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Hot spots: The Yavari, Lake Titicaca

Hugh Chow

 

What is it? A bed and breakfast housed in a Victorian gunboat and moored on Lake Titicaca, on the outskirts of the Peruvian town of Puno. Guests can explore a ship - which is part museum - from an era renowned for stiff upper lips and plucky fortitude and then spend the night in one of its cosy wooden bunk beds, with a hot water bottle to keep out the evening chill.

Stiff upper lips and plucky fortitude? Only the Victorians would have been undaunted by the prospect of delivering two iron-hulled ships (the Yavari and a sister vessel) from the dockyards of Birmingham and London to a lake in the middle of the Andes. Once they had been transported to the Pacific coast of South America, it took six years for all 2,766 pieces and the two crankshafts to complete the 354-kilometre journey across the moonscape of the Atacama desert and up to Titicaca. Everything was hauled overland on the backs of mules and llamas. The ships were reassembled and launched on the 190-kilometre-long lake in 1870 and 1873.

Can we expect character-building cold showers? You won't find five-star luxury aboard but for the young-at-heart seeking adventure rather than fluffy robes and fancy spa treatments, this is a clear winner. The Yavari's narrow corridors are filled with the warm glow of varnished wood and polished brass and its cabins are packed with models of ships (pictured above), technical charts and navigational instruments from a pre-satellite age. Poke around the shiny valves and gauges in the engine room and then, as day turns to night, gaze up at a star-filled sky from a deck lit by strings of lights draped from the ship's masts. Fall asleep tucked up under crisp white sheets to the rhythmic sound of water lapping against the iron hull. And, since you asked, the communal shower room may be tiny but the water is hot. The breakfast of eggs (any style), hot bread rolls, freshly squeezed juice and coffee is excellent and filling.

The Andes, they're really high aren't they? Yes, Lake Titicaca lies more than 3,800 metres above sea level. That's about 160 metres higher than the Tibetan city of Lhasa. In the thin mountain air, climbing stairs can feel like running a marathon while breathing through a straw. The Yavari can lay claim to being one of the world's highest bed and breakfasts as well as one of the most unusual.

Is there a "but"? Unfortunately there is. The Anglo-Peruvian charity that rescued and restored the Yavari is seriously strapped for cash. The 2008 global financial crisis killed corporate sponsorships and the bed and breakfast is a temporary business model until a more permanent solution can be found to secure the old girl's future.

What's the bottom line? Each of the seven bunk beds costs US$42 per person, per night. For more information, visit: www.yavari.org

 

 

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