Trip Start Mar 11, 2005
19Trip End Jul 15, 2005
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Neither of us is into the package tour way of doing things, but we had little choice than to join a day-long organised boat trip from Puno to see the lake. So it was that at a rather rude 7am we were boarding the boat that was to show us the sights of Lake Titicaca. Our first port of call was the 'Islas de Uros', a group of tiny islands formed from beds of floating totora, papyrus-like reeds. The already-floating beds of totora are flattened and then topped with layer upon layer of cut totora, forming a floating platform upon which people live, build houses and, mainly, fish. Apart from the 5 turistic islands that is, whose sole function is to show a chocolate box version to gawping, and if we were typical, embarrassed tourists. As soon as our boat approached the first of these islands, the locals appeared from their apparently new totora houses, wheeling out their handicrafts for the discerning visitors. We really didn't want to be associated with this and were keen to move on, but it seemed that the only way to leave was by ye olde and very brand new looking traditional totora boat. The whole thing seemed to be made from this reed, including the sail, but we resented being persuaded to use it, and even more so when we were asked for more money from the pilots. Our embarrassment was not yet at an end, for we were delivered to the next turistic island, this time complete with an elderly lady, grinding corn the traditional way (accompanied by a perhaps not so traditional small boy jumping into the frame of unsuspecting photographers and then asking for money from the hapless tourists), and a working telephone kiosk made entirely from the same totora reed (not sure about the telephone itself though!). We would have loved to see the traditional, working islands, but perhaps the real living conditions on these islands is not for the modern, squeamish traveller.
Ye Olde Lady
We were relieved to get back onto our boat, complete with an inboard motor that kept the two of us heated from below as we sat upon the housing, whilst those on the 'better' seats, exposed to the elements but un-centrally heated, wrapped up against the chilly wind. We soon left the reeds behind us and headed out into the main body of the lake as our motor polluted the air with belching black smoke spewing from the exhaust. Lake Titicaca is vast: it stretches 120 miles (190km) in one direction and 50 miles (80km) in the other; it covers an area of 3,200 sq. miles (8,300 sq. km); it averages some 530 feet (160m) deep; it has 25 rivers feeding into it and it contains 41 islands; at 12,500 feet (3,810m) high, it is the highest navigable lake in the world. Truly awesome - and beautiful - as we discovered when we headed out into the deep blue water, gazing at the snow-capped mountains in Bolivia on the other side of the lake. Two-and-a-quarter hours later and we pulled alongside the jetty, jutting out from the island of Taquile. Taquile is a proper island, made of rock. It is, as are so many of the others, covered completely in agricultural terracing, apparently constructed 2,000 years previously. We disembarked and climbed the steep paths to the small town at the centre, declining the generous offers of the local men to have their photographs taken (for money) whilst they indulged in their curious, and disturbingly metro-sexual, past-time of knitting. We helped and indulged a little old, but spritely (in a Philsy kind of way), Canadian lady who was struggling with the altitude, but was gamely determined to do everything and see everything. The island was interesting, the lunch expensive, and the views spectacular. At the other side of the island we embarked again and left Taquile behind, disappearing into the black fog that somewhat shamefully would perhaps be the only permanent reminder of our visit to the beautiful and inspiring lake that is Titicaca.
So we saw what we came to see. And now home, well at least for Philsy, whose presence was required at the wedding of the recently conjoined Mr. and Mrs Besley. His flight was from Lima, but he had to get there, with the bike and the pannier bags without losing anything or having it nicked. Concerned as he was about the likelihood, nay, probability, of something or himself getting lost in the process, the team decision was that he should fly from the nearby town of Juliaca to Lima International Airport, and then it would be a simple transfer from arrivals to departures, which even the old man could manage on his own. So it was that at the travel agent in Puno we bought a flight from Juliaca to Lima and then discussed with the agent how to get to Juliaca. We then hit on a brilliant idea: we could cycle!!!! No need to arrange a taxi, no need to book a bus that would take bikes, we could use our bikes. How quickly one forgets!! So the day before Philsy's flight to Lima, we again saddled up and pedalled the 26 miles to Juliaca. That evening we wanted to celebrate with a quality meal and some fine wine: we had a family pizza and a couple of jugs of sangria - and it was so good.
Ye Olde Boats
On 22nd July, at some ungodly hour, we left our hotel and took a motorbike-trishaw-taxi thingy on the pot-holed road to the airport. It was odd to part - odd to be apart, for, for 5 months we had been together, supported each other, helped each other, encouraged each other on one of the most gruelling, challenging, but enjoyable journeys we are ever likely to make. Philsy is now back at work in London, still trying to decide whether to lose the beard (do stop telling him it looks good!), whilst Starky is determined to enjoy his last weeks of freedom and travel some more. He is now the proud owner of a UK work permit and visa (many thanks to Jim Edwards, the British consul in Buenos Aires) and looks forward with slight trepidation to the prospect of starting work with PwC towards the end of October. At present he can be found in Venezuela - at last he has found the heat which we found so elusive! He's from South Africa you know.
Patagonia to Peru was an amazing experience for us both. It was so tough, but what a fantastic experience and a privilege to be able to undertake it. We are pleased to have raised over 2,000 pounds for the St. Cuthbert's Hospice in Durham and hope to raise more with speaking engagements. Also, several people have mentioned to us that they would still like to give to the charity. The Justgiving website for giving online will be open until the end of September, when it will close. If you'd still like to give, please go to www.justgiving.com/philsystarkycycling and we, and them, would be very grateful.
Thank you; this really, is it.
Philsy & Starky