Reed all about it!

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

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Where I stayed
Gran Puno Inn
What I did
Floating Islands!

Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, June 16, 2011

So first things first, our journey into Peru was not quite as smooth as it should have been. We left Copacabana for our 2 hour journey on the 2pm bus, and quickly realized that the 8 of us at the back (us, two guys from Peru, and 4 English travellers) were the only people on the bus who weren't part of a GAP Adventures tour. It just so happened, this is also the only reason we made it across the border.

The border itself had recently reopened, and we had no trouble crossing, however after about 5 minutes on the main road we started running into blockades. We bribed our way through one, and got stuck at the second so decided to take the scenic route - through farmland. So off we plowed on dirt lanes, and after dismounting to ensure that should the bus topple no one would be trapped, we eventually pulled into Puno much to our relief, only 5 hours late.

The wonderful bus hand asked us our budget and arranged for us to be picked up and shuttled to a cheap hotel that just happened to charge us exactly what we had said our budget was. Breakfast included, comfortable room, decent beds, and our very own, warm shower. YAY! We also booked a tour to the floating islands the next day so after a quick dinner at what I will now forever refer to as one of the best pizzas EVER, we turned in nice and early.

The next morning we had brekkie then awaited our pickup. The lot of us loaded onto a boat, and unfortunately since Josh and I were the last on, we were relegated to the singles seats. No matter, I fell asleep as soon as we were moving and Josh had his kindle. First stop: the floating islands. We had heard that they were very touristy, and they are. Some people love them, some hate them, but whatever your opinion, the fact of the matter is tourism is their main support, and without it they wouldn't be able to live as they do. Some would say good, but these people can't afford land prices on the mainland, so they would be homeless, in a new environment, and without the staples they are used to. I liked the islands - the one we started at included a display on how the islands are made and kept stable (so as not to float into Bolivia they joked). There were 8 families living on the one we visited, with 33 people. The main industries are tourism and fishing, and they used solar panels to power their stereos and lights. The people we talked to really did seem genuinely happy, and said they enjoyed living the way their ancestors had lived to escape the Incas.

Our next stop was to Taquile, a natural island known for its hats. The men wear sleepcap like hats, red if they're married, white and red if they're single. The kids also have their own unique hats, and the women wear black scarves with pompoms on the fringe - big pompoms if they're single, small if they're married. The men make their own hats, and are the accomplished knitters on the island. When we docked we piled off and started the long slog uphill - no laughing matter at 3800m. We reached a house where a lovely family cooked us almuerzo and danced, then headed up to the main plaza where they were having a fiesta. We're still not quite sure what it was they were celebrating (no one seemed to know!) but it was incredible. The men danced in little circles while the women sat on the ground, passing them shots of alcohol every three or four step. It got particularly entertaining when the men started forgetting to step to their next drink, or started wobbling out of the circle.

A nice stroll back to the boat and we were headed home, ready for a well deserved nap and some delicious dinner (including a free pisco sour!) Mmmm... Peru, we love you already.

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