Okay, I know I’m a whole week late writing about my adventure to the worlds highest lake, but when you’re in Latin America you should do as the Latin Americans do and that means nothing should EVER be on time. So here’s my attempt at embracing the culture by taking a whole 7 days to compose a blog post, enjoy!
There was a lot of deliberation and planning behind this trip, even more so than Machu Picchu, as we’d heard things from ‘It’s the best weekend of your life’ to ‘It should be called Lake Shittycaca’ (beautifully phrased, no?) So I’m pretty sure you understand how indecisive we were about what to do.
Our group was split. Half of us wanted to go for the full weekend (this included myself) and the other half wanted to go for 1 day (this included Vicki), so we decided to all get the same bus on the Friday but part ways once we arrived in Puno – the location of Lake Titicaca. I have a little secret for y’all though, I would definitely recommend the full weekend because it’s not as rushed and touristy as the 1 day tour and you really do get the true Peruvian experience!
After a LONG (but very comfortable) night bus, we arrived in Puno at 5am. We decided to try and secure ourselves a good tour once we arrived because it’s always better to do things last minute here and after bartering with a few different companies we got a whole weekend of transport, accomodation, food and fun activities for just 70 soles (that’s £30) – at least I know that my Spanish haggling skills are definitely on point 😉
As always, there was 0 organisation and the company we booked with actually forgot about us and had to come back 10 minutes later when they realised. Luckily, no time was lost and we were off on our way to the port ready to begin our adventure!
The boat was perfectly fine. Not a dream yacht by any means, but it came with a sun deck, bathroom, reclining chairs and lots of traditional peruvian decor – good enough for me!
We embarked on a 3 hour journey to our first stop: The Uros Islands.
Genuinely, can’t express how cool these are! They’re floating islands made entirely out of reeds. So basically, the reeds are collected and stacked in a very clever formation that makes a small island in the middle of the lake. People can then walk/build their houses on top, but they have to re-build the island every few months and therefore they have to move their houses which I can only imagine is a pain in the backside. Nevertheless, the people here are ridiculously smiley and friendly, so maybe the secret to a happiness lies on a bed of reeds in the middle of a gigantic lake?! Who knows!
We then hopped back on the boat and marked our territory on the top sun deck ready for our next LONG ride to destination number 2: Amantani Island
Upon leaving the boat we were assigned to our host family for the weekend. Ours was truly the most wonderful family imaginable (we definitely got the best one) but at the same time their house was the furthest away from the port and also happened to be up a HUGE hill… great.
After a good hour of hiking we finally arrived. We shared with two other ladies from Lima who were lovely and proved to be a great way for me to practice my Spanish. Staying in the house was so interesting because it was an authentic peruvian experience – No electricity, no running water and very small spaces. This might sound like a nightmare but it was actually very beneficial to detach ourselves from the material/technological world we live in and actually just embrace the company of other people and enjoy the simple life.
We were served a delicious lunch (although, it didn’t LOOK delicious but, as we all know, looks can be decieving) and then we headed off on our second hike of the day. Of course, people that don’t enjoy exercise are probably repulsing at the idea of all this walking but I promise you it was so rewarding (for the views AND for the bum cheek definition). We trekked up to the temple of Pachamama and although it was very cold we had been given kind gifts of hats from our host family to keep us warm!
From the top of the mountain you could see 360 views of the lake and distant skylines of Bolivia and Peru – It was SO beautiful. We watched the sunset (once in a lifetime view, I’m tellin’ ya!) and then quickly headed back home before the winds became unbearably strong, almost knocking us over!
We relaxed for a little while, played some games, laughed, told stories, discussed ideas whilst snuggled in bed with a single torch for light (ah, the beauty of no wi-fi) and then headed down for our second host family meal. Once again it was delicious, but it was hard to eat in a kitchen without any light! My food was all over my face by the end of the meal (although, that’s not really any different to when I eat with the lights on…)
After dinner, the real fun began! We were dressed up in traditional clothing and taken to the local community hall for a party. They were celebrating their ‘New Year’ which is our Summer Solstice (21st June) so it was a great time to be around! It was nice to see lots of other travellers as well as lots of peruvians as we danced the night away, drank far too much Coca-Cola and made plenty of new friends. Undoubtedly one of my most favourite moments of my entire time in Peru!
