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Lago Titicaca

Puno, Peru

I'm writing from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I left Peru a short two weeks ago and have left myself with much writing. Especially the second half of my trip with Erna and Tony, who has since dubbed his trip "Ryan's Revenge". To be fair, forcing my dad to encounter his greatest fear head on wasn't planned. To be honest, I did enjoy it at times.

Anywho, with the Inka Jungle Trek proudly under our belts, Tony, Erna, Jamshade, Harry, Jimmy and I were excited to relax on Lake Titicaca's tranquil islands. Naturally there was an agrarian strike, so our 7 hr bus trip from Cuzco turned into 12. You see, I couldn't have planned these revenges if I tried. Honestly.

After a night in Puno, the Peruvian city on the steep shores of Lake Titicaca (3,812m), we woke up earlier than desired to find a boat. Well, actually only Harry went to the harbour to find a boat while the rest of us had breakfast. Thanks, Harry! I remember the rest of us having excuses, just not what they were. I'm sure they were legitimate. Either way, Harry found a boat captained by a local Quechua guy with family on Isla Amantani, which we decided to spend two nights on.

Our first stop was at one of the floating islands. Long ago the Uros people fled the land in favour of the lake as a means to escape the fighting with the Inca and Aymara peoples. "Screw house boats," they said, "we want mobile islands!" With a little ingenuity and a copias amounts of reeds, they left their houses on shore for their reed houses on their islands. Apparently it was a good idea cause they still live on 40 odd of these, with a few set up to make a buck off of tourists. Being islanders, it's obvious these folk eat fish. With Lake Titicaca being the largest lake in South America, I expected their trout and catfish to be small sharks. But nope, they're not even as big as a hotdog bun. Our best guess is that's due to the low levels of oxygen at this altitude.

Both Puno and the floating islands are found in a large green-water bay of algae. However, once you pass the enclosing peninsulas for the open waters the lake reveals its true colours, which happens to be a beautiful Mediterranean blue. Our boat slowly crept out of the bay revealing our Isla Amantani, our next destination. And I mean slowly. Jesus could have walked to the island and back with holes in his feet before we got there.

At the island El Capitán introduced us to Oswaldo and his family, who were to host us for the next two nights. This is the view we had from their dining room! It was here where we did our best to converse with Oswaldo and chowed down on his wife's delicious vegetarian meals cooked over fire. To import anything to the island is expensive (relatively speaking), so meat isn't commonly served. Another rarity on the island is electricity, which is provided from solar panels for some house lights at night. Jamshade couldn't have been happier though, it was a great opportunity to use his bargain LED flashlights from Cuzco.

On our second day Oswaldo gave us a tour of his island. We took a breathtaking hike up to the two highest points on the island, where the Pachamama and Pachatata ruins sit. This is at a staggering 4400m above sea level, making them close to a kilometer higher than the tallest mountains in Alberta. From the top of the island and through the light, clean air we could easily see Bolivia's snowcapped mountains bordering the other side of the lake. Being that close to Bolivia, I could feel the mountains calling me! Tony, on the other hand, was close to a precipice and could feel Pachamama's wall calling him.

In addition to two nights on Isla Amantani, we also spent a morning on Isla Tequila, where you can tell marital status amongst much more just from the patterns and colours on their toques. Geographically, this island was probably more beatiful, but it just didn't match the serenity from Amantani - seemingly untouched. As El Capitán picked us up from a crystal blue water port, Harry and Jimmy took a dip in the lake. I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty tempted, but am not sad with my decision. Apparently it's much colder than it looks.

Back in Puno, we all had a final meal of brazed chicken and french fries before we slowly started to part ways. First to go was mom n' pops. They left just after dinner and mom cried. No worries though, I think she'll be okay. She's a strong one.

Second to go was Jimmy. He had to leave bright and early in the a.m., leaving us with one last night together as us boys, so we went out. There were riot police on the main stip - bad omen. The first club we went to was closed, as was the second. Some locals told us there was some sort of shut-down. I still don't know what it was, but whatever it was it caused almost every bar to close down for a week. Those locals took us to a pub smaller than my kitchen and packed with dudes. Not really my ideal locale.

