Posts Tagged ‘Copacabana’

Peru Day 8 – Copacabana (Bolivia), Puno, Floating Islands (Uros)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by virginia

We had a relatively low key morning when we woke up on our catamaran, as we were still docked at Sun Island. We had the option of going into town early in the morning but Josh and I opted to sleep in instead, which was a luxury for us considering all of the early wake ups we’d been having. Then we were able to enjoy a long breakfast while the boat sped off back to Copacabana.

Scrambled eggs with ham on toast

Bananas, papaya, and pineapple

Back in Copacabana, we split up from the Australian couple as they were headed to La Paz (lucky!) and we were returning to Puno.

Back at the Copacabana marina

The tour company had arranged for us to leave at 4 pm, and considering it was only about 10 am and we had already seen most of Copacabana, we opted for an earlier bus at 1:30. Our guide suggested that we walk to the top of a large hill that overlooks the city, called Calvary Hill. There are many many steps that go up, and along way are the different stations of the cross. On Good Friday, there is a procession that goes up the hill with someone carrying a large cross to replicate the passion of Jesus.

The entrance gate to Calvary Hill

Sadly, we were completely winded by the stairs and only made it halfway up the hill before we called it quits. We had been stopping at every station to catch our breaths, and we calculated that we wouldn’t have enough time to make it to the top and then back down before we had to catch our bus. At the midway point there was a lookout that gave us a nice view of Lake Titicaca, as well as an encompassing view of of the city.

A lot of steps going up

The first station of the cross

At the midway point up the hill

Lake Titicaca


It’s a good thing we turned around when we did because surprisingly, it was harder to go down. The steps were pretty steep and super slippery. It was a struggle not to fall on our rear ends so we slowly inched our way down. We definitely would have missed our bus had we continued all the way to the top.

Another view of the city

When we got back on flat ground, we went back to the Basilica to see the black Madonna, a famous statue of the Virgin Mary made out of dark wood. We didn’t have much time to admire the statue though, because they were preparing for a wedding in the church. On our way out we passed the bride who was resplendent in white. We tried to see an Inca site but it was up another hill and we knew we’d never make it. We headed back to the center of town to check out a local agricultural market. We also did a little souvenir shopping and just walked around for a little while.

Produce stalls at the local market

Ceviche from a streetcart (no, we didn't have the guts to try some!)

Satue in the main square

Lunch was included for us at a little restaurant across the street from the tour company’s office. I was a little worried because we were only allowed to choose from the set menu of the day, not the regular menu. The set menu included soup, entrees of the day, and dessert, all for 25 bolivianos, which is about US$3.50. The rest of the menu was pricier so I couldn’t imagine that we’d get a good meal for $3.50. For the entree, we had a choice between beef, trout, and spaghetti bolognese. We had no interest in the bolognese so we opted for beef and trout.

The soup was an Andean soup with assorted vegetables, grains, and pieces of beef. I was worried that it would have mint in it but it was actually very clean tasting and refreshing despite the heat.

Andean soup with vegetables, grains, and beef

They also gave us a small loaf of bread to munch on, which was accompanied by a super spicy tomato salsa.

Bread and spicy salsa

The trout entree was pink trout from the lake and it was a huge filet just simply grilled. It was nicely seasoned and surprisingly really delicious with just a squeeze of lime over the top. It came with a side of french fries that were a tad starchy but not bad.

Grilled lake trout with french fries

The beef was also simply grilled and perfectly seasoned. It was slightly chewy but the flavor was terrific – really beefy. Overall we were pretty pleased with both entrees.

Grilled beef with vegetables and fries

Dessert was a simple scoop of strawberry ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, which was perfect on a hot, sunny day.

Strawberry ice cream with chocolate sauce

After lunch, we took a bus back to Puno. Sadly, no one picked us up from the bus station so we took a cab back to our hotel. We were in a rush because we wanted to take a tour of the floating islands and we weren’t sure what time tours ended. We asked at the front desk and they managed to arrange a private tour for us that conveniently left from the dock behind our hotel.

Boat to take us to the floating islands

Our guide was a native of the floating islands, which was pretty cool. He told us a bit about the setup of the islands, which are actually pretty incredible. They are made out of reeds from the lake and there are homes, stores, restaurants, and a school on these islands. Each individual island is home to about six families, and they travel from one island to another using reed boats.

