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Arequipa, Puno and Copacabana

Copacabana, Bolivia

Well I´m a bit behind with the old blog writing so I shall catch up by doing a brief run down of my last four destinations.

I left Cuzco (sadly - I loved that city) for Arequipa on my first over-night bus which was an experience in itself. I was reassured by fellow travellers that the buses were fairly warm and I would be fine in a normal amount of clothin. It´s a very good thing I ignored this advice and took in my hand luggage nearly every item of clothing I own as well as a large alapaca rug! Although fine in the evening, once it got dark the bus was pretty darn cold meaning sleep didn´t really overcome me for much of the 10 hour journey Becuase of this when I arrived at my hostel in Arequipa, I went straight to bed for a few hours (I had arrived at 6am so there wasn´t much to do anyway) and woke pretty refreshed in my new city.

I really enjoyed my time in the "White City", so called becuase of the use of a light coloured volcanic rock called sillar for building material, however there is not a huge amount to report. It was again one of those lovely places that can be enjoyed by simply exploring the streets and taking in the gorgeous architecture - the Plaza de Armas was one of the most beautiful I have seen on my travels yet. I did take an open top bus tour on one of my days there, and although I´m not sure I learned a huge amount about the city, it was a great few hours of just looking and soaking up the scenery. I also met a fun group of boys in my hostel so generally had a very nice time whilst there!

Next on the itinerary was Puno, a short (!) 6 hour bus journey away. I arrived in the early evening so took a pedi-taxi (a bicycle with a bench attached to the front is probably the best way to describe these) to the hostel that I had picked out from the guidebook. Puno, although beginning to reap the tourism benefits, has yet to produce a decent hostel like those you find in most larger places. So this means that mosty the choice of places to stay are strange hostel-type places which look like they´re stuck in the 1950s or cheap hotels. The first "hostel" I tried was a bit creepy in that there didn´t seem to be anyone else about, and seeing as I´m travelling on my own, this didn´t much appeal. So I went to look at another one, and though the accomodation itself wasn´t much different, there was a Canadian guy sitting on the downstairs sofa who said hello to me, so immediately it seemed a better option. The next morning he and I headed to the docks and caught a local boat to the "floating islands" which are probably one of the coolest things I hace see yet on this trip. I have heard mixed reviews about how genuine they are, and by that I mean whether the locals actually do live on them or are just there for the tourists´ benefit, but that didn´t take away from the awesome engineering. A guide gave us an explanation about how they were built, but this was, of course, im Spanish so I didn{t catch everything. But from what I could gather, the reeds form a naturally buoyant bed from their roots mixing into the light, peaty soil. So the locals then pile layer after criss-crossed layer of cut and dried reeds of top of this until it froms a stable, yet bouncy foundation and then they built little huts on top for houses, schools, restaurants etc. I´m sure in the rainy season they don´t look quite so appealing, but in the sunshine they were just beautiful, and were complimented by numerous reed boats and canoes moored at the edge. Josh (Canadian boy) and I spent a good few hours on the islands - the whole community is made up of many small islands which house about eight families each - and then returned to the mainland. I was intending to stay two nights in Puno, but as Josh was leaving for La Paz, meaning my hostel would be empty, and I had already seen the main attraction of the town, I decided to head straight to Copacabana that afternoon.

The bus only took a few hours, and included a very easy border crossing (compared to the hectoc ones I encountered in Central America) into Bolivia, my sixth country of the trip. It´s much smaller than Puno and has the same set back that it hasn´t really developed any decent hostels yet. Luckily I had met two people on the bus, a French girl called Sylvia and an English guy called Stephen, so we decided to stay at the same hotel. For $6 a night we each had large, private rooms with ensuite and cable TV looking out over the lake. For a couple of nights it was absolute bliss! It was early evening when we arrived into Copacabana so after a quick shower we met up for supper and all had the trout which is caught fresh in the lake and served the same day - absolutely delicious. The main reason people stay in this little lakeside town is to visit the Isla del Sol, which is exactly what we did the next day. The island is important as it´s the birth place of sun, according to Inca mythology, and although there´s not a huge amount to do there, it makes a nice day trip. The boat drops everybody off at the north side of the island and then it´s a good three hour trek to the south side where you get picked up again from later in the afternoon. Although quite tough in the bazing sun, and at fairly decent altitude (somewhere around 3820m), it was nice walk and gave some good views over the lake. No of us could be bothered to sit on a bus after a day´s walking so we all stayed one more night in Copacabana and then made our way to La Paz the next day.

permalink written by  veritykent on May 28, 2009 from Copacabana, Bolivia
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