Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lago Titicaca - Perú > Bolivia

I love the fact that everything in South America is so extreme, and what would be more fitting then to go from “one of the world’s deepest canyons” to “the world’s highest altitude lake”. Not only does it have a name worth snickering at, but Lake Titicaca also sits at 3,811 meters/12,500 feet and belongs to two countries, Peru and Bolivia. We first headed for the Peru side of the lake, via a town called Puno. In hindsight, it was a mistake, but hindsight is always 20/20. Puno is a hole. A nasty, boring hole with little to offer. Sorry Puno, but it’s true. We took a boat to the Floating Islands, aka, “The World’s Biggest Tourist Trap”. Ohh la la. At one point these islands were home to the Uros people and are completely “artificial” islands, composed of mass amounts of reeds which are everywhere on the lake.

Currently, the people inhabiting these islands are not Uros at all, as the tribe has disappeared over time; and as the years have passed, these islands have become like a reed filled Disneyland, and most of us were completely disenchanted. However, the boat ride was serene and incredibly beautiful, so we passed the afternoon catching some sun and staring at the cool blue waters of this historical lake.

Our next stop was the island of Taquile, home to indigenous people and remarkable views. We made the hike to the main square at the peak of the island and caught glimpses of the quiet local life all around. As it was Sunday, there were some traditional ceremonies taking place and it was quite interesting to observe. For lunch we took fresh trout from the lake on a patio with an amazing view ($3.25) and eventually made the scenic walk back to our trusty boat. We planned to spend the night on this island with a family, as homestays are a popular option here, but after a quick assessment of the situation we decided it was all too contrived and headed back to Puno for a cheap night in the hostel before heading out early the next day.

Oh, Bolivia. How I wish it didn’t cost $135 USD to step foot into your crazy country! Only for us lucky North Americans, that is. It’s not like I personally charge foreigners obscene amounts of money to come to the US, but I guess I’ll pay the price…

We arrived in Copacabana, and it’s not exactly like Barry Manilow was singing about, although there’s a chance he was thinking of the world’s most beautiful beach, Copacabana, Brazil. Just maybe. But the town isn’t without its charm, and the mirador proved to be the most picturesque way to enjoy a bird’s eye view. Moments like that one make you feel like the whole world is quite alright!

The following day another boat dumped us on the shores of Isla Del Sol. This island is enthralling not only because it’s bursting with beauty, but also because it is the birth place of the Incas. Today, there are no motor vehicles or paved roads, not so different from when it was first inhabited (3rd millennium BCE). Approximately 800 families live there, and it’s believed that the Sun God rose from the waters onto this island, which started the religion of the Incas. The nearby Isla Del Luna is where he commanded the Moon to rise from.

view of Isla Del Luna, from Isla Del Sol

With this vision in mind, Douglas, Nicolas and I set out on a simple walk around the island for the afternoon. Apparently ‘simple’ is not something we can actually achieve, although no complaints because we explored the entire island thoroughly. Like déjà vu from the Colca Canyon, in our attempt to avoid paying the tourist tickets at various points we got “lost” and spent a good amount of time trekking up and down in the wrong directions. As this island is small and not “the world’s deepest canyon”, it wasn’t nearly so worrisome. We found what had to be the most beautiful beach of the island just in time for a late lunch. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday afternoon!

That evening proved completely ridiculous, and the avoidance of another tourist ticket got us driven out of the north east part of the island. We took shelter in a nearby eco refuge who didn’t seem to mind (or know) that we were convicts in hiding who refused to pay $2 on points of the highest principle. The cold beer was amazing, the sunset was stunning, Dougie’s sickness from bad water was wrenching, the night was fantastically freezing. A suitable start to three weeks of adventure in Bolivia!


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