Hola from the other side of the lake

Trip Start Apr 11, 2006
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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, June 19, 2006

Hey all,

Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Just had quite an exciting morning crossing the Peru/Bolivia border. I took a bus but you have to get off and walk across the border and then the bus meets you on the other side.

So I am now here in Boliva, my third country. I was very sad to leave Peru, but coming to Bolivia from there is not too much of a culture shock. I am staying in a town called Copacobana on the other side of Lake Titicaca. From here I can visit some more islands. Tomorrow I plan to do a 4 hour trek to the peninsula where I can take a boat over to the Sun Island.

The islands on the Peruvian side of the lake are fascinating. I went with a tour group and first we visited the floating islands. These are islands made entirely out of reeds and, surprisingly, they float on the lake. The communities that live on these islands are descendents of a tribe who took refuge on the lake because they feared the aggressive Incas. The great thing about them is that if they decide they donīt like their neighbours anymore they just lift the anchor and float to another spot. Not much has changed since the first islands were created. Although donations of Solar Panels have been made so they can now watch telly in there little reed huts!

Steping on to the island is strange. The surface is very bouncy and people have been known to fall through! We visited two islands and moved between them on their reed boats - it was lots of fun.

Next we went to a natural island called Amantini. We were to spend the night here with a host family. As we came in to the port the women were waiting to greet us and take us back to their homes for lunch. I was paired up with a dutch girl and we were introduced to our "mother" for the night. Her name was Julia and she was dresses, as were the others, in traditional dress; sandals (despite the fact it was freezing), a huge big puffy skirt, a flowery shirt, a big brightly coloured waist band and black shawl. The first language of the islanders is not Spanish, but Quechua (the original Inca language). But luckily Julia was able to speak a bit of Spanish. We had to walk up a very steep hill to get to her house and he altitude was really effecting us. Julia was practically running and we were stopping every 5 steps!

We had a lovely afternoon. After a lunch of soup, veg, rice and delicious mint tea, we headed up yet another very steep hill to meet our group. From here we all climbed to the summit of the mountain just in time to watch the sunset. Back down in our house we had dinner and then Julia took us upstairs to make us look beautiful for the party in the village hall. This consisted of dressing us up completely in traditional dress. It was great fun and the costume was surprisingly warm. Although we had to wear these big waist bands which she wrapped very tight so that we could only just breath. Up in the hall we re joined the guys, who had been dresses in Ponchos and alpaca hats. There was a pan pipes band and as they played we danced the traditional dance with the villagers. Unfortunately as we were girls we got taken home by our mother early whilst the guys were allowed to stay till then end!

We both slept surprisingly well -we though it was going to be much colder, but our two blankets were plenty. In the morning we had a delicious breakfast of pancakes and more mint tea. We then headed down to the port to take the boat to Taquille another near-by natural island. Julia waved us off and an hour later we arrived at the final island. Another stunning island full of culture and tradition. Here the men take much pride in knitting themselves these special hats which show their marital status. red = married, red + white = single. After visiting a photo exhibition created by the locals (they were given a digital photography lesson and then left to their own devices) we headed to the top for a lunch of more soup and fish. Trekking back down the island we boarded the boat to go back to Puno. The journey was about 3 hours and we could sit on the top so we were really able to appreciate the beauty of this magnificent lake. The water is bright blue and glitters in the sun.

I am looking forward to my time here in Bolivia. I wasnīt sure how much time to spend here but customs gave me just 30 days - so they decided for me. I plan to go to La Paz (the highest capital city), then to the amazon jungle and pampas, and I will definitely visit the incredible salt flats in the south. Plenty to do and see here, just hope it doesnīt get much colder.

All the best,

Carin
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