A Travellerspoint blog

Floating Islands

Visit to floating reed islands, Lake Titicaca

sunny 25 °C

As Mick was unable to leave the Hotel due to a touch of sun stroke I went off with others in the group to visit the floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca, after a 30 minute boat trip we came upon the islands which stretch as far as the eye could see, the islanders are there after fleeing persecution by the Inca's several hundred years ago, they built the islands from the reeds on the lake and floated away from trouble. They have maintained their community until the present day, mostly I suspect because they are not liable to any taxes.floating islands

floating islands

As we approached the islands there were numerous women is brightly coloured costumes beckoning to us to land and visit them, most of their income these days comes from tourism, they peformed a welcome song for us and then took us into their reed houses where we were dressed in their costumes for a photo opportunity.Residents of floating islands

Residents of floating islands

All dressed up and no place to go.

All dressed up and no place to go.

It was explained by the president of the island that they cut large chunks of peat from the shallow part of the lake and then put a stake through the middle, they then tie the chunks together and because they still have roots they bond together, they then place several layers of reed ontop to make the islands. These days the island are anchored down as they do not want them to float off.

It was quite weird walking around as you could feel them moving beneath your feet. We were then taken in a reed boat across to the school, the reed boats take them 6 months to build for a canoe type and they fill the bottom of them with empty plastic bottles to help them float.Boatmen

Boatmen

reed boat

reed boat

The school children have one classroom and a teacher from the mainland who has to row herself across the lake morning and evening. We left gifts for the children and donations to help them buy a generator to power a very old computer. All in all a very interesting morning.school girl

school girl

Posted by Mick G 17:03 Archived in Peru Tagged educational Comments (4)

Goodbye Bolivia hello Peru

Another long border crossing

sunny 20 °C

Leaving Copacabana we faced a short ride of 5 miles to the border with Peru and then another 90 miles to Puna and a two night stay.

Leaving Bolivia couldn't have been easierand took about 10 minutes. Somehow we knew that it wasn't a good omen.Getting ourselves into Peru was easy and quick but when it came to the bikes much checking and computer inputting was required by the worlds slowest one finger typist.
Entering Peru

Entering Peru

None of this was helped by the fact I had a touch of sunstroke and was feeling quite ropey. However we faired better than some of the group who were delayed by the customs officers lunch break then by a diversion along some dirt roads because of road works.

We are now on a rest day. April has gone on a boat trip to see the reed islands but I've decided to take the opportunity to take a rest.

Lists and Travel Data
We have now ridden 1926 miles and we aren't even half way round.

Posted by Mick G 10:56 Archived in Peru Tagged motorcycle Comments (3)

La Paz to Copacabana

The best day so far

sunny 25 °C

Everyone in the group thought this was the best day so far. The riding was brilliant despite an unexpected offroad section to get round a demonstration. (These are frequent in Bolivia and can spring up at anytime. They can also become violent ,as with any demo and are therefore to be avoided).
Detour leaving La Paz

Detour leaving La Paz

Eventually we got our first sight of Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world and absolutely enormous. Surrounded by massive snow capped peaks the sight was stunning. I ve had a fasination with the lake since O level geography (admittedly more to do with a schoolboys titter at the name than anything else) but it was certainly not a disappointment.
Us and Lake Titicaca

Us and Lake Titicaca

More was to come though as we crossed the Lake by barges. Made from wood and brightly painted they twisted with the weight of whatever they carried which varied from our motorcycles to buses and trucks.
Ferry

Ferry

The barge crossing was followed by brilliant biking roads twisting and turning to over 4,200 metres then back down to Copacabana at 3,800 metres.

The Bolivian Copacabana is the original. The beach in Brazil is named after it. Not the Copa in Bolivia has any brilliant beached but it does have a incredible view of Lake Titikaka.

There is also a ceremony you can attend where for a bottle of beer or a few Bolivians the local priest ot shaman will bless your car bus truck or bike. This involves buying some flowers to adorn your bike with and then drinking some beer. Unfortunately for us we turned up after mid day and the priest was already p--s-d and incpable of carying out the ceremony. We had to do with the flowers and beer.

We also arrived in the middle of a festival. A band paraded through the streets followed by a group of dancing women and men. The whole town was out and all were fascinated by the bikes. When we stopped to let the parade go by we were surrounded by people offering us drinks taking photos of them on the bikes. Lots of kissing and passing out beer. It turned out later that most of the beer was being passed around by the wife of the Chief of Police. So much for drink driving !

