7th till 13th of July 2019.
How important are friends to you? How often do you see them? How do you handle long distance relationships? As I moved from Belgium to the Netherlands 30 years ago I already knew that being away for a long time can and will have an impact on our friendships. I also knew that even if you don’t see each other every week, even if you don’t speak or are in contact every month, you connect when you speak or see each other if the base is there. How will it be to see Denise again?
Lazy Sunday afternoon.
We wanted to take the ferry on Monday to Puno so we could have a real lazy Sunday today. However the ferry ceased to exist as locals take collectivos (mini buses, designed for 12 passengers, but that usually take 25) to go to Puno, less time and less weather dependent. If we want to cross with a chartered boat it is +70$ one way. We decide to take the collectivo tomorrow.
On an island.
FOMO kicks in but Felix has a solution. He can arrange a boat for us so we can visit lake Titicaca and one of the islands. We choose to visit one of the Uros floating Islands. Not everybody we have met was positive about the Uros Islands they visited. Too touristic and commercially exploited. We try it and are not disappointed.
Ours is located close to our peninsula (1 hour by small motor boat) and not yet swamped with tourists. The chief gives a passionate, Spanish, explanation how the islands are built and maintained. Interesting how they are constructed. Building an island cost 6 months and it will then float for 10-15 years. Every 3 months a new layer of reed on top of old layers. This island houses 5 families with 1 chief. One toilet but if they need to poo they take the boat to cross to the reed.
Of course they offer their handiwork for sale and if you don’t buy anything you can take a boat trip around the island in a traditional boat (for 10 sol per person) or donate a small amount. They are using wooden boats for day to day use. The traditional boats are mainly used for tourists or when they want to arrange a romantic escape. Families sleep with all their kids in one bed, in one room. The traditional boats now last 2-3 years instead of 1 year because they use bottles as extra floating devices and nylon ropes.
Will the two little ones continue living here or will they move to the mainland?
How fast will modern times catch up with them? In the past they would communicate with mirrors, now also this island has a mobile phone and solar energy.
Next day we hike, take two colectivos and one mototaxi to arrive in the centre of Puno. The hotel where Jep and Denise will be staying is full but a sister hotel around the corner still has space.
Duvets! Heating in the room! A small bath! Well working WIFI. I don’t want to leave!
As we are in a big town we take the opportunity to get the right medication for Frank (anti-biotics) and stock-up on more vitamins and magnesium. In the Netherlands we would no longer take vitamins as we know our diet is well balanced. Here we know we don’t eat enough vegetables and in some areas also not enough fruit.
Good to see you.
Waiting patiently until they would arrive between 18:00-19:00. At 19.00 I can’t wait any longer and we go and sit in the lobby of their hotel.
How wonderful it is to see all of them again. What a beautiful sweet 16 Pheline has become. How cuddly Dymphy is and Denise and Jep have not changed at all.
They have had a very intense program during the past few days. Today even got up at 4:00 to admire the condors at the Colca Canyon. As the girls are totally spent it gives the oldies some time together. Enjoying memories and sharing stories over a great dinner. Thank you friends!
Denise also manages to change her schedule giving us time together till 14:00 next day. Strolling over the market and enjoying perfect coffee and food at the main square. Time flies and soon we need to say goodbye. They are off to the next highlight.
We are re-tracking our route of yesterday back to our bikes and spending a last night at the peninsula. Meeting wonderful people from Belgium and France. The Belgium family with their 14, 16 and 18 years old kids are combining mountain biking, sheep herding, school visits and markets. The two young ladies from France are exchange veterinarian students, back packing around Peru before they begin their project.
Early Wednesday morning we leave this little heaven with fond memories of meeting Denise and family.
Are we ready to bike again? We enjoy the gravel road till Taraco. Amazing views over Lake Titicaca. Every small hill reminds us that we are still biking above 3,800 meter and Frank is still recovering.
Around the lake.
Biking around Lake Titicaca is amazing. Did you know it is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. Located at 3,812 m, in the Andes and on the border of Bolivia and Peru. Both claiming part of the lake. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America, covering the same area as 20% of the Netherlands. Even with this volume of water pollution is a real threat as cities and villages dump waste in the lake. Other major issue is over-fishing and introducing new fish species. Looking over this vast basin you can and can’t imagine the negative impact of people.
