Bolivia and Peru crossing
04.12.2008 - 07.12.2008
La paz in a few words: big, dirty and chaotic. It not a city I would call beautiful, as there are no trees at this high altitude. The city is old, its streets are one way with 20 centermeters either side for a footpath, and are filled with smelly, loud and pushy cars. The traffic is unpredictable, its truly nerve racking beeing a pedestrian where at times to get across the road one must dive in front of traffic. Every street corner and main streets are inhabited by street vendors selling everything from snacks, jewlery to electronic supplies. The witches market was also a sight selling all sorts of potions, herbs and animal skins and dried carcases of baby llamas. The best thing about Bolivia, the food is cheep and good, we were paying about $10 NZ or 40 Bolivianos for restaurant dinners most nights. Its where I got a taste for llama steak, Yummy, a steak with earthy overtones.
We found ourselves staying at an Irish hostel ´Wild Rover", surrounded by fairies, pixies and lapricorns. The atmosphere is homely, inside the staff and guests speak English making you feel as far away from Bolivia as possible. We also arrived to celebrate the hostels first birthday, where in the Irish tradition fancy dress was compolsiry and the drinking was plentiful.
By day 4 in La Paz we had enough of the chaos, time to move on to explore the shores of lake Titikaka, destination Copacobana. One of the features of this trip was crossing a small channel between the mainland and a pininsular, where all the passangers leave the bus and board a rickaty boat. Meanwhile the bus is transported on a barge across the channel. This was quite a sight many large buses and cars swaying on wooden barges. The lake is located at 3800m altitude and surrounded by magnificent snowcapped mountains. We were pleased to see a lushous landscape, a contrast to the preseding weeks in the desert.
Copacobana is a great little township with another magnificent church as its centrepiece. From here we organised a trip to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), an important island on the lake where the Inka civilazation originated. The trip to the island is 2hours by boat and slow due to the putty small outbord motors of 55 horse power for a relatively big boat hosting up to 30 passangers. Once on the island we took the three hour walking tour from the north to the south of the island witnessing various Inka ruins. The North of the Island is barron and dirty on contrast to the South where a fresh spring gushes water all year round. The grass is green and trees cover the terraces. There are numerous hostals and homestays on offer, some people choose to stay the night, but we had to get moving.
Our next destination was Puno on the Peruvian side of the lake. A plain city, but offers trips to the Floating Islands. The group of 50 Islands are made from reads and are anchoured down to stop them floating away. The boat glides through the community, where each island supports 4 to 6 famalies. The sight of this floating town is mesmarising making you feel like you stepped into a fairy tale. Our tour stopped on a small Island were we meet the 6-8 inhabitants. We got a tutorial on how the islands are made and how the houses on them are constructed. Their reed houses last up to 2 years, where by then they start to rot. We were also treated to tasting the fresh reads which are also part of the peoples diet, we were told it provides them with calcium, to us it tasted like bland cucumber. The inhabitants survive by fishing for trout and hunding birds, then trading their catch for vegetables and grains in town.
After a bit of an introduction to their lifestyle, we got some free time to look around their houses and purchase some of their handmade creations. Tatyana got pulled away by one of the locals and dressed in traditional clothing. It was hard for most passangers to resist the temptation of sourveners as you see the woman hand stiching the wallhanging which tell the story of the lake Titikaka. We also were treeted to taking a cruise on one of the reed boats around the community, it was a smooth ride guided by one of the young locals. Although it was an interesting experience it did make us question whether the continuation of such lifestyle was just another touristic attraction.