Lago Titicaca

4 11 2007

This is getting more and more complicated. We’ve taken a full day off to update the internet today – by the time we’ve burnt a CD of photos, updated the Google Map, uploaded some photos, replied to the odd email, and finally blogged… I hope someone back home apprecates this 🙂

We left Cusco. Florian, Rebekka and Chan (remember them from north Peru?), arrived just before we from Machu Picchu, so we had to hang around for a day to say hello. Poor Florian was really sick (quick visit to the hospital and all) but he was on the mend when we left – hope he’s ok! Good thing we did stay, because we were able to spend a bit more time on the pepper spray project, and found success – watch out thieves now! We also now have a full compliment of spare parts, brake pads, cables and tyres; filled up with pancakes, ice cream and Alpaca… and more ice cream. I think I’m going slightly crazy – Joerg caught me trying to be a Kangaroo.

The asphalt road from Cusco goes in more or less a straight line to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The first time in a while I have used straight to describe the road.

Even with an extra day I still found a host of things to do at the last minute (why did my bike computer choose that exact moment to have a flat battery?). So we left in the late morning – just as the rain started. Not a good start with our nice clean clothes – and nice clean bikes! The new chain lasted minutes clean. Passed an old Inca Wall dividing the two valleys. Another pile of rocks.

Three days of gently up surrounded by mountains. I passed 4000km and Rahel and Joerg hit 21000. At the same time. Almost at the top we came across a hot spring (under-commercialised in our opinion) and jumped in. Unfortunately the water was too inviting (first bath since Cusco), the water was warm to hot, the outside air temperature was cool (it was over 4000m) and the sun was strong. We got sunburned. But the water was good – and the scenery amazing. 10km further was the top, it rained on us again, and we barrelled down to Santa Rosa. The tail wind and scenery helped us make the decision to press on. The wind swung around and the valley widened significantly, making the last few hours (40km) painful into Ayaviri – we arrived on dusk, and literally minutes before a downpour. Lucky.

Entering Juliaca was an experience. Crazy drivers – I almost got into a fight with one. The combi drivers have a attitude that involves owning the road and only getting out of the way of big trucks, which leaves us little room. The road leaving Juliaca to Puno has to be the most dangerous so far. Lots of vehicles, and far less of the normal courtesy we have come to expect from overtaking cars. Too many people, and too many gringos – me thinks.

I had hoped to skip Juliaca completely. I hated the town as soon as we entered (that may have been because of the near dust up with a combi driver after he pulled out in front of us) – the name was the only nice thing about the town. But after lunch it was clear that we were done, and another 45km was not going to happen. So we found a hostel, and bumped into two Argentinian cyclists also staying there. Paula and Santiago are on their way north before completing a rather complex figure eight that will see them travelling for quite some time. Their gear looked like mine almost was, before I scored a set of panniers in Quito. Good luck to them.

A turn off along the road to Puno was Sillustani, written up in the ‘Planet and recommended as a site to see. Another pile of rocks – ths one mostly falling down (They were funerary mounds of the leaders of an ancient tribe, the Colla people – I had to see them at least!). It would have been more impressive if we hadn’t ridden there – full of tourists. The lake behind (Lake Umayo) was most impressive, however.

Up and down into Puno. A city firmly on the Gringo trail. Lots of foreigners, and a place to take a day trip onto Lake Titicaca. The lake looks, from the north, like someone pulled out the plug and left mud flats, but reveals a big lake as you rise into Puno. We donned our tourist clothes and jumped on a boat early in the morning. We were shipped out to the Floating Islands of the Uros people. Unfortunatley with hordes of other tourists. We’ve developed an appreciation of being more or less alone for most of the trip, and times like this (and Machu Picchu) grate on our nerves. Being told by an American who saw us cycle “You guys are awesome!” doesn’t really help.

But the idea of living on a pile of rotting totora reeds was quite a good one – both for avoiding being taken over by the Incas and making lots of tourist dollars a few centuries later. The ‘Planet describes them: “The unique floating islands … have become shockingly commercialised, though there is still nothing like them anywhere else”. Enough said. A few photos (strangely angled…) are on Flickr.

The day trip then continued (painfully slowly) to the next tourist infested island, Isla Taquile. This island is really quite pretty (when you ignore the German and American tourists thronging about the market). We found a quiet place off to one side and managed to appreciate the beauty of the place. The views out over the lake (which is huge) toward Bolivia, and its snow capped Corderilla Real were quite stunning. Again ignore the tourist boats in the foreground. For some reason it sprung into my head that this must be several million times better than working (sorry to all those that have to). Chilling on the top of an island, looking out over a lake, with nothing to worry about but where to get the next feed of Alpaca. It’ll be tough when the money runs out. Perhaps I should eat less Alpaca, and help the money last a bit longer.

The experience was slightly dampened by the tortuous ride back to Puno – how can a boat go so slow? But the day of high and lows continued – we found a parrilla (bbq grill) restaurant to sink out teeth into some real meat – first time for a while!

We’ve got around 130km until we hit Bolivia. Yippee! I can’t wait to change maps (actually I can’t wait to get to Argentina, but we must experience Bolivia first).



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