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Day 381 – 24th December 09

Posted by TravellingStrom on December 24, 2009

Thursday – Copacabana, Bolivia

Today was going to be busy, we wanted to be in Bolivia at a small lake side town this evening, but before that we were going to see the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. Basically the indigenous population who have been residing in this area for 20,000 years or more were overrun by the war like tribes including the Incas, so what they did is to build houses and float them on the lake so they could live a safe life. So, after breakfast our bus arrived, remarkably on time and they dropped us at the harbour. Here we saw a small example of the islands but also we could see how many tourists must come through here by the amount of tied up launches.

We headed off and it was not long before we were amongst the reeds that are used to make the islands, although they do use newer style boats as well nowadays 🙂

It was a bit cool today and it is the wet season here, so there was the chance of rain. After about 20 minutes and passing the toll booth, we arrived at the first of the many islands where the ladies were colourfully dressed and were ready to greet us. This whole area is now full on tourist territory, but we knew that before coming here.

After a short while we headed to one of the Islands which was picked in advance by our guide and we stepped off into a small village with a small group of families on it. The men were out hunting, fishing etc so only the women and kids were around.

Here we were given a lesson in how the islands are built. Basically, during the wet season when the water level is high, the papyrus reed which grows only in 2m of water, breaks free from the bottom and pops to the surface. The root mass is very buoyant, so they collect these sections and drive stakes into them and tie them together. Reeds are then cut and placed on top with alternating layers and this whole process from start to finish may take up to 8 months. The areas where the houses are built are raised up from the surrounds as it is a very damp environment, so this allows air flow to keep it dry.

They then showed us the food they eat, mainly fish from the lake and birds etc which flock here. They also trade their catch on the mainland for grains and other meats etc. The base of the reed is quite tasty, they peel the outside skin off and eat the inside, I tried some, it would go well in a salad 🙂

Their other industry is tourists and they make a lot of crafts including small reed items and embroidered cloth which were all very colourful and had the Inca theme on many of them, basically the Condor, the Puma and the Snake which represent the three levels of life, we had learnt about that at MachuPicchu. But, there was also basic village life and full on mysticism as well.

We were them allowed to wander around and check the place out, of course all the woman now had their goods out and were enticing us to buy and help the community. The whole floating islands community is supported by the government who supplied schools but also after a few fires, supplied solar panels for night lights, so they look a bit out of place, and so did the mobile phones 🙂

Before we headed off, we were shown the floating capabilities of the reed mat, they threw a small bit in and dunked it under, it came right back up, even though it was waterlogged.

They have to redo the reeds every few weeks, so it is a high maintenance lifestyle. The reeds break down with the continuous walking on them and of course the sun and moisture are also a factor. We now had the chance to get on a traditional reed boat and travel to another island. First off we were welcomed by the President who gave us a bit of a speech, and then she proceeded to help us on board and help row the thing 🙂 I have never been chauffeured by a President before 🙂

The two kids were cute, they were quite intrigued by my beard and tried to remove it 🙂

We saw some of the different boats used, including the individual ones, plus another slightly larger island. Most of them have about 6 families but this one had about 10, once again we were allowed to wander around at will, they had some flamingos here as well, and a few gardens, it is all very nice but a bit damp underfoot. You can actually feel the waves created when walking, just like a very large waterbed 🙂

After this it was time to go, we headed back and packed, this is when I found I had a flat front tyre, bummer, but I just pumped it back up and would see how it was by the time I got fuel up the road.

Well, that did not last long, at the fuel stop I added more air and this is when we found a hole in the side of the tyre. We plugged it up using a string and would see how it goes.

Well, the roads were full of potholes and I had only gone about 10km or less before the tyre went dead flat, just after hitting a massive pothole, sometimes with oncoming traffic they are hard to miss 😦

In fact here is a short video of what I had to endure prior to the flat.

