Monday, June 14, 2010

Lake Titicaca!

So yes- we finally got to Lago Titicaca, and it was awesome.

We spent the last couple days on Titikaka (or qaqa, depending on the gringo, or Quechua, or Aymara spelling), the first few of which we were in Copacabana, Bolivia (which is nowhere near as saucy as that song suggests- the most passionate we got was drinking overpriced beer and yelling at the TV during the England US World Cup Game. And, by the way, the World Cup is awesome to be watching in South America, because everyone, and I mean even the littlest cholita, or old indigenous lady, selling sweaters on the street, knows exactly who's playing and what the score is at every moment of the day. It's super fun). Copacabana itself was lovely, relaxed, and offered incredible views of the lake, which by the way is massive- it's 8,537 square km (depending on who you talk to) and also the highest freshwater lake of its size in the world, at 3,800 meters in altitude.

Copacabana is also just a beautiful town. Not to mention it's from Copacabana that you access Isla del Sol, which was incredible. Beautiful. The little towns on the island reminded me of gorgeous little seaside Greek towns; it was just picturesque. The color of the water was exactly what my romantic idea of the Mediterranean would be. Also we had some delicious trout, or trucha, in Copacabana for a mere US$3 and it was probably my tastiest meal yet in Bolivia (totally beats the llama steak in Sucre, to say nothing of the pig intestines and beef kidney in Cochabamba). And fortunately my stomach seems to have made a comeback so now I can eat like a normal human being again (though I might skip on ordering the cuy, or roasted guinea pig, anytime soon).

From Copacabana, we finally crossed over into Puno, Peru yesterday! Peru is the last country of our trip and so this is extremely exciting and a little scary (Wes and I realized we have exactly seven weeks of the trip left- this may seem like a lot, but for a while there was no end in sight, so now that we can count the weeks on two hands, it's seriously freaking us out. I think it's a direct contributor to my newfound interest in the history section of the Lonely Planet guides- anything to distract myself. Did you know that Peru has a native population of 'naked' or hairless dogs but their populations have been dwindling in recent decades due to the introduction of foreign purebreds? Or that the guinea pig is so named because they probably passed through Guinea in Africa on the way to Europe? And that all forms of the potato come from a single strain in Peru, and now there are something like 400 different kinds? Yeah, I'm so freaked out that facts like that are interesting. Scary).

The difference between Peru and Bolivia is palpable- the cholitas are taller, Citibank has returned, and there is a hot water faucet on the hostel sinks. Whether or not the hot water actually works is always at question, but the presence of that extra faucet speaks volumes. Once again it's remarkable that this one imaginary line really marks a division between how people live on either side (cheesy and obvious I know, but still weird to see. Of course not quite as distinct a difference as between Argentina and Bolivia).

Puno itself was super fun- we were only there for about... 20 hours, by my estimation, but we managed to spend about 4 days budget while there (yay!!!!!). We had a great dinner which Wes raved about (he's really excited to be in Peru. I took lots of pictures of him at the border, crossing over into his homeland) while watching a seriously fantastic band with two guitarists, a charango player, two flutists (on queñas, which is that flute with lots of different cane tubes of different lengths), and one drummer who occasionally played a queña and drummed at the same time. We were also entertained by 'traditional' Quechua dances, consisting of a group of eight 20-yr-olds who at times had some awesome dances, and at times giggled while the boys pretended to kiss the girls. It was really funny and really enjoyable.

The following morning we visited the Islas de Uros, the floating totora reed islands in Titicaca which number at about 50, take about a year to construct, and support a population of about 2000. It was really interesting to go to the islands- we learned about the way they're built, about the lake itself, about the history of the Uros people- turns out they fled the Incans about 600 years ago into the lake on reed boats, which they lived on. When the boats started to sink due to water damage, etc, they just piled on more reeds, and a way of life was born. They support themselves through fishing, hunting birds, collecting eggs, and these days, appealing to tourists, which actually made the tour really uncomfortable for me (greeted by brightly clad women singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star who showed you their homes and let you dress up in their clothes for a picture for a few soles or so... it made me feel like a schmuck).

However, I did win a prize for guessing how deep the water beneath the island was (14 meters!)(the islands themselves are about 3 meters thick, and very spongy and springy to walk on) so that has dissolved any further reservations about the tour. Yay prizes!!!! Also, the work they do with those tortora reeds is pretty remarkable.

So we headed out of Puno yesterday afternoon and are now, finally, in Cusco!!! Apparently it's good we left Puno yesterday because come tomorrow there is supposed to be a nationwide workers strike- no, apparently not just transportation workers, or just energy workers, or just hotel workers. They're all striking (we're not sure why), which is actually really awesome, because when in the United States are strikes 1. organized on this massive a scale and 2. successful? Never. Which is why I love Bolivia (about 1000 campesinos in Sorota expelled Betchel, a big mean US corporation, in 2001 (maybe 2004 I don't remember) for bottling all the area's clean water for export. Bolivia also kicked out McDonald's- really.Though this strike might seriously throw a wrench in our Machu Picchu plans (for which we are planning to leave on Friday). So we'll see.

So, yes, Titicaca/kaka/qaqa was fantastic, and we are so glad to be in Peru. Now that I finally bought my family presents, however (no I didn't. Please still be surprised in August!), as I feared, the floodgates have opened and I want to buy every little llama hat and alpaca sweater that comes my way. They also have adorable little Andean vests and teeny tiny llama sweaters for babies, which are seriously pulling at my heartstrings.

So yeah, blah blah blah, we're in Peru, and photos are up for our last jaunts in Bolivia and our first ones in Peru.

ALSO as of this afternoon we have a 5day4night trek booked to Machu Picchu departing the 19th! So very exciting and should have no problems with the strike. Yay!!!


  1. Yeah - I got into the blog. Not such an adventure as Kate and Wes, but an accomplishment from Hunterdon County, NJ, home of the verrrrry sloooow internet. OMG, please sign me up for Coroìcoo anytime, I am so glad for you that you are doing all of this with such a good attitude, and buy what you can Kate - you won't regret it ever (particularly family presents)

  2. Yeah so...Lake dad, being Peruvian, used to make us laugh when he talked about Lake Titicaca....He always said, "Titi was in Peru, and Caca was in Bolivia"....I still laugh today thinking about it. Oh, dad, you were so funny...probably where my boys get their great sense of humor. Amazing to see things come full circle. Thanks for posting such great pictures and text of your travels. I'm living vicariously through you guys. With more love each and everyday for you, Mom/Laura