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EXPLORING LAKE TITICACA ISLANDS, FROM BOLIVIA TO PERU

Day 128

sunny 18 °C
View South America itinerary on carochauvet's travel map.

I got to Copacabana after 3h in a bus with beautiful views over the lake and met some nice people in the bus: Peter, Swedish, Leena, English, and Cesar, Italian. We all ended up going to the same hostel and had some drinks enjoying the nice views over the harbour. We decided to go to Isla del Sol the next day but in the afternoon as it was meant to be raining in the morning. However it was really sunny in Copacabana so we went up the Calvario hill to get good views over the city. Because of the altitude it was a very tiring ascension! We reached 4,000m at the top and were rewarded with stunning views over the city and the lake.
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Peter had a bus to Cusco so Leena, Cesar and I took the boat to South of Isla del Sol and after another tiring walk up a giant hill (with 240 steps), we booked a night at a hostel there. Isla del Sol is a rocky hilly island where live traditional communities, about 800 families - there are no motor vehicles or paved roads on the island which means you have to walk everywhere (or ride a donkey!). You can see agricultural terraces on many hills on the island: despite the harsh terrain, they still manage to grow corn, quinoa, habas (beans) and potatoes. We went for a walk around to explore the beautiful rugged landscapes with panoramic views over the lake and got some wine to share while enjoying the sunset. We finished the day with a delicious meal including the traditional trout of course! We went to bed early as we were tired and it was freeezing cold.
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We were up early the next morning and ready to walk and explore the island. We followed the path going through the hills in order to get the best overview of the island. We walked through different villages, from Yumani in the South to Cha'llapampa in the North, for about 2.5h. As we got towards the North we saw the landscape changing a lot, from green cultivated lands to dry rocky areas with dramatic cliffs ending in beautiful beaches: views were breathtaking! We also saw some pre-Inca ruins all set in this amazing location, including the impressive Chinkana, a labyrinth-like building that is thought to have been used as a place for meditation or for the initiation of the priests to the cult of Inti (the sun).
Did you know that Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world at 3,800m? The Incas consider Lake Titicaca to be the birthplace of the Inca civilisation: the Inca legend says that Viracocha, the bearded god who created the universe, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun at this location. Looking at how beautiful it is, it's not difficult to believe their story...
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We took the boat back to Copa and after a quick lunch and a few hours, I met with Ryan again and we all got into the bus towards Peru: Leena and Cesar to Cusco, Ryan to Arequipa and me to Puno. The border crossing to Peru was a little painful as we had to wait for 1h outside the immigration office in the cold at night while the only immigration officer present was doing all the paperwork and stamping on his own - classic South American lack of efficiency! But I got to Puno safely and went straight to bed. The next morning I started exploring the city and got told the entire city was out of electricity until 2pm haha... I couldn't get any money out (= soles, peruvian currency) to pay for my hotel or food or anything! Thank god I managed to find an ATM that did have a separate electricity supply so it all worked out in the end.
I decided to go to the port to go to the Uros islands, the famous and unique floating islands of the Lake Titicaca. The Uros people use bundles of dried totora reeds (which grow in the lake) to make reed boats and the islands themselves. The dense roots form a natural layer that support the islands and they are anchored to the bottom of the lake to prevent them from drifting. The reeds at the bottom of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top every three months. Reeds are also used to light the fire for cooking and can even be eaten! (it tastes like palm hearts) Entire communities of people live on the 42 islands and you can find everything they need there, including schools and shops. They traditionally speak the Aymará language and have their own traditions, songs and costumes which we were lucky to witness. We met a lot of cute children running around who showed us their school and their games, it was very nice to learn more about the way they live on those islands.
When I came back I finally managed to meet with Anna and Baptiste, it was so nice to catch up with them! They were on their way to Cusco and after that hey would be going straight to Mexico so it was the last time I would see them... maybe next time in South of France!
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I went to the port in the morning again and decided to go to Amantani and Taquile on my own, avoiding the organised tours. It involved doing a homestay and I had heard that tour companies often took advantage of the families and didn't pay them fairly which I didn't like. Getting to Amantani took about 4h and I met 2 nice girls on the boat: Eva, French and Alina, German. When we arrived on Amantani, some families were waiting for us and we went with a very nice couple, Constantino and his wife who had a pretty house where they made us feel very welcome. His wife prepared a simple yet delicious meal for us with quinoa soup, grilled cheese, vegetable and different kinds of potatoes, and we also tasted a delicious tea infused with mounia, a local herb found on the island. It looked like our family was probably relatively wealthy as they had a proper kitchen with a cooker, when other people told us their families cooked on an open fire on the floor. Then we went on a walk up the steep hill, made even harder because of the altitude, we had to stop every 5min! We finally arrived to the Pachata temple ruins at the top where we had beautiful views of the island. We also tried picarones, a kind of local donut made by a lovely Peruvian lady, served with a very sweet syrup, it was delicious! Then we came back home and had some time to relax before another nice home-made dinner and an early night.
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The next morning we got up early and after a delicious breakfast made by our host, it was time to say goodbye and go back to the boat. An hour later we arrived on Taquile island, where we went for a good walk up the hill with great views. We were very lucky with the weather as it was super sunny. We learned a lot about the traditions of the islanders. All their traditional clothes have a signification: for women, bigger and more colourful pompons on a shawl means she is single, but smaller and more subtle ones means she is married and therefore shouldn't get herself noticed. For men, the colour of the hat varies depending if it's a boy, a single or a married man. And then the chief of the village always wear a colourful Peruvian hat with a colourful little bag with pompons that show his authority. To greet each other, men won't shake hands, however one will remove its hat and the other will put coca leaves in there as a sign of respect. I bought a little bracelet made on the island, as well as one of those beautifully crafted bags at the cooperative, it had the name of the woman who had made it - I just couldn't resist the little pompons :) We also got a demonstration of this amazing plant that can be used as a natural detergent! We had a nice lunch in the sun, with the traditional quinoa soup, fresh trout & omelette, and tried the famous Inca Kola drink: bright yellow and fizzy, it tastes like bubble gum! It was then time to head back to the boat to return to Puno.
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And this is the story of how I explored Lake Titicaca from both the Bolivian and Peruvian sides!

Coming soon: the rest of my Peruvian adventures, from Arequipa to Ica/Huacachina and Lima.

x

Posted by carochauvet 06:12 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises lakes nature island brazil bolivia uros lake_titicaca amantani taquile isla_del_sol

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Comments

New places and incredible natural show.
Lake appears like a sea, beautiful landscape by terraces on the banks and hillside, amazing people with their secret (for stangers) welcoming policy, simple but appetizing food. What an amount of feelings and pictures you kept in mind, as well as in your camera. It's a privilege to discover all that different aspects of such a place, especialy with chance to be hosted by locals and live for a while like they do. Like Iguazu waterfalls at the border of Brazil and Argentina, it's so interesting to visit the lake on both sides.
Let's go soon to Arequipa !

by Pap

I like the meaning for the pompons that's a nice use .
It's a good idea to live with a typical family it was certainly an interessing experience.

by Mummy

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