Sunday, 2 November 2014

Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca

Peruvian Sellers

Our days in Peru were well planned due to many diverse activities in this beautiful country. The next trip took us to the breath-taking Colca Canyon (the world's second deepest canyon). We booked a 2 day tour through Marlon’s House. 

The first day included a spectacular drive from Arequipa to Chivay with a stopover at the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve where we got to see wild lamas, alpacas and vicunas. This route provides amazing landscapes and incredible wildlife. After 4 hours on the road, we arrived in Chivay which is the main village in the Colca Canyon. We spent the rest of the day visiting the markets and enjoying the local culture. At night, we were invited to watch a traditional folklore show in a local restaurant which was organised for the visitors. Although it was quite touristy, we still had a good laugh.  

Incredible landscapes

After an early morning breakfast at 5:30 am, we drove to the village of Yanque where another traditional dance of the native Quechua people (a tribe of the Andes Mountains) was organised for us. This is one of the ways for the locals to make some additional income.

Our next stop was the infamous Cruz del Condor, a cliff top lookout where we witnessed huge condors flying peacefully above the steep Colca Canyon. It was jam-packed with tourists trying to capture the best shot of these majestic birds. After a quick walk around the canyon, we returned back to Chivay for lunch before heading back to Arequipa in the afternoon.

Colca Canyon
Following a good night sleep at the Marlon’s House, we caught a bus to Puno which is a small town in the south-east of Peru. The town itself is not very interesting but we needed to stop there to visit the legendary Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America which is located between Peru and Bolivia.

Alex making new friends
The moment we arrived in Puno, Alex started to experience altitude sickness but she managed it well after taking some pills. Once we felt better adjusted to the altitude, we checked out some travel agents and bargained for the best price for a 2 day tour to the islands Uros, Amantani and Taquile in Lake Titicaca.     

Traditional Boats on Lake Titicaca
The next morning, we were picked up at 8 am from our hostel and driven to a nearby marina where our boat was waiting to board. We were an international group of 20 people and our first stop was the floating islands of Uros. The native people of Lake Titicaca live on 44 artificial islands made of floating reeds. We had a short stop in one these little islands and were greeted by Alice, the President of that community. She explained the process of building a floating island and their lifestyle in Uros. We were given some traditional clothes to try on. It was amusing to dress up like the natives. We left this peaceful and welcoming community and made our way towards the Amantani Island. Just to give you an idea about the size of this gigantic lake, it took us nearly three hours to reach our destination.

Connecting with locals

We had another warm welcome by the locals of this serene island who came to meet us in the marina. We were divided into small groups of 4 and our host families guided us to their houses where stayed for the night. After a traditional lunch, we had an incredible walk up to Pachatata (father Earth) to watch one of the most amazing sunsets. On the way, Alex bought an alpaca jumper from a local lady as the weather was cooling down. We reached the look out around 5 pm and took our seats to watch this wonderful spectacle. Beautiful colours of sunset provided an amazing light show. The energy was incredible on this island. I felt calm, peaceful and connected to the mother Earth.

Sunset in Amantani Island
By the time we got back to our home stay, dinner was almost ready. The food in Peru is one of the best in South America and we weren’t disappointed with the local cuisine. At night, the host families organised a fiesta (party). We put our traditional costumes that were provided by the families and danced all together with our hosts. It was a great way of connecting with these genuine people.

Party with the locals
We said goodbye to our hosts in the morning and left towards the Taquile Island. It took us another 2 hours to get there. The surroundings of Taquile reminded me of the Italian coast. We visited the main square and had fish for lunch. Once we got back to our boat, an older French tourist asked the guide if he could swim in Lake Titicaca. The idea spread like a wildfire and 5 minutes later, 8 of us jumped into the ice cold waters of this huge lake. My body went into a shock with temperatures around 7 degrees Celsius and I didn’t feel anything for about a minute. Then the cold hit me! I managed to swim back to the boat. It was very refreshing but I was very happy to be back on the boat with sun heating my ice cold body. It was a fantastic experience that I would never forget!

We got back to Puno in the afternoon, picked up our luggage and caught an overnight bus to Cuzco where we would start the incredible Inca Trail. 

A challenging swim in Lake Titicaca

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