Speeding past the reeds used to make the floating islands

Uros is the name of the floating islands

Homes on the islands

More islands

We stopped off at one island where we met the president, who demonstrated how the islands are actually made. Basically blocks of reeds and roots are tied together, then topped with layers of cut reeds. The reeds need to be replaced every two weeks, which just seems to be a crazy amount of work.

The president demonstrating how the islands are made

We took a tour of a home on the island and dressed up in native clothing. The people were so friendly and so excited to be with us, especially the children.

We hopped into a reed boat to visit another island, and everyone sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to us in several different languages. A few of the children came in the boat with us and played around us. They were absolutely adorable

The reed boat dropped us off at a different island that had a hotel (really just a room), a grocery store, and a restaurant.

It was pretty dark by the time we finished touring the second island so we hopped on our boat and headed back to our hotel. The floating islands really are an incredible place, and I was happy that we were able to book our own tour last minute. They were definitely the highlight of Puno. Even now when I think about all those happy and excited children, they just bring a smile to my face. Tourism is obviously a big factor in helping these islanders sustain their way of life so I encourage everyone to visit these floating islands and see for yourself just how amazing these people are.

Peru Day 7 – Copacabana (Bolivia), Lake Titicaca, Sun Island

Sunday, November 21st, 2010 by virginia

We had a super early start to our day, as we were picked up from our hotel in Puno at 6:15 am to take the three hour drive to Copacabana. We barely had time to bolt down a few bites of an omelet before it was time to go. We were taken on a minibus and our group included three Australian couples. The ride itself was pretty uneventful, though we got to see a lot of the countryside that borders Lake Titicaca.

We were curious as to why most of the houses we saw were unfinished, and our guide explained that it was because when a house is finished, the residents have to start paying taxes. Because of that loophole, they would rather leave their houses unfinished to avoid paying taxes. We also saw many outhouses that were painted a bright blue or green color, which we were told was a representation of the residents’ political preferences.

We made a short pit stop before we crossed the border into Bolivia. There wasn’t much to see in that little town, just a church (of course), and some nice views of the lake.


View of Lake Titicaca

When we arrived at the Bolivian border, we had to get out of our bus and walk across the border. After going through immigration and getting our passports stamped, we boarded a different bus that would take us into Copacabana.

Beyond the arch is Bolivia

Welcome to Bolivia

After making the short drive to Copacabana, we had a quick city tour that took us through the Basilica of our Lady of Copacabana, a large church in the center of town that has beautiful domes that look like they came from a mosque. The inside was very colorful, not at all what you expect a church to look like.

Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana

Mosaic tiled dome

Inside the church

Beautiful ceiling

We also walked through a small outdoor market that specializes in popcorn. The popcorn here was all different shapes and sizes, not at all like the popcorn we eat at home.

All different kinds of popcorn

After walking through town for a bit, we headed to the marina where we boarded our Catamaran cruise ship that would take us around Lake Titicaca. We were joined by a few other tour groups, although it turned out that we and one Australian couple were the only people who would be staying on board the ship that night.

The marina in Copacabana

Our catamaran cruise ship

We had a little snack of fruit and sandwiches on board the catamaran as we cruised the lake, heading towards Isla del Sol, or Sun Island. There we had to climb up a really tall staircase, which was really difficult due to the altitude. Once we got to the top we had a great view of Lake Titicaca, which we admired for quite some time while we caught our breaths. Then we walked along some Incan agricultural terraces where we saw all different kinds of plants and flowers.

Statue at the bottom of the stairs

Female counterpart

Daunting set of stairs

At the top of the stairs, with our catamaran down below

Agricultural Inca terraces

Pretty flowers


One of the highlights for us was watching a short religious ceremony by a local shaman. He sacrificed some animal shaped candies for us, and blessed each of us.

The local shaman

Dropping animal shaped candies into the fire as a sacrifice

Next we went into a small museum where we saw some colorful costumes and masks made by the locals for Carnivale, which is similar to the celebration in Rio or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Masks for Carnivale

There was also a museum that displayed the history of the Incas, along with a few artifacts. There was also a mummy and a few skulls, so I was sufficiently creeped out.

Artifact in the museum

We then got to see a demonstration of how reed boats are made. These intricate boats are gorgeous and must take forever to make. It’s hard to imagine that something constructed out of reeds from the lake can be turned into something so seaworthy.

Miniature reed boats

Before heading back down to the boat, we stopped to feed a few llamas and alpacas.

