Lake Titikaka is the worlds largest lake above 2000 metres and sits on the border between Peru and Bolivia. It’s home to a variety of different cultures and languages with both Incan and Pre-Incan sites.It’s also an absolute treat for your eyes. It’s quite literally stunning backdrop after stunning backdrop.
Our first two nights were to be spent in home stays with the local people, something I was slightly apprehensive about given my neglible amount of Spanish. Our first stop was the community of Luquina on the mainland overlooking the lake. We were split up in to twos and so, me and Rav, headed off with our “new family” to their home. Luckily the family had three children, Felix, Benjamin and Melissa who were more than keen to sit with us and play cards pretty much all day. Our first task was to eat lunch with the two boys and were quite happy when they brought out a lovely bowl of vegetable and rice soup. We were less happy when they then followed that with a plate of rice and two different types of potatoes. We ate as much as we could before going with the children up to the school football pitch for a game with the local kids. We’d felt slightly breathless walking up the hills in La Paz but it’s amazing what a 10 yard sprint at 4000m can do to you. After that we headed back to the house for more cards and a dinner consisting of more soup, rice and, this time, pasta. It was at about this point that Ravi started to realise his body wasn’t exactly agreeing with the altitude and so pretty much just crashed for the night.
With nothing to do I was asleep by half 9 and, sleeping on my barbie pillow, had a really great nights sleep. We woke up early and were greeted by a breakfast consisting of yet more rice, a fried egg and some things that resembled bran in taste. With Ravi unable to eat I began my day of eating for two and so gallantly made it through my rice and egg, half of Ravs plus quite a few of the bran cakes. After that it was off to the port to head to Isla Taquile.
Taquile Island is a fairly big island on Lake Titikaka with around 2000 people living on it. It’s a fairly touristy place with quite a few restaurants and a cooperative shop selling high quality (more expensive) Alpaca goods. Our main reason for being there was to get some lunch. Yet again another awesome location for lunch, on the back of the island overlooking the lake. While the lake is home to around 7 local species it’s also home to trout (introduced from Canada) and Kingfish (introduced from Argentina) and with only two choices for lunch everyone went for the trout which was really really excellent. I also had a try of Inka Cola, which tastes a lot like Vimto in my opinion, and also some Coca Tea. Coca leaves are the leaves responsible for Cocaine and are chewed widely in the Andes as well as being used in tea.
After Taquile we headed to Isla Amantani to meet our second families. Me and Rav were not quite so lucky this time with us barely speaking any spanish and very quickly using our quick introduction to Quecha, the local language. Having a bit of a rest we then headed up to play football again. We played for far too long but it was great fun and definitely a good way of aclimatising. We just won’t mention the wall that I knocked down. After that we headed back where we had dinner, yet more soup and rice which by now I was eating far more of Ravi’s than he was. After dinner Ravi called it a day so on my own I headed to the fiesta. I, and everyone else, was given an Alpaca hat and poncho to wear and then walked down to a hall for some local music and dancing. Thankfully they put on a bit of a demonstation showing some “local dancing” based around agricultural practices. My cynical side would suspect that this was in fact a bit of a show purely for the tourists and as a result I didn’t really stay too long. I did, however, buy the hat. It turns out that while GAP like to believe they practice sustainable tourism they actually barely, if at all, give enough money for the families to cover the costs of having us stay.The following morning we had an early breakfast of pancakes and then headed off for the three hour boat trip to Puno via the floating islands of Uros.
I had no preconception of the floating islands of Uros but have to say that the community as a whole is probably the most amazing community I have ever seen. The islands are completely man made, being about two metres deep and almost completely made out of reeds. There are about 40 islands and the one that we visited housed 9 families and 30 people. It’s truly amazing, they have little fish farms within the islands, kitchens and homes which they have to replace every six months. My first contact with the island was jumping from the top of the boat on to the island at which point I realised that it’s basically like living on a giant cushion. It’s probably best to have a look at all of the photos. The one unfortunate, and I guess inevitable, thing is that with the youth going to the mainland for education it’s only a matter of time before the islands are not inhabited anymore.
After that, and a £13 original Uros rug later, we headed off to the mainland and the town of Puno. We also had some much needed meat and vegetables on the boat. Having eaten for two the past two days as well as basically being a carb fest I was feeling a little unhealthy to say the least.
We stayed in Puno one night before heading off to Cusco in the morning. Puno is a fairly nice town but nothing amazing to write about so I won’t!