Posts Tagged ‘Lake Titicaca’

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.

Peru Day 6 – Sillustani and Puno

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 by virginia

We had a super early morning flight out of Arequipa to Juliaca. Our flight was at 6:10 am and originally we were supposed to leave for the airport at 4:10 am but luckily our guide was able to get our boarding passes ahead of time, which bought us some extra time. We left for the airport around 5 am, which meant we still had to get up at 4 am to make sure we had everything packed and ready to go.

Needless to say we were pretty exhausted when we got to the airport but we saw a lot of people from our Colca Canyon tour group there so we had a good time chatting with everyone. We were the only ones headed to Puno, while everyone else was off to Cusco. Our hotel had packed us breakfast boxes since we left before the buffet started but we only drank the peach juice and left the ham and cheese sandwiches and yogurt behind.

The flight itself was less than an hour, and we had barely fallen asleep before it was time to get off the plane. We collected our luggage and waited for our transfer from Juliaca to Puno, where we would be staying. And we waited. And waited. Apparently the tour company had forgotten about us. No one knew we were coming. Luckily we met a tour guide from a different company who called our tour company for us, and eventually after waiting for an hour, we were picked up by someone from our tour company who happened to be dropping off another client.

It was sort of a frustrating experience for us but we shook it off and continued on our tour. The drive from Juliaca to Puno included a stop at the Sillustani graves along the way. The site is a pre-Incan burial ground that was used by the Chollas, a group of Aymaras who were conquered by the Incas. The place was so sacred though that the Incans respected the tombs of the Chollas, since they were for royalty. Now the site includes both Incan and Chollan graves. The tombs are called “chullpas” and are tall, round towers. The opening faces the east, and inside the tombs they found mummies of royals who were buried in fetal position, along with their servants.

The tallest chullpa

Inside the chullpa

Other tombs at the site

While I’m not usually one to enjoy walking around tombs and grave sites, I really loved the area. It sounds sort of silly but I could see why the place appealed to the Collas and Incas. It’s situated on a lake, Lake Umayo to be exact, and it was really peaceful there. The grass was a yellowish color, the lake brilliant blue, and there was a soft breeze that billowed through, bringing fresh air and a sense of calm.

Lake Umayo

Cows grazing in a field nearby

A lake on the other side of the site, where there were flamingos

After leaving Sillustani, we stopped at the home of some local farmers. We felt a bit awkward just walking into their place but I guess they must have a deal with tour companies because they seemed perfectly at ease with us poking our heads into their bedrooms and taking stock of their outdoor kitchen. Their home was really pretty simple, just a courtyard with a few small shacks that served as the bedrooms. We also sampled some of their homemade cheese, which I only nibbled at because it probably hadn’t been pasteurized, plus the flavor was too milky for my taste, as well as some small boiled potatoes that we dipped into bowls of clay. The clay was muddy and sort of gross looking, but it actually tasted pretty good with the potatoes. It gave them a sort of salty, earthy flavor.

The entrance to the home. The two cows above the doorway symbolizes that they are farmers.

They had llamas and alpacas out front

They also had a guanaco, which was the only one we saw on our trip

The inner courtyard and the little houses that served as bedrooms

Homemade cheese

Assorted potatoes and root vegetables, plus clay for dipping

Pen of cuy, for special occasions

Afterward, we were taken to our hotel in Puno, which is the city on Lake Titicaca. Our hotel was very nice but it was pretty far from the main part of the city. After dropping off our bags and settling in a little, we took a cab to the Plaza de Armas, or the main square. There really wasn’t a whole lot to see or much going on in the town.

Statue at the center of the Plaza de Armas

We pretty much just wandered around town, looking for places to shop and walking through some local outdoor markets. We also found the main market in the center of town, a two story building where people sell fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods. It was pretty interesting but not a place where we would buy stuff for ourselves.

The main street downtown with lots of shops and restaurants and is closed off to cars

The main agricultural market in the center of town

Local outdoor market selling everyday goods like clothing and household supplies

We skipped lunch but decided to stop for some ice cream. Josh got cappuccino gelato at a little place called Il Gelato Heladeria Cafe. It had good flavor but was kind of icy and not creamy enough. The gelato flavors they had didn’t appeal to me so I stopped at a place called Chepy’s, which had a long line. It was really cheap (a cone with two different flavors cost 1 sol) but the ice cream was gummy and artificial tasting. I picked grape and strawberry, and both tasted like bubblegum versions of the fruit. Meh.

My grape and strawberry ice cream cone

Before heading back to the hotel, we made sure to see the sights noted in our guidebook. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much. We saw the cathedral, a wooden balcony that is supposed to be famous, and some other supposedly famous building but I’m not sure why.


Famous balcony

Famous building

We also stopped at a cafe with a courtyard and had a beer to kill some time but we were pretty bored. Since there was nothing else to see and nothing left to do, we took a cab back to our hotel, which is right on Lake Titicaca.

View of Lake Titicaca from our hotel terrace

We ended up just relaxing the rest of the night and ate dinner at our hotel because we didn’t feel like taking a cab back into the city. We were pretty tired from our early morning flight, and to be honest, Puno just wasn’t that exciting. We were basically there because it was the jump off point for Lake Titicaca, and the rest of our time on the lake was much nicer. But more on that later.

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!