The oldest steamship on Lake Titicaca, the famed Yavari has turned from British gunship to a museum and recommended bed and breakfast, with bunk-bed lodging and attentive service under the stewardship of its captain. And no, you don’t have to be a navy buff reflecting on Titicaca. The Yavari is moored behind the Sonesta Posada Hotel del Inca, about 5km from the center of Puno. It’s probably the most tranquil spot in Puno.
Its passage here was not easy. In 1862 the Yavari and its sister ship, the Yapura, were built in Birmingham and shipped as parts around Cape Horn to Arica (now in northern Chile), moved by train to Tacna, and finally hauled by mule over the Andes to Puno. The incredible undertaking took six years.
After its assembly, 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 ships had coal-powered steam engines, but due to a shortage of coal, they were fueled with dried llama dung.
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 to attempt to save this piece of Peruvian history. The Yavari Project was formed to buy and restore the vessel.
The devoted crew happily gives guided tours. With prior notice, enthusiasts may even be able to see the engine fired up. Now with a restored engine, the Yavari motors across the lake seven times a year – though you will have to find out for yourself if it’s still powered by llama dung.