Getting high on Lake Titicaca
Sorry, that was a cheap way to start but I couldn't resist. We did get high on the lake, but at an altitude of 3800m it's difficult not to!
'The Book' says for best veiws of the scenery on the train from Cusco to Puno it's important to ensure you're seated on the left side of the train. Of course, my flawless Spanish in the ticket office the day before guaranteed seats on the right! Still, the carraige was half empty so we sat pretty much where we wanted and sat back to watch the Peruvian landscape roll gently past the window.
The 10 hour journey was broken up into two halves. First, the long, slow climb from the valley floor to the heights of the snow capped mountains. Then we traversed the high plains, drifting along towards puno and Lake Titicaca.
Along the way, we passed herds of Llama and Alpaca grazing on the mountain grass with a backdrop of extinct volcanoes and jagged mountain crests. The journey was enlivened by the singing of possibly the worst Folklorica duo this side of the Andes. The song was 'Sexy Woman' (or rather Sacsayhuaman, an Inka site in Cusco) but there was nothing sexy about the female half of the duo's delivery as she screeched her way to notes that I'm sure only dogs could hear! Still, it was entertaining.
We arrived in Puno at 5.30 and joined the scrum on the platform to reclaim our baggage. Faith in my Spanish was restored when we were greated at the station by someone from our hotel.
Eusebio proved to be as persistent as the midges we'd been bitten by on the Inka Trail. He had a tour company and took some persuading that we'd organise a trip on the Lake ourselves.
Compared to the colonial splendour of central Cusco, Puno was a bit like a favourite well-thumbed paperback, a little dog eared around the edges but enjoyable all the same.
The streets seemed to be bustling at all hours, especially on a saturday when the whole town turned into a giant market with everything for sale from septic tanks to offal!
We booked a tour of the lake and next morning set off from the quay - first stop the Uros Islands.
The islands are, unsurprisingly, inhabited by the Uros people who's home is constructed entirely from the Totora reeds which grow abundantly around that part of the lake. Their homes, boats, beds and computers are made entirely from the stuff! (ok, I made the last one up).
After a quick trip on a reed boat to another reed island, we headed off into deeper waters toward the island of Taquili.
The islanders are unusual in that the menfolk wear crazy knitted nightcaps, red and white if they're married, red if they're single. They also wear a finely crafted 'Diary Belt' which shows their family history in pictograms, neat!
The island was very picturesque with the the lake and the Cordillera mountain range of Bolivia in the distance. Along the route to the main square and lunch, we were stopped several times by the cutest kids you ever saw offering to pose for photos and selling friendship bracelets.
After lunch we descended the 530 steps down to a small harbour where the boat was ready to take us back to Puno. The sun was beginning to dip and the air was chilly as we disembarked at the quay and went in search of woolly jumpers.