05.04.2010 - 07.04.2010 20 °C
On Monday morning we got on a bus for Copacabana which is on the shore of Lake Titicaca. The ride was nice (the bus was terrible and kept smoking up and breaking down). Near the lake, we had to get a ferry across a small section of water. Everyone got off the bus and got on a little boat while the bus was driven onto a rickety barge. We watched, intrigued as to whether the bus would make it to the other side, but of course it did.
Arrival in Copacabana meant organising a boat trip to Isla del Sol (sun island), and also booking a bus onto Puno the next day. That achieved we set off on a boat to the Island for the night. Apart from the petrol fumes on the boat giving me a headache, the ride was very nice – maybe 2 hours or so. On arrival we found ourselves at the base of the Incan steps. We had been told not to accept any of the over-priced touts for hostels at the bottom of the stairs (which would have resulted in our bags getting carried up, for a price). 40 minutes of stair-climbing later (with our full backpacks on) we were at the top of the hill. Absolutely stuffed, walking up the hill was ten times worse with the altitude and 20kgs of bags. And, we were about ready to knock out the little buggers who kept saying, ´hostel, hostel, still 30 minutes to the top´ every time you sat down to rest. But in the end we made it to a great hotel with a huge deck overlooking the lake, bay and islands, a couple of beers watching the sun set over the water, it was worth the walk (nearly).
The next morning, Sarah got up and walked to one of the Incan ruins, Pilcocaina, before breaky. This involved a bit of a hike cross-country and was a bit further than first thought to make it worse it was closed on arrival, and then started raining! But it was nice to be out in the early morning with no one else around. Seth slept. On return we decided rather than walk to the other end of the island we would just walk back to the harbour, get the early ferry and then swap our bus to the earlier bus to Puno. A wet, slippery and dangerous walk back down the 300 Incan stairs to the boat was not enjoyable, but we got there, got overtaken by a few donkeys (carrying backpacks). Obviously everyone else had the same though as the boat was full, standing room only, not many safety regulations, we were quite surprised that the boat made it back to the mainland with that many people and luggage onboard.
Back safely on the mainland we managed to change our bus and headed off to Peru!!
The bus crossed the border into Peru after an hour. No photos recommended at the border so none to show. Although we did run into a girl from our Bolivian tour who confirmed that three more people were sick from the tour which put beyond doubt that the chicken on the last day was the culprit!
On the bus we had decided to purchase a tour to Uros, the floating islands in the Peru section of Lake Titicaca (Puno). We were rushed at the bus station as the bus was late and the tour operator was trying to get us to the hostel to drop our bags. Sarah looking the wrong way tripped over a wheel stop in the carpark, with backpack on, and managed to drive herself into the bitumen. Grazed, bruised knee, sore ankle, a hole in her only jeans, and wounded pride probably the worst of it.
We got to the hostel, to a man who chastised us for our choice of tour operator for the next day.... not what was needed. And before we could check in, knock, knock – it was the floating island tour. Dumped bags and off we went. On a boat and 30 minutes out to the floating islands.
It was a nice boat trip in the early evening and we were soon seeing strange-looking reed islands. For safety during the war people moved out onto the lake in boats. They then discovered that when the roots of the lake’s reeds were pulled out during a storm they came up with a metre thick chunk of soil that floated. So they now cut large chucks of reed, root and soil to make the basis of their islands. These pieces of soil could be 10m by 10m in area, they rope together sections of island to form larger pieces and then add about a metre thick of cross-hatched reeds on top. Creating floating islands to live on. Originally these islands were about 20km off shore, but for tourists they have moved them closer to the Puno shore, but they do still live on them. We did spy a few solar panels and other creature-comforts. On the island we got an explanation of how the islands were created and life on them, then of course the obligatory handicraft stalls.
We then got a ride on the ´Mercedes´ (large reed raft/boat) from one island to another. Where there were a few shops and a hut where they were serving trout caught in the lake. We decided on a quick dinner which was very nice and a highlight was the chilli sauce they had to put on the rice and fish. Unfrotunatley not sold seperately, although they did try to give us some in a plastic bag!! The Lake Titicaca trout was good too – and the meal only cost $5 each, not bad for fresh fish dinner!
The next day we headed off on our tourist bus to Cusco, still being berated by the hostel owner for paying too much for the bus! Annoying.
The bus we took was an organised tour with a guide. The first stop was at Pucara, we stopped at a museum and got the Incan timeline compared with other civilizations, again. There were some good sculptures but the most interesting part was the explanation as to why there were two ceramic bulls on the peak of each house roof. It turns out they are good luck charms, placed at the completion of the house to ward of bad spirits, they have quite a party at the time and some houses had bottles of beer and coke next to the bulls too. Every house has them on the peak of the roof line and we saw them all the way to Cusco and around there.
Our next stop was the peak of the journey, La Raya was the highest point of the road, 4335m. We stopped here for ‘photos’ which, of course meant more handicrafts markets! – one could also get their photo taken with a Llama (for a price). Who could resist?
We then stopped for a great lunch, where for the first time we drank Inca Cola- basically yellow-coloured creaming soda. Not bad. There was also a band playing which played a song that Seth had heard before. And then realized it was the tune of the ‘1 tonne Rodeo’ Toyota advert. Cue singing….. ‘I want a 1 tonne Rodeo, 1 tonne rooodeoooo’. I guess it was in its original format.
The main stop was at Raqchi, which was an Incan site. It was used to store supplies in many round buildings, silos. The site was very impressive, the main attraction being the large, 15m-high wall, which was the centre wall of a temple. It used to be 18m but weather had damaged it. The site was interesting displaying the amazing alignment of the buildings done using the stars, and added to the story which started in Tiwanaku.
Our last stop was the town of Andahuaylillas, which is home to the ‘Andean Sistine Chapel’. It was an Incan temple but the Spanish knocked it down and in its place built the church. The outside of the church wasn’t very impressive, but inside it was very opulent, with a large amount of gold-plated sculptures, paintings and murals/ alfrescos. The centre piece above the altar was made of solid silver from Potosi and mirrors caught the light that entered the front windows of the church. There was also a huge portrait on the wall around the exit doors which depicted heaven and hell, with the poor-looking people, who have given everything to the church, entering heaven and the rich looking are entering hell. We weren’t allowed to take pics inside the church, which was a shame, as the postcards weren’t too flash either.
The last section of road gave us a view of the devastation caused by the floods. As ususal there was the visual devastation of thousands living in tents but then there was also the fact that the farming land had been destroyed, making the village uninhabitable for years, as well as the significant impact on tourism which represents 20% of the Peruvian economy.
On arrival in Cusco we found ourselves in the dirty run down part of the city. We managed to figure out where we had a reservation and then get a taxi and made it there safely. By this stage we were in a bit of a rush as we had to get to the office for our pre Inca Trail Trek briefing and also pay the money. Our briefing got us all excited and a little nervous about the Trek! We were glad it was all going ahead, after the landslides and closure of the trail for the previous 2 months.
The next day we got up late and spent most of the day shopping for snacks for the four day trek ahead. We also booked a massage for our return. By the end of the day we were looking for dinner and it started to rain, followed by hail. We were running around the city trying to find somewhere other than pizza or chicken and chips (obviously very popular). We ended up buying ponchos because the rain and hail was so heavy – not a good sign before 3 nights in a tent! The next morning we were up and ready for our 5.20am pick up and the start of our Inca Trail trek.