Lake Titicaca – both sides

Everyone had been talking about Peru hop and Bolivia hop, so I thought I’d give it ago. I had a couple more days than I thought I had so instead of going to Arequipa, I decided to go to Lake Titicaca. It was on my original plan so why not.

I took an overnight bus from Cusco, with Bolivia hop to Puno. It was really easy, the seats were ridiculously comfortable and I got a duvet. What more could you want from a 12 hour journey. Turns out it’s not 12 as we arrived in Puno at 5.30am. I think I kinda slept but was definitely in a daze when I got there. We had breakfast at this little cafe that opened especially for us and then headed out onto the lake. I’d been told that the Bolivian side of the lake was prettier and I think that’s definitely true, however going out onto the lake at 6am when nobody was around and it was like a mill pond it was pretty beautiful. The town itself isn’t but the lake is. There was no one else about really, whereas when we came back there were loads of boats going out. Really glad we got to go so early. The bus is a great way to travel as it means you meet people who are doing the same route as you and it’s hop on hop off so it’s really convenient.

After breakfast we got the boat out to the islands made out of reeds.

Everything is made out of reeds, the islands, the houses and even a lot of the boats. They have to change the reeds every 20 days, which is a crazy amount of work.

The indigenous people, who originally settled here in the middle of the lake when fleeing the Inca’s, now make their money from selling to the tourists and taking them on boat rides. So we took a boat ride and also bought some souvenirs. It’s weird, it felt authentic and unique but also a tourist trap at the same time. I’d say it’s definitely worth going to visit but you don’t have to go for long.

Back on the bus we headed to Copacabana – which for some reason I find remarkably hard to say! Heading across the border, I was quite sad to leave Peru as I’d only been there 8 days. But it’s ok, I’ve decided I’m definitely coming back to Peru to do the bits I missed out. Anyone fancy a trip in 2019??

The border crossing was actually really easy, apart from the slight up hill walk to the actual crossing… that apparently killed me. You know, the whole ‘no air’!!!! thing.

And I was in Bolivia 🇧🇴 country number 8 of this trip and 44 in total – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go because of the iconic salt flats ( that’s the next blog, which I will get round to writing I promise).

Copacabana was not at all what I was expecting. It was kinda like a northern English seaside town from the lakeside – which I know is kinda an odd thing to say but there was something very slightly rundown seaside towny about it and it was different already to Peru.

However I did love the boat trip we did out to Isla del Sol, and the walk up to the view point. It reminded me a bit of New Zealand and Scotland. Although Lake Titicaca is vast and really it’s like being at sea.

After the boat ride I went to find the hostel I was staying it. It was right near the sea front and actually it more like a seedy motel. Not nice, but super cheap. In typical Harriet fashion I fell over that evening and scrapped up my knee and twisted my ankle. It really bloody hurt and a group of young Bolivian men just watched me fall, watched me realise what I’d done and then watched me attempt to get up and the only thing they did was point out I’d dropped my hat but shouting oi…. so I hobbled to meet people for drinks and dinner feeling very sorry for myself! We had a really nice Mexican with a really fun group. Gareth, Amy and I spent most of the evening talking about South African politics which was so interesting and really good to use my brain ( they were South African!!).

When Copacabana does have is beautiful sunsets over the lake ( see the main photo of this blog) – I never get bored of a sunset.

So the next day in my seedy motel, I attempted to get up and shower whilst unable to put any weight on my foot – it would have been comical to watch if anyone had been around. Luckily in my trainer it wasn’t too bad and I could walk but I decided to have a day catching up on my blog ( I was behind then too) and gently exploring the town.

It was actually really pretty in the square so I’m glad I got up there.

After hobbling around for a bit it was time to get back on the Bolivia hop to La Paz. The journey only took 4 hours but we had to get off at one point, let the bus cross on a very weird platform/boat thing and us cross on a little tug boat, in wavy conditions and pitch black. I was praying our bus would be ok as all my worldly belongings were on it! Luckily it was great! Phew

I arrived at La Paz at 10pm on a Saturday night to a Loki hostel the day before Halloween – as you can imagine there was a party in full swing. I met Dan and Lucy upstairs who’d I’d met previously in Colombia. Quite a few drinks were consumed and the next thing I know I’m heading to bed at 2.30am after a great night.

The next morning I woke to no voice and a horrible cold. Typical, just before I do the salt flats in a couple of days time. We were all feeling a bit worse for ware so I did something I never normally do – we found the English pub and had lunch 🙈…. I had proper English fish and chips and it was amazing! Even had mushy peas! Dan and Lucy had fry ups and we were all happy people.

We then went to do the walking tour round La Paz, it started by San Pedro prison which id always had a fascination with after reading Marching Powder, if you haven’t read it! You must, brilliant book and so interesting. Unfortunately you can’t do tourist tours of the prison anymore since someone was stabbed but I’m not sure I would have been brave enough anyway to be honest. It was cool however to see it, see the school across the plaza that the kids go to. It’s crazy the way the prison works. The prisoners families are allowed to live in the prison with them and come and go as they please. Also they have businesses in the prison, and you have to pay rent to get good rooms. Anyways read the book! So good! Something else actually we were told is that Coca Cola is the only soda allowed to be sold in the prison, as they have a deal with the prisoners. Part of me really hopes that’s not true. Also has one of the best cocaine refineries apparently too.

Anyways enough about the prison! I quite liked La Paz. It’s a huge urban concrete jungle, sprawling for miles in the basin of the Andes but it’s interesting and has some nice parts. Some really cool markets too. Most people, especially in the central section of La Paz don’t buy anything from supermarkets; it’s all from markets and the markets really do sell everything!!!!!!

In La Paz walking around you really do notice more indigenous women than Peru or Ecuador. Mostly on the market stalls, wearing their bowler hats. I heard three conflicting stories about why the women wear giant skirts and lots of them – one being that they show off the bottom of the calf and that the calf is the most sexy part of a woman ( my favourite one by far). I heard a more consistent view of the bowler hats. Apparently some English gentleman ordered a shipment to be sent to Bolivia but they ordered the wrong size. They were all too small for the colonial men so they told the local women that it was all the rage in England and women were wearing them – and that they believed them and started to wear them. I really hope that story is true!

On my last day in La Paz, before getting the night bus to Uyuni, I went on a guided tour of the cable cars. I’d recommend doing it that way if you want to go around the city on multiple ones as actually it’s not a terribly easy city to get around. The shuttles are really confusing and there are protests all the time so lots of the streets are always closed. La Paz has multiple cable cars up to the other towns that make up the suburbs. One of the tours we did took us to the witch markets ( sadly mostly closed but we got a feel for it) – I took a few photos but nothing good. I didn’t want to be cursed! Ha

That day in La Paz people were being paid to dress up in Zebra costumes to educate drivers in Bolivia about zebra crossings, which just aren’t used. Apparently you can drive without a license, you just bride the cops if they stop you. Always reassuring to hear and they most definitely don’t stop at crossings.

After the cable car tour I went hunting for alpaca jumpers! I knew my next destination was going to be cold so it was time…….

That’s enough for now. Next blog is the Bolivian salt flats – coming soon hopefully!


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