Puno and Lake Titicaca

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 20 January 23 - I wake early again. Share a taxi with a couple from Leeds to the bus station. We are going to different bus stations, so they pay the first fare, but little did we know, my bus terminal was 10 seconds further up the road. I was unable to spot them to give them a few soles. Had 30 mins to kill, so tried to sort out an issue with a credit card, but after 25 minutes, got no where, so unhelpful, when they understood my issue it was then I had to catch my bus, instead of going away to investigate it, they said 'oh, seeing as you are busy, then call back later', my blood was boiling!!

This wasn't helped with being sat at the front of the bus, no leg room and being cramped for 6 hours, and after 4 hours, someone extremely pungent sitting next to me!! On top of this, bus driver quite happy to overtake while entertaining a bend around a mountain, apparently beeping your horn will prevent a truck coming from the other direction?

On the way near Puno, I notice many deep water puddles, so I'm thinking whether Mosquito's can survive this high up and then I notice some snow! Oh man, I hope it's warm enough! As we enter the city, children are throwing small snowballs at the bus and the driver weaves his way through an intricate array of streets and plazas. Grab a small tuk tuk type of vehicle to my hostal and the hostal is damp, wet and cold. But it will do.

So you find me in Puno, 3800m above sea level and gateway for Lake Titicaca's islands. I organise a tour, explore a little of the town, to find a massive street festival going on. Every shop has the festival being streamed live. I have a small look and there are many bands, like college football bands blowing away and the place is a little crazy. When looking for my dinner, I got turned away from two 'pollo' cafes, but thankfully the next one was happy to cater for a gringo. BBQ half a chicken with a Fanta.

As I had a 6am start next day, I went to bed early, fully clothed and had an awful night sleep. Probably down to the altitude but it also lashed with rain all night, and just outside my room was some iron roofing, so a loud night of rain.

Miles walked 0.46
Temp 15 C 60 F

Day 21 January 24th - Another early start and it was still raining. Annoyingly this morning, the two bathrooms in the hostel were both in occupation, for 30 mins. So feeling unwell still, I had the nightmare dilemma of just heading out for my tour and hoping for the best. Today, I was undertaking a full day tour of the Uros Islands and Isla Taquile.

Tour was in English and Spanish again, the boat was packed. After ten minutes cruising away from Puno, we were allowed on top of the boat. This is where I met Bjorn, 33. A very charming guy from Sweden. He spent 6 years working for the UN in Sudan and Darfur, on a humanitarian basis. This is where he met his Colombian girlfriend and has just recently been to Colombia to meet in inlaws. When he was told there would be a small family gathering, 65 people were in attendance, poor guy. I guess people from Europe have a different perspective on what a small family gathering actually means. His girlfriend is still in Darfur, so he has a couple of months in Peru, Cuba and maybe Ecuador.

At this point, we arrived at the Uros Islands. These are floating islands on Lake Titicaca, sadly, they have latched onto the tourist industry and have become very commercialized. Still, they are very unique. We boarded one island (there are over 50) to furious waving from the inhabitants. All women, dressed in bright yellows, greens, oranges, and obviously, very pleased to see a packed boat. The tour guide undertook a small demonstration as to how the islands are constructed. Large cuboids of roots, are tied together, roughly a meter in height and this is then added to with totora reeds that grow close by, roughly another meter in height of these reeds. Once all these are put together, 15 anchors are dropped into the lake and you have your island. If there is unrest on the island or a issue of some sort, they simply grab a saw and cut the island in half. We were told from there being originally 22 islands, there are now around 56 islands, so lots of issues.

We were allowed into one of the huts, the bed was pretty firm, but there was a damp smell. Also, on a shelf was an old radio and TV, they now get their electricity from solar panels, discretely hidden away on top of the huts.

We were then invited over to guess the depth of the lake, at 17m, no-one guess correctly. The inhabitants then sung 3 songs, including Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in English. I then boarded a taxi boat to hop across to another island. After ten minutes we were escorted back onto the main boat for a 2.5 hour steam over to Isla Taquile. I noticed a black kitten walking around as well, very strange.

Poor Bjorn, has arrived from Arequipa on an overnight bus, and seeing as it was pouring with rain when he arrived in Puno, booked an overnight bus the same day to Cuzco, so the poor lad was tired. I think everyone slept on the 2.5 hour ride to Isla Taquile, seeing as it was still pretty early.

