A lake called Titicaca & land you can cut in half

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
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Trip End Jul 17, 2010


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Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, May 3, 2010

A short drive and we're over to the town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Don’t get this place confused with the Copacabana beach of Rio de Janeiro. There's absolutely no resemblance whatsoever. If you end up here instead of Brazil, then fire your travel agent. Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake and it’s also one of the highest lakes of its size in the world. We get to Copacabana and it’s just past 7 in the evening. It’s been a long day with us having to take the truck across the lake on a ferry and driving through lots of mountains to get there. It was also May Day, so we’d encountered lots of street parades and road closures along the way too. We arrive at the hotel to find that they have given all of our rooms away. Their story was that we were late, there was the festival in town, public holiday and apparently people were knocking down their doors for the rooms. Bullshit. There were two trucks and about 40 people in total so how could they have given our rooms away? The real answer is that we probably never had rooms to begin with.To say that our leaders were pissed off would be like saying that the Sahara is a little dry, the understatement of the decade.

The hotel was right about one thing, there weren’t any rooms left in town. We had to stay somewhere so we told them that we were staying put and we would camp in their lobby if they didn’t find room for us. Fast forward an hour or so later and we’re pulling out sleeping mats, sleeping bags and warm clothes for a slumber party in a rather large (and cold) meeting room. The next morning was our mate Ted’s birthday so he was serenaded by the whole group with the Happy Birthday song that he hates so much. I’m sure it’s a birthday he won’t forget, for all the wrong reasons. That hotel is so damn lucky that I don’t remember their name, otherwise their TripAdvisor review would be absolutely shocking.

A boat trip out to the lake’s largest island Isla del Sol was the activity for the next day. We packed our lunch and had a great day hiking around, even if the sun threatened to change my last name from Tan to Burnt-to-a-Crisp.

We then journeyed to another lakeside town called Puno where we were ferried from our hotel to the docks in rickshaws (weird) then onto a boat to see the floating communities of Uros. The lake has plenty of reeds which the locals compacted and tied together to make into floating island communities. The islands are tied to more reeds so they don’t move around and each island can have 5-7 families. If the fishing's no good, then they can cut the ropes and go somewhere else. Neighbours are growing hydroponic drugs or having rave parties? Again, you can cut the ropes and go somewhere else. Jokes aside, everyone gets along pretty well but if there are any disputes, people are entitled to cut their fair share of island off and move to another community, tie up and settle there. Simple really.

While we were there, each family got us to dress up in their local dress and then they found out our names. They made a real point of knowing our names too. Why? You need to know someone’s name in order to sell them something. Isn’t the first rule of sales to use the name of your prospect often because it’s the one word in their language that they can’t help but love? The second rule is that there’s rarely something for nothing. It’s a little bit of, "COLIN, you’ve worn our clothes and taken pictures, now how would you like to buy a bracelet?" Name? Check. Got our clothes on? Check. Now offer him the bracelet and upsell him on the hand wove carpet. Let the sales process begin. Call me a cynic but you’d better remember to call me Colin before you sell me something.

If I put my cynicism aside for a minute, these people seemed genuinely happy to be livng on the islands and with each other. They send their kids to the mainland every day for school so that they don't miss out on getting a good education. They may not have (or want) the mod cons that we have but they have a life that is organic and sustainable. You can't really put a price on that.

A few bracelets and necklaces later, we head to dinner at a place called La Casona. If you find yourself lucky enough to be in Puno, then head here for dinner. We had an entree of trout ceviche which was absolutely stunning and the mains (alpaca and kingfish) were great too. For those who don’t know, ceviche is more of a method of cooking where the fresh raw seafood (in this case trout) is marinated in lemon or lime juice and the acid in the juice sort of tenderises or cooks the protein. It’s really popular in this part of the world and great ceviche was on our list of things to have when we came to South America. We never missed the chance to have it.

With the Lake Titicaca behind us, we were off to Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire in its heyday. The place is so historically important the whole town is a World Heritage site. It's full of tourists as it’s the logical big stop for any traveller heading to Machu Picchu. Most people get ready for their hike here by buying supplies and equipment in Cusco. Others like me eat more than they should (because food in Peru is relatively cheap and I tell myself that I need the extra calories for the long trek) and shop for computer equipment (Ted wanted to buy a laptop, I like buying computer equipment and trying out my Spanish thus it was a match made in heaven). I used all of my guile and charm to haggle with the computer store guys, all of it in Spanish no less. My dad would have been proud to see that I learnt a thing or two on our Saturday morning tours of our local suburban garage sales.

Cusco is a really cool place and I’ll write a little more about it in a few blogs’ time as we have the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu to be covered first. That's what the next blog will be about as we cross off another one of the New 7 Wonders of the world. You won’t want to miss that one.

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Comments

tedchaplin
tedchaplin on

I can vouch that Colin's laptop haggling skills and flirtatious spanglish are second to none. Much appreciated and goes some way to make up for the stupid "happy birthday" wake up song!

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