Bolivia to Peru: Tiwanaku, Puno, lake Titicaca and the floating islands
Since we arrived late last night from Uyuni we missed the introductory meeting and the first dinner all together, so we met our CEO of G Adventure in the morning at breakfast. His name is Jimmy and he is a friendly guy from Peru. We slowly met the rest of the group, it’s 16 of us, 2 Ozzy couples travelling together Jacob, Tamara and Kane and Timara, two English couples Andy and Heather and Danielle and Henry, one couple from Sydney Habib and Yumna and two sisters from Canada Alberta called Paige and Maddy, and two solo travellers Dell from Sydney and Carlotta from Germany. Everyone apart from us and Andy and Heather from Devon have been travelling together already for 25 days departing from Rio de Janeiro. We are the newbies but the group looks lovely so far! After breakfast we got a private bus to Tiwanako to see the ruins from this tribe who cane before the inca. Our guide for the day was called Carmen, a very interesting lady from La Paz. After visiting the ruins in the morning we had a local lunch of lake trout where we got to know a bit better our group. After lunch some of us went back to the hotel by cable car and some by bus. The ones that went by cable car including us went to the pub to see the champions league final Real Madrid vs Atletico. I’ll leave it to Bruce to do the commentary (1 all, extra time, Pepe cheating as usual and Ronaldo scored winning penalty annoyingly) , but we had some local beers, and also free shots since the lady was coming around with a bottle and just pouring it in people’s mouth! After the footy we went back to the hotel and then had dinner at a cuban restaurant where we had some very tasty cheep and cheerful sandwiches and some Yuko fries which we are not too sure what they are. After that we got a take away hot chocolate and went to bed. Still amazed by the fact that we are staying for the second night in a row (after a few one nighters) in a room with heating, hot shower and clean sheets. Such a treat.
A long travel day. We got the first bus at 7:30 to Copacabana, a public bus that picks up people at different locations. After 3 hrs we had to get off, luckily since everyone needed the loo! We got on a boat and our bus with our luggage got in another boat. Then another 45 minutes and we got lunch after moving our bags in a new golden bus, and we had to eat in 15 minutes or our next bus wouldn’t wait for us. Shame because Copacabana looked like a really nice spot. No time to explore unfortunately, at 1pm we got on the second bus for another 4 hrs which included getting off at the border, first to exit Bolivia, then a short walk to enter Peru. Can’t believe we are already at the 13th country! We arrived in Puno at 4:15pm and checked into our rooms which were really nice, clean, warm, with hot showers and clean sheets which are things we now notice with joy and appreciate every single time. At 5pm we all met with Jimmy where he gave us a small tour of the city of Puno, we got our bearings and got cash out since we all needed peruvian money, and then we went for dinner at a place called Mojsa. We tried the trout from lake Titicaca and the Alpaca fillet, both very delicious. We also finished off with a brownie because why not. It’s only our first meal in Peru and it’s already better than Bolivia! After dinner we went for a couple of drinks at a bar called Positive with the two Ta/Timara and Jacob and Kane. I tried the Pisco sour which was very nice. Bed time at 10:30 since tomorrow we have another early start!
Today we are visiting two of the floating islands of lake Titikaka and then we are going to stay with a Peruvian family and help them with agriculture and other chores.
We woke up at 7am and had breakfast, we packed our bags but left them in the hotel since we are coming back to Puno tomorrow night. We are only bringing a small backpack for the day and night. Even then, we managed to be late and be the last ones to be ready. We started the day on the local pedalo tuk tuks, racing each other along the way which was a lot of fun! After that we stopped at the harbour to buy some presents for the family we are staying with, we got spaghetti, milk, fruits and pencils of the kids. We then got on the boat for 40 minutes before we reached the first floating island. It was a super tiny island all made of Reeds , a plant that they use for everything there, to cook, to eat, to build their house and their island. Their main activity is knitting, and the have beautiful colourful clothes, blankets and so on. They showed us how they built the island, how they built their boats which look a lot like gondolas and also how they hunt and fish to survive. There was a super cute little girl which played with us all morning, she was having a lot of fun falling on the soft ground and running around. We had a small paddle around some of the islands in their cool boat, and then got back to our big boat for two hours to get to the bigger island called Taquile. Lake Titikaka is really impressive, big 8000 square km, with giant frogs in that are 40cm long, and fresh waters that the locals use for showers, and also to drink directly from the lake. It’s also one of the highest lakes in the world at just under 4000m. It is truly impressive, with all the beautiful Andes surrounding the lake with their majestic white snowy peaks.
We arrived in Taquile island at 1pm and had a half an hour up hill hike to reach the main square of the village where we had lunch and we learnt about the men knitting, and the textiles here becoming unesco world heritage. The walk left us short of breath but it was good practice for Machu Picchu which is coming up very soon! Everyone in the island, which counts 2500 inhabitants, wears traditional clothing which looks a lot like Spanish traditional folklore, just more colourful. Husbands knit hats and belts with the hair of their wives in it so that they bring her with them wherever they go, as a sign of faithfulness. At lunch we had fresh trout from the lake, and the family restaurant had an amazing view over the cliff and the ocean… No wait, the lake! It’s so big and blue that you forget it’s a lake. During lunch a local guy played a few songs for us with two instruments, a guitar and a flute/pipes.
