Week 64 - From Seaside to Lake Titicaca
We left Arequipa and it was hot! We slowly made our was through the very busy traffic and out onto the tarmac road. The GPS was having a bit of a hissy fit because the road we were meant to be on was closed for construction, but after a lot of going around in circles and some riding through bits of roadworks we maybe shouldn't have been riding through we made it out onto the main road. The route towards the coast was smooth and winding and the temperature was high, until that is we got to the coast. We hit a wall of sea mist and the temperature suddenly dropped. It was actually quite cold. We continued along the coast line and before we got to Mollendo we were stopped by police on a routine check. They were really friendly and there was an older officer overseeing the whole thing, who was very friendly and asked us lots of questions regarding our travels so far. Our paperwork is always complete so there were no issues, and then we were soon on our way again.
We reached Mollendo in good time, which was an odd town. On the one hand it seemed to have money and on the other it seemed very run down. Maybe it was the low season and everything comes to life later? Who knows? We decided to stay two nights so we could explore the town for a day, although the next day in the afternoon the manager coaxed us into watching the Engand vs Colombia World Cup match on his humungous TV! It was really funny, we could hear local people cheering for Colombia, so we were actually a little sad when England beat them considering we weren't really that into football and the Peruvians were very passionate about it. Oh well. We walked down to the beach and had a wander along the shoreline which was very dead, but it was nice to watch the waves rolling in and crashing against the rocks. The sunset was really quite nice with the light bouncing off the sea mist, but for us this place was missing something and it didn't have any charm.
The next day we ventured down the coast a little more to Ilo. I'd booked a place to stay in advance given that it was the weekend, although I needen't have worried, it was also very quiet. We pulled up at Casa de Richi and were received with a warm welcome. He shifted his car so we could get the bikes in his garage and gave us a tour of the property. Ilo was another strange place, split in two almost by a really steep hill with a big road connecting the two sections of the town. We were on the upper part, and there was about a 1000 steps down to the lower part. It was a nice view over the sea though, and we went to explore the town.
For us, Ilo definitely had more charm, plus it had a lot more wildlife. There was a very active port filled with fishing boats, so the harbour was full up of hungry seals and Pelicans just waiting for people to throw them some fish or innards from the market! We then went further along the Melacon, found a place with a lovely cup of coffee and then got to the park. Normally we wouldn't go into an area that looked like a children's playground, however we were really intrigued by some of the stuff they had in there. They had made a sculpture of an elephant and a crocidile all out of old tyres, and there was an old train steam engine there to. It was really cool. It was also beautiful there because it was right on the edge of the shore and not too much else around it. Very tranquil, well apart from the children.
The couple at the hostal recommended for us to go to Punta Coles, just along the coast. There was another couple staying at the hostal and they wanted to go as well so we hired a taxi for the four of us and arranged the visit. Usually you can't just turn up and go in, however our taxi driver knew them. We got to the wall of the protected area and met the guide. We walked along the gravelly, sandy area and up the hill to see thousands of birds below, which were taking off in huge groups and flying over the water. It was a really rugged area but beautiful in its own way. Then came the best bit...we headed to the office and grabbed some binoculars and a mini telescope then headed towards the rocks. We were quite a way away, but the guide pointed out some penguins just in a gap between two rocks. I was sooooo happy, it was my first ever sighting of wild penguins and they were so beautiful. I wish I could have seen them closer, and maybe in Chile my wish will come true, but I was still so happy.
On our final day in Ilo we headed back down to the shore and it was even better than the last time. There seemed to be a lot more seals and a guy was there selling bags of fish for about £1 each to feed the animals with. Feeling like a child at the fairground, I bought my bag of small fish and went about feeding the seals and pelicans. They were good at catching! It was so funny watching the seals go for the fish and barge each other out the way, and then the pelicans trying to work out if they could get the food without falling off the rock or getting butted by the seals. I loved it.
It was soon time to leave Ilo and we made our way up into the hills and along the coastline again. Before we headed off on the dirt roads to a town called Tarata, Kelvin had a rear puncture which set us back an hour. It was quite hot and we were at the side of a wide open main road with no shade, but never mind. Kelvin managed to get it sorted quite swiftly while I handed him a few bits and pieces, and then we were back on the road again. It wasn't long until we were heading up into the mountains again, and we had a great ride into Tarata.
It was sunday and not much was going on. We had to search for accommodation, and there were three options it seemed although two we found out were not currently functioning. So, it left one place to stay and it was locked! I rang a couple of numbers on Whats app and eventually someone answered but told me the hostal was closed. Luckily he then sent someone to come and meet us after I said we had nowhere else to go and she let us in. The lady was super friendly and the place was really cheap. She showed us the room and it was awesome, especilally for such a small town. We were very lucky. On our way out of town the next morning we filled up at a 'gas station' which was just a house full of barrels of fuel...good enough. Thank goodness for our Guglatech fuel filters.
The next stop was Puno and most of the ride was accross the plains on some great dirt roads again, only a couple of which were a little tricky due to the volume of loose gravel. This time we stayed at the Real House Hotel and not Marlon's House with the shit parking. This place had a proper gated parking area managed by a family and they had two dogs who looked like they would probably have no hesitation in mauling any intruders. Luckily for us they liked us, although as per normal they promptly peed on our wheels. We had a good chill day for the first day in Puno and sorted out a trip to the Uros floating islands for the next day. We ended up with a trip that would actually take us to Isla Taquile as well, another large island in lake Titicaca.
We got up early and were picked up by our guide on a bus. It was then off to the harbour with all of the boats and we were ushered onto our boat for the day. I was actually really impressed how comfortable the seats were, I could have gone to sleep. There must have been around 30 people on the tour, give or take, but it wasn't too bad. First stop was the floating islands. They were actually really interesting and the inhabitants all wore bright colours, in particular the women and children. There were far too many tourist boats for my liking but it's a very touristy place so to be expected. We took a trip on one of their huge reed boats for about 15 minutes which was interesting and then they told us about the construction of the islands, how often they have to build a new one (every 30 years-ish) and how they live. They also eat the insides of the reeds and one of the men showed us how to peel them. There was also one of the little girls doing the same which was very cute. They make their own weavings and handicrafts, which were beautiful, but we didn't have room to put anything.
Next it was off to Isla Taquile, about an hours trip from the floating islands. We had a quick power nap and then we were there. It was hard work walking up all of the steps, but we had a lovely place for lunch with a great view over the lake and we then had some music and a dance from the locals. I'm not so keen on the staged stuff but it was nice. The best part was the 87 year old man who lived there. I forget his name...Jacob maybe...it's on the tip of my tounge but I forget. Anyway, he was still very much alive and kicking! We then went up to the square which was pretty and the school kids were all walking home. A little girl and boy were chasing a ball and kicking it about which was so cute. The let down of the place was that it was meant to be a place where a lot of the men created handicrafts but there was nothing in action.
There was a big shop but no-one actually making anything, which is what I wanted to see. Oh well. Then it was back to the boat. Some idiot teenage girl who was too busy talking selfies managed to walk back to the wrong harbour. What a dimwit! She tried to blame the guide after we went around the other side of the island on the boat to pick her up but he wasn't having any of it. If the other 29 or so people on the boat managed to get to the right place, I think the problem was the lack of her paying attention to anyone else but herself. Just over an hour later and we were back on terra firma, and we got the bus back to the hostel.
It was the end of our last day in Peru after 7 enjoyable months, and tomorrow we'd be back on Bolivian soil.