When we arrived at Isla Taquile, we were advised the local people are not as friendly and whisper when spoken to. They are also afraid of dogs, so for once, not a dog in sight. There was a very steep climb to the centre of town, after a few seconds, cheeks are puffed out and the climb is tough and energy sapping. It is amazing how altitude impacts humans, but I figure starting off under 4000m will be good experience for destinations coming up. Once we got to the top, I could see a better view of all the local dwellings, farmed land and of course the enormous lake.

We had 30 minutes to kill in the town, while older people and smokers were slowly making their way up the steep hill. Bjorn and I checked out some local knitwear, hats etc, he had bought family and friend hats and was keen to purchase a few more. We climbed to the top of building used for weddings and funerals, and from here we were able to see more of this Island.

It was now lunchtime, and lunch was being provided (at a cost) by locals all made with local produce.  A delicious vegetarian soup to start, followed by either trout or a tortilla thing. Trout it was, with fritas, rice and some veg. The table I was sat on, included two Mexicans, two Colombians, a couple from an Italian town bordering Germany, Bjorn and myself. Everyone found it quite amusing when I took a picture of both dishes. In my defense, I said I like to show my little mum what I'm eating. Lunch was followed with some cocoa tea, the leaves are used in the production of cocaine but are a good antidote to altitude sickness, one of the Mexicans was suffering really badly. My tea tasted good, but mainly tasted like hot water with leaves in, I tried to squash them up as best I could to increase the flavour.

Lunch was then followed with a bit of music from a local lad and then a presentation about local outfits. If a guy is married he wears a red hat, if he's single, a white and red hat. Saves looking closely for that wedding band. Similar for the women with the funny pom pom things at the end of their platted hair. A man and a woman can cohabit to see if the relationship will work, and we asked if there was a different hat for this situation, but there wasn't they both still wear the single persons hat. Interesting.

A swift 1km walk across the island led us to a 540 step descent to a port to catch the boat to go back to Puno. On the way, I asked Bjorn to take a snap of me in front of monument, however, a little friend joins the picture, for 1 sole. I was going to say no thank you, but the poor thing tripped and landed on her knees. She took a few seconds to compose herself, got up, then stretched out her arm for payment. How could I then say no?

Back on the boat, the sun had finally decided to show itself, and the journey back to Puno was very pleasant, a little cold seeing as we sat on top of the boat but still enjoyable. Bjorn and I must have discussed football for a good 2 hours, with a small interlude from a Canadian guy who grumbled about not seeing enough football in Canada. I told him I'm sure Foxsoccer shows games, seeing as my bro watches them. Bjorn was great company, and had a great depth of knowledge on football and was very honest about his opinion on England as well. We also chatted at length about Sweden and their World Cup ventures, not forgetting they were beaten in the final of '58. I suppose my best memory of Sweden, was the defeat of the great Romanian side in the 94' World Cup. Even Pele couldn't predict the result of that one!

Anyway, back in Puno, seeing as Bjorn had a few hours to kill till his bus, we agreed to go grab a drink and some food. We grabbed a large Cusquena at some Reggae bar and then dinner at a funky restaurant just down the road. I had spicy pasta, Bjorn had a curry, and of course another beer and sadly the amount of beer at that altitude meant I forgot to grab a picture of the food and/or Bjorn. During dinner we discussed World Conflicts and his knowledge on the history of WWII was excellent. Of course, I had to ask about his time in Sudan, he didn't go into too much detail, but said, he could go to sleep under the fire of AK47, but anything bigger, then it was trouble!

I had a great day with Bjorn and a great day overall.

Of course with the beer inside me, I had an awesome night sleep.

Miles walked 1.95
Temp 19 C 65 F

Day 22 January 25th - Oh man, another early start. Fresh from my good night sleep, I was straight in the bathroom, it had been a couple of days since a shower, and with one look at the bathroom, it was going to be at least another day. Unpleasant to say the least.

I'm on a bus heading towards Copocabana and the Bolivian Border.

With the bus to Bolivia, comes the end of my time in Peru. Such a diverse country, Rainforests, world heritage sites like Machu Picchu and Chan Chan, Inca trails, Lake Titicaca, deserts, beautiful beaches, busy towns and an enormous capital city.  I've been fortunate to have visited before, but am satisfied now that I have truly seen the whole of Peru and would recommend anyone to travel/visit here. Such friendly people, full of pride, delicious food and sites to see that will stay with you forever.
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Pete on

So..the kid gate crashes your pictures and chages you for the priviledge? I would have haggled her down to a penny or two at the most! Maybe she tripped on purpose for the sympathy vote! Yep - the dude needs to tune to the Sportnet West for EPL....i think it is channel for 30 on Shaw TV!

Kmberly on

Uros islands sound fascinating!
Glad you met a friend for the day. Strangly, those are still the people you think about years later.

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