It is not certain what the name Titicaca means but it has been translated as 'Rock Puma', supposedly because it resembles the shape of a puma hunting a rabbit and also, more prosaically, as 'Crag of Lead'. In any case, at 3812m it is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world.
This was a two centre stop. One in Puno in Peru and one in Copacabana in Bolivia.
We took the bus from Cusco across a 4800m pass. Stark altiplano with towering peaks and mirrored wetlands gave way to the dazzlingly clear skies and sapphire blue of Lake Titicaca.
Puno is another mud-coloured town. Windowless buildings made of mud and dust tumble down the slopes onto the shore of the lake. The main purpose of our visit was to take a trip out to the Islas Flotantes de los Uros. A group of about 42 inhabited, man-made islands constructed out of reeds. Originally built to defend the city, being easily moveable if a threat arose, they have now taken up position in the tourist trade. The islands are continuously reconstructed with fresh reeds and have reed houses, restaurants, hotels, watchtowers, boats and a school. Some islands have solar panels and TV (not made of reeds).
Tourists are shown construction methods and rowed between islands in enormous reed boats with puma heads. We returned to Puno in the deepening blues and golds of sunset, chased by the broken reflection of the moon rippling in the water.
Back on the bus again across the Bolivian border to Copacabana. A supposedly short journey was made longer when our Peruvian bus company was not allowed, due to international disputes, to leave the border for the 8km journey into town. After our driver spent a fruitless age trying to negotiate with the Bolivian border patrol, we backed up into the parking lot to wait for a convoy of colectivos to come to our rescue. While we waited we watched a young lad pack up his mobile restaurant complete with table, chairs, condiments, table cloth and washing up bucket, onto his push-bike.
Copacabana is a more touristy version of Puno. Stalls line the streets stocked with huge, overflowing sacks of popcorn and fortune tellers work with silver foil and stuffed armadillos. As we were reaching the end of Semana Santa, the town also played host to walking and cycling pilgrims setting up camp on the beach.
The magnificent cathedral, with a ceiling painted like a circus tent, took pride of place in the town square and was the venue for the twice daily Blessing of the Cars. A whole queue of vehicles, in various states of disrepair and decorated in lavish bunches of flowers, waited to receive their individual blessing from a priest dressed in a brown gown, jeans, trainers and a baseball cap. The blessing itself consisted of holy water from a bucket being sprinkled under the hood with a pink wand, not unlike a washing up brush, while firecrackers were being set off. It's a bit mad, Ted.
Copacabana is the gateway to Isla del Sol, the largest island in the lake and the mythical origin of the Incas, so Good Friday saw us up early to catch a ride on a delapidated boat. Powered by outboard motor, the short crossing took 2 roasting hours in the glare of the sun. Once we had our land legs back, we made our way from the north end of the island, across the mountain, to the Inca Steps in the south. There is an enormous sense of peace here but despite the boost of tourism to the island's economy the inhabitants still live a traditional life, subsisting on their small patch of land; 2-3 cows tethered in the back yard and mules and piglets roaming the beach.
Back in town, a torchlit procession marked Good Friday, by climbing to the top of Calvaire Hill, following the stations of the cross, above our hostel.