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Full Circle

Day 183: Copacabana to Puno

Michael Palin - Full CirclePuno is the chief port of Lake Titicaca and it was here that, one hundred and thirty-five years ago, an English built steamship, the Yavari, arrived like us across the mountains from Arica. Unfortunately it arrived in two thousand pieces, each of which had to be small enough to be carried on a mule's back, and the journey took six years. The Yavari was laboriously put together and launched on Christmas Day 1870. It is still to be found at the dockside at Puno, moored today in a rich green sludge of algae, her hull and funnel looking businesslike under a coat of fresh black paint. Her survival, rather like her arrival, is the result of dogged determination in the face of overwhelming odds and quite probably, sensible advice. An Englishwoman, Meriel Larkin, has made it her ambition not just to save the hundred and twenty-five year old steamer but to have her sailing the lake she was made for once again, carrying tourists who want to take in the beauty of Titicaca in comfort. There will be some changes.

A 1913 four-cylinder Bolinder diesel engine (which is itself an antique) has replaced the original steam engine which, like La Paz's electricity supply, ran on llama dung.

'They had to collect fresh droppings at every port they put into,' Meriel tells me. Of course it filled up most of the cargo hold.'

Meriel hopes to put luxury paying guests where the dung was once stored.

'Ten twin cabins with baths. Great luxury,' she assures me.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 183
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Puno
  • Book page no: 248

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