Colder than we expected!

Trip Start Dec 26, 2004
Trip End Jan 29, 2005

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

12,000 feet above sea level. Seems high but nothing can compare to the Colca Canyon which was 15,000 feet. We arrived with no troubles via airplane. We were actually scheduled to take a 6 hour bus to Puno from Arequipa but after we checked in to the bus station we were informed that there was a 24 hour strike halfway to Puno and we would not be able to by pass the strikers because they had set up some pretty nasty road blocks so that no vehicule could bypass it. So we got our travel agency to arrange for us to fly into Puno instead of waiting an extra day in Arequipa and having to delay our entire trip by 1 or 2 days.

We expected the plane to be pretty crummy but it was actually very modern and BIG for a 40 min plane ride! 3 seats on each side. We landed in the city of Juliaca since there is no airport in Puno. We were met by someone there who drove us to Puno which was about an hour away. Nice sunsets on the way to Puno. Once settled in Puno we decided to go out to grab something to eat. We checked out this quaint pizza place just around the corner and we ended up running into the belgian couple who was on our Colca tour. They were heading to Cusco the next day so Iīm sure weīll run into them in Cusco.

We didntīhave much time in Puno. Just that one evening to explore and then the next day a full day excursion to two of the Puno islands (there are many islands but these two are the more visited) The floating island of Uros & the island of Taquile (not floating).

Our tour began at 730am from the port of Puno. We boarded a boat with a bunch of other travellers and we had an english speaking tour guide the whole way. We visited the floating island of Uros first which was about 40 mins or so into lake Titikaka. Which btw we were informed by the guide that itīs not TITCACA but actually TITIKAKA. They are pretty hardcore about the correct spelling for their lake. So Iīll pass on the word to you all hehe. Uros was increadible. Iīve never seen anything like it! Itīs a real floating island! MAN MADE! All made from reeds. The islanders construct their island using the vast reed plants found all over the lake. But not only do they use the floating reed to make the ground of their island but they make their homes, and boats amongts other things iwth the reeds. They also eat it like a banana, peeling the outer skin first. Phil and I tried it, strange taste, itīs very watery not a strong taste at all. Speaking of water, the islanders get their drinking water from the actual lake. Itīs not polluted at all itīs very clean.

After about 45 mins on the Uros island we took off to go to Taquile island which is a good 3 hour boat ride into the lake. We met some canadians on the boat from London Ontario! haha! also some aussies and some interesting french guys who were travelling through Peru and Bolivia. Taquile is a real island, not a floating one and what an island it is. AS the guide was telling us, they pretty much have their own government and isolate themselves from Puno. As the guide put it, they are like a communist government. ALl restaurants, stores, hotels etc have set prices all same prices NO BARGAINING! there are no cops on this island, their government officials dress in all black including a hat. Thatīs pretty much it. They speak spanish and their native language which is Quechua. On the Uros island their native language is Aymara. I learned that the difference between the two is that Aymara people are pre-inca descendents and quechua people are inca descendents. They also didnīt get along for a long time, hence why aymara people have their own floating islands and they donīt mix the two races. Aymara people marry Aymara and quechua marry quechua.

Once on the island we were instructed that weīd have to climb for a good 45 mins. I almost died, everyone knows Iīm not much of a hiker but I figured Iīd be a good sport about it. Boy was I exhausted when I reached the top, but the views were spectacular. Once at the top we had lunch at this local restaurant, very basic meal of quinua (peruvian grain) soup and a choice of either kingfish or local omelette with french fries and rice with some coca tea of course! After lunch we had some free time and then we embarked on the descent to the boat which was a different route all together. 533 steps down! Sure sounded easy to me but my calves are killling right now hahah. Great scenery as you will see from the photos. I highly recommend checking out island Taquile. If possible, stay overnight, we wanted to but of course we had our train to cusco booked early the next day so we were unable to.

Once back in Puno we checked out another restaurant one which came highly recommended from the hotel, our guide and lonely planet tour book. It was called LA CASONA itīs right on LIMA street ask and you will find it easily. Itīs probably one of the nicer restaurants but still dirt cheap!!! We each had a garlic inspired sauce on our meat. I chose the alpaca in garlic sauce while Phil chose the trout in garlic sauce. Trout must be tried when you come to Puno or Cusco or Arequipa. Itīs supposed to be superb. Since iīm not a big fish fan I stuck to Alpaca which is also something to try. Very lean meat very tasty!. We ordered a bottle of Peruvian wine (we only have 2 wines here TACAMA & OCUCAJE) we ordered the tacama. Weīve been told that Ocucaje is much better but itīs alot pricier so I think weīll wait until Lima to try it. ANyways very good wine regardless. Our entire meal including the bottle of wine cost us about 30$ CAD weīre living and eating like kings!

Once we left the restaurant it was pouring rain so we ran back to our hotel room to pack and head to bed for we would have a long trip to Cusco the following day.
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