Around 5:00 AM we arrived in Puno, our last short stop in Peru before entering Bolivia with the Bolivia hop. Next country of our trip!
5:20 AM the lights of the bus went on to wake us up for a 9 soles breakfast with over salty scrambled eggs, some kind of juice and breads with jam playing hallelujah and titanic in pan flute on the background. Luckily Alfonso was also in the bus with his Slovenian friends to make it fun!
Right after breakfast we went for a two hour boat tour to Lake Titikaka. This lake is the highest navigated lake in the world, namely 3,806 meters high. Puno is the 8th city of the country, with 200,000 inhabitants. The lake has a lot of minerals and boarders between Peru and Bolivia, which causes some political friction between the two nations.
The Pukara civilization lived on the island between 2,000 b.c. and 400 a.d., and they left their footprints there. Tiahunako civilization lived there until 1,000 a.d. and now the Uros live here. Incas also arrived in 1415, 1535 the Spanish. Titi means puma, kaka means rock in Quechua. Before 1825 it was Peru, now 40% is Bolivian, 60% Peruvian. The lake is maximum 220 meters deep, it is quite shallow. The island is developed thanks to a volcanic formation, with the platters making this region. The water is fresh, not salt.
There are a lot of sardines, catfish, trout (coming from Canada), frogs, pigs toads, and 54 different kind of birds including flamingo’s. No predators inhabit the place. There are 87 artificial islands, with each maximum 8 families inhabiting 20 per island, total around 2,000 Uros live on these islands.
For 10 soles you can ride a gondola like boat to travel between the islands. The second island you can buy a stamp for your passport for 1 soles.
We got off onto the first island, it was Isla Suma Marka, suma means beautiful and marka town, beautiful town. The island is filled with bamboo like plants called totora which is a papyrus family plant, and if you step on the island it is like a bouncy castle. Very strange! They hunt local ducks, duck eggs, fish and lake koet. Modern boats now have nylon and plastic to live longer, for about 3 years. Boats used to carry 4 people, now over 20. They gave us chujo, the island version of banana tasting like a fresh vegetable. They use a lot of blocks made out of natural products to make sure the islands stay floating.
Every island has one leader, this island was Jonathan. Living with 4 families here. There is only an elementary school on the island, and all the young people who study go to Puno and stay there, meaning less young inhabitants who do not return to the islands.
Jonathan shows how the islands are built. With the floating blocks they use first as foundation. They use a big saw, put a wooden stick in the block and then a rope to keep them together. The roots in the block do not parish in the lake, so it has a very long lifespan. After that theu put the chujo in 5/6 layers to built the ground. Island is only 3 meters thick, lake 11 to 28 meters deep. Then they built the housing on the created ground. They now using modern cooking equipment. The islands have an anker to make sure they do not float to the Bolivian side, would be problematic since they do not own passports :).
Since 1992 the islands also have solar power, having pannels everywhere. Modernization also hits the islands. The locals showed us around in their houses, kids watching teen titans go and dancing with us. We bought some nice pillow covers and a necklace for 50 soles.
After that we took a ride in the Mercedes Benz of the Uros, a big boat with two heads of animals. We were six with a little girl from the village joining us, singing French, English and Spanish songs and asked for a small donation for school supplies. She melted our hearts! The boat ride was 10 soles per person and took us to the main island. Here, for 1 soles each we took a stamp of Lake Titikaka in our passports. After that we jumped in the front of the Mercedes Benz boat to get some nice pictures before we headed back to the bus.
We had to drive for another 2,5 hours to cross the border to Bolivia. Around 11:00 am we reached the border, got our stamps and on to the next bis to take us to Copacobana! Here we are going to do a tour in Isla del Sol, costed us 35 soles per person, before we are headed to La Paz.
We had one hour to get some cash and eat, food was 35 bolivians for an hamburger with fries. Not the best, but did the job. Rate of 1 euro is 7,7 bolivian, so got a full wallet with local currency. After that we went on a boat to go to Isla del Sol. Here, a rapper and lady singer gave us a show before takeoff. After that we took the boat across the Bolivian side of lake Titikaka to the Island where we are getting dropped at the Pulcokaina Inca Temple from where we have an hour walk passing a viewpoint on the way to the port of Yumani, famous for its ancient Inca stairway and water fountain s that are still running to this day. Also this side of the lake is above 3,800 meters altitude.
It was a nice walk over an ancient Inca pathway, passing little kids with alpaca to take a picture, having nice blue lake view and at the end the fountain running next to the path.
We had to cross the river by boat, got some street food and then got dropped infront of our hotel in La Paz.