the roots of the island in the warmer summer and they exchange the above and the crafts that they make for things like corn, barley, beans and coca leaves. We also had a ride in a reed boat (see picture) which was good fun - hard work for the guy who had to row though! The islands are very touristy but it was interesting to see what they were like and how people lived on them.
On the way back to Puno in the boat we passed the oldest boat on the lake, the iron ship Yavari, built in England in the 1960´s and transported from the Pacific Coast over the Andes (in pieces on mules) to Puno. This took six years and in 1870 the ship was launched. It´s now a museum and not in use.
Once back in Puno we had some yummy quiche and cheesecake at a bakery called Ricos Pan and visited La Casa del Corregidor (Chief Magistrates House) which is a 17th century colonial mansion with an art exhibition, cafe and craft shop.
Tomorrow we get the Inka Express to Cusco, which stops at Inca sites along the way. I´ll be in touch from Cusco, lots of love xxxx