Llamas eating

Our next activity was going for a ride on a reed boat. We took turns donning ponchos and hats and taking our hand at rowing the boat.

The people who were actually rowing the boat

The head of the reed boat

Passing by some Inca ruins

Afterward, the rest of our group got on a different catamaran and sped off in the direction of La Paz while Josh and I and an Australian couple went back to our own ship. It was strange being on such a large ship with just the four of us and the crew but it was a good chance to unwind and get to know each other. We had a buffet lunch on board while the ship headed to the other side of Sun Island.

Pacena - beer from La Paz


Soup with vegetables and quinoa

Chicken (top), sweet potato tubers, potatoes, lake trout, rice, tomatoes and spinach, root vegetables, quinoa

Pudding with vanilla ice cream

After lunch, we got off the boat at the other side of Sun Island from where we were in the morning. It’s the biggest island in Lake Titicaca, so it was a pretty long way around. We got into rowboats and were rowed for about an hour to a different part of the island where we would begin our walk. We felt so bad for the local who was hired to row us, as it was a long way and the water was pretty rough. Hopefully the catamaran company pays him well!

Poor guy who had to row us for an hour

The other rowboat carrying Jo and Ross

The boats dropped us off at a dock at another end of the island

We hiked up a path that took us to the top of the hill. It wasn’t a strenuous hike but the altitude was really a big factor for us. We followed some boys who were tending to a flock of sheep.

They were going to the same place we were, some amazing ruins that overlook the lake. The structures are set up like a maze, with twists and turns and dead ends. No one knows exactly what these ruins were originally used for, but the boys were having a ball chasing the sheep around in the maze. We couldn’t help but laugh at their playfulness, and after they left, we stayed a bit longer to enjoy the peaceful setting.

After leaving the ruins, we continued down the path, passing a ceremonial site along the way. The terrain was pretty dry and rocky, but the beautiful bright blue lake was always in view.

As we continued on our way, we got closer to the town where our boat was docked. The sun was starting to set so all of the farmers were bringing their herds back. We were passed by donkeys, sheep, llamas, and cows. At one point we were in the middle of a sheep stampede and there was nothing we could do except freeze in the middle of the path while dozens of sheep ran past us, including itty bitty baby lambs.

Bull with pointy horns

Distorted donkey (Josh was playing with his wide angle lens)

Stampede of sheep

Lamb that looks like Stewie

More fun with the wide angle lens

Sunset on the lake

We walked around town for a little bit before getting back on the boat for dinner. We ate by candlelight, and they had arranged a little show for us afterward that included music and dancing by local villagers. We all got up to try our hand at the local dance, which was fun.

Pureed vegetable soup

Lake trout canneloni, Bolivian tortilla, roasted vegetables, beef in gravy, fried plantain, mashed potatoes

Flambeed fruit crepes

Local musicians

As you can probably tell from all of the pics in this post, it was a long and exhausting day but chock full of interesting sights. It was one of my favorite days in Peru, as we got to see a lot of different things, and Sun Island was absolutely magical. I loved the ruins that we wandered through, and being able to witness what town life was like firsthand. We promptly went to bed after dinner and were lulled to sleep by the gentle waves rocking our catamaran.

Quick Update From Peru (and Bolivia!)

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 by virginia

Just wanted to drop a quick post to wrap up the first half of our trip. We’re currently in Puno, Peru, right on Lake Titicaca. Yesterday we went to Copacabana, Bolivia, where we caught a catamaran ride around the lake. We had an amazing time on Sun Island, which is the largest island in the lake. We took a short trek to some incredible Inca ruins, and the views were just beautiful. We also got to spend some time in the village on the island where were able to pet donkeys and llamas, and were in the middle of a stampede of sheep. It seemed like around every corner there was a surprise that absolutely delighted us.

We spent this morning walking around Copacabana (the Bolivian town is supposedly the original, not the one in Brazil) and then we returned to Puno where took a boat ride to the floating islands. The floating islands are absolutely astonishing. They’re man-made islands constructed out of reeds, and there are about six families that live on each island. We visited two islands, and the first was filled with the friendliest children we’ve ever met, who were so excited to greet us and play with us. It was a thrilling yet humbling experience.

Tomorrow we head to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, and we’ll be in Machu Picchu for the next two days after that. We heard that there were strikes in Cusco last week, which are over now and hopefully won’t affect us, but please keep your fingers crossed!