Sunday, July 30, 2017

We visited lake Titicaca and Copacabana 08 to 10 May

We left Lima early in the morning and reached La Paz the capital of Bolivia around 10 AM. The city is located at a height of 13,000 ft and fortunately for us we had got acclimatized to high altitude for three days in Cusco. We had purposely planned to visit Lake Titicaca at the midpoint of our travel to give ourselves a bit of rest from travelling, sightseeing and the entire hectic schedule.

View from the room

We had booked the best possible hotel in town to relax, unwind and just chill.Our initial plan was to proceed from the airport to the bus stand and catch a tourist bus to the lake located in the town of Copacabana.  Lake Titicaca can be visited either from the Peruvian side or Bolivia. We choose the Bolivian side to enjoy the ride from La Paz to Copacabana. On our way to the bus stand Sushama came up with a brilliant idea ‘why not go by a taxi, its more comfortable ,no unloading and reloading the luggage, stop where we want for a break and photography and so on’. We spoke to the driver using sign language and Google translator and struck a deal for 130 USD one way. We soon realized that the local busses were actually small vans with hardly any room. The luxury bus ‘Bolivian Hop’ departs La Paz at 7 AM and 1 PM, which did not suit our requirements. 

The omnipresent Andes

Coffee break enroute

Ferry transfer midway

The lake follows you throughout the drive

One of the many islands in the lake

Terrain very similar to the drive from Jispa to Leh
The road and the lake run parallel for many miles offering the tourists an excellent view. After a very beautiful four hour drive along the lake side we reached the town of Copacabana on the shore of lake Titicaca. There is the belief that the name is derived from the local language ‘kahuana’, meaning "view of the lake."The Brazilians borrowed the name for their famous beach in Rio. The town is located on the lake front at an altitude of 12400 ft.

The hotel 'La Rosario Lago' turned out to be a paradise of sorts with excellent ambiance and a lovely view of the lake. One can laze around in the bathtub whilst enjoying the beauty of the lake. The interiors of the hotel vividly reflects the art and decor of Bolivia. Hotel serves only breakfast and dinner. We went to the town for lunch on all days.

The interiors

Rest of La Rosario Lago Titicaca  from my balcony
Lake Titicaca at sunset
Lake Titicaca located at an altitude of 12600 ft is often claimed as the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake is the biggest in South America covering an area of 8300 Sq Kms. Lake Titicaca has a mind boggling maximum length of 190 Kms and a maximum width of 80 Kms. The average depth of the lake is 351 feet, although some parts of the lake are over 900 feet deep. More than 25 rivers empty into Titicaca, and the lake has 41 Islands, some of which are densely populated. The lake is pristine blue and provides a magical backdrop to the town. The lake reminded us of Pangong Tso in Leh, but very much larger. Just imagine an area of 8300 Sq Kms of Lake Titicaca compared with 604 Sq Kms of Pangong Tso.

We also visited a small island Isla del Sol situated close to Copacabana. A two hour boat ride in the beautiful lake takes you to the island and we spent better part of the morning taking in all the wonderful sights.The lake is home to a very large population of different types of birds. The visit to the island gave us an opportunity to feel the expanse of the lake.

On the island

Isla del Sol
At Isla del Sol
Navy captain on the way back

A cute little island enroute to Isla del Sol

Pristine blue all through
The place is pretty cold with night temperatures plummeting to near zero at night. Layers of warm clothing are a must when venturing out into the town. It is practically a one horse town with number of restaurants catering to the diverse needs of tourist who visit the lake. The food is excellent and very moderately priced. Vegetarian food is very popular amongst the tourist. Jai had a variety of food to choose from.Quinoa the super food of the urban rich including India is freely available in Peru and Bolivia. In addition Bolivians love eating rice and its a very popular item on the menu.

Lunch at a local restaurant

Rita waiting for her lunch

Jai very pleased

Extremely sweet person - our driver Mr Feliciano

Deserted street of Copacabana

Farewell lunch
All of us simply chilled the entire time appreciating the lake, enjoying good food and gave ourselves the much needed rest after hectic travelling for 15 days.

The same driver took us back to La Paz.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Glimpses of Cusco 05 to 08 May

Cusco located in the Urubamba valley of the Andes mountain range is a fascinating city that was the capital of the Inca Empire. Cusco is a Unesco World heritage Site and is one of Peru’s most visited cities as it is the largest and most comfortable city from which tourists can begin visits to Machu Picchu, the sacred valley of the Incas, and other Inca sites in the region. Cusco is a beautiful city with well preserved colonial architecture, evidence of a rich and complex history. The city itself represents the center of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and by merely walking the streets one sees the layers of history. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while a bustling nightlife that tourists love to experience, flourishes in their midst. At 11,150 ft above sea level, altitude sickness can be a problem. Same as Leh. For most travellers, Cusco is the highest point on their trip or any trip for that matter and altitude sickness is a big problem for some tourists. A major earthquake on 21 May 1950 caused the destruction of more than one third of the city's structures.
Panoramic view of Cusco from the hotel balcony

We flew into Cusco from Lima on the morning of 05 May. We had booked our accommodation in La Morada Suites through the internet. We had made the choice based on the inputs from the net. It promised a majestic view of the city from the balcony and an excellent ambiance.

