The oldest ship on the highest navigable lake in the world, the Yavarí floats on the waters of Titicaca as it has done for nearly 150 years.
Built in England in 1862, it comprises of 2,766 pieces that arrive in Arica – then southern Peru – to begin the long journey by hundreds of mules to Lake Titicaca to be reassembled.
The Yavarí was discovered in a state of disrepair over a decade ago by a British woman from a family with a maritime background named Meriel Larken. On learning the ship’s history she founded The YAVARI Project and charity to restore it. Work is still under way but progressing.
I first saw this ship on Michael Palin’s Full Circle, filmed ten years ago, and wondered if I would ever visit this ship in the future. I did.
We boarded a small boat in Puno for the 30 minute ride to the far shore, where the ship is being restored. We were accompanied by a group of school children aged about 16 who didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for.
When we landed everyone rushed onto the ship without permission and were confronted by good humoured Captain Carlos Saavedra. Asked why we were here, the students replied “because its free”.
This really landed them in it. Were they here just to pass a few minutes of time or because they were interested and wanted to learn? He demanded everyone form a line and began interrogating everyone, using a nickname he made up on the spot for the most interesting-looking visitors. I was immediately labled Peter Crouch and Flaco (skinny) but it was all in good humour.
His real intention was to drive home some education and patriotism into the young Aymara visitors, who he soon discovered knew absolutely nothing about the history of the Lake, the boat, the area, the past cultures or the history of their own culture. He berated them about how Peter Crouch (me) knew more than them and how I was interested in learning. Focusing on me, he asked them what the capital city of my country was and why it had a connection to this ship. They had no idea. One finally guessed London, but it barely pleased the captain. A full 15 minutes passed and he finally decided to give a tour and explain the history of the boat. The progress made was an unbelievable contrast to what I had seen in the Michael Palin show of ten years ago.
I donated S./10 and thanked the excellent Captain Saavedra for a most memorable tour. “No problem, Flaco”, he replied.