Peru & Bolivia – Lake Titicaca

We spent a couple of days in Cusco post-Machu Picchu relaxing and catching-up on sleep.  Laundry was washed, replacement phone chargers were purchased, pharmacies were visited, and we watched King Kong in Spanish (think we got the gist of it).  We decided to take the Bolivia Hop bus from Cusco > Puno > Copacabana > La Paz, because we had really enjoyed Peru Hop, and they would assist with the border crossing into Bolivia.

The bus left Cusco at 10:00pm and arrived just before 6:00am the next day in Puno.  We had signed up for a day trip out the the Floating islands on Lake Titicaca, so we went to the hotel, checked in, had a quick nap, and then jumped on a minibus at 8:00am out to the docks.

Lake Titicaca is HUGE, and you’d very easily be mistaken into thinking it was an ocean.  The weather was perfect, and the small boat that took us to the floating islands was comfortable.  When we arrived on the island we were given an introduction on how the locals build the islands out of reeds, and how they rely on tourist money to support their traditional way of life.  The ladies sang to us, and dressed us up in their clothes which was super sweet.   We took a short trip out on one of their boats, and watched how they harvest the reeds required to maintain the island.  It was an interesting experience, however I felt pressured to purchase their crafts.

Next the boat took us out to Taquile Island, which took roughly two hours.  There were a lot of stairs (*groan*), a small square, some markets, and not much else except a nice landscape.  We had a lovely lunch with the tour group overlooking the lake, but I personally don’t think it was worth the time spent on the boat to get out there.  I would recommend just signing up for the two hour tour to the floating islands.

I was still feeling sick, but hoping that I’d soon come good with the meds from the pharmacy, so I stayed in for the rest of the night while Pedro went for an explore.  He said that Puno had a lively main square, and there were a lot of people out and about.  But it is really just a stop-off to cross into Bolivia.

The border crossing the next day was painless – unless you were from the U.S of A.  Two people on our bus were Yanks, and they had to run into a shop adjacent to the Immigration office in order to print out (for an exorbitant price) flight confirmations and trip itineraries, and also shell out for the reciprocity fee.  I don’t think the officer even looked at me to confirm that I was the person on my passport – just stamped, and waved me away.

It wasn’t long to Copacabana from the border crossing.  The town looked like a beach side getaway, with lots of hotels, restaurants and markets.  But it was raining when we arrived, and there was no footpath from the White Anchor on the foreshore where we’d been dropped off, to the hotel.  We trudged along the gravel road, trying to avoid the puddles as we dragged out bags.  Like everywhere in Peru, there were stray dogs roaming about, tearing apart garbage bags left on the ground, and spilling their contents everywhere.

We stayed at a hotel called the Mirador del Lago, and it was a very strange place indeed.  While the rooms were basic and in need of an update, the foyer area boasted grand ceilings, a large lounge area, and a pool table.  Upstairs was a huge restaurant / breakfast room, and all of the bedrooms had windows with a view of the lake.  It looked like it could have been a very lush hotel back in its heyday –  but alternatively, maybe it always strived to be something extraordinary but had always failed to hit the mark.  It was hard to tell, but it definitely had potential.  Pedro and I played pool, and watched the sunset over Lake Titicaca on one of the hotel’s balconies.

The next day we took a boat to Isla del Sol.  We left our bags at the Mirador, but a lot of other tourist had their huge backpacks on the boat, and it was extremely cramped.  It was raining, the roof leaked, and we sat at the very front of the boat on hard, wet timber benches for the 90 minute journey.  The entire time I worried about the boat getting into trouble, because there was no way we’d be able to get off before it sank.

Pedro’s initial thought when we finally arrived was one of annoyance when we had to pay two cholitas to just set foot on the island.   We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay, so we followed a youngster up another thousand stairs (the kid laughed at me struggling) to look at different accommodation options.   We settled on a triple bed room with a very dark, dingy bathroom with an electric shower head which sprayed a hot mist at you.  Frankly, it was too f-ing cold to take my kit off, so I didn’t worry about the condition of the bathroom.  The winning feature was the sensational terrace where we sat and soaked in the view of the island, and played with the family’s pets.  We went exploring up a bit higher on the south-side of the island to where there were more hotels / hostels and restaurants, and yet more incredible views.  There were ruins scattered over the island, the main ones being to the north.  But we decided to pass – after being in Machu Picchu just a few days previous, we didn’t think it was worth the hike.  We later found out from some friends that the three indigenous groups on the island (North, Central, and South) were fighting, because the villages in the North and South collected money from tourists arriving on the island by boat, but there is no boat access the the Central village so they missed out and wanted a cut.  And in the mean time, they weren’t allowing tourists to cross through their village to get from the north to the south, and vice-versa.

We woke up early the next day and walked back down the millions of stairs to the dock and caught the 10:00am ferry back to Copacabana.  Our bus to La Paz didn’t leave until later in the day, so we hung out at the Mirador and used their wi-fi to plan the next leg of our South American adventure.

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