Tuesday, July 31, 2012

High Altitude Lake Livin'

Lake Titicaca sits right on the border of Peru and Bolivia in the high, dry altiplano.  It is known as the highest navigable lake in the world (or the largest high altitude lake) and is the mythical birthplace of the sun and moon in Inca mythology. 

Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Our last leg has taken us in a semicircle around the lake from Puno, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia.  On the way we’ve seen some gorgeous scenery and have had a chance to visit a few of the beautiful islands.

Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca.

About 600 years ago a group of people called the Uros fled to the lake to escape from the warlike Cholla and Inca cultures on the mainland.  They gathered reeds which grow in the shallows of the lake and constructed boats and floating islands to live in separation and peace.  Today they still live on these islands (about 70 in total) although now the main industry is tourism.

Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca.

Floating islands and houses made of reeds.

The islands are made by cutting cubic metre chunks of roots from the reeds and tying them together into platforms.  Then the top of the platform is padded with about another metre of reed stalks to create a surface out of the water.  Every week or two they add another layer of reeds to the top to compensate for the decay beneath.

Little Uro on the floating islands.

Local girl in her traditional wear.

Posing with a reed boat on Lake Titicaca.

Us with a reed and wood boat on one of the islands.

We also got a chance to stay overnight with a family on an actual island, Amantani.  With them we ate, explored, and danced at a party of locals and tourists.

Potatoes and fried cheese for dinner on Isla Amantani on Lake Titicaca.

One of Peru’s more interesting dinners of all sorts of potatoes with fried cheese.

Sunset on Lake Titicaca from Isla Amantani.  Dressed in our traditional costumes for the party on Isla Amantani.

The sun goes down and the party begins.  Us in our borrowed costumes.

On Isla Taquile the men do the knitting.

On another island, Taquile, it’s the men who do the knitting instead of the women.

The women on Isla Taquile give their husbands this belt closed with a lock made from their lost hair which they have collected over the years.

But when a couple gets married the bride makes her husband this belt including hair that she’s collected over her life up until that point.  I think it’s kind of romantic, Jenn thinks it’s gross :)

The last island that we visited was La Isla del Sol (actually in Bolivia).  It is the mythical birthplace of the sun in Incan mythology and definitely the most picturesque island.

Ancient altar on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Ceremonial altar on La Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun).

La Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.  Looking out from the Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Despite the cold and elevation, La Isla del Sol looks almost tropical.

From Puno we rode along the lake for almost three days.  The scenery was soo beautiful that we couldn’t help but think how lucky we were to be here.

Llamas and Lake Titicaca, Peru.

Llamas and the lake.

Teachers strike, Puno.

The Peruvian government is in hot water over it’s mistreatment of Peru’s teachers.  Roadblocks like this one have sprung up all over Peru.  It’s no problem to pass through on foot or bike though.  All we get is a friendly greeting and a warning to look out for the glass they’ve broken all over the road.

Welcome to Boliva!

After two and a half wonderful months in Peru, Bolivia at last.

Ferry crossing on a channel in Lake Titicaca.

Bolivian ferries are more akin to rafts with outboard motors.  I wonder how many busses have ended up at the bottom of the lake?

Downtown La Paz and Illumani.

Just a short trip from the lake.  Bolivia’s capital La Paz and Illumani Mountain.

Now we’re resting at the famous Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz and planning our route.  The owner Christian invites cyclists to stay in his apartment to share experiences and rest up.  With approximately twelve other cyclists here it’s hard to leave. 


  1. oh my gosh so beautiful and picturesque!! have you guys really been in Peru for 2.5 months?? crazy!! so much beauty to take in... so much more of Peru than i got to see!! enjoy Bolivia, it looks like an amazing start!!

  2. Hey. OK my favorite pic so far .. two of you holding hands, makes the trip a lot better I would guess. It has been surprising to me how many bicyclists you've met on your jouney. It appears there are stretches with none, then you're living with a group of a dozen in Bolivia. The shared passion for exploration, biking and stories around being ejected from bikes mst make for fun times. Well, take care and we'll be checking for updates! JPP and Vicki

  3. Jenn - I agree. I think the hair thing is gross :) Glad to hear that you guys are doing well. Miss you both!