Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Paradise on Earth

If anyone asked me what my favorite destination in Peru was, it would have to be Lake Titicaca. Although I loved every part of Peru, the time I spent in Lake Titicaca and its islands of Uros and Taquile is what remains closest to my heart.

We arrived in Puno late at night and planned to take the 6 am boat the following day to the floating island of Uros on Lake Titicaca. As it turned out, David had food poisoning and I had a bad headache due to the high altitude, and we therefore could not take the boat as scheduled. We made arrangements with Casa Andina to organize a private boat with a guide (you can't go to the islands without a guide) for us to visit Uros and Taquile islands. At 9am, our guide, Susanna, came to pick us up from the hotel. She advised us to buy some fruits, bread and snacks to take with us on the boat so that we could share them with the island folks. Apparently, these people have a preference for food, instead of money. We bought some bananas, apples, bread and juice and then got on our boat.

It was such an amazing day. I felt so happy that the weather was kind to us: bright clear blue sky, 22 degrees and plenty of sunlight. Also, I was glad that we ended up taking the boat at a later time, as we were practically the only tourists! All others had taken the 6am boat, as advised by books like Lonely Planet, and I really appreciated being able to have the islands just for us. Our driver and guide were very pleasant, and Susanna was also very informative and motherly towards us.

Lake Titicaca was simply stunning. It is a large lake that stretches across Peru and Bolivia, and is also one of the highest lakes in the world, with an altitude of over 3,800 metres above sea level. Trust me, that really is high!

We reached the floating island of Uros within 45 minutes. The Quechua women gave us a warm welcome and were very thrilled to meet us. Everyone immediately started to talk to us and were eager to show their talents to us. They explained that the island is man-made and is made out of dried reed plants. I found it so strange to walk on the floating island. I guess I needed to get used to its floating. This explanation was followed by a demonstration on building the island, which was very interesting to watch. We then went on to one of the locals' huts and were given traditional clothes to try on. I was so thrilled to be able to wear the bowler hat, the large blouse and skirt. I almost felt right at home with the Quechua people! They did comment that I could pass off as one of them, hehe! David, on the other hand, stood out like a sore thumb! After posing for photos with our Quechua family, we proceeded to take a boat ride around the island. Our boat was also made out of reed, and as you can see in the photo, it looked very unique and pretty. We had a lovely ride on the lake, and were even serenaded with a song by the Quechua ladies on the island. We then bought some small souvenirs from these people, shared some food with them and continued on to Taquile.

Taquile is further away, so we spent a few hours to get there from Uros. I could really feel the vastness of Lake Titicaca, and was in awe of its beauty. I spent some time relaxing on the outdoors of the boat, enjoying the spectacular view and the sun. This to me, was the perfect holiday!

As we approached Taquile, I started to get really dizzy and just did not feel like my normal self. The altitude of this natural island is 4,050 meters above sea level, and I could really feel that it was affecting me. Susanna was very kind and patient and gently guided me up the steps of the hilly island to reach the main centre. Once there, we sat down at a small cafe to have drinks, and I opted to have some coca tea. This is the best remedy for altitude sickness (alternatively, you could chew the coca leaves), as it increases oxygen absorption in blood. It is therefore widely available in this region. Susanna soaked some coca leaves for me in boiling water and placed these leaves on my forehead and back of my neck. Almost instantly, I felt much better, and felt alert and cheerful again. Susanna showed great concern towards me, and she even gave me a great head and shoulder massage, which was exactly what I needed. After this small break, we continued to explore the island. It was very quiet and peaceful. People were very friendly and kids, especially, were very excited to talk to us. We had a fabulous time at this island and I didn't feel like going back so soon (you could even arrange to spend a night at a local family's house at a very low cost). We had to make a move though as our boat driver was waiting for us at the other side of the island.

As we made our way back to Puno, we enjoyed watching the beautiful sunset. It was starting to become very cold and dark, and by 5pm, it was pitch black. We finally reached Puno, had some light dinner there and headed off to our room to doze off.

All in all, Lake Titicaca was truly amazing, and I would love to go back there again. Do catch our experience in the video below!


David said...

Just watched the 3 videos and this is quality work !!! Lake Titicaca was a fantastic experience and the locals were really nice.

banoo said...

Wow! very good experience. I can understand how difficult it would be for breathing to anyone if they happen tobe above the sea level and I too found it difficult during our recent visit to Tibet! (that was 3800 mtrs above the sea level. A bottle of water helped me from thirsty as well as falling into giddiness! These guides really show their true concern! You are giving useful tips apart from your travel experience! Very good write up!


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