Puno and Lake Titicaca

We’re finally leaving Cusco, and we get fond farewells and hugs from our hostel staff.  The bus trip to Puno is a mere seven hours and the mountain scenery is outstanding.  We pass herds of llamas and alpacas, blue lakes and snowy mountains.
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And finally we arrive at the town of Puno on Lake Titicaca.
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Puno is a small town with some low key tourist activities, and so more to our liking than Cusco.  It’s sunny and warm in the day but freezing cold at night.  We find a warm bar playing all types of rock music and more importantly for Diane they mix a mean pisco sour!  So far we’ve purposely avoided two of the most famous of Peruvian foods, but this is our last chance and we plump for cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca.  Luckily the guinea pig isn’t served whole but there isn’t much meat on it and Paul was soon tucking into Diane’s tasty alpaca dish (sort of like lamb with redcurrant sauce, yum!).  We are now at about 3800m and the hostals regularly provide coca tea, a nice drink anytime of day but exceptionally good accompanied with chocolate.
We visit the Yavari, a ship commissioned and transported in pieces from the UK in the 1850s around Cape Horn to Arica, then by railroad for some miles, and then finally by mule to Puno.  The trip took six years, and is an amazing story of logistics, including the fact that when they finally put it all together they realised there was no coal locally to feed the engine therefore it was hastily converted to run on llama droppings!  The ship has been carefully renovated over the last 15 years and they even do B&B.  As we leave the boat we pass some grassland, see wild guinea pigs running around and Paul feels a little sorry about last night’s dinner.
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Here’s the guide reminding us how far Lake Titicaca is from the Pacific Ocean.
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Happy Captain Paul.
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Next day we board a boat for a tour on the Lake.  The nearest communities live on “floating” islands made of reeds and tethered by several stakes into the bed of the lake.
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The houses are neat with thick dried reed floors and simple furnishings, even TV and radio thanks to solar panels.  However, due to sanitation problems recently they now have to take a boat trip to a separate designated toilet area – not so convenient we think.
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We take a traditional boat ride in between the islands, rowed by two local chaps.
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Then off to visit a more traditional island, Taquile, over two hours motoring away, first through the remaining reeds and then out into the lake proper. We spend the whole time on the top deck, wrapped up warm in our down jackets and swapping tales with other travellers.
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A short walk across the island, and lunch: trout, which is pretty much the staple round here, as well as being farmed commercially in the lake.
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After this, we’re leaving Peru for Bolivia, country 11 of our trip: we’re stopping for a few days at Copacabana.  This is an even smaller town on Titicaca where we’ll break the journey to La Paz.

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