Journey through Peru: Lake Titicaca

Our 5th stop on our Journey through Peru was Puno:

We arrived to Puno in the late evening, after a long drive from Condor Cross in the Colca Canyon. Our day there started early again with a 6:30am breakfast and a 7:15 departure from our hotel in Puno to the docks.

The docks in Puno

The docks in Puno

We were on a large enclosed touring boat, which was nice because the high in Puno was 55F that day. I was amazed to find that Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) above sea level, it is the highest navigable body of water in the world.

On the boat

On the boat

Immediately we started seeing the famous reeds of Lake Titicaca, floating effortlessly in the water.

Floating reeds

Floating reeds

The name of the lake comes from the native language. Titi means Puma and caca means grey. Some people think it was called Grey Puma Lake because of the shape of it – the lake itself (on a map) does resemble a wild cat.

Lago Titikaka

Lago Titikaka

As we passed the reeds I couldn’t imagine people making whole islands, houses and boats out of this stuff. It had to be incredible. The reeds were beautiful to look at – especially in the early morning light. We saw a lot of ducks, cormorants and the Andean gull.

Once we arrived at the floating islands of Uros it felt like we’d entered another world.

The Islands of Uros

The Islands of Uros

Brightly dressed women waved from the contrastingly tan reed shorelines, while boats made entirely of reeds floated nearby. It was beautiful. Even prettier than I imagined. A completely incredible experience.

We debarked our boat and got a bit of a demonstration by the locals of one of the islands.

The locals of Uros

The women of Uros – embroidering

They were very friendly people and seemed happy we were there.

Beautiful hand-embroidered blankets

Beautiful hand-embroidered blankets

They showed us how the islands are able to float. The roots of the reeds are very buoyant and hardly weigh anything. That is the base. Then, sticks are shoved into each square of root and they’re tied together with a hand woven rope.

The roots tied together

The roots tied together

Next, the reeds are stacked on top in alternating directions. Once that is done the people jump on the reeds to compact them and make them more dense.

Reeds and roots

Reeds and roots

After the island is completed they build houses, which have three layers of reed for the roof to keep the frequent rain out.

Completed demonstration of the floating islands

Completed demonstration of the floating islands

The kitchen is kept outside the homes.

The kitchen

The kitchen

The bathroom is a 22km boat ride off the island. Inside the little homes is a bed and hooks to hang clothing on.

One of the homes

One of the homes

Every 15 days they add more reeds to the floor. It seems to be done as needed as well – since as we arrived to the island one of the women grabbed a pile of green reeds and threw it on a sunken wet part of the flooring, then patted it down with her feet.

The boats are also made of reeds

The boats are also made of reeds

When boats passed the island and created waves, the entire island moved up and down in a slow peaceful motion. It was really incredible.

View from the island

View from the island

One of the younger women came and sat next to Cliff and me near the end of the demonstration. She asked his name and then asked to hold him. He went to her briefly, but she was quite happy to get a minute to hold him :).

Cliff playing on the island

Cliff playing on the island

The tower where they used to signal to the other islands still stood on this island. John went up and got a view.

View from the tower

View from the tower

The other islands - view from the tower

The other islands – view from the tower

It’s not used now since most of the people on the islands actually have cell phones! We also saw solar panels. Although they have no water source besides the lake, where they must boil it before use. They eat a lot of fish, as you can imagine.

Small catfish

Small catfish

Walking on the island

Walking on the island

It was such an amazing thing to see and a truly great experience. We’re thankful for the hospitality of the people of Uros for sharing with us part of their life.

Family picture on the island of Uros

Family picture on the island of Uros

Next we headed to the Island of Taquile.

Walking up the trail

Walking up the trail

We walked up a very steep incline for about a mile. It was winding, at that high elevation, and we had to take several short breaks. But we finally reached the town’s center.

Hiking up the steep trail

Hiking up the steep trail

We were touring with a big group for this day so we had a lunch all lined up at one of the local restaurants.

At the restaurant

At the restaurant

After we enjoyed our delicious soup in pottery bowls, we two meals to choose from – I chose the trout, which was delicious. Olivia and Cliff found a little boy to play with when the meal was over.

The littles playing

The littles playing

The view from the “restaurant”, which was little more than a shack with a long table on a dirt floor outside, was gorgeous.

View from the table

View from the table

After lunch

After lunch

Family pic (Livi is sleeping in the Ergo on my back!)

Family pic (Livi is sleeping in the Ergo on my back!)

The walk around the island to the boat was beautiful too.

What a view!

What a view!

