Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia

La Paz Travel Blog

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Hola! Been a bit busy since I got back from the jungle. I had another couple of days in Cusco, where I saw some of the sights that I didn't get to before the Inca Trail and the Jungle. I went to Sacsayhuaman and a few other Inca sites on an organised tour, the guide wasn't very inspiring and I think I should have seen them before Machu Picchu. I aslo went to the Sunday market at Pisac and spent the afternoon in the Sacred Valley, which is beautiful. It felt a bit strange to be finally leaving Cusco because I'd spent about 3 weeks in and around but my last stop in Peru was Puno and Lake Titicaca.

I met a really nice Canadian couple - Luke and Sue ( I have to say they are nice because I know they are going to be reading this!) and I latched onto them as soon as I met them at the bus terminal.

The Guinea Pig
We endured a very stinky journey to Puno, sat by the loo for 6 hours, it was bad! Puno was bigger than I expected and as everywhere else I've encountered in SA they were having a festival, Puno Week, so lots more parades. We went out for dinner, Luke wanted to try the Guinea Pig too but I bottled it and went for the Alpaca instead. True to form it arrived like road kill on a plate! There was very little meat on it and the skin was really tough, I tried it but it didn't really taste of anything, quite disappointing really. We had an entertaining evening in the restaurant because it was halloween, hoards of kids dressed in some really great costumes kept coming in to get sweets. They all said Halloween and not trick or treat though. Sue convinced Luke to go and buy sweets so that she could give them to the kids too but we got mobbed! We also attracted the attention of 2 cheeky young lads selling finger puppets.
Me in traditional costume - Amantani
Luke had promised early to buy some and they kept appearing at the restaurant door, Luke gave in first, then another customer and then Sue, you had to be there, it was very entertaining!

The following day, I latched onto them again and we went to the port to see if we could get a boat out to the reed islands. We probably paid a little over the odds but it still wasn't that much and was worth every penny. We had our own private boat which took the three of us first to Uros, the reed islands on Lake Titicaca. There are dozens of tiny little islands and we headed for one where we were met by the ladies. Stepping onto the reeds was quite strange, they were spongy. They gave us an excellent demonstration of how they build the islands and we saw the reed boats being made, it was really interesting. Sue had photos of people that friends had taken on their visit and it turned out that one of the women lived on the island opposite, so we had a ride over in a reed boat to give her the pictures.

Afterwards, David, our captain took us to Amantani, where we were going to stay the night with a local family. We didn't really know what was going on because we hadn't arranged it with an agency, so I used what little Spanish I had to get us by. We were met at the harbour by Emilia (aged 17), our host, she was dressed in beautiful traditional costume and led us to her house. She lived with her Mum, Dad and younger brother Johnny (10). Her sisters had moved away. We were fed almost as soon as we arrived and sat in the Kitchen with Emilia and her Mum, it was brilliant and we had the best fresh mint tea. Dad appeared and I asked what was happening in the evening, Dad said that the Disco started at 8pm but we didn't realise that we would have to eat again first! We went for a walk to try and make room for our next two course meal 2 hours later but it was a stuggle. We watched the sunset over the island and walked back to the house in the moonlight. It was amazingly clear, no light pollution and so very very quiet.

After round 2, more soup and rice. Emilia changed again into her traditional costume and we were given clothes to wear too. Luke had a poncho and Sue and I had the works, wait till you see the pictures. Mum got us ready and tied the waistband so tight, that I thought I was going to be ill after all that food! We walked up hill to some kind of village hall (Sue, I won't mention about you knocking down the stone wall and nearly killing some sheep, because I know you were mortified!!). All the other Gringos who had arrived on the island in a group were there and were already dancing with their hosts. After having a good laugh at everybody else, we had a little dance. It was boiling though because we were wearing our clothes underneath the costume. Great fun though. We alked back again in the moonlight.

