Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Watching the grass grow

Erica and I at the highest train station in the world

Our train and glacial backdrop


Weird figures in our hostel lounge

Floating reed island in Lake Titicaca

Reed islanders

Reed islander

Reed islander

Our transport

How its done

Lake Titicaca from Tequile

So today up early, to take the train from Cusco to Puno at Lake Titicaca, via the highest train station in the world apparently. This is a much rated train journey for the views, and for being so damn high up. In the earlier part of the journey the views were great as we went through canyons, vallies, etc, gradually opening out into a wide valley bordered by impressive mountains with glaciers, and then onto a barren flat high altitude plain, which I personally found less stimulating. Like many journies, this involved periodic appearances by small Andean bands. This inevitably happens in the restaurants westerners go to as well. It would be more OK if they did not tend to play the same tunes. And then just after dark we arrived in the town of Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the largest high altitude lake in the world. We are now at just under 4,000 metres. Luckily for both of us we seem well adjusted to the altitude. Anyway, more later, as I want to go eat now. More alpaca, or shall I have guinea pig? The place where Erica is waiting for me does a guinea pig leg ommelette. Ummm....

Sep 29th: Spoke too soon on the altitude...another exhausting and breathless night of little sleep. Anyway, a great day, probably our nicest so far, as we spent the whole day on the Lake. The Lake is huge, you can not even see some of the edges, and it looks great. Mostly a lovely blue, relatively tranquil, bordered by mountains, with a number and variety of islands, and with many areas of reeds. So we got up very early to explore as much as we could in the clear day we have here. So 7 a.m. we were on a boat, first going to see the floating reed islands, the Uros Islands.

These islands are amazing. Originally, people avoiding trouble fled into the reed beds of Lake Titicaca, and gradually developed a complete life and culture there. A lot of this is now diminishing, and largely kept alive by tourism, but it was amazing stuff. There are about twenty-five floating islands with 1800 people living on them. These islands are made of reed roots and earth covered with metres of reeds, tethered to points in shallower water. On them are reed houses (with solar power for the TVs), and people get around in reed boats. They also appear to be very in tune with their particular ecosystem - which is basically reeds and fish - and the only place around here where there is no rubbish or pollution. It was fascinating, if not also a little weird, walking around on what seemed like a deep carpet of reeds, aware of the water underneath. And then a few of us went in a slightly bigger reed boat from one island to another, fun and interesting too.

And then off across the depths of the lake for a few hours to an island called Tequile. This was with burning sun and a bitter wind. It was easy to forget we are four kms up on top of the world, it looked like we were cruising the Greek Islands, and felt like cruising the Scilly Isles, as it all felt slightly magical. Tequile was beautiful, very tranquil and laid back - if we had more time we would have overnighted there - and with great views of the lake and surrounding mountains. We had lunch with two Americans who were in Northern Peru during the earthquake which was there a few days ago, sounded dramatic. And then a lovely motor back across the Lake to Puno. All in all a lovely day. Now we are booked on an early and fast bus back to Cusco tomorrow, so should be there by three, to do more there, confirm details of our jungle plans, and start gearing up for our trek on the Inca Trail. Its raining, but time for tea.

So I had the guinea pig, which was more of an experience than a pleasure. It tasted more of rabbit than chicken, but was hard work to get that far. It did not look at all nice, little feet, and head with eyes and all. It also took up almost the whole plate, and when wrestling with it the other food kept getting knocked off the plate. It had been grilled, and had largely turned into pork crackling, which was hard to eat and even harder to cut with a knife. And other than the pork crackling type stuff there was bugger all meat. After I had done what I could, the waitress told me I should have used my hands. Personally, I think this would have not got more meat, but may have provided a lot more entertainment for fellow diners, or those with strong stomachs anyway. Erica believes it was overcooked and I should try again, but once was enough, and at least I have had the experience now, and can testify that guinea pig is like pigeon, nice enough, but hardly worth the effort. Serves me right for eating people's pets.

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