The bus from Copacabana, Bolivia to Puno, Peru was just a few hours. We passed the border control easily and arrived at our hostel — Cozy Hostel — at the end of the afternoon. We originally booked two nights, but soon decided to cancel the second night and go on a two-day Lake Titicaca tour. Due to our late arrival we didn’t get a real chance to explore the city of Puno. We went out for dinner to Mosja, one of the best reviewed restaurants in town. The food was very good, and we got offered a free dessert because they asked us to move to a different table.
Lake Titicaca Tour #1
We got picked up for the tour after breakfast. We were only allowed to bring a smal daypack on the trip. A tour bus brought us to the harbor, just a couple of blocks from our hostel. The group consisted of more or less 20 persons, with whom we would share a boat. We left the harbor behind us and moved into the direction of Uros: the floating islands. The hundreds of floating islands are made out of reeds. Each island is made by hand and lasts up to 30 years. Up to eight families share an island. Our group got dropped off at one of the many islands. We got on a handmade boat of reed for half an hour and got a sight of the many islands. The tour of the Uros islands finished with an explanation of how they built their islands. We got back onto our tour boat and got to the island of Amantaní.
It took us more than two hours to get from the Uros islands to Amantaní — the second biggest island in Lake Titicaca. Our group was split into smaller groups of up to four people for the home stay with a family on the island. Angelo and I shared a group with two guys from Lima, Peru. Our hostess was mama Francisca. We got our lunch at the home of our hostess and she showed us our rooms. After our lunch we got together with the whole group again to climb one of the hills of the island, to see the ancient temple of Pachamama. Hiking to the top was easy, and it gave us a great view of the island and the lake. We returned to the home of mama Francisca for dinner. After dinner we had to change into traditional clothing for the party that evening. The women got fully dressed, we men only got a hat and cape. We did some traditional dancing with the group at the party. Very fun!
Lake Titicaca Tour #2
We got up early and enjoyed a pancake breakfast to finish our visit to the island Amantaní. We said goodbye to mama Francisca in the harbor and got back on to our boat. The water was rough that morning and it took us more than an hour to get to the island of Taquile. Our guide paid the entrance to the island and we walked up to the main plaza. Halfway there a local who was carrying bottles of drinks fell. We helped him back up to his feet, and Angelo carried his pack to the main plaza. We got some free time to explore the plaza — which was quite boring — before we continued walking to the northern part of the island. There we shared the last lunch together with the tour group: a bowl of soup and a piece of trout. It took more than 3 hours to return from Taquile to Puno.
It was good to be back in Puno again. The travel by boat was very boring and took awfully long. We could finally take a hot shower again in the hostel. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the hostel. We left the hostel to look around town for a bit and to get something to eat. Whilst strolling around we bumped into two Dutch girls from our tour, with whom we decided to get dinner. We found a decent pizzeria — a welcome change after the traditional vegetarian meals on the islands. The next morning we went by the supermarket to get something to eat for the bus journey. We bought a couple of pieces of cake too. We left Puno behind us and walked to the bus terminal. We found one of the cheapest buses available to take us to Arequipa: S/. 20 (Soles) in six hours. The only downside was that we just had 15 minutes before the bus would leave…
We left Puno at one o’clock in the afternoon and arrived at our hostel in Arequipa late at night. The Friendly hostel is located a few blocks from the main square. We dropped our stuff and went out for dinner. We found a nice Italian place for a pasta (no pizza this time) and tiramisu — my favorite dessert. Too bad I haven’t found a single decent tiramisu in South America yet. They all tasted like frozen cakes, not how it is supposed to taste.
The breakfast was pancakes with banana slices and chocolate. We decided to go by the front desk of the hostel to inform about the possibilities of the different Colca canyon tours. After some time we decided to book the three day trek through the canyon, a more relaxed approach to trekking there. We left our laundry at the reception and went into town. When we reached the main square — Plaza de las Armas — we found a military parade going on. We watched it for a while, an interesting sight of the customs of the Peruvian culture. We visited the cathedral next to the square and strolled through the surrounding streets for the rest of the morning.
