Saturday, May 05, 2012

Puno – Lake Titicaca, Peru – May 2 – May 5, 2012

We continued our climb to more than 15,000 ft driving thru our first snow blizzard of the Andes.  This was the real test of the coca leaves and so far so good, altho both Jerie and Gary felt some affects of the high altitude by way of minor headaches.  John and Kaija suffered no effects as they were on a schedule of Ibuprofen.  We recommend a dosage of 1200 mg daily.

We arrived in Puno early evening.  Next morning we were on a half day tour which included the Puno’s main Cathedral, and a visit to the Mv Yavari on Lake Titicaca.

The much beloved Mv Yavari is the oldest steamship on Lake Titicaca.  In 1862 the Yavari and its sister ship, the Yapura, were built in Birmingham, England, of iron parts-a total of 2,766 for the two vessels.  These were shipped around Cape Horn to Arica, in what is now northern Chile, from where they were moved by train to Tacna, before being hauled by mule over the Andes to Puno-an incredible undertaking that took six years to complete.

The ships were assembled in Puno and the Yavari was launched on Christmas day 1870.  The Yapura was later renamed the BAP Puno and became a Peruvian Navy Medical ship; it can still be seen in Puno.  Both had coal-powered steam engines, but due to a shortage of coal, the engines were fueled with dry Llama dung!  In 1914 the Yavari was further modified with a unique Bolinder 4-cylinder, hot-bulb, semi diesel engine that today, looks like a work of art with all its brass and bronze polished to a mirror finish.  In 1982 Meriel Larken decided formed the Yavari project to buy and restore the vessel.  In 1986 Prince Phillip joined in support of this venture using his best efforts to engage other philanthropic individuals to assist in this effort.  In 1999 the Yavari left Port under her own power for the first time in nearly half a century.

Now open as a museum, the Yavari is moored behind the Sonesta Posada Hotel del Inca, about 5 km from the center of town. 

MV Yavari

After our tour of the Yavari, we strolled thru a festive bazaar honoring the God of Plenty.  This festival is for people to purchase miniatures of those items they dream of possessing...the Peruvian version of ‘visualizing’

Puno God of Plenty

Next morning we departed via launcha onto Lake Titicaca, the highest fresh water lake on Earth, for the Uros islands, inhabited by descendants of the Aymaras that build their houses over floating artificial islands.  The islands are built by using the buoyant totora reeds that grow abundantly in the shallows of the lake. The lives of the Uros people are interwoven with these reeds, which are partially edible (tasting like hearts of Palm) and are also used to make their homes, their boats and crafts they churn out for the tourists.

The islands are constructed from many layers of the totora, which are constantly replenished from the top as they rot from the bottom, so the ground is always soft and springy.

Uros reed Island, reed boat and local handicraft

...then we traveled on to Isla Taquile.  Inhabited for thousands of years, 35 km east of Puno it is a tiny 7 sq km island with a population of about 2,000 people.

To visit the village center you must climb a stairway of more than 500 steps from the dock.  The climb takes a breathless 20 minutes if you are acclimatized-more if you are not.

500 steps to the top of  Isla Taquile

Taquile has a fascinating tradition of handicrafts, and the islanders creations are made according to a system of deeply ingrained social customs.  Men wear tightly woven woolen hats that resemble floppy night caps, which they knit themselves.  These hats are closely bound up with social symbolism; men wear red hats if they are married and red and white hats if they are single, and different colors can denote a man’s current or past social position.

Isla Taquile married man - the hat says it all!

After a lengthy launcha ride back to Puno, we enjoyed a fine meal at a local restaurant...and after a day full of fresh air and exercise we had no problems getting to sleep that night.

Early the next morning we departed on the Inca Express for Cusco.

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