Peru: Colca Canyon, Puno & Lake Titicaca
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Monday April 23rd: Colca Canyon: 4160 meters Deep (13648ft) and 112kms long Another very early morning. We left Arequipa at 3:30 AM. Crazy drive along very curvy roads with people constantly passing. Stressed me out especially after we drove past the spot where the tourist van went off the cliff on Friday!
Sabancaya volcano is the world’s highest erupting volcano and we drove past it. We also saw Hualca Hualca & Ampato volcanoes.
Arrived in Chivay at 6:30.
There are 17 communities currently in Colca Canyon. Descendents are still here and you can identify by the hats they wear; White hat for Collahuas and black for Cabanas. They arrived 1500 years ago -before the Inca’s (Inca came 900 years ago and then the Incas took over.)
The scenery along the way was beautiful. We drove through the highest point today at 4800m = 15,800ft. Yikes. My head sure felt it. I was inching towards a massive headache.
We hiked some sections along the edge of the canyon and went searching for condors. It was really hard to walk and hike there due to the altitude.
Eventually a few came out and soared around the canyon taking in the winds. We stood and watched for a while trying to snap photos but hard to capture the size of these incredible birds. The Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and their wingspan. It has a maximum wingspan of 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in).
Afterwards we headed back the way we came towards Chivay but stopped in Maca first where I found a red poncho like the ones at the restaurant – very thick and authentic looking. I paid $65 American for it. A steal compared to what you would pay in North America.
At Chivay we stopped for lunch and also checked out one of the biggest authentic markets in the area. Chivay sits at 3450 or 11,318feet. We made a few stops along the way back to Arequipa along the sides of the roads where locals sold their goods.
I ended up with a big headache from the altitude. It was a long day and a long drive back to Arequipa but without any incidences. We arrived around 5PM. A quiet evening with some coca tea was needed as we had another long drive day tomorrow.
Tuesday April 24th: Puno (3827 m = 12,556 feet)
We were picked up at 6:30AM by Carlos, our driver and his wife who came along to keep him company. We had a big van for just the 3 of us but it was a long drive to Puno. We were driving at 14,000 feet in sections. We drove through Juliaca city which is quite large and very busy. Lots of tuk-tuks and traffic through center of town. We arrived in Puno a bit earlier then anticipated - right at 12:00. The drive was great and felt safe & the hotel allowed us to check in early which was a huge bonus.
We stayed in Hotel Tierra Viva Puno right in the center of town in the square. I loved the feel of the city immediately. Very different then the rest were. Its right on Lake Titicaca and down in the valley. We had to come down some very steep hills.
We checked in and went straight for lunch at Pizza Andina (voted second best on Tripadvisor). Jerry stayed in and went for a nap. He has not been well the whole time up until now. The pizza’s were delicious – cooked in a wood fired oven.
We walked around for a while checking out the city center. The place kind of reminds of something you would see in Nepal somewhere.
We went back to the room and just chilled out. Investigated Puno and places to eat. Made some calls back home. My headache returned - had to take another tylenol. We wandered out around 6:30 and chose Cafe Buho for dinner. We shared their famous Quinoa soup (delicious) and a salad. Then I got a vegetarian spaghetti - OMG a massive portion. I could not even eat half. John got lomo soltado - very good. I took the remainder of mine back with me. They say to eat carbs when in altitude - body needs it. Stay away from protein and fats as its too hard to digest and body needs fuel. Jerry still stayed in sick. We met our rep at the hotel and she told us what was happening tomorrow. I then found out that they had oxygen in the hotel and I was still suffering with the headache so I got my oxygen hit and felt much, much better.
Wednesday Apr 25th: Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the largest navigable lake in the world and is the largest lake in South America. It is on the border of Peru and Bolivia.
Aymara is an ancient language which is spoken here - In this language “Titi” means Puma - "Caca" means Stone. There are many versions of what it actually means, but the proper name of the lake is titiq’aq’a, which means gray discolored, lead-colored puma. This phrase refers to the sacred carved rock found on the Island of the Sun.
We were up at 5:40. I was feeling good today. No headache. Had breakfast and were picked up at 7:30 by Ruben our guide. Off we went to port which was 10 min away. It was raining this morning. Our first rain yet. The boat we got was private. It holds 30 people and it was just for us! WOW! It was also covered so that was a bonus, along with a bathroom.
Then we got rewarded with the most beautiful full rainbow right in front of all of Puno.
The rain stopped shortly after and we arrived at Uros reed island. The Uros tribe have built these islands and been carrying the tradition for centuries.
Wow. Quite fascinating. We got the whole rundown on how the islands are built with the reeds, how they can be moved, or split or joined to make bigger islands. The one we were on housed 16 people, 4 families. No running water and they have solar panels to give then electricity. They embroider and sell to tourists or make things out of reeds. They have to buy their food in Puno but they eat here and catch fish. There is literally nothing to do otherwise.
Every 15 days they add another layer of reeds as it starts rotting from the bottom and the island would get covered in water. We met their president Damen who gets to be that for a year where he makes all the decisions. Next year it will be another lead from another family.
We bought a handmade runner to help support the community.
Then we had a 10 minute ride for 10 soles in their handmade reed boat which was rowed by the president and his wife.
We got into our big boat and motored another hour out to Taquile Island which is on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca 45 km offshore from the city of Puno. About 2,200 people live on the island. The island is narrow and long and was used as a prison during the Spanish colony. Only in 1970 did it become the property of the Taquile people. The island is very small, only 5.5kms by 1.6kms wide. The highest point of the island is 4,050 meters (13,287.4ft) above sea level and the main village is at 3,950 m. From Taquile you have views of the snowcapped Bolivian mountains.
Bolivia can be seen directly in front of us.
We got off and hiked 3 kms in total and another 500ft of altitude. It was warm but beautiful.
We walked along the indigenous homes and farms and watched how they work and live.
They dont have a written alphabet language. They dont fight. They dont disrespect one another. They work in harmony sharing work and play. They have colors in their clothing that identify if they are single, engaged or married. It was such an interesting culture. Here our guide is explaining what each hat represents re: marital status, etc. The bag on the right is for carrying coca leaves.
Some of the plants and scenery and the way of life reminded me of Croatia. They sell handicrafts & knitted items & only men do the knitting. The women do the weaving. There is one chief for the island and he wears a distinctive hat called a chuyo. This is their chief and his wife welcoming us to the island.
We had a delicious lunch of quinoa soup and lake trout with fries and rice.
We walked back down a very steep hill with over 600 very uneven steps and then headed back to Puno.
I loved today and thankfully felt good without any headaches even though we were in quite high altitude!
We got back late afternoon and did some quick shopping along the market at port, then were back at hotel by 5. Jerry was still feeling not too well so he stayed in all night. We went out and shopped a bit then went to a restaurant where John had his Cuy fix (yes poor little guinea pig!) and I had lamb. We also had to have the famous drink of Peru - Pisco Sour!
We had to pack up once more for our next journey. Up to Cusco tomorrow and a whole new - but continued - Peru experience which you can read about here!