We left Arequipa bright and early this morning with a 7am bus boarding time and commenced our 6,800 foot ascent to the highest elevation of our trip – Las Lagunillas – where we stopped for a picnic lunch. We were all feeling the effects of the high elevation, but nothing too serious, just a little shortness of breath and slight dizziness. The view was well worth it.
We were also fortunate enough to spot some of the rare vicuñas that populate the Andes at an elevation between 3,200 to 4,800 meters. The very finest of sweaters and scarves are made with vicuña wool and are well outside of any of our budgets.
We also enjoyed the immense beauty of the Andes Mountains.
We then finished our day’s journey in Puno, which sits on Lake Titicaca, the worlds highest navigable fresh-water lake and also the largest lake (by volume) in South America. Puno and the lake sit at just over 12,600 feet above sea level, so we were all still moving a bit slowly and either chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea to ward off the effect of the elevation.
We went by boat to the Uros Islands, which are islands made by their inhabitants out of floating reeds. We were able to get off of the boat at one of the islands where we received a presentation on how the islands are made and then had personal tours of their huts and some even dressed up in the tradition Uro people attire. One interesting note is that they have limited electricity in their huts by charging a car battery by solar panels. The lady who showed us her hut was partial to watching soap operas.
And before the end of our time on the island, we had 10 brave souls who can now check off swimming in Lake Titicaca from their bucket lists. During the summer, the average surface temperature of the lake is 50-57 degrees Fahrenheit. Watching them jump in was fun, but watching their desperate attempt to get out was even more amusing.
And although the pictures are pretty good, nothing tells the story like a good video, which you can watch here. Believe me, this will be the best four minutes you spend today!