top of page

Perú and Bolivia - Lake Titicaca

After vehicles works and medical checks, we eventually managed to escape Arequipa and continue east toward Lake Titicaca.

Our journey took us up through the southern part of the Reserva National de Salinas y Aguada Blanca (salt lakes) and on to the Altiplano Andino (high plains) where we saw plenty of Llama and quite a few Chinchilla. The scenery was pretty spectacular throughout.

Before our final push to Titicaca, we stopped at Sillustani, overlooking Laguna Umayo. A collection of ancient (pre-Inca) funereal towers, called chullpas. A great place to visit, but the self named curator of the unimpressive museum was a bit of a pain - a tad pushy asking for donations...

Onwards to Lake Titicaca and camping at Casa de Valentín on a spit at the northern end of the lake. There we met with friends John & Mandi. The following day the four of us visited Isla Taquile where the men knit and the women weave. We had a good hike followed by a shop at the artisan market.

The next day was a visit to a reed island where five families live (Uros). This man-made floating island is held in place with ropes to 10 stakes. Obviously moving home isn't too complicated provided the water is no more than 4m deep and you don't drift into Bolivian waters. Must say that I wasn't completely convinced that the families were really still living there, but the island was impressive nonetheless.

On the following morning it was time to shift toward the border via Puno. Once in Puno, we parked in a scrappy yard (overnight spot) of a small hotel and set off on a hunt for a new leisure battery for the van. We'd been looking since Arequipa and it was proving to be a difficult task. I'm not sure any one of the battery salesmen understood what we were after - there isn't a camping culture here. Having had no luck in the battery hunt, the next morning we headed for the border.

The arrival at the Peru/Bolivia border was interesting. The road directly to the border was blocked by police officer who was sending everyone off on a dirt road. When we got to him he directed us straight ahead toward a crowded market. Down to snail pace we moved through the crowd, with stallholders moving stalls out of our way, until we arrived at a piece of string blocking our way. This was where we obtained our exit stamps for Peru. String dropped and onwards through the crowd and stalls - the liveliest No Man’s Land ever. Slowly through a stone arch, past a stand containing Bolivian dignitaries and gaudy trophies on our left and a full public stand, packed with a waiting audience, on our right. We didn't get a round of applause. About 20 yards on we were directed to stop and park – this was the Bolivian border. However, that weekend it was also the parade route for the local dance festival. After a bit of a stand-off with the marching band, we squeezed into the Customs car park. It was a busy day for dancing on this narrow road, so we settled in for a long wait. As it turned out the customs officer was in his car at the back end of the competition, so we weren't getting a stamp anytime soon anyway, better just to enjoy the show.

Three hours later, the dancers out of the way and our papers done, we drove to Copacabana, where we parked in the grounds of a hostel. Copacabana, with its sandy beach on the shores of Titicaca, is land-locked Bolivia's 'seaside' town - pedalos, beach balls, bouncy castle… The town has an impressive cathedral, outside which on any day of the week you can have your vehicle blessed by a priest. The cars are dressed for the occasion courtesy of nearby stalls. It was truly a roaring trade for the priest, the stalls, the official photographer and not least the bottle store - it is clearly added luck to pour a bottle of fizz on the new (or old) wheels. Another local highlight was Sacred Heart of Jesus shrine where you could request all the things you desired - cars, houses, money etc - donation in the box provided...

During our stay we took a boat trip to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. Both islands boasted old temples and we had reasonable time for hikes. Finally it was time to get away from the big lake and head for La Paz. The route meant crossing Lake Titicaca at a narrow point on rickety ferry - gotta love these moments...

bottom of page