The other side of the peninsula is totally different, dryer, cacti, no longer any traditional clothing. While there is only a hill in between.
Time to shear the sheep.
The difference between our bed in Puno and Taraco could not be bigger. The town is run down, dusty and of the 3 possibilities to sleep: 1 in renovation, 1 closed for the day and they don’t know when the owner returns and the last and only one we have to take as we don’t want to camp in this cold area, so close to a highway. Bed is too short for Frank and sagged mattresses. When I lay on my back my legs hurt as they get overstretched. But hey, it is also 10 times as cheap so who are we to complain.
At the square we find the only but worst food in a long time. No shower in the morning in the shared facility as we only have cold water and the frozen water in the basin outside reminds us it will be really cold. Fully covered we leave and follow a gravel road parallel to the highway.
I have seen on google maps a really nice hotel (without reviews) 25 km from here and I convince Frank to take a rest because he is still tired and has a bad cough. But when we arrive in Huanace we can’t find it and even when we ask around the only possibility seems to be a similar hostel as last night. Discussion over some bad coffee makes us decide to continue for another 40 km till Moho. I block the wind till we reach the summit at 4,100 m. Luckily last 8 km are downhill. Whole day buff and long trousers.
Moho is the last big village before the border. We finally end at a hotel built in 2002 and since then nothing has been adjusted, changed or repaired. You could record “the shining” here. Surprisingly it is clean and we discover we even sleep on a new mattress. Only matrimonial is available and on the 5th floor. Sometimes sleeping in a hotel is more work than setting-up camp.
Final dinner in Peru is real street food. Prepared at home and kept warm in a wheel cart with blankets.
Around the lake.
The final day in Peru leads us past Lake Titicaca. Good asphalt, small friendly villages, colorful houses. Just before the border we do a last WhatsApp call with home as we don’t know when we will get a new SIM in Bolivia. And then after 40 kilometer we reach the border town of Tilali. Nice and hot! Final lunch in the only restaurant. Clean and modern immigration office checks us out in less than 15 minutes. If we would have stayed one day longer we would have overstayed our 90 day visa. Note that you can not pay your fine in this village, we would have to return to Moho to pay the 8.4 soles. But luckily we are just on time!
Its strange to say goodbye, 3 months seems like a long time and it is. In “normal” holiday terms it would take at least 3 years of holidays to bike what we have done now. We feel as if we only have scratched the surface. We leave a country which is 34 times bigger than the Netherlands (1,285,216 km² versus 37,354 km²) with 32 million people versus 17 million people. Still so much to discover. Denise & family have seen more highlights than we did, we saw a different side of Peru.
There is still so much to discover, so much to see, so much to hike. But our goal is calling and we have set ourselves a deadline which we will adhere to. Soon to come our high and low lights of the past 3 months.
Just outside town a final passport control and then the most bizar border crossing until now.
Biking 5 km uphill till +4,000 m until you find a statue indicating Peruvian/Bolivian border. No people, no customs.
Change from spotless asphalt to gravel. Spectacular 10 km gravel of which 5 km steep bumpy downhill brings us finally to the immigration office of Puerto Acosta.
Across the border.
Also here we are the only customers and fill in the necessary paperwork. They offer to change our money. If you can change everything in Tilali you lose less money. In Tilali 2 Bob for 1 Sol. At the Bolivian side 1.7 Bob for 1 Sol as they know you need some Bob (no ATM in this village!).
Our first hostal experience confirms that Bolivia is not better than Peru. Our first dinner experience does show they use gas here to cook instead of wood. And that Bolivians are very proud about their country, when we asked over dinner what the differences are with Peru they exclaimed that everything in Bolivia is better.
Next day we try to retrieve money in Puerto Carabuco, without success. After great lunch with BBQ pork we continue to Ancoraimes. On the map there would be no place to sleep but we don’t want to continue any further as the road runs along the shore and we wonder if we would be able to camp.
After asking around we discover there is a hostal build in an old government building. As our SIM is not working and I can’t buy a new one here, we need to find a phone to call the land lady. Luckily they still have payphones. We get a big room, shared facilities but great hot electrical shower. We can’t ask for more. After fried chicken and fries we call it a day and say goodbye to this interesting week.
Do you remember these? They remembered me 🙂