The following day, we had breakfast with Mum in the kitchen and then Emilia took us to the boat at 7am. We went over to Taquile Island where David left us for a few hours. He didn't say anything about the hours walk to the plaza though! We met several kids along the way but they all came begging to us, which was quite sad, we hadn't experienced anything like that on Amantani. We arrived in the plaza expecting it to be full of people selling their things but it was empty. We were the first gringos to arrive but more followed. It was a stange little place, not a great deal there. We watched a few stalls set up as more people arrived but we didn't see the men knitting their hats which the island is famous for. The men are proud of their hats and have different colours depending on their marital status, red and white hats apparently mean that they are single. We had to walk to the other port to meet David to take us back to Puno. Whilst the people we met were friendly enough, I much prefered the other Island and was glad that we had stayed there. It was quite a long journey back to Puno but we had the boat to ourselves, it was nice not to be with a big tour group.

Luke and Sue left for Arequipa the same day and I bought a ticket to La Paz, Bolivia. I really wish I had more time in Peru, I didn't want to leave. There were other gringos on my bus, because it is the only one that takes you across the border without having to change buses. I got chatting to the Dutch guy in front of me, he is doing exactly the same trip as me, first time I've met someone doing the same! The road at the border was chaos, full of stalls and people coming and going, we had to get off and walk to the Peruvian Immigration before crossing to the Bolivian side and then going back to the bus which had got stuck in the traffic. The paperwork side of things was fine and I made sure that I just followed everyone else, but the Ecuador/Peru border was much better.

I've been in La Paz for 3 days, I couldn't get a tour to the Salt Plains until tomorrow, so I am taking an overnight bus tonight to Uyuni. Good job I have had some free time because I've got a stinking cold, I need my duvet and some Chocolate Digestives! Not sure about Bolivia, although the scenery hasn't changed that much, the roads are in a far worse condition and even in La Paz, the capital there are huge holes in the pavement, which the women are working to repair. I don't get the feeling that this is a very safe place either, lots of police around. Even so I have ventured out to see the witch craft market and the coca leaf museum. The museum was really interesting, I didn't know that they still used coca leaf in Coca Cola or that we are one of 36 countries that are legally allowed to grow Cocaine.

I will be in Chile next time I email! Once I have done the Salt Plains, I am getting a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, the desert in Chile. Not sure what my plans are after that, apart from heading South. Still a lot of distance to cover. Hope you had a good bonfire evening, will up load photos next time.

luccote says:
Hi Helen,

Luc and Sue here.....

We had a wonderful time in Peru, and you definitely were of great help as our personal translator on Lake Titikaka. (Tee Hee....we can say "Lake Titikaka" without really).

Sue thanks you for keeping quiet about her sheep-maiming-wall-wrecking incident.

We look forward to reading more about the rest of your trip as we wallow in self-pity for being snow-bound up here in Toronto.

Happy trails...

Luc and Sue
Posted on: Nov 12, 2006
Boughtonbetty says:
Wow Helen, what an adventure you're having! Love the photo of you in the Amantani costume but not sure about the guinea pig! There has been a bit of a fuss in the papers over here because the lottery fund wouldn't contribute towards a memorial for those killed in conflicts here yet one of the things that did receive funding was guinea pig farming in Peru! Anyway, there has been a change of heart and a contribution has now been given.
Glad to see you have experienced staying with a family and that you are trying the local "delicacies"! All part of the adventure, isn't it?
Hope your cold is better and you can enjoy the next stage of your journey.
Luv, B & T
Posted on: Nov 12, 2006
Cookies says:
Sounds like the most amazing journey - I won't need to buy another travel adventure I'll just read yours you've done so much I've not had a chance to read it all yet - will enjoy another instalment tomorrow - we miss you but are pleased you are living the dream:) Lots of love, Cookies xxx
Posted on: Nov 07, 2006
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The Guinea Pig
The Guinea Pig
Me in traditional costume - Amanta…
Me in traditional costume - Amant…
La Paz
photo by: wilfredoc2009