Lake Titicaca - The inland sea in the Andes

Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
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Trip End May 31, 2008


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Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, March 7, 2008

With my time in Arequipa coming to an end I farewelled the helpful staff at the Hotel Corridor and took a cab to Arequipa's central bus terminal. Buses to Puno leave frequently. There is a train line though services no longer run on a regular basis. A bus from Arequipa to Puno costs 16 soles which is about AU$5.50 and takes about 6 hours. The scenery along this route is spectacular as it winds its way further up into the Andes passing snow-capped mountain ranges. The route is winding and altitudes can become sickening. By the time we almost reached Puno, at a height of just over 4200 metres, my head was out the window and I was spreading my last three meals over Puno's roadways. Upon reaching my accommodation I was unable to do anything other than be sick or sleep. 16 hours later I managed to drag myself out of bed and hook up with a mid morning tour of Lake Titicaca's Uros Islands.

Lake Titicaca borders Peru and Bolivia and is the world's highest navigable lake. We were told that to cross from one end to the other by ferry takes over 8 hours. The Uros is the name of a group of pre-Incan people who live on 42 self-fashioned floating man-made islets located in Lake Titicaca off Puno. The Uros use the totora plant to make boats of bundled dried reeds as well as to make the islands themselves. Around 3,000 descendants of the Uros are alive today, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could move their islands to another location. People living on the Uros Islands get by mainly on tourism whereas people living on other Islands further out make a living from fishing and trade.

The people on the Uros Islands are welcoming and interesting. The guide explained the history of the Uros Islands and how the islands, boats and houses are all constructed from the totora plant. Then came the all important time of selling souvenirs to the tourists, followed by a ride in an authentic reed boat to another island where we were offered more souvenirs before returning to the mainland.

The city of Puno is quite dirty and not particularly pretty. Apart from the islands you may also want to visit the nearby Chullpas de Sillustani ruins which form part of a pre-Incan burial ground built by the Aymara culture to emphasise the connection between life and death. The insides of the tombs are shaped like a woman's uterus and like the Nazca culture corpses were mummified in a foetal position to recreate their birth. That night a heavy storm passed over which brought lightning, ice and strong rain.
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