Arriving late in the evening, we checked into a hostel costing a grand total of £2. For that price you can’t expect much, and we didn’t, but deciding it was less than desirable we upgraded to another hostel the next night costing a piggy-bank-breaking £3 a night. Unfortunately that didn’t’ work out too well for us either. We noticed that a fair majority of buildings across Bolivia are unfinished (due to lack of funding), or appear unfinished (very shoddy building work); Hostal Bolivar was one of them. During the night we experienced torrential rain and thunder storms and subsequently woke up in the morning to find water had poured through the presumably unsealed window and drenched Amy and Andrea’s bags.
We didn’t really get up to much in Copacabana. With the referendum on on Sunday there was bugger all to do and we cancelled our planned trip to Isla del Sol the following day because ironically it absolutely pissed it down the whole time. With the miserable weather rubbing off on our spirits, we opted to move onto Puno a day earlier than planned.
On one of the evenings we did walk up Cerro Calvario for impressive views of Copacabana and the water. We planned to watch the sunset, but once again all we saw was cloud! The ascent doesn’t take too long, but it’s pretty steep, and the altitude hit us more here than ever before. Questioning our fitness, we had to stop every 10 steps or so (even on the flatter bits) to catch a breath. Luckily all the other travellers we chatted to confirmed that we weren’t the only ones struggling… Unfortunately the curse of Copacabana struck again and my memory card decided it needed formatting that evening…hopefully when I return to England my computer whizz Dad can help me recover all my photos,but until then here’s a beaut one which Amy took:
In search of comfort, we visited the recommended Pan America Bakery and Pizzeria just off the main square; it’s a little gem of a place, and definitely worth a visit if you end up in Copacabana. The place is cute and cozy, the owners warm, welcoming and humble and the food absolutely delicious (and actually real pizza, yay!). Additionally, they work hard to raise money and contribute to local community projects, making the pizza and baked goods taste all the better.
Old habits die hard, and whilst booking our bus to Puno, we became acquainted with a lovely boy named Nick from Chicago. Also heading to Puno, we convinced him to join us on our Lake Titicaca adventures. Upon arriving we dumped our bags and went to the market for fruit salad, ogling at the fully skinned cow heads on the way. We also imbibed a few free pisco sours, introduced Nick to our card games and munched on nachos, guacamole and trout pâté, fished fresh from the lake – who knew fish and nachos went together so well!
We got up early for our 2 day, 1 night floating islands tour which we paid 85 soles for and booked via the hostel. We hopped on the boat and was instantly serenaded by a man playing Simon and Garfunkel on the guitar and pan pipes, and asking for money… the start of things to come. We visited the floating island of Uros, which are essentially huge rafts of bundled reeds, anchored down. Originally created to prevent attacks from aggressive neighbours like the Incas, these floating man-made islands can be moved by lifting the anchors…a strange thought! Unbelievably, about 4000 people inhabit these islands, constantly replacing rotting reeds and building boats made of the same thing. We were invited into one for a short ride to a different island, and unexpectedly charged 10 soles (£2) for it at the end. Awkward little kids also sung on the boat trip and then asked for money. Irked and uncomfortable, we felt this place was an absolute tourist trap; certainly don’t be fooled into thinking it’s authentic. The younger generations looked annoyed and exhausted by this zoo-like display, and can you blame them?! The whole day felt like a money-making spectacle and we got a super weird vibe from the whole experience.
Afterwards we took a 3 hour boat ride to Amantani island where we would spend the night with a local family. Despite being wrapped in layers due to the cold, Nick and I fell asleep on the top of the boat and burnt our faces. The girls made a similar mistake the next day, so we all spent the following week with red faces and peeling, painful noses.
When we arrived on Amantani, we all waited in a large group to meet the family with which we would be staying. It felt a little bit like being picked for the sports team in High School but luckily for us we were introduced to a small and sweet looking smiling lady called Felicitas. We went home and met her husband Sebastien and daughter Nelly. Their home was also a small guesthouse, so once again we weren’t entirely sold on the authenticity of the stay.
Felicitas served us delightful home cooked quinoa soup followed by rice and cheese for dinner. Sebastien gave us a piece of paper with their address incase we got lost; the ‘address’ was just their names…not quite the same as the ‘if I’m drunk or lost please return to ***’ wristbands that we had in some of the hostels! We took them gifts to thank them for having us, and they seemed to enjoy our limited company…but you can never be too sure.
In the evening we met up with our strange tour guide named Rubén who told us some information that we could barely understand, and then we walked up a large hill to see a holy temple and views across the island. Ladies selling tourist items and water or chocolate were dotted along the way. In the evening Felicitas dressed us in traditional dress and Nelly took us to the local school hall where we danced to local music. Swinging around and holding hands, just try to picture a really aggressive version of the Hokey Cokey.
The next morning we woke early again and took the boat across to Taquile island. We briefly explored some of the island, ending up at a family’s house with a beautiful view where we eat another gorgeous local lunch of quinoa soup and trout from the lake. The family showed us their traditional dances, tools and plant based products. They also explained the wee-willy-winky style hats that all the men wear. Different colours distinguish their relationship status – like a less modern version of a traffic light party. Once again we were told how basic these people lived, with no ‘whatsapp etc’, although Andrea saw one of them with an iPhone charger and on the phone so that’s probably questionable.
We arrived back in Puno where there was another intense rain storm. We drunk a few more pisco sours, made plans to meet up again in Lima, and then Andrea, Amy and I headed to the bus station and caught a night bus to Cuzco for 30 soles.
Love, Lottie xx