We went to the North of Arequipa to skip the many protests that were going on in the state and made our way to the deepest canyon on Earth. We were the only car for miles and we went up to 3000-5000m, passing llamas, alpacas, and their almost endangered cousins Guanacos. Condors would circle around in the canyon, sometimes diving towards us, sounding like jetplanes, until they realized we weren’t food. I was ready to give them a good right hook if they started snapping.
We stopped in Chivay for the night and stayed at a hotel on the hill that was probably built for the seven dwarfs as Ean kept hitting his head on every doorframe. I would like to tell you I did too but that would be a lie. Right across us was an observatory and we caught the 7:30pm tour to learn about the stars, planets and constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. Shivering, we studied Jupiter and Venus and learned how to locate the Alpha and Beta stars and the Southern Cross constellation, right under the Milky Way.
The next morning we dipped into the natural hot springs before leaving for Lake Titicaca.
Lake Titicaca is located on the border of Peru and Bolivia and is the highest navigable body of water in the world. It is comprised of many islands including floating islands. The floating islands of Uros were created over a hundred years ago as the locals were fleeing the Incans and decided that the best way to stay safe was to build their own island from reeds. There are now 90 floating islands and the people of Uros, who only marry amongst themselves, spend the whole year maintaining their island, as the reeds degrade progressively. They live very simply, their huts and boats are made of reeds and they fish just enough to feed the island.
We took a boat out to one of the islands and stepping on land was an unusual feeling as our feet were sinking into the reeds. The president of the island (every island has a president) explained to us how and where they lived, then divided us up and allocated us to a family. Ean and I went with the president to her house and she made us wear the traditional clothes.
The second part is not our favorite part. It must be said that this is where we saw how much tourism has affected something so unique. As soon as we got out of the houses we were lured to buy little handmade knickknacks that were being sold at an exorbitant price. We bought a few things, therefore spending all our remaining money, and were then all whisked away on a very colorful boat, their “Mercedes Benz.” That boat was going to take us to another island where our original tour boat would pick us up. They then started asking for money. Startled, many started saying that they were fine waiting for the boat on this island and even we had to get off as we didn’t have one peso left. I’ll never forget the look on the local women’s faces as they started scolding me for not giving them more money, and why couldn’t I just take that boat. They just would not listen when I told them I had spent the last of my money on their arts and crafts. Thankfully the president understood and did not mind but as soon as the boat left no one cared for us anymore. We talked to another couple who were outraged that we would sneakily be forced on a boat to pay more and how they had already been shamed by the woman they had been assigned to, who had told them that her family was not like them, that they didn’t have all this money to buy wonderful things and how the couple should help them by purchasing the arts and crafts. In the end, our original boat ended up taking us to the island where the rest of the group was, which only aggravated things when they realized they should have just stayed back with us. Lake Titicaca is still definitely worth a visit, but come prepared to feel the effect of tourism.
Pozo Del Cielo
Puno (Lake Titicaca) Stay:
Mirador Del Titicaca (HIGHLY recommended)