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Published: March 14th 2014
With 1:30pm bus tickets purchased to get us from Copacobanna to Puno, it wasn't long before we soon realised things weren't right. As we turned up to get on our bus, there were no Puno bound busses. Confused, we asked around and eventually were told that all busses to Puno had been cancelled due to local strikes...great (not)! Furnished with the option of catching a bus for one hour, walking through the strike area with our bags for three hours, then catching another bus the other side for another two hours, or waiting until 6pm for a direct bus with no stops, it seemed like a no brainier. 6pm arrived and the same chaos ensued; once again we were faced with the same prospect. We decided to bite the bullet, get on the bus and face whatever we had coming our way. Luckily for us, after passing through immigration pretty quickly all the strikes had cleared, leaving only the hundreds of large rocks in the road which were used as barricades. Other than having to change bus half way through the journey, we eventually arrived into Puno at 10:30pm.
A large, dirty, poverty stricken looking city; this is not the
place you want to arrive at 10:30pm, especially being two gringos with backpacks, not speaking Spanish and without a place to stay. We quickly befriended another couple, shared a taxi to their hostel and hoped they had rooms available...they did, phew!
We woke up the next morning to discover the area didn't quite resemble the down town Beirut like city we remembered from the night before. We decided to take a stroll down to the port and catch a boat over to the famous Uros Islands; floating islands built from reeds taken from the shallows of the lake. Renowned to be a huge tourist attraction set up to bleed tourists dry of every last penny, we were initially pleasantly surprised to be aboard a boat with only 10 or so other tourist and arrived at an island with no other boats. We were greeted by a few indigenously dressed cholitas ladies and a young girl who were selling the usual tourists nicknacks. Our boat driver come tour guide, then gave us what I am sure was a very interesting talk all about the islands and the people who live there. Only problem was it was all in Spanish and
he didn't speak a word of English. We attempted to put two and two together and made up the rest for ourselves.
After a wander round the small island, we were soon ushered aboard another boat, this time a much smaller 'local' reed boat which was rowed by two of the woman. Just before it departed we were treated to a couple of versions of 'row, row, row the boat', which was somewhat amusing and striped of 5soles each for the pleasure. Once aboard, the ladies rowed a couple of hundred meters to another island whilst a little girl belted out a few more songs in her incredibly whiny voice...kid lovers or mushy hearted plonkers would probably find it cute, we found it bloody annoying and would rather have given her a size 10 sending her into the lake. All done and dusted, she then came wandering around the boat waving a hat in our faces for tips, doing our best dumb tourist 'I don't understand face', we sent her on her way. Itching to get of this tourist mouse trap of a boat, we eventually reached our next island, this time as well as having more gifts shops,
it also had a couple of small restaurants. Not particularly hungry or wanting to pay the over the top prices, we decided to chill out in the shade and wait for our fellow tourists to chomp down on their meals. This is when it all became pretty hilarious, next thing you know another six boats rocked up and we were on the tiny island with about 70 other people. Crammed on like rats on a sinking island, we felt it was time to go. Thankfully it wasn't too long until our boat had once again set sail and we were on our way back to the mainland.
Despite the horrendous, toe curling and cringe worthy side of the islands, they still were pretty amazing and definitely a must see. The construction and maintenance of the islands was very impressive and we do fully appreciate that the locals need to make a living, blah blah blah.
With there being a stiff rivalry between who got the better deal in the split of the lake between Bolivia and Peru, for us, there is a clear winner and I think you can probably guess what we are going to say...
Once back on land, we wandered around the centre of Puno to see the Plaza De Amas and the cathedral, then headed back to our hostel.
Peru had some work on its hands to convince us...next stop, Cusco.
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