Wednesday 6 December 2023

Lake Titicaca from south to north and finally making it to country no5!

After leaving La Paz, we climbed up to lake Titicaca (the highest lake in south America, resting at about 3810 meters above sea level). The lake is not named Titicaca after my grandmother Titika (hehehe!) but apparently in the Aymara language means 'puma' and 'grey'. We crossed the thin channel between the two headlands by boarding a raft (a type of wooden ferry boat that could fit a couple of cars) and then drove on. It was a bit of a wiggly road but I didn't think it was too bad until we passed a bus that had almost gone over the edge with a couple of ambulances taking people to the hospital. That worried me a bit but I tried not to look at the accident for too long.

We reached Copacabana, and quickly packed a couple of bags to cross to Isla del Sol, an island in lake Titicaca where there are no cars (so we had to leave Chiquita behind for a few days and we had to travel light). We rushed to the boat and were soon underway! When we arrived to the northern part of the island, we got a hostel room and Ismene and I ran down to the beach excited to spend the rest of the day building sand forts and having fun! It felt unmistakeably like being on a Greek island other than the fact that there were Incan ruins all over the island and that we were on almost 4000 meters altitude. 

The next day, we went with a small fishing boat to the centre of three smaller uninhabited islands that stood on the northern shore of Isla del Sol. Our guide took us to the spot where there is supposedly a lost underwater city. Apparently, a Japanese archaeologist found a selection of gold plates and other household items probably left there by the Incas. But again, we can't be sure and there are many theories about why these items were found there. It's local tradition to throw flowers and coca leaves into the water as a way of honouring Pachamama and wishing for good health or anything else important to you. So, in theory, you could wish for a Nintendo Switch game for Christmas! Not that I did that of course.....! Or did I....? 

We then visited the main ruins on the island, an Incan labyrinth which no one knows what it was for. Some say that it was a school for Incan priests and others talk about this being the place where the first Incan king and queen were born, and where the Incan king was instructed by his father (the son God) to create a temple in his honour. It was really cool to be in the birthing place of Incan civilisation!

On our last day, we hiked the whole of the island from north to south. The hike was great fun as I was jumping from rock to rock, taking adventurous detours and howling like a wolf

But we were not done with lake Titicaca yet. The next day, we crossed into Peru to visit the Uros islands, a selection of floating totora-reed-made islands on the northern part of the lake. Dan and Ioanna arranged for us to stay one night in a little hut-house on one of those floating islands which was brilliant. The border crossing took much longer than we thought it would so we arrived late and it felt magical to observe life on the lake getting quiet and ready for sleep in the dark. 

The Uros people create the islands by removing large pieces of already floating totora from their fields (which are on the lake) and moving them to the selected place. In the morning, we did a little tour with a local Uro family and our guide explained to us the whole process of building the islands, their houses and their boats using totora, totora and more totora. It was fascinating but sounded like a huge job to build and to maintain these islands! Every 15 days or so, they have to put more totora reeds on top of their island to make sure it floats. And the same goes for their boats and houses - they take so long to make, and often require more than two or three people working together for months. 

Sadly, climate change has had a massive impact on the Uro people's lives. Our guide was telling us about how low the water on the lake is and how difficult it has been to find fresh totora reeds to build their houses and to maintain their islands. He talked about not having had any rain for two years now but they are hoping that the rainy season will start soon.

If you want to learn more about the Uros people, you can watch this BBC documentary about living on the lake. We thought it was great and pretty similar to what we experienced, if you ignore the big groups of tourists that is.

Heading to Arequipa next, apparently the most beautiful city of Peru, to stock up for a three-day hike up the highest canyons in the world! Wish us luck!

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