We are talking about Lake Titicaca. Yes, the one we briefly learned about in geography class that would always make me laugh when I said it out loud.
What you should know about Lake Titicaca.
By volume of water, it’s the largest lake in South America. It’s bordered by two countries, Peru and Bolivia. Elevation is 12,500 feet. Average year round temperature is 12 degrees celsius, or about 54 degrees fahrenheit. Pretty chilly and hence us not going for a swim. The locals that live on the Uros floating islands teach their children to swim starting at age 5 and once they are adults they can tolerate the water temperature for 1-2 hours. Not a local? You won’t last more than 10 minutes.
Why do you care?
Because we went there, duh. And you are signed up to follow our blog. We first encountered Lake Titicaca when we arrived in Copacabana, Bolivia. This was our stop after leaving La Sende Verde Animal Refuge. It takes 4 hours via bus from La Paz. Once you are within an hour of Copacabana, everyone gets off the bus and catches a ferry across the lake. We sort of expected this after talking with friends from LSV that had already spent time there. You then watch a big ferry load the bus and take it across the lake. After 30 minutes you reboard the bus on the other side of the lake and finish the last hour to Copacabana.
I had already reserved our hotel for our stay as it was Jeff’s birthday and I wanted to have a nice place with dinner to celebrate. We stayed at La Cupula (recommended by others we met along the way). The hotel was perfect and just what the Dr. ordered after 2 weeks in the jungle. Dinner was great and they reserved us a nice table overlooking the lake with a special birthday sign hung up for Jeff. 🙂 After dinner, they brought out a massive ice-cream desert, no joke it could have fed 6 people. The table next to us had the same as they were also celebrating a birthday. The difference? Jeff and I ate the entire thing and the other couple maybe got through a quarter of it. #nan #notskinny.
The next night we met some friends and shared a few drinks. Well, alcohol + not a lot of food for the day + altitude = us not doing much the following day. But it worked out fine as we relaxed, caught up online and enjoyed the views of the lake.
Ok. Now for something unexpected.
Riots, roadblocks, and a lesson in supply and demand.
After our three nights in Copacabana, we had to catch a bus to Puno, Peru. Typically this is a 4 hour bus ride and runs daily. Well, during our stay we noticed the town becoming more and more crowded each day. Specifically the internet cafe where we overheard two girls talk about being stranded in Copacabana and that the bus to Puno turned around after not being able to pass into Peru. Hmmm. This doesn’t sound good for us.
Due to recent strikes from the locals regarding a mining project the entrance into the town of Puno was roadblocked by protesters and buses for the past few days had been unable to pass. At this point we had our bus tickets booked for the following morning to depart at 9 am. Good news, it was going depart on time. The bad news? As a result of the protests, we had to take an alternate route that was going to take 7-8 hours. Ok not great but we don’t have another option. The really shitty part? They know supply and demand and as a result we paid 4x the original ticket price to get a spot on this “special” route bus. Instead of $9 per person we paid just under $40.
Since it was the first time this bus had gone a new route the driver got lost a few times and went about an hour in the wrong direction. Once we found our way again, we ran into a different type of roadblock. A truck half way over the edge of the road/mountain and other trucks trying to pull it out which meant no passing for any cars till it was resolved. Why is this a big deal? Because we were in the middle of nowhere with only one road along the mountain and the nearest town an hour away. It’s not like in America where you can just re-route again, this was the re-route and the ONLY road. Our driver quickly reminded us that we are all gringos (in case we forgot?) and no one should leave the bus at this time as the locals could become very upset with us watching. Luckily, after almost an hour of waiting, they abandoned trying to pull it back up and opened the road to pass. Mind you this was a very very narrow pass. It was smooth sailing for another 30 minutes till we encountered another roadblock. This time it was locals putting boulders in the middle of the road and starting small fires on the side. Bus driver says, duck your heads close the blinds as they may throw things. Umm, ok. Funny thing was that basically all the bus driver had to do was honk and raise his hands like “wtf?” to the protesters and they rolled the boulders back to the side of the road. Hah ok that was easy. Not quite sure what they were trying to accomplish with their tactics, like yeah here’s some boulders and you can’t pass. Ok you need to pass? One second, I’ll just move this boulder back to the side of the road. In the end nothing was thrown at us and I am thankful for that. 7 hours later we arrived in Puno, Peru.
What’s in Puno?
Puno, Peru is another port town on Lake Titicaca and the nearest city to the Uros floating islands and Taquile Island. It’s also where we needed to catch our train to Cusco. During our two days here we organized a day trip to visit the floating islands of Uros and Taquile island. The floating islands were a bit of a tourist show, but still fun and entertaining. We learned how they make the islands from the local reeds that grow in the lake.
After the quick stop on Uros we headed to Taquile island, an additional hour via boat. Here we enjoyed beautiful views of the lake after a hike up to the main plaza on the island and then a local lunch hosted by a family that lives full time on the island. The culture is very alive and active on the island with all the locals (2,200) wearing traditional clothing. They are also known for their high quality weaving and textiles. Men must learn how to weave at a young age and is a requirement in order to get married as they have to make their hat which they will wear once they are married. If men are single, they wear a different color hat. A pretty easy way to communicate your availability huh? It’s like the basic foundation of Tinder. The main food on the island is trout (trucha in Spanish) from the lake, quinoa, and potatoes all locally grown. There are no cars and no hotels on the island.
Like this style?
I tried in this post to mimic the way the Skimm writes. With lots of information to cover over our last week, I wanted to focus on the highlights. If you haven’t heard of it, the Skimm is a daily email subscription that gives you a quick need to know breakdown of what’s going on in the world. I subscribed to it about 6 months ago and really enjoy it. Check it out here.
More pictures in the galleries below!