I just have to go out onto Lake
Titicaca (Lago Titikaka). At just over 3800 metres (12,500 feet)
above sea-level, it's the highest navigable lake in the world – oh,
and the largest at around 3,200 sq miles, which makes it around 5
times the size of Greater London.
It's breathtaking – in both it's
beauty and my lung capacity!
There are around 20 of us on a half-day tour to the lake and one of it's floating islands – Uros. These are quite amazing - as we step from our boat – we're literally standing on a bed of reeds. It's quite squishy underfoot – and I'm wondering how well they've been load-tested for Woz size people. It would be highly embarrassing, if not deadly to fall through. Anyway, I put my faith in Peruvian craftsmanship and have a good wander around.
Well, I'm pleasantly surprised – it all looks 'tourist tacky', but it's actually quite informative. We given a demonstration of how they make the floating islands using alternative layers of reeds. Our guide keeps looking over at me. He turns to his assistant and says something that I can't quite hear. I think it's something like' “Jeez, Juan – look at that gringo – how many layers did you use on this island”
We're split into small groups and visit a family in their small reed huts. Yes they live, sleep, cook all in something around 15 x 10 feet. The University of Lima is conducting an experiment supplying them with Solar Power for the only electricity that they have.
Then it's time to buy some products that the families make. They mostly craft embroidered products – cushion covers, shawls, blankets – blankets – that kind of stuff. Of course, things have to be bought – I only I wish I was smart enough to realise that I was supposed to buy from the family who showed me around. Of course me being me, I buy from someone else. My 'host' gives me a bit of a look – so I end up buying from them as well.
A few of us decide to travel back to Puno on one of the Reed Water Taxis. Am I mad? Still, it's quite a thing – sort of double-deck canoe, with two guys at the front rowing. Blimey they earn their money.
On the way back – I see an old steamship moored on the shoreline near Puno. It's a big ship and I ask what it is doing there. Well – it's quite a story. The 'Yavari' was built in London in the 1860's for the Peruvian Government. BUT, it was built in pieces – nearly 3000 of them, shipped to South America and then carried by mules across the Andes becaues Peru is landlocked and has no shoreline.
Each piece had to weigh no more than a mule could carry. It was then assembled in Peru. It took six years to transport all the bits. The 'Yavari' worked on Titicaca for over a hundred years. She's now been restored as a museum.
All in all a fascinating morning out – well recommended! I'll put a a couple of links here for more info:
I enjoyed Puno – and was actually enjoying travelling on my own again. I must admit to consuming a rather large amount of 'Pisco Sours' This is the Peruvian national cocktail – made from Pisco (a local brandy spirit), lime, bitters and egg whites' I must say they taste much nicer than the ingredients suggest. Goodness knows how many I had, but I know I lost most of the next day. Which was a pity really – because that left me without any more time.
I had a train to catch...