We were super sleepy and fell asleep straight away when we got home. The beds weren’t comfortable at all and there was a huge storm pounding on our sheet-of-material ceiling, yet all of us still slept soundly because the day was so exhausting!
We woke up bright and early to watch the sunrise/escort each other to the scary outdoor toilet. Once again, it was a spectacular sight and I really did feel so glad to be there, experiencing it all.
We ate a yummy pancake breakfast and said our goodbyes to our amazing host family and their new baby called Lionel Messi (typical Latin America) before getting back on the boat ready for another day of lake adventuring.
Third stop: Taquile Island
We spent a lot of time on this island, purely because our tour guide had so many stories to tell every 10 seconds. Just to mention a few: when the taquileño people are ill they take a guinea pig to bed with them, sleep beside it, wake up in the morning and call the doctor who then comes to cut open the guinea pig and reveal the illness of the person concerned…. Who knows, this idea may spread and take over the NHS. Guinea pigs are magical.
Interestingly, all the islands on Lake Titicaca do not have lawyers, policemen or even political policies. Any problems that arise are dealt with internally and they claim to have NO cases of theft, abuse or crime in general. Perhaps this is due to the fact that no coffee, meat, drugs, cigarettes or alcohol are allowed on the islands? It sounds super boring doesn’t it, but these people have FUN! I have no idea what their secret is but they live a very stress-free, happy life and I really admire their unity!
After grabbing some snacks and soaking up the beauty, we began another boat journey to our final stop: Capachicha Peninsula
Here we had a delicious lunch followed by a show and a chance to sing and dance with the locals again. Laughter, friends and good food = a wonderful way to say goodbye to the Lake!
I have to say, the 4 hour boat journey back to Puno was my most favourite part of the trip. After so many hours of FREEZING COLD weather, something suddenly changed and it became warm enough for the tshirt and shorts combo meaning that I had 4 hours to lie out on the deck, sunbathe, chat and listen to music – Pure bliss! Our prayers to Pachamama for warmer weather were finally granted ☀️
I remember looking around thinking that I would never be able to describe the views to my friends and family with words and that the beauty wasn’t something you could capture on camera. I just felt so grateful for everything all of a sudden, for meeting such awesome travellers on our boat, to having brilliant friends who stayed the full weekend with me and entertained me with jokes and interesting and intellectual conversation, to just being in Peru full stop and being able to experience all of this. I love it here! I love how relaxed and peaceful it is, how much time you have to yourself to just enjoy the culture, learn knew things and speak to people you’d never expect to be speaking to. Lake Titicaca was one of the best weekends of my life and I am eternally thankful for the experience!
Back to our adventures… We returned to Puno with our newly found friends and decided to explore the area. We ended up settling down for the evening in a great peruvian pub on the Plaza de Armas to watch the USA football game. We ate a ridiculous amount of food, and I cheered alongside all of the other americans (what else can I do now England are out?!) and it was a great way to wind down before our overnight bus back home.
I arrived back at the volunteer house in Cusco at 6am to see that barely anyone had returned from their previous night out partying. We may have turned down a night out at an Irish pub to stay at the lake longer, but I don’t regret a thing. I can get drunk anywhere, but damnnnn, those views and those people we met at the lake… that was something special and I’m only gonna be in Peru this once! Plus, the Amantani people knew how to party with no drink in sight but Coca-Cola… I would much rather be doing the hokey-cokey with them than watching english people dance drunkenly half naked on a bar. But perhaps that’s just me 😉
Many more Peru blog posts to come; I have so much to fill y’all in on (including this weekends adventures and my plans for my last month here) so keep your eyes peeled 🙂