We left before ordering and headed to the main plaza. Here we met some Americans and a girl from Kitscoty, AB, who were embarrassed that they were on a trip to discover themselves. Together we found a lounge where we exchanged stories of our travels. On our walk home the riot police were gone, leaving the streets with drunks smashing bottles. We were more than happy to find a jovial group, chillin with their instruments. Once they discovered Jimmy could play guitar, they had him play a few songs. We sang Sublime's What I Got with them and cheered along while they sang some Spanish tunes. After all was said and done they walked us back to our hostel.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on March 30, 2009 from Puno, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged LakeTiticaca, Puno and IslaAmantani

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Tear Gas and Trucha

Copacabana, Bolivia

We spent a final couple of days in La Paz and for our last night invested in a bottle of rum which we got for just over a pound. It was a good night although, despite four separate attempts, we failed to find a decent club in La Paz. I´d heard that some of the rival clubs in La Paz tear gas each other (this also happened in Cusco while we were there) and after a few minutes waiting for the music to divert from its monotonous pounding I would find myself painting pictures of pandemonium and planning my escape route.

Clearly I was ready for a change of scene and after eating away our hangovers the next morning we said our farewells and took the (nice and short) bus ride to Copacabana. It was a fascinating and beautiful trip through miles of arid mountain farmland until we came to the calm expanse of Lake Titicaca. Along the shore cars and coaches were being loaded onto flimsy wooden rafts and ferried across. We joined this surreal traffic and Josh and I decided to remain on the bus as we crossed rather than take a separate boat. Safely on the other side we continued our journey around the lake

When we reached Copacabana the sun had begun its slow descent into the lake which stretched as far as you could see. The golden light cast spectacular shadows as we came down into the town and I couldn’t help but think that this was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. I dribbled to think that there would also be fresh trout in every restaurant. I´m really very easily pleased sometimes.

The ferry to Isla del Sol, a scenic island on Lake Titicaca, left early the next morning and we headed to the Northern part which was supposedly the most spectacular. The lake looked even bigger and in the light of day snow capped mountains were visible on distant shores. The day was sunny with a cold breeze and we made the most of it by walking up into the dusty hills where we found a maze of Inca ruins and striking views in every direction. Challapampa, where we were staying, was sandwiched beautifully between two sandy beaches and we spent the rest of the day relaxing and eating more trout.

Aside from the incredible surroundings, one incident stood out for me that day. We had just finished eating when a pair of local kids appeared mischievously as the window. The smaller of them, a little boy with a dry face and a wonderfully snotty nose, was particularly excited to meet us and let out an incredible fart – way beyond his yeas – which we all found genuinely hilarious. I rewarded him and his slightly less controversial sister with a couple of sweets I found in the bottom of my bag. I also decided to demonstrate my own abilities when we got outside (by now Josh was unimpressed with even my most creative morning expulsions) but, disappointingly, little Snotface was gone.

We explored the south of the island the next day – more Inca ruins and scenic trout consumption – before heading back to Copacabana for a final night next to Titicaca. By the time we were delivered back, the sky had clouded over. As we got off the boat, huge clouds of dust blew across the town. Then, for the first time in South America, it rained. Actually it was more like hail and it didn’t last long but I couldn’t help noticing that Copacabana didn’t look quite as attractive this time around as we power-walked to our hostel, making strange faces into the gritty wind.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on July 24, 2009 from Copacabana, Bolivia
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Ruins, LakeTiticaca, TearGas, Trucha and IslaDelSol

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Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Isla del Sol is a three hour boat ride from Copacabana. On there are ancient Inca ruins and some spectacular views. A seven kilometer hike takes us from the north end to the south end. I´m slowly aclimating to the high altitude here, 13000 ft (3800 m). The Inca Trail is just a few days away so it´s nice to have some practice. The only sour note to this trip is the three checkpoints on the island where we had to pay a couple of dollars to continue. The amount wasn´t that big a deal but the principle of the thing ticked us off!

On the boat ride back we saw a floating island, which was suppose to be made of reeds but we could tell it was made of a wooden base. The reed boats on there were pretty interesting, though.

Later that night we enjoy a fantastic trucha (trout) dinner and watch the sun set over the lake.

permalink written by  paco on October 21, 2009 from Isla del Sol, Bolivia
from the travel blog: High-Altitude Peru
tagged Bolivia, Copacabana, LakeTiticaca and IslaDelSol

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