I had quite a crowd around as Gert helped with installing two plugs this time, but we did not cut of the plug so short this time either. But you can see from the photo it is in an unusual spot.

The road soon turned fine and the speed could be picked up and coming around the lake was great

Now, there was a turn off to the Copacabana border, so myself and Gert stopped here and made sure those behind turned here and did not go straight on. Now, we managed to turn Johannes and Judi, but Gino just went barrelling past without seeing us, so Gert took off after him, which turned out to be a mistake. It should have been me who chased him as he was doing $1.40 and Gerts bike had no chance, but that was hindsight. So, just up the road about 10km or so was the border. Now, this is an easy border to get out of, first go to immigration and fill out a tourist form, hand it in and get the passport stamped out.

Then go across the road to Sunat and hand in the TVIP card that was issued at the border in. This gets canceled and he writes the details in a book, and the last segment gets stamped to prove it is out and off you go 🙂

Then just up the road is Bolivia and this is where the trouble was. It turns out that Chris does not have the original registration paper, he has a title but they want the other. He has a notarised copy, but the arsehole on the desk would not accept anything less than the rego paper, bummer. They had no choice but to head back to Peru and stay overnight and try again in the morning as he was on days off! Now, the Bolivian setup is arse about face, because here you have to go the Aduana first and import the vehicle, then go to immigration and get yourself stamped in!!! Anyway, all they require is a copy of the rego paper, passport and drivers license, but they want to see the originals as well.

After a bit of back and forth with words he filled out the paper I need and did not bother looking at the bike at all, waste of space, he wants the paperwork correct but does not do his job properly! After that I went to immigration and filled out a form before receiving a passport stamp, like I said a very quick and easy border crossing, with the correct paperwork.

So, while I waited for some of the others to get sorted I added the Bolivia sticker I had manged to find in Cusco, in fact I found stickers for the rest of the countries I will be travelling in 🙂

The it was a short ride to the small lakeside village of Copacabana which looked quite pleasant from what I could see.

It took us ages to find a place to stay, because none of the ones we looked at had WiFi which is what we wanted as well as bike security. In the end we took the Colonial Hostel as it was cheap and right next door to the internet cafe and we could squeeze all the bikes in the back yard 🙂

I managed to get an email off to Chris and he responded with details that both Mark and Gino had gone past the turnoff and had arrived at the other border post, but were now on their way back and would be here soon. So, we had some beer, my first Bolivian beer and it was quite nice 🙂

After a few of those, the lost souls turned up and we organised some dinner at the restaurant downstairs. Now this place had great food and the young waiter chap was kept busy with us and the other hostel guests. He did a great job and it was probably the best table service I have seen since Colombia!

The dinner was spoilt by the fact Chris and Melissa were still in Peru and that put the mockers on what we had planned for tomorrow which was xmas day. I had about 4 of those beers but in the end I had to give up and drink water, I know, blasphamy, but the fact was we were now near 4000m above sea level or 12,800 feet. I had a splitting headache and the beer was making it worse, so I headed up and basically just crashed out after drinking some water.

Tomorrow we would see whether the others could get into Bolivia and maybe we would ride to La Paz, the capitol of Bolivia. As there was no easy access to the internet here, it was a waste of time staying.

Day – 94 miles and 151 km
Trip – 47,360 miles and 76,216 km



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7 Responses to “Day 381 – 24th December 09”

  1. Hugh said

    Wow…I didn’t know that high altitudes could effect beer consumption! I will need to make sure to stay off those high mountains, he he
    Great Blog, have been following for some time..
    Merry Christmas

  2. ybg said

    It’s all Fan-friggin’-tastic.

    Definitely on my list.


  3. Hugh said

    Well it looks like you had a great Christmas day with some good company. Sad that it rained, but it rained here in Gosford on Christmas day and the weekend as well. My wife Connie says hello and loves the blog as well. It’s like a TV serial….can’t wait to watch the next episode. And the pics are excellent!


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