Either side of our time on the Inca Trail we spent a few days in Cusco. This helped us become accustomed to the altitude that we would be living at for the next couple of months. We also had the coca tea and sweets to help us, but drew the line at chewing the leaves! The altitude does make it hard to walk up any sort of gradient and sometimes just walking on the flat takes your breath away.
Cusco is backpacker central, everyone is on their way to some new adventure. The town itself is often overlooked as just a transit point which is a shame as it is actually a very handsome town. The traditional central square has been well preserved and although the shops aren’t all authentically Peruvian – Starbucks, KFC and McDonalds have taken hold, they have maintained their original facades. The town also has a number of smaller squares which are lovely, peaceful areas amid the frenetic pace of the rest of the town. It would have been a nice place to spend longer but we were soon on our way by bus to Puna and Lake Titicaca.
Lake Titicaca is almost a land locked ocean. We arrived in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca early in the morning after the overnight bus from Cusco. We had booked a boat trip out to the Uros floating islands which are made from reeds. The islands are a historical anomaly, created by a tribe to provide a safe refuge from more aggressive peoples. The islanders are well geared up for tourists and put down their mobile phones long enough to show off their more traditional culture. We had a short journey on one of their reed boats which took us past their school building. They have solar panels to provide electricity now and satellite dishes on their huts. However life must still be hard living on the islands.
Puno is a small town and we had booked a week their to recover from our exertions on the Inca Trail, in reality this was probably too long to spend in a place where there was very little to do and the weather was generally cold and wet.
The same could be said of Copacabana, the town, which was the original before the Brazilian beach, along with guidebook descriptions led us to expect beaches and sunshine. In reality the beach was a narrow shingle one and although it was sunny at times it was also cold.
Copacabana was our first taste of Bolivia and the lack of proper roads and generally poor infrastructure was to be typical of the rest of the country. Bolivia is probably the most underdeveloped country we have visited. It was surprising to us, given the places we had been, that South America contained the places that were lacking most in modern facilities.