We had our lunch at Crepisimo, a French crepe restaurant with a Peruvian twist. My crepe was made with a native Andean grain and topped with alpaca meat. A very interesting combination. We visited the Santa Catalina Monastery next. A true city within a city. It was founded in 1580 and has survived all major and minor earthquakes since. The streets of the monastery are known for their bright colors. A very interesting sight, and definitively one of my highlights of Arequipa. You haven’t really visited Arequipa if you haven’t visited the monastery! We finished our day with dinner in one of the best restaurants in town: Zig Zag. It has the same owner as Crepisimo, and the chef has amazing creations of Andean food with a twist. The highlight was the main course: a selection of three pieces of meat served on a sizzling hot plate of volcanic rock. Delicious!
We got picked up early in the morning for the tour. A drive of a couple of hours brought us to a restaurant for breakfast, about 6:30 in the morning. A very simple breakfast of just bread, butter and jam, with tea or coffee for drinks. We continued by bus for another hour to the first stop of the tour: the condor viewpoint. The condors take flight everyday in the morning. We saw one sitting besides the road, and a couple of them flying over the canyon very very far away. The viewpoint also gave us the first sights of the canyon, which is the second deepest canyon in the world.
From the condor viewpoint it was another 45 minutes before we started our trek. The group in the van was split up into multiple groups. Somewhere doing the two day trek, we were going to do the three day trek. Our group had eight people: two Belgians, an English girl, three Americans and us. The guide was Frank, a local from the area around the canyon. The programme of today was easy: walking downhill into the canyon for 8km. Frank gave us some explanations about the canyon before we started, and we could continue on our own until the bridge that crossed the canyon’s river. As we descended we got some great views of the canyon and its astonishing depth.
We had a long break at the river, from where it was just a half an hour walk to the first hostel. Once there we had to wait for a bit before our lunch got served. The food was simple and the portions were on the small size, a bit of a disappointment. Soup as a starter and lomo saltado de alpaca (alpaca meat strips with veggies and some rice) as main course. We got only three small pieces of meat per person. The rest of the afternoon was our free time. We could explore the area on our own, or just relax at the hostel. We all stayed near the hostel and got to know each other and the group. We drank some beers and played a couple of card games to kill time. Dinner was similar to the lunch, but without any meat. We all got bed early, it has been a long day already.
Breakfast was served at a decent time. We got some pancakes, the most popular breakfast to serve tourists. We would have another easy day of hiking today. Because we chose for the three day hike, the first half of the hike was divided over the first two days. Just after we started walking we lost two of our American group mates. They fell behind and took a wrong turn somewhere. Luckily, another guide was able to pick them up and drag them along to our destination of the day: the oasis. We arrived at the oasis after a two and a half hour hike. We enjoyed the pool until our lunch was served. And we had the opportunity to take a hot shower again, the first since we left Arequipa.
Lunch was more of the same: soup and a small vegetarian meal. We got some watermelon from another group, a very welcome treat! The guides weren’t so happy though, the leftovers were meant for them. We got invited by the guides to participate in a game of soccer. We played matches of four vs. four, Angelo and I teamed up with the Belgian guy and one the American guys. We played four matches and won them all! The winner (us) received a couple of beers from the losers. We sat down with our group in the dining area for some beers and a game of cards. After dinner (same meals as usual, got quite annoyed with the food at this point) we got to bed early. Tomorrow would be the toughest day of the hiking.
The hiking started at 5:30 in the morning. The expected time was a three hours of hiking uphill, gaining 1200 meters of elevation over 5km. Once we got into our pace it was quite easy. Angelo finished in just under two hours, I did it a 15 minutes slower. Everybody from our group finished well within the expected three hours. We had to walk a bit from the top of the canyon to the nearest village for our breakfast. We got back into a van after breakfast for some sightseeing on the way back to Arequipa. The first stop was at some hot springs nearby. A great way to relax our muscles (which weren’t sore). The hot water felt great. We continued to the lunch place for a lunch buffet.
On the last bit back to Arequipa we stopped at a mountain pass at 5000m elevation for a view of the nearby mountains and volcanos. They also showed us a group of alpacas and llamas. We have seen so many of these animals already that it was not that interesting. Back in Arequipa we got stopped by a police control. Three police officers were needed to control the papers of our driver. He got a ticket eventually, but to this day we have no idea what it was for. They dropped us off at the Plaza de las Armas and we had to walk back to our hostel. We said goodbye to our new made friends, but we gained a travel companion. Andrew, one of the American guys, joined us for our trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Together with him and the English girl we had dinner that night: pizza, a welcome change after the poor food of the trek.