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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 22 Oct 2006

Location: Puno and Lake Titicaca, Peru

MapEverybody slags Puno off but we didn´t think it was too bad. We arrived from Cuzco in the afternoon and, for once, were really organised and booked a tour to Sillustani for the next day, a 2 day trip to Lake Titicaca and our bus tickets to Copacabana (Bolivia not Brazil). We also met Sean and Katrina from Galway and the Rumi Punku in Cuzco and arranged to meet them for dinner which was really nice apart from Colin and Sean´s disappointment at missing most of the second half of the Chelsea/Barcelona game.

The next day we walked down to the docks and got a bicycle taxi to the Yavari, a boat made in London in over 2,500 pieces (each able to be carried by a mule), shipped to Arica and carrried by mule over the Andes to Lake Titicaca which took 6 years. It was put together and launched in 1862. It has a new (1912) engine but most of the other fittings are original. It is in the process of being restored and we were shown round by the Captain who used to work in Bristol as a waiter. He also works as a waiter in the evening and recommended his restaurant (more of which later). We then visited the Puma lookout - this time travelling by colectivo - good views of Puno.

We bought some alpaca gloves from the Fair Trade co-operative in Puno in preparation for our trip to the islands and then went off to Sillustani which is a pre-Incan burial ground. The tombs, which are built above ground in tower-like structures called chullpas, are the vestiges of the Colla people, Aymara, who were conquered by the Inca in the 1400s. One of the tombs also had a lizard carved into the stone (apparently because they could regrow their tails, lizards were considered a symbol of life). On the way back, we visited a farm and saw the family´s bedrooms, kitchen and guinea pig house and sampled some bread and cheese.

We went to the Captain´s restaurant, Kintu, and had a very good meal served by the man himself although he over-ruled my choice of lamb (too much cholesterol for the altitude), suggesting trout instead.

Next day I woke up with food poisoning (again). We decided to go to the Islands anyway in the hope that the worst was over - little did we know. The first stop was the Uros Islands - which are floating islands. The islands are made of reeds, which grow in the lake and are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top each week to compensate. The reeds give when you walk on them which feels really strange - there are also reed boats but now mostly for tourists.

Next stop Amantani where we were to stay. Three hours by boat and incredibly rough - much worse than anything on the Galapagos. I hadn´t imagined being seasick on a lake but combined with being ill anyway managed it. We arrived, met Olga our hostess, I just about managed the walk to her house and spent the rest of the day in bed. This was a real shame as the island was beautiful and interesting. We had a nice room with proper beds but the house was really basic, no running water, no electricity, cooking over an open fire, and an outside loo with a barrel of water for flushing about 30m away from the house. Colin had lunch with the family - maize soup followed by fried egg and potatoes and herb tea. He then went off to play football with the locals followed by a walk to one of the temples at the top of the island - great views and a nice sunset but freezing cold. The alpaca gloves didn´t fully cut out the windchill but were much admired. Back for dinner, quinoa (a small cereal) soup followed by rice and potato stew. The islanders diet is primarily vegetarian, mostly starches, with occasional fish. Next stop the fiesta, Colin dressed in traditional costume (poncho and hat which they hope to sell), dancing to the local band wih very long simple dances holding hands with Rosa, Olga´s Mum.

Next day, I was feeling slightly better and managed to go to the kitchen for breakfast - pancakes and jam with more herb tea. We decided to buy Colin´s alpaca hat partly as a souvenir and partly to support the family who have very little (and it was quite nice). I wasn´t looking forward to the boat to the next island, Tequile, but the water was much calmer and I survived. We had a lovely walk over the island which smelt of herbs and was reminiscent of the Mediterranean. It was somewhat overshadowed for me by the prospect of three more hours back to Puno but it was OK.

We met up with some of the group for dinner and, as seems ineviable, caught the bus the next day with two of them, Max and Toni from Australia. Our first land frontier crossing into Bolivia was easy and we are now in Copacabana, staying at the same hotel as Max and Toni for 50 Bolivanos (about 4 pounds).