It is difficult not to like the vastness of this lake and the blue skies – Lake Titicaca – shared between Peru and Bolivia (60-40 as per Peruvian guides and 40-60 as per Bolivian guides but in fact close to 50-50 in reality), is the largest lake in S.America and at c.4000m above sea level is the highest navigable lake in the world.
The Uros islands which are just 4 km from Puno (less than 30 mins from the port) are a bunch of man-made floating reed islands. They look amazing but it is easy to be put-off by how touristy this place is. The traditionally dressed women wait everyday for tourists in these small islands and try to sell their small ártesanias´. They still live their traditional life but tourism is their main source of income. I hear there are some islands here that are not touristy at all and also have a school, church etc.!
Many tourists take just a couple of hours tour of these islands and return back to Puno but there are two other islands in the Peruvian side of the lake – Taquile and Amantani – and it is possible to stay overnight in these islands with the locals. I choose to take a day trip to Uros and the Taquile islands.
It takes about 2.5 hours from Uros to reach Taquile (45 km from Puno). In the early mornings (and late evenings), the lake looks stunning. But during the day, it is too hot to sit out on the boat and appreciate this for 2.5 hours. The island itself feels very primitive (there is no transportation or electricity in these islands and the sanitation facilities are quite basic) – and even though too many tourists visit the place – being surrounded by the blue lake and the distant mountains, give a really beautiful vibe to the place. I really wished I could just sit here and gaze at the lake and the sky devoid of all the tourists – but for that an overnight stay here is required.
The Taquile island is just c.1.5 km wide and c.6 km long but rises to a height of about c.260m – boats take one of two ports – through the main port, one climbs 500+ steps to reach the peak and through the other port around the island, it is just a long winding path up – we took the latter route up and came down by the steps – not sure if one is easier than the other, but it does require effort to climb 250m when one is at 4000m above sea level (where the hell does oxygen disappear!).
But then to spend less than 3 hours on this island – there isnt much to do here for more time – we had lunch and walked around the whole island in that time – the travel time on the boat is more than 6 hours. I slept for most of the time one way and finished ´The motorcycle diaries´on the other way round. I now have another overnight bus ride back to Cusco – my body just wants to sleep in a nice hotel bed, but I had booked an overnight bus so that I dont miss my classes tomorrow – hope the ride isnt too bad!