Saturday, December 19, 2009

On the shores of Lake Titicaca

So we took our leave of the big busy city in the morning of Dec11 via a crammed micro full of real tourists (ugh) on a tour to tiwanaku, ancient Inka site an hour an a half from la paz, apparently Bolivia´s most important archaeological site. perhaps it´s most important but certainly not it´s most impressive or interesting. and that was before we saw machu picchu. And oh my, if another tour guide says Ok my friends with that terrible english accent, I will flip out and scream, if not worse. Our crazy overly enthusiastic and repetitive guide really ruined the day. But I did learn that everything Inka comes in threes and a few other interesting tidbits. Plus the gigantic monolith truly was impressive. Otherwise.... I´d never again pay that much to see a few stones in the plains under the intense sun.
The ride was almost the best part, views across the plains to the snow-capped peaks of the andes. the guide throwing the left over dry bread out the window to all the stray dogs that wander that stretch of the highway of that sole reason. Got dropped off just outside la paz and negotiated the bus to copacabana, the original copacabana! (the brazilian´s named their famous beach after bolivian town since they had a famous shrine on a mountain top like christ the redeemer in rio)Bus ride, when we finally got seats sorted out, was squished but nice scenery and the first view of the lake was stunning, peaceful calm and huge. Had to ferry across a bit (passengers on a little wooden motorboat and the bus on a huge wooden wobbly platform with a motor, the south american way! We were´nt expecting much from the town but it was actually quite lovely. In a cove on the lake bordered by big mountains, the last day we hiked up the main one with the shrine admidst all the local pilgrims gasping for breath in the heat and the altitude. It was a Sunday so the place was full of religious pilgrims coming to see the huge beautiful white church that houses the famous black virgin of copacabana believed to grant miracles and the climb up past the 7 crosses to the shrine where they sell plastic trinkets (cars, houses, shops, paper money, dolls, etc) as it believed that buying an object and blessing it up there with bring you luck with a new car, house, store, money, baby, you get the idea. It was an interesting blend of christian and traditional beliefs at there were indigenous men doing smoke blessing ceremonies with families on the way up. For us though, the view from the top was best and well worth the death hike. It seems nature will always impress us the most, man just can´t compete!
Our main reason for going there though was to go to Isla del Sol on the lake where there are more Inka ruins. The entire island is covered with ancient terraced agriculture, some still in use. Gorgeous day and views thought the ruins weren´t that impressive, a maze of stones. And too touristy, you had to pay to enter all the 3 parts of the island. But lovely hike from one end to the other though the altitude and the intense sun played their part again only the cool lake breeze and picnic break (mangoes!) saved us. Intense blue lake, yellow rocky hills, green trees, stone path and views to either side of the island across the lake to the snow capped hills. Dipped our feet in the lake while waiting for the boat. Had delicious trout (rainbow trout imported to lake titicaca from canada?? crazy!) fried with garlic (I´m drooling just remembering) on the shore of the lake at sunset, perfection once again. More good food, Andean popcorn, little bags of chocolate milk or yogurt for 15c, what a great idea, save millions of tetra paks.
Ok.... no more about bolivian food. Anyway, chao beautiful cheap friendly amazing Bolivia. I will return. Maybe in 5 years for the next elections and seek out our secret private waterfall again.
On to Puno, not much to say ugly city but decent cheap hostel and whoa cheap food. Like 50cUS for a soup, main plate (fried cheese! with rice, potato, veg) and a sugary mate. Full of locals, we got a few stares for once. Off early in the morning on a tour on the islands: first stop - the floating islands of Uros. 49 islands built of totoro reeds each island inhabited by about 4-8 indigenous (Aymara) families who have lived there forever. Each island is autonomous and can literallu lift anchor and float off to another place. Kids go to public school in little reed boats, very picturesque. Too much actually, it looked like the entire place had been built for tourists to view. Cute little floating reed villages. But really cool anyway, we were told about life there (solar power now) and the lake and then forced into colourful native clothing, real tourists and "encouraged" to buy handmade souvenirs. Then sent off with a chorus "vamos a la playa" I feel so sorry for them, annoying tourists everyday but I guess when your islands get taken over, you make the best of it ($$$)
3-hour boat ride to Amantani where we spent the night, supposed to be with a local family but ours was more a family-run hostel. Still nice people and good food. Hike up to the sun shrine on the top on the island and circled it 3 times counter-clockwise to get our free wish before walk ing down during sunset past people selling local crafts on blankets every 2 steps. Made coversation friends with a nice Dutch and American girl. And just when we thought it couldn´t get more touristy, we were once again stuffed in local clothes (this time thanks to Corinna!) and invited to get drunk and dance to a local band of teenagers. We danced for about mins and got out of there! Every night they do that, how terrible. The next day it was off to the other island of Taquile where we hiked to the top, relaxed in the town square (more shopping time...) and had lunch overlooking the lake before heading back 3 hours to Puno. Again, stunning scenery and peace but I think either copacabana or puno would´ve been enough. Anyway, we enjoyed it and were ready to move on to Cuzco on an uncomfortable no-sleep night bus. (even though it was almost cama-cama and babyless) Really had enough of those.
Only have pictures of Cuzco for the moment, a sneak preview!

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