Days: 308 (29 April 2015)
Total distance travelled: 58,668.6 kilometres (36,440.12 miles)
“What is Lake Titicaca?”
Ever since those words were uttered in the Bill Murray movie, ‘Groundhog Day’ (in an episode of ‘Jeopardy’ no less), it’s immediately the first association I’ve had when my mind, for whatever reason, drifts to Lake Titicaca. When we arrived in the town of Puno which hugs its shores, I wondered if this would finally change.
We knew we’d arrive late in the afternoon, but our lengthy journey from Arequipa got us there even later than scheduled, so it was on the cusp of dusk when we finally did arrive at the town’s bus terminal.
Having already booked a hostel as well, we weren’t so concerned in that regard, as we even had directions which should get us there, even on foot, within ten to fiftenn minutes, so off we set.
Our directions weren’t perfect, but we still found our way in good time (we’d found our way thanks to a combination of the map shown on Hostelworld and Google maps)… only there was no hostel.
We tried around the corner, on the opposite side of the road. Nope, not there.
Having another look at the information we had, it listed this correct road, but the numbers didn’t match the location.
So, after quickly asking for directions, we had little other option but to try and find the the street number that we had, which happened to be about nine blocks away!
It was by now almost dark and starting to get cold, so the best way to keep warm was to just keep walking.
Eventually we got there, the address being a fairly nondescript door with a buzzer, but with little else as an option, so we gave it a push.
Thankfully (and luckily) for us, this was it, even though there was no indication at all from the exterior!
Relieved, we offhandedly mentioned our dramas, to which the woman at reception casually replied, that she knew the map was not correct!!
Apparently it had never proven an issue before as every other guest had simply arrived from the bus terminal by taxi!
A little bit pissed off that they didn’t make any mention of this error on the Hostelworld booking website, we nevertheless checked in, as after all, it was dark, we were hungry, and knew of nowhere else to go!
We assumed we’d need at least one additional night here, as it was by now pretty late to try and get on board a tour to the famous Islas Uros (Lake Titicaca’s famous floating islands), but when we mentioned it to our hostess, she said it would likely be no problem, we could probably even confirm the following morning, as long as we let her know by about quarter past six (that’s 6:15am)!
Armed with this fresh information, we made our way into town for a feed, and also to try our luck with some other tour agencies.
We found and haggled our way around the tourist offices, but ultimately opted to stick with the tour options we’d discussed back in our hostel… only when we got in from dinner, our hostess was nowhere to be found.
Rising just after the sun, I made sure I did find her nice and early, and she got us on board a tour for that very morning, so we were able to relax a little over breakfast.
We’d booked the cheapest option they had, which we warned could sometimes have group sizes of thirty to forty people, but we took a chance in the hope it wouldn’t be so bad.
Once down in the harbour, we were bundled into a boat, where a grand total of five others joined us… from a possible forty down to seven in an hour or so!
One final rather cool looking cat (in his leather jacket and USA 94 Roberto Baggio haircut) joined us on board, our captain cast off, and suddenly Baggio grabbed hold of the microphone.
Surely he doesn’t sing as well!?
Turns out, he was in fact our guide!
He proved very adept at switching his spiel very smoothly between both Spanish and English, and about fifty minutes later, we were on the approach to one of Uros’ eighty seven floating islands.
So how do they float? Why they’re man made of course… from reeds!
One of the largest (and most touristic ones) even has an ATM!
Somewhat thankfully for us, ours was far smaller, home to only five small huts and three families, it certainly looked incredibly cramped. I hope everybody gets along well together…
It was quite an amazing sensation setting foot on the floating, spongy island, the reeds themselves regularly added to (with a fresh layer on top) as the increasingly wetter layers below begin to rot away.
Incredibly, not only do they live atop it, but the reeds can also been eaten!
Talk about green living…
These were the sort of local peoples we were eager to support (the bigger tour groups seem to head to that aforementioned larger island… everybody must need that ATM), and they certainly had plenty of hand (and reed) constructed goodies ready for purchase.
We forked out a little cash, they sung us a song of farewell, and we were on our way to another, more solid and natural island by the name of Taquile.
Being a couple of hours distant, we took the chance to grab a little sleep before making landfall on Isla Taquile where we’d also be partaking in our lunch.
Isla Taquile is a tourist drawcard, and not simply for its obvious beauty.
This place is famous for its textiles, especially its knitting, which is in itself something unique.
You see, only the men are allowed to knit here on Isla Taquile (the women do however weave), and another interesting quirk is in the colourful hats that adorn their heads.
The style/colour is most important, as it identifies if the gentleman is either single or married (I’m unsure if there is an option for the Widower)!
It was time for lunch, however the sudden nausea of one of our group (from altitude sickness), was a sudden reminder that we were indeed at altitude (although with the views, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the Mediterranean), however she eventually joined us for a meal that was both delicious and ample (we’d been warned that the cheaper tour can often be a bit stingy on the food).
We were dining outdoors on a lovely terrace, with views of both beautiful blue waters, and rolling green hillsides. There was little to complain about.
The opportunity was also had to introduce us to Andean Mint, which grew wildly beside the islands paths, and which we happily used as an addition to our post lunch, hot tea!
By now it was time to finish our circuit of the island and return to our waiting vessel. This entailed another scenic walk with regular, impressive lake (although I kept going to type ocean) views, probably made more impressive by the calmness of the waters.
Of course the beautiful sunshine surely didn’t damage our impressions either…
We’re not certain, but we perhaps wondered if we’d mistakenly been put into a better tour than that which we paid for (an Indian staying in our dorm had a far worse experience, despite paying nearly double), but we certainly weren’t complaining!
Perhaps we just got lucky and had a better operator?
So, “What is Lake Titicaca?”
I do know that it was beautiful…
* Our bus from Arequipa to Puno cos $20.00 Soles per person.
* A day trip to the Islas Uros & Isla Taquile cost us $45.00 Soles each, but included transport, guide & full lunch (we booked through our accommodation, Aymarak Hostel)!