Lonely Planet review for Yavari
The much-loved Yavari is the oldest steamship on Lake Titicaca. In 1862 the Yavari and its sister ship, the Yapura, were built in Birmingham, England, of iron parts - a total of 2766 for the two vessels. These were shipped around Cape Horn to Arica, from where they were moved by train to Tacna, before being hauled by mule over the Andes to Puno - an incredible undertaking that took six years to complete.
The ships were assembled in Puno and the Yavari was launched on Christmas Day 1870. The Yapura was later renamed the BAP Puno and became a Peruvian Navy medical ship; it can still be seen in Puno. Both had coal-powered steam engines, but due to a shortage of coal, the engines were powered by dried llama dung! In 1914 the Yavari was further modified with a unique Bolinder four-cylinder, hot-bulb, semidiesel engine.
After long years of service, the ship was decommissioned by the Peruvian Navy and the hull was left to rust on the lakeshore. In 1982, Englishwoman Meriel Larken visited the forgotten boat and decided it was a piece of history that could and should be saved. She formed the Yavari Project to buy and restore the vessel, and was fortunate in gaining the royal support of Britain's Prince Philip as well as finding the perfect captain in the enthusiastic Carlos Saavedra, formerly of the Peruvian Navy.
Now open as a museum, the Yavari is moored by the Sonesta Posada Hotel del Inca (catch almost any minivan heading northbound along Av el Sol, USaround S/0). The captain happily gives guided tours of the ship and, with prior notice, enthusiasts may be able to see the engine fired up. In 1999, to mark the restoration of the engine, the Yavari left port under her own power for the first time in nearly half a century, and in the foreseeable future the vessel should be ready for passage across Lake Titicaca.
The Yavari Project is always looking for support in the way of money and volunteers. To send donations and receive information, contact the Yavari Project (fax 44-208-874-0583; email@example.com; 61 Mexfield Rd, London, SW15 2RG, UK) or call direct to the captain in Puno.