Friday, July 31, 2009

La Paz to Puno - Around Lake Titicaca

Just as we were geting ready to leave La Paz, thousands of fresh students arrived for the new academic year. Common practice here is for the new students to put on a big show for the locals. Much nicer than getting hammered and sicking up all over the streets for a week.

Fantastic costumes everywhere in the parade.

Men dressed as cakes.

Women dressed in very little - great!

After the party it was time to go.

Remember what we said about arriving La Paz? It´s down a whopping great hill into a canyon. Well, to get back out of La Paz, we had to go back the same way. Pah!
Luckily, we had a fantastic plan, it´s called a taxi. Many taxis in La Paz have roof racks and so we managed to get our iron-donkeys roped to a roof and off we sped up the hill.

Back in El Alto we rode through the horrible streets and out into the altiplano again. It was only about 60kms to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Here by the lake there are some folk that use the totora reeds to build boats. We found one in the process of being built.

Not long after we found one sailing by.

And that evening we spent the night in a hostel (used frequently by cyclists but not many others) which was owned by a guy who built these boats for travellers wanting to do crazy things like sail them to Easter Island or down the Amazon. In his shed was a big boat head.

Here we met a couple of Canadian lads also on bikes. They had cycled all the way from home and were going down to Ushuaia. We spent a good couple of hours reminiscing and exchanging tales.
The next day we cycled to Copacabana. While cycling up a hill a man in a car couldn´t resist rushing over to take our photo. In return we managed a photo of his whole family that squeezed into a tiny car after this pose.

They must have a thrilling photo album.

Down the other side was a quick ferry crossing. It was absolutely freezing this day, no idea how Gemma managed to smile so well without cracking the skin on her face, or breaking her teeth.

-600C - smile frozen on.

-600C - hands frozen together.

The feries are not quite P&O standard. They are just a few planks of wood nailed together with a small motor at the back. Coming the other way we saw this thing being taken over...

It´s a miracle.

It´s amazing how the thing stayed afloat, it was swaying all over and the tiny motor was barely doing anything.
Most likely it survived due to a recent visit to Copacabana. This town on the shores of the lake is a local worshipping place. People from both Bolivia and Peru come here to cover their vehicles in tat and have water thrown on it by nuns. We even saw one car have an entire bucket of confetti thrown into the engine. Not sure if that will help it last long but at least the drivers are assured.
We weren´t. We guessed it meant they felt they could drive like maniacs and trust God to look after them.

Purchasing miracles from nuns.

The cathedral in which Ian accidentaly swore.
Hell beckons.

We then had a little stroll up this whopping great rock next to town. Nice view. Just in front of us were more crazies. These nuters were buying miniature replicas of things they wanted (new house, car, shop etc), they then put them ina small garden, pour beer on them and then set fire to them. You´ve gotta love ´em.

Sat in a garden waiting for dreams to come true.
Almost as crazy as cycling 5,000 miles.

Next up was a trip on a boat to the Isla del Sol. Legendary birthplace of the founders of the Incas.

A short walk from the port takes you to the building built like a labyrinth. It´s easy to get lost in the hundreds of tiny rooms and tunnels and alleys, so long as you don´t just look over the wall.

Not far from here is a rock which bears footprints made by the sun itself. Amazing.

The sun stays in the sky because it´s feet are so tiny it falls over easily.

From here you can follow a path up a hill which keeps going up, and up, beyond the clouds and into the sky. It eventually takes you to the sun. Incredible.

After you´ve gone all the way to the sun it´s a long walk back. To make the return journey nice, the early Inca´s built a giant staircase.

The fountain near the bottom (to the left) is believed to have all sorts of healing powers and other magic stuff. It tasted just like soil.

On the way back to Copacabana the nice boat man stopped by some floating islands. These islands are made from the same reeds that they use to build those boats. Apparently the Urco´s people who occupy them don´t like the other people on the mainland, so they moved onto the lake. Very sensible of them, rather than starting a war and getting themselves slaughtered.

And so the the following day we got the bikes out again and headed off to Peru, just 8kms (5 miles) away. We have enjoyed Bolivia in many parts, the scenery and landscape is absolutely beautiful. We tested ourselves to the extreme in the remote and freezing south west, we will also never forget our time at IntiWaraYassi (God we miss those little criters). Unfortunately we won´t be very sad to leave behind some other aspects of the country. Although the majority of people were great, we had many bad experiences with others which made things very frustrating. Gemma managed to get herself punched by a crazy man in La Paz, he was simply unable to wait 5 more seconds for her to move the bike out of his way. Hopefully in Peru we will have less of this craziness.

Ian crossing into Peru.

Gemma crossing the final border.

Our final border crossing before returning home. Just 500kms from the finish line in Cusco if we follow the main road (which we´re not!). Going home seems to be all we think and talk about now. We´re excited about being so close to the end, but it will also be tough returning back to the so called ´normal´ life.

Next up is a nutty ride to Arequipa. We have a lot of time left before we need to be in Cusco. So we are heading over the mountains again, down to Arequipa where we will visit massive canyons, valleys of fire and the Nasca lines.

Not long now everyone...

love you all.

No comments: