Nicks and Nacks on Floating Islands

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Wednesday, May 3, 2006

I got myself to the bus station and bought a ticket to Puno. When putting my back in the boot I wanted to check a couple of things, firstly I asked if this was the right bus to Puno and when we´d arrive. He looked a little confused and repeated the word "Puno" as if he´d never heard it before. He then started counting on his fingers to try and work out when we´d arrive. I thought that I´d better change my question to "How many hours does the journey take?". He was a bit happier at this and confidently answered that it´d take only 5 hours.

So arriving 7.5 hours later was no real surprise to me, thankfully the man that I´d asked wasn´t actually the driver but instead the conductor/luggage man, I don´t know if they´d trust him behind the wheel.

Since I arrived a little later I decided to treat myself to a slighter nicer room. The room with the shared toilet was nice enough but the toilet didn´t have a seat, whereas the private toilet room did. I would like to launch an appeal at this point on behalf of Perú. I think that about 50% of the toilets in this country suffer from this problem, I´d been traveling for over 10 months and always had somewhere to sit until I hit Perú. Asian squat toilets are designed not to have a seat and didn´t cause me concern. However when faced with a seatless western toilet, I just want to cry, especially shared ones! please send your spare seats to Lima, they´re counting on you.

I found out in the morning that my decision to spend more money on the hostel wasn´t worth it, there was no breakfast because the Cook ´Had gone to Arequipa´. I´m starting to dislike this place. I was here in Puno to visit the floating islands, so I walked down to the docks. Note to self: Look at map before walking to dock next time. I just walked down to the lake expecting the docks to magically appear, which of course they didn´t I ended up having to walk along some dodgy half-built Malecon to get to the docks in the end.

Eventually at the docks I found a hut where I could buy a ticket out to the floating islands. The only catch was that we needed 8 people and I was alone. There were plenty of tourists heading out there but they´d all bought tours from agencies and so were turning up en-mass and catching their boat. Eventually two Spaniards turned up, only 5 more needed! They were in a bit of a hurry and so they seriously asked me if I was willing to share the cost of the 5 empty seats and go now, ermmm, no thanks. That´d have turned my 10 Sol ticket into a 27 Sol ticket, you´re asking the wrong person.

Instead they had to learn a bit of patience. An Israeli girl turned us into a group of 4 and despite my fair amount of patients I agreed when the boat company cut us a deal, 5 Soles more from everyone and "Vamos!", so Vamos we did.

The water around the jetty was a bright green colour, due to the amount of Algy there. We soon cut through this and out to the islands. It was pretty good only having four on our boat, much better than the 15-20 people in each of the agency groups. We arrived at one of the islands. They´re made of Reeds and traditionally home to the Uros people, Now they appear to be the ´Office´ of the Uros people as I believe most of them now live in Puno, getting a boat out there each morning before the tourists.

We arrived and they gave us a demonstration of how they make these islands which was interesting and then a little tour of the island which didn´t take long. Funnily enough the tour ended at the not so little souvenier section of the island where they were very encouraging in their sales. Since I was out there with three women I found it easier to avoid the Sales patter and find a little corner of the island to myself. I have to admit though that a couple of tapestries caught my eye and I ended up spending much more there than I´d intended, I must be going soft or something.

The locals then pulled out their reed boat and encouraged us to go for a ride around the little island. "It´ll be a nice experience for you, something you haven´t done before". This was a bridge too far for me and I returned to our normal boat while I waited for the three others to have the experience of their lifetimes. I really didn´t miss anything here.

The Spanish really were in a hurry and they were wanting to cut the tour short and head back to Puno as they had a bus to catch. Needless to say that myself and the Israeli weren´t too keen on this, things worked out well though as our captain punted us onto another group while they took the Spaniards back to the mainland. To be honest though I wouldn´t have missed anything by going back then as well. We went to two further islands and once you´ve seen one island made of reeds, you´ve seen them all.

I really didn´t know what to do with myself and spent my time just sitting on a log talking to some of the locals while trying to deflect their attention away from the fact that they were trying to sell me all kinds of trinkets. I was glad that I saw the islands for myself but was happy to get away from the crude and brash commercialism that exists here when it came time to leave.

I had a restful time for the rest of the day in Puno, there isn´t anything else to do. The next morning I asked about breakfast again, hoping that the cook was back from Arequipa. I was then told that breakfast wasn´t included and that I´d need to pay an extra 5 soles for it. I had a big argument with these guys and give them a hard time for the principal of the matter (There was a sign in reception giving the time of breakfast). Although I didn´t want breakfast from them I didn´t want them to get away with their deception too easily, all that it succeeded in doing was that it put me in a slightly bad mood as I headed to the bus station in order to head to Arequipa, maybe I´d find the cook there myself.
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