After lunch we walked down the hill that we climbed which was much easier than going up, for another half an hour to the boat, where we travelled for one hour to reach our homestay for the night. Once arrived we had to walk uphill again to get to the football pitch. There we were first introduced to the families we are staying with. Each couple is staying with a different family tonight. After a brief introduction we sat on the side looking at the game, until it was the turn of our team to play: Brucey in defense, then Andy, Habib, Henry, Jacob and our guide for the day called Ugo – Saul, and Kane in goal. The girls were cheering and our team won against the locals first, and then against two other tourist teams! After that the locals had another go and won this time! Well done lads! Brucey was quite sick towards the end as we are at 3,800 metres here and also got hit in the plums with a fierce shot!. It was an amazing location to play as well, with the almost sea (lake Titikaka) behind and a beautiful sunset over the horizon! After the last game, each couple got dressed up in local traditional clothes by the family member that we met earlier. Our man is called Frank and he is really nice and smiley, he is from Cuzco originally but his wife is from near here. Luckily Spanish and not Aymara is their main language. After getting dressed up, we watched them dancing and then had to join in and dance ourselves, it was very fun and actually not as awkward as we thought it would be. After the dances finished it was quite dark and we all divided to go and have dinner at our families. Frank’s wife is called Belinda and she is very nice and cooked us a lovely dinner. We then met his kids, Italo Andre who is 4 and Nicole who is just one. Both super cute. The dinner was good and with my basic Spanish and a bit of English we managed to communicate with them and have a laugh too. They have a pregnant donkey, cows, a sheep called Camilla amongst other sheep, and two dogs called Orso and Emilia. Tomorrow we will make bread, milk the cow, get some potatoes and also go fishing to get back the net that Frank has put up yesterday. They told us that they get guests every night, but they are very happy about it. I was a bit sceptical at first about a family stay, thinking it would be either awkward or a bit like a zoo where you disturb personal space of other people. But it hasn’t been like that at all, and I am so glad we got the opportunity to get to know better their way of life and day to day jobs. Our room is lovely and not too cold at all, with our own bathroom and a nice warm bed. The lack of oxygen and the dry air are making our nostrils bleed, and our throats dry all of the time. It will be so great and we will feel so energetic when we get to sea level again! Goodnight!
We woke up at 6:30am, Brucey had a bit of a headache since he had a rough night, woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep but did write a poem as we was bored!. We joined the family, Frank, Belinda, Andre and Nicol for breakfast at 7am. We helped make the bread and then ate a lot of it for breakfast, very yummy! After the bread we started helping them with their daily chores, we milked the cow, helped then to walk down the hill the sheep, the three pigs and the bull cow and calf. First we had to put a rope on them, then walk them down to the right spot, and then fix them to the ground with a metal peg. After that we went on a small rickety boat with water in it, with Frank and Andre to collect the nets that he had put a few days ago. We got thousands of very tiny fishes like white baits that we then had battered for lunch! So tasty. I got very seasick on the boat and wished I didn’t go, but when we got back I started to get better straight away. We then had to walk steep uphill back to the house, and Brucey struggled a bit with the altitude and the headache but was all good in the end. It really makes you think about how easy our life is. We were shattered, and we only helped them for half of the day! As we got up we played with Andre and the dogs Emilia and Orso, and their little 5 puppies, all boys and 4 weeks old. The cutest!! We then had a tasty lunch and it was time to say goodbye, after we wrote on the guest book and got our stuff we said goodbye to Belinda and went down the hill back to the port accompanied by Andre and Frank. We then said final goodbyes to them too, Andre was very sweet and got me a nice flower to say goodbye, and we then got back to the boat on the way to Puno.
I must admit I was expecting it to be a touristy, awkward experience to stay in a family but I really loved it, maybe because we were lucky to have such a nice family who made us feel at home, with cute kids and puppies too! It was so different from anything else we’ve done in this trip, and I am very grateful we did it. The families are happy to have tourists and they probably get a good income from it, and for a traveller this is such a great way of getting to know the country better by being part of their day to day for a day. On the way to Puno the brave Andy and Jacob jumped out of the boat and in the lake, and immediately got out since the water was really cold. We also spotted a flamingo flying solo over the lake.
We arrived in Puno at 2pm, and had to walk to the hotel since there is a bus strike today and in the coming days. They love a strike in South America, it’s so frustrating! We got to the hotel and chilled and had an amazing hot shower and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. In the evening we went out for dinner and celebrated Habib’s birthday, who is turning 30 today. In the restaurant band and dancers started to perform local music, but everyone after a couple of songs was starting to hope it would finish soon. After about half an hour we all had enough, and as soon as we found out that there were another three songs and dances, we all decided to leave. Not a huge fan of the Peruvian flutes. After dinner a few of us, Andy, Heather, Kane, Jimmy, Tamara and Jacob went for a drink at Positive bar, the same we went to a couple of days ago. The waiter hated Brucey as he kept asking him to take pictures and they would never come out properly “Hey buddy, do you mind taking another photo?”