Posted by: robinson2000 | March 23, 2011

Crossing Borders & Lake Titicaca

19th – 22nd March

After an adventure filled week in Arequipa, our route took us east towards the Peruvian-Bolivian border and to the sapphire blue waters of Lake Titicaca. We caught a 6 hour bus to Puno, a small town that lies on the northwest shore of Lake Titicaca and is apparently the folklore capital of Peru. We think the government must have been scraping the barrel with titles to award cities and Puno drew the short straw. Taking the day bus to Puno gave us a chance to see the incredible scenery as we climbed from the coastal deserts up to the high plateau in which Lake Titicaca sits. The steep ascent out of Arequipa lead to wide open views of agricultural communities, desolate mountains, vast expanses of endless sky and small lakes with wading flamingos. We arrived just after 3pm and were thoroughly underwhelmed by the sites Puno had to offer. A quick walk round the main plaza followed by a painstakingly long wait for lunch (nearly an hour for a small sandwich) confirmed our suspicions so we bought an onward bus ticket to Copacabana for 7.30am the following morning.

The next day we got up at 5.45am in order to give ourselves enough time to have breakfast at the hostel (dried roll with watery jam) and run down to an ATM to draw out money. Our guide books had told us that Copacabana didn’t have any ATMs so Rice & I dashed down the street, narrowly avoiding the pile of rotting cow intestines that had been left in the gutter, and withdrew some dollars. By 7.30am we had found our bus, spent the last of our Sols on frivolous sweets, and settled in for the 3 hour ride to the border. The route took us alongside the huge Lake Titicaca with its clear blue waters reflecting the distant hills and mirroring the vast sky with its infinite horizons.

Lake Titicaca Facts

–          World’s largest high-altitude lake. Altitude 3855 m.

–          Depth 284 m.

–          Area 8500 square kilometres.

–          Contains 60 varieties of birds, 14 species of fish & 18 types of amphibians.

–          Home to countless islands and man-made floating islands.

We arrived at border control where we exchanged our remaining Sols & Dollars for Bolivia’s currency, the boliviano (Bs), and headed through immigration without any of the usual problems associated with incompetent, lazy and bored border authorities. Another 8km on from the border and we were in our first Bolivian town, Copacabana (not to be confused with its more famous Brazilian neighbour) which overlooks the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca and is a starting point for visiting some of its famous islands. We checked in to a modest hostel and were given a room with one singe bed and a double for only 20 Bs each, (about $3 of £2) which was unbelievably cheap. In fact, everything in Bolivia is much cheaper, including our alpaca clothing that we had already splashed out on in Cusco so we were horrified to see it at less than half the price we paid. That afternoon we wandered the streets, sunbathed next to Lake Titicaca (which feels like an ocean it’s so big) and dined on mountain goat and butter fried trout, fresh from the lake. Bolivia, although a very poor country, feels a much safer place than other parts of South America but one of the scams making the rounds is the ‘spitting’ or ‘mustard’ trick. The con involves being spat-on or having a substance such as mustard spilt on you and a friendly good Samaritan will help to clean you up. Whilst distracted their partner in crime quickly robs you of your valuables and you end up being cleaned out.

The main attraction in Copacabana is a visit to one of the numerous islands. which are still inhabited by some of Bolivia’s oldest peoples, the Aymara and the Quechua tribes. We chose the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) to explore and paid 30 Bs (£3 – £4) for a 2 hour boat ride to the island. Apparently the island was originally home to the Incas. We disembarked from the boat and wandered through some traditional villages where Spanish is a second language and where ancient myths and beliefs still hold true. At one end of the island we saw some temple ruins which weren’t that impressive, probably because we had been spoilt by the Machu Picchu ruins a few weeks ago but the views over Lake Titicaca more than made up for it.

Today we’re moving on to the vibrant bustling city of La Paz, the world’s highest capital city!

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  1. […] see what was on offer. Our first stop was Copacabana situated on the other side of the magnificent Lake Titicaca – the highest natural lake in the world. The views were very impressive, although Copacabana […]

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