Such pretty countryside.

Terraces

Terraces

It was neat to see farms in working order and using the terraces that the Inkas are famous for.

Farmers on the terraces

Farmers on the terraces

The kids were so exhausted by this point. Both of them wanted mama, so John and I traded off and on.

Lugging both kids

Lugging both kids

I carried Olivia in the Ergo and she quickly fell asleep, but Cliff cried and cried as John carried him down the long path.

John trying to make the walk fun

John trying to make the walk fun

Every so often I would take him and be carrying both kids, but at that high elevation I could only manage it for a short distance before giving him back to John.

Life with two toddlers sometimes...

When only mama will do…

At one point we passed a herd of sheep and that was a good distraction for our cranky boy.

Sheep!

Sheep!

Another toddler toting mamita

Another toddler-toting mamita

We were relieved when we saw the boat. It had been another mile or maybe two walk to where the ship had docked and Cliff was still crying. Ah traveling with toddlers. Quite the adventure, it is :).

Finally to the end!

Finally to the end!

Journey through Peru: Condor Cross

After our day of rest, we got up early, packed up and headed out again. We left at 6:30, ready to make it to Condor Cross in time to catch some of the legendary birds in flight. The drive there was more spectacular than I can describe.

Driving up to Condor Cross

Driving up to Condor Cross

The views of the valley and the volcanos were breathtaking.

The Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon

We saw a lot of animals being herded along the road. More than once we noticed the women would actually be knitting or crocheting as they herded animals along the way.

Burros being herded while woman knits

Burros being herded while woman knits

The drive up there was long – at least an hour or maybe two. At one point we went through a deep, dark tunnel.  It was just wide enough for one car, so we were glad nobody came from the other direction!  Olivia thought it was hilarious when our driver turned off the headlights for a moment…we didn’t think it was quite so funny 🙂

Dark tunnel

Dark tunnel

We also passed some ancient tombs in the mountains.  You could see the tombs jutting out of the mountains like termite nests or something.  It reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie…

Old tombs along the mountainside

Old tombs along the mountainside

This was the prettiest view.  The valley was so breathtaking!

View of the valley

View of the valley

Gig 'em, Ags!

Gig ’em, Ags!

We got out at the first point and were shocked by the cold wind (I’m not sure why I wasn’t prepared for it).

Walking the trail

Walking the trail with our guide

Looking for wildlife

Looking for wildlife

The wind was worth it though. We finally were able to see the Giant Hummingbird! It measures 17cm long and is the biggest hummingbird in the world. In addition to nectar they also eat insects.

The giant hummingbird

The giant hummingbird

Condor Cross

Condor Cross

We also spotted a small mammal related to the chinchilla.

Cactus

Cactus

The kids with cactus

The kids posing with cactus

Next, we saw a young condor.

Young condor

Young condor

They are brown in color the first seven years of life. After that they turn black and white with a distinct white collar around the neck. They live 40-50 years in the wild and up to 70 in captivity. At the next stop we saw the big condors.

The Condor against the Andes

The Condor against the Andes

What’s really amazing about these birds is they can go 60 days without food! Since they only consume dead meat, food can be scarce. To conserve energy they live high in the cliffs of the valley and soar on the wind currents.

An adult condor

An adult condor

The view was great from here too. Our favorite part of Colca Canyon was this view though on the way back down, though.

View of the valley

View of the valley

The terraces formed almost an amphitheater and below were three lakes and the river.

The valley

The valley

We were able to stop in the village of Maca on the way back and see inside the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church in Maca

The Catholic Church in Maca

This church was destroyed by an earthquake in the 90’s and after being visited by Peru’s president, was rebuilt. It was amazing to see the elaborate ornate inside, while outside the church there was just an ordinary dusty town.

Original altar

Original altar

The wood was imported from Europe and then painted with gold leaf. Before the Spaniards came, the locals had never seen a mirror. Mirrors were one of the main decorations of this church. They traded gold for the mirrors because they were so amazed to be able to see their reflection.

Sculptures made of wood

Sculptures made of wood and mirrors to decorate

Outside the church Olivia found a llama.

Llama face! (inside joke...)

Llama face! (inside joke…)

This time she was a bit braver. She even got a picture with the eagle!

Eagle

Eagle

Wearing the "eagle hat"

Wearing the “eagle hat”

After lunch we headed back out of the canyon and made our way to Puno. The countryside was beautiful.

A small valley village

A small valley village

It was a long day of driving from there.  About 8 hours or so.  We tried to rest up, because more adventures awaited us in Puno!