From Cusco, we took an 8 hour bus to Puno where we joined a tour to Lake Titicaca and La Isla de los Uros. It was a day trip to an area of  islands where they took us around and showed us what the different islands were like. Some of the islands have been there for 70 years, and they are entirely made of reeds taken from the lake. It is a continual process to pick more reeds and add them to the islands so they do not break apart. If there are more than 10 or so people on an island they can decide to divide themselves in half and make two islands! It was amazing to see the people that lived on the islands have solar panels to run their TVs and lights, almost all of the comforts of home!

La Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros Tourist Market

Julio Isla de los Uros

Solar panel!

Isla de los Uros Solar Panel

Next, we went to the Bolivia side of the Lake, and took some pictures of us at the lake (The highest navigable lake in the world!)

Julio Lago Titikaka

After staying in La Paz for a bit, we decided to continue our adventure and climb Huyana Potosi, a 6,088m mountain that is visible from the valley of La Paz almost 2,500m below. It was a three day, two night ordeal, with the first few days used for training on how to climb with crampons and ice picks, and acclimating to the altitude. The last day is explained in (maybe too much) detail by Tyler here:

Basically we woke up at 12:30AM, ate breakfast and started our ascent at 2AM. In the middle of the snow and a lightning storm we walked up the glacier with our crampons, ice axe, and harnesses all ready for action only a little nervous about the lightning. Our headlamps showed us everything in sight of about 10ft, while the lightning overhead would light up the entire sky for about half a second revealing the monster of a mountain range that surrounded us. At about 3AM we came to a point where we could see the lights from the city of El Alto lighting up the adjacent mountain range. The sun began burning a deep orange and pink at about 4AM giving the entire backdrop to our hike a sensation of hope.

It took 4.5hrs to get to the top and we stopped for a half hour in total. Our guide kept saying that all the other guides would constantly pull on the rope (which was attached to each individual via harness) forcing the group to go, while he was more calm about things and would let us take breaks whenever we wanted. His actions were very contradictory to his words as we passed every other group that started before us except for one, and were only passed by one guy who flew up and flew down by himself. Close to the top, about 150m from the summit, the guide told me that I couldn’t go any further, that I wouldn’t have enough energy to get to the top from the last steep part. If I hadn’t had known Spanish, I probably would have had to stay there, but I argued with him, refusing to stay there and wait for them to come back down. The guide was in a hurry the entire time, insisting that we needed to get down, while the people that we initially passed took up to 9.5hrs when our total was only about 7.5hrs. He really was quite contradictory, and although we had quite a bit of disputes, we all arrived safely back to the high camp at about 10AM exhausted.

On the way down, I was on the edge of fainting nearly the entire time. There was a thin path of solid ice that if you stepped to the side, you would fall 3ft into the snow, which I did quite frequently as I couldn’t move my legs very easily, but more because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open and think clearly. As soon as we arrived to the high camp I lied down on some semi comfortable rocks trying to take a nap, but not making any progress I basically walked to the little house. WARNING NASTY GOODNESS SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DONT LIKE NASTY! As I arrived inside, it was too loud with all the other people so I went back out, tried to talk to some friendly Norwegians, but started dry heaving. Basically I hadn’t drank enough water on the accent or decent and was not only feeling the effects of altitude sickness but was quite dehydrated. I drank some water which helped me puke a little bit. I tried to eat some high quality chocolate, but couldn’t hold that down either. After puking again I just tried to go and sleep. Waking up 30 min later I felt much better, as before I couldn’t even hear myself think if I moved at all, but now I was good enough to put a pack on and walk down to the other refuge. From here on out it was all easy as I rehydrated and dropped in altitude. Overall, we are all glad we did it, but our mountaineering careers may not continue into the future too much. We also now have a greater appreciation for all those people who mountaineer.

View from the High Refuge at 5,200ish m


Huyana from the drive up.
Huayna Potosi

Dep practicing climbing.
Dep Ice Climbing

Jeff Climbing

Photos from high camp with a Glacier in the Background. If thats not a good Chrstmas card I don´t know what is!
High Camp Huyana

The four of us almost to the top! Check out that background!

Summit of Huayna Potosi

Sumit pic. Epic.
Julio y Tuhu @ Summit

Other summit
View from the Summit

Our next adventure, only a day and a half later was down hilling the most dangerous road in the world. We rented bikes and descended around 3000m in 5 hours, starting in sight of glaciers and ending well into the jungle. There were some scary parts where we were reminded to be cautious (1000m drop off the edge of the road) or the intermittent crosses from those that took the turns too sharply.

Death Road

Death Road

That is a Coca plantation in the background!

Jeff and Coca Plantation

World's Most Dangerous Road

Car body at the bottom of the cliff, totally wrecked.

Car Body At the Bottom of the Ruta del Muerte

Continuing the trajectory of our bike ride, we were able to catch a bus to Rurrenabaque , a jungle town northeast of La Paz. Some of the best jungle in Bolivia is found there, and after a few tips on who to use we found a tour group and set off in boat. We went up the river Beni for three hours until we arrived at our camp, where we were able to rest for a bit and dry out (rain-forest? Makes sense now). The rain did stop, we met our guide, and set out to find some animals. Over the three days we were able to see Howler Monkeys, wild pigs, tarantulas, tucans, turkeys, chickens, at least ten different species of biting ants, and lots of BIG bugs and unique birds. We even had a chance to fish for piranha, but did not get anything except our bait stolen. Our guide turned out to be an amazing guy, his dad was and had taught him all that he knew about tracking and jungle medicine. Between animal stalking and sightings he would explain how the indigenous people would use the plants to cure all sorts of diseases, and even let us try some of them.We drank water from a root of a tree and it even tasted pretty good.

Jeff putting on a Henna Tattoo from a jungle apple. It goes on clear, and in an hour appears as dark blue. The guide said that it stays on for a week, but after 3 days,  havent seen very much of it fading so yeah…
Jeff Getting a Henna

This is definitely my favorite people picture of the entire trip. Everyone is smiling, the Israeli guy on the left is wearing his “swim trunks” and the smiles really do show how our time was with the guides there and talking with those two Israeli guys.

The Jungle Boys

Jungle hats!
Eddieberto y Daniel and Hats

Written mostly by Jeff Vredenburg and edited by Tyler Depke

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Author: tdepke

2 Responses to “Week 10-12: Lago Titicaca – Isla de los Uros, Huayna Potosi, Biking the Death Road, and the Jungle at Rurre”

  1. Crystal Hoffman says:

    Great pics. Thanks for sharing, guys. It seems like next you will be all jungle-ready for something like survivor. Give us an update on the tattoo next time :) .

  2. christy says:

    i was tooootally on that death road in october. we took it to coroico… if you get a chance you should stop there! those valleys in the andes with their lush greenery are gooorgeous!!! i kept seeing tourist signs for rurrenabaque haha… jealous that you went! but it doesn’t sound like you saw any sloths… so i’m not that jealous :P Looks like an awesome trip guys!!

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