That night we sat on the balcony of the hotel and watched the sun go down over Lake Titicaca. Some days are as near perfect as you can get !
Sunset over the lake

Sunset over the lake

Posted by Mick G 09:15 Archived in Bolivia Tagged motorcycle Comments (2)

Potosi to La Paz

From the highest city in the world to the highest capital

sunny 27 °C

The journey from Potosi to La Paz was over three hundred miles at high altitude. Although relatively easy compared with the previous days dirt roads it is physically hard riding at altitudes of 3,800 to 4,000 metres. The bike suffers as well, the petrol is poor quality and the thin air takes away much of the power the bike normally has at sea level.

Before getting to La Paz you have to ride through a crazy place called El Altal. Traffic comes at you from all directions and we were advised to ride in a group because its not safe to go through there on your own. Two minutes of riding through there showed why. Tyres were burning at the side of the road,people loked at you as if you were going to be their next victim. In fact it was a bit like Benwell on a good day. ( Thats a select neigbourhood of Newcastle for people that don{t know)

Arriving at La Paz though is one of those things that we will never forget. After passing through a Police check point there is a viewing point where the whole of La Paz is laid out below you. The city is situated in a bowl surrounded by high mountains so it must be one of the few cities in the world where you can see the whole of it from one point.
La Paz

La Paz

We had a rest day to spend in La Paz and really we could have spent a week exploring it. A group of us decided to take a tour of the city to make the most of the time. We were very lucky because we arrived at the Government Square just in time to catch the changing of the guard which takes place every Sunday. It was spectacular and everyone watching it seemed to pay a lot of respect to the proceedings. When the national Anthem was played young people were standing to attention and everyone including ourselves were told in no uncertain terms by the Police to take our hats off. Perhaps thats what happens in a place thats had so many rrevolutions. I m not sure how the President gets life insurance but it must be very expensive.

Another little interesting snippet that came out of our trip is that the poor people are confined to the outskirts of the city because of the height differences. The outskirts are up to 1,000 metres higher and therefore colder. Consequently those who can afford it live towards the centre which is lower down and much warmer. On our trip around the city this was very obvious as further south we came across gated communities set in green parks.

La Paz has got to be one of those cities to visit if you get the chance.

Posted by Mick G 07:12 Archived in Bolivia Tagged motorcycle Comments (1)

Tupiza to Potosi

High into the Andes

sunny 24 °C

Tupiza to Potosi
This was another day of hard riding conditions. It started with fifty miles of dirt road which turned out to be in worse conditions than the ride from the border. We had taken the precaution of getting a four wheel drive to take our pillion passengers, April,Selana and Chris the first fifty miles and it turned out to be a good decision.
The sand was worse than we had encountered before especially one tricky uphill section of hair pin bends. Added to this were a couple of river crossings and two 100 metre sections of mud.
The Dirt Road

The Dirt Road


Ooops!

Ooops!


After fifty miles though there was a complete contrast. April got back on the bike and we had fifty miles of near perfect concrete roads that snaked through the Andes. The only problem was the builders thought it would be fun to miss out sections and leave it as dirt. To increase the fun they usually did that on bends or going through villages possibly in an effort to amuse the locals.
We then returned to dirt and gravel for another 30 miles which with two on the bike proved a bit interesting in parts.
The final section to Potosi was on the most perfect tarmac road you could wish to ride. Rising all the time we eventually reached a height of around 4,300 metres which was breathtaking in more than one way.
Potosi itself is at 4,000 to 4,200 metres and as such is the highest city in the world. Even climbing stairs was an immense effort.
Altitude at Potosi

Altitude at Potosi


Thankfully this ride was followed by another rest day to get acclimatised to the altitude. Potosi itself is famous for its silver mines and some of the group took advantage of a tour around it. However health safety has not been heard of and the system employed seems to be a throwback to out 18th century mining methods where whole families are involved. In fact as payment for the visit the people who went had to buy the miners some 98 % alcohol which they mix with coca leaves to stave off hunger and tiredness, some fuses and some dynamite! It must be one of the few places in the world where you can go to a market and buy dynamite.

Posted by Mick G 16:26 Archived in Bolivia Tagged motorcycle Comments (1)

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