As we approached the hotel the taxi driver informed us that the road leading to the hotel was very narrow and he would not be able to negotiate the car. He dropped us at the San Blas square leading to the hotel. To our horror we found that we had to walk up a considerable distance up a fairly steep and narrow street to reach the hotel. High altitude had already started to take effect and walking up a slope was a huge task. We finally reached the hotel after many stops, totally exhausted and short of breath. Even a 300 meter walk was too much to take. After checking in, we also realized that the rooms were duplex, the bedroom on the top floor and the bathroom and the toilet on the ground floor. We soon realized that getting down to the bathroom and struggling back to the bed at night was a herculean task. Some of us had to visit the toilet a number of times during the night. Carrying a camera and a small bag pack in high altitude can be an ordeal. The elderly should choose a hotel which is reachable by a taxi and with a lift facility.

As planned, we decided to stay put in the hotel and get acclimatized to the high altitude. To help matters, the hotel provides ‘Coca Tea’.  Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is an herbal tea made using the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a coca tea bag in hot water. The tea is most commonly consumed in the Andes mountain range, particularly Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru. It is greenish yellow in color and has a mild bitter flavor similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness. The leaves of the coca plant contain alkaloids which, when extracted chemically are the source for cocaine base. However, the amount of coca alkaloid in the raw leaves is small. Something that may surprise you is the open sale of coca leaves and coca tea in markets, cafes and even supermarkets. Where coca leaves really come in handy, however, is for the treatment of altitude sickness, something that many visitors to Cusco will experience. The benign properties of the plant are somewhat of a ‘miracle medicine’, and are highly effective at treating the symptoms of altitude sickness, or ‘soroche’. In addition to frequent helpings of coca tea we also took ‘Sorojchi Pills’ twice a day throughout our stay in Cusco and all of Bolivia.

Once we started feeling better we enjoyed Cusco, the hotel and all of its surroundings. We went out for a stroll in the evening and did some shopping. We had carried a few MTR Bangalore ready to eat food packets, which came in extremely handy in the high altitude. The next morning we went off to Machhu Picchu and spent the day after visiting the city and its outskirts. The city is extremely old but maintained very well. Medieval architecture can be seen everywhere.

The city is throbbing with tourists and there are a number of restaurants and pubs offering the best of cuisine and drinks. The city has a very vibrant night life and one can hear music till the wee hours. Cusco was home to an all time high of 4.57 million tourists in 2016.In spite of this staggering number, the city is extremely clean and the entire infrastructure is in good shape. This speaks volumes about the strength of their civic administration. There is a lot to learn from them.   


We went on a city tour on foot with a guide and later on in an open bus. We visited an Inca village and participated in a tribal ceremony heralding peace and happiness to all the tourists. The indigenous people, especially the women are colorfully dressed and most of them wear top hats or Monteras. We were told that these hats are very unique and represent different parts of Peru. They also wear Polleras which are very colorful. Most women wear many layers of Polleras. All of us bought sweaters, headgear and shawls made from the famous Alpaca wool.      
In spite of high altitude sickness and the intermittent rain, the visit to Cusco was worth it.   

View from the hotel

Cusco situated in a valley surrounded bu hills all around

The brown house tops merge excellently with the blue and grey sky

Clean streets of Cusco
All the city attractions are in walking distances

The city centre street

Houses with small balconies are all over

There are a number of healing centers attracting tourists for alternate therapies

Indigenous women
Women dressed in colorful traditional attire - Polleras

A Lamma always accompanies them

Top hats or Monteras

Spanish Architecture dating back to 1600

Cusco Cathedral, is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco built in 1654. The cathedral is located on the Plaza de Armas. The cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the City of Cuzco listing in 1983

From a distance

The Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus dates from the latter part of the 16th century, when it was built by the Jesuits, and stands alongside the cathedral, on the Plaza de Armas.

City view - The sky was overcast throughout the day

In Inca times, Qurikancha (Quechua for 'Golden Courtyard') was literally covered with gold.  It is said that the mummified bodies of several previous Inca kings were kept here, brought out into the sunlight each day and offered food and drink, which was then ritually burnt.

Photo op in the hotel lobby

Peruvian headgear keeps you very warm

The girls on a stroll
Rita all smiles after a very happy shopping experience

San Blas square leading to the hotel

Sushama modelling with her new Peruvian coat

Very local
The Southern Valley of Cusco is full of curious myths and great archaeological sites from the times of the Incas.

A view of the country side

Perched high above the colonial centre of Cusco, Cristo Blanco is a large statue of Jesus Christ that can be seen across the city. Towering some 8 meters (26 feet) high the white structure was a gift from Arabic Palestinians who sought refuge in Cusco after World War II. The statue depicts Christ extending his arms outwards, very similar to Rio´s Christ the Redeemer, but in miniature format

City centre and open architecture
Another example of street art

Old Inca sites in the Southern valley
Participating in Inca ceremony for health and happiness in a village on the outskirts of Cusco

The Inca priest

Sushama being blessed

Jai with priest

Sushama very happy after being blessed

Rita is all thrilled

Finally my turn to pose