August 2, 2012 by Leah
I know, totally immature. But even after spending a few days on the sacred lake, I still can’t say its name without laughing.
Lake Titicaca is located on the Bolivian-Peruvian border, and both countries claim that they have the “titi” part, and the other country has the “caca” part. We started from the Bolivian side in the lakeside town of Copacabana.
In order to get there, our bus had to cross a river. We got out and packed into a ferry boat that took us across. The bus (and all our luggage) crossed on a floating barge. After hearing a horror-story about a bus that sank, we watched with some trepidation as our bus made its way across the river. Luckily, the bus and our backpacks arrived on the other side without issue.
Not exactly a beach town, Copacabana is small and relaxing with one busy, touristy street full of hostels, shops, and restaurants, and a boardwalk alongside the lake. After our longish bus ride there, we settled in, freshened up, and spent the rest of the day walking along the beach. We ate trout, or “trucha,” on the shore and watched the sunset over the lake.
The next morning we took the 8:30 am ferry to the Isla del Sol, the biggest island on the Bolivian side of the lake. We arrived at the southern end, and were greeted by a very steep climb up the mountain (like everything else in Bolivia, the Isla del Sol is a mountain) that took us 45 minutes with quite a few breaks.
After we found our hostel, nestled on the side of the mountain with spectacular views, we set off for a hike.
We heard that we could hike from the south side of the island to the north side in about three hours. We set off following a trail up a steep peak to a lookout tower.
We continued to follow the trail down the other side of the peak, heading north along the central ridge of the island. The trail got more and more difficult to discern, and eventually we found ourselves on the very top of the most central peak with no way to get back down the other side.
Every direction we tried led us into terraced farmland. We had lost the trail, or had never found it in the first place. We were stuck with nowhere to go but back the way we came.
Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the north side of the island. But even so, by the time we got back to the hostel we had been hiking for three hours and we were pooped. We flopped on our beds and napped for an hour.
Later, we set out for a second, shorter hike along the south side of the island. This hike was much more successful, even though we skipped lunch and were very hungry. We had great views all the way and even saw a small Incan ruin.
When we got back, we immediately set out in search of more trucha and a view of the sunset. We had a nice night chatting with all the other tourists and backpackers. (Since everyone basically does the same route in this region, you keep running into the same people over and over!)
The next morning we hiked back down the mountain and caught a ferry back to Copacabana, where we bumped into more travelers we knew, had some terrible pizza, and hopped a bus to Puno.
Puno is a city on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. We crossed the border with no crossing fee and very little hassle. Puno was nicer than I expected it to be. We found a hostel where we had an entire suite to ourselves. We also found a cheap, Chinese restaurant we liked and ate there twice in two days. I ordered wonton soup with “aeropuerto” (airport) because I was just so curious to know what “airport” was. (It’s fried rice mixed with noodles and chicken, apparently.)
From Puno, we took a tour of the Floating Islands, where the Uros people live. Even though the Floating Islands are a bit of a tourist trap, it was interesting to learn about their history. Apparently the Uros people lived on the shore of Lake Titicaca surrounded on both sides by bigger, more powerful tribes. When one invaded their land, they took to the lake, living in big houseboats made of woven reeds. Instead of returning to the shore where they could be invaded or occupied, they said “F that” and built their own islands out of reeds. They built 50 artificial islands to live on, and today they even have solar electricity out there. Pretty neat, huh?
We also learned that the lake is named after a puma, and if you look at a map of the lake upside down you can almost see the shape of a puma chasing a rabbit.
After that, it was time to leave Puno and Lake Titicaca for Arequipa and Colca Canyon. More updates and photos soon, we promise. In the meantime, I recommend the wonton soup with airport.