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Published: March 3rd 2009
Our bus had to stop, then proceed very slowly through the carnival dancers in the main street of industrial town.
Hola, Cyber Travel Buddies,
I know I have been offline for a few days. I went to Bolivia, to the Isla del Sol, the island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. I´ll post second blog about that trip, but I need to finish this one that I started when I arrived in Puno. On this computer the photos look dark, and the keyboard definitely is challenging with a sticky´è and I can´t get some symbols, so be flexible when you read this text. I can´t catch every mistake.
I´ll add some more photos to this blog, that fit the theme about fleecing tourists. If anyone is coming to Peru soon and plans to make similar trek, I hope you´ll gain a few travel tips. Soooo, back a few days I wrote:
Early morning and I am on the tourbus heading for Puno. The booking agent who promised to take me to the bus station met me at my hotel, got us in the cab, and when we arrived he instructed me to pay the driver 3 soles. Then five kilometres outside of Cusco the guide on the bus instructed us to pay him 21 soles to get into the
Here is the road map (for sale, but most of us didn´t buy it) I snapped photo while looking at it
five attractions. This took most people by surprise, an unpleasant surprise. Some people were on a list, and did not have to pay, the rest of us were told to pay up, and no we couldn´t pick and chose which sites we wantd to visit because that would ruin their timeline, blah, blah. I suspect that the people on the list were the ones who walked all the way to the bus station and got their ticket from the company. The rest of us stopped halfway down Ave del Sol and bought a ticket from a travel agent, you know, the ones who make you pay for the taxi when they escort you to the station. This must be how they get their profit, buy pocketing the 21 soles charge for the tourist attractions. I had the change, but many were scrambling because they thought the day was paid for and they didn´t bring much cash with them.
The bus guide was fairly informative at each site, but he ran a tight ship, giving us the exact amount of time we would be at each site. Typically he used up half the alottrd time by giving up information, welcomed or
At times I felt as trapped as they do....but I´m not somebody´s supper. We were taken to very commercilized places. This was the Andes kitchen room.
not. The best visit was at the archeological music, the waste of time was at the set up ´typical Peru silversmith and kitchen´which was a very commercial and superficial.
The stop for lunch was slick. Buffet style in one tent, with a local band playing to entertain and then try to sell us their cd. A second tent was set up for the tourist bus arriving twenty minutes later. The food was good, bathrooms appalling. On these types of trips, even the so-called First Class, bring tissues and that hygenic wash for your hands...oh, and a sense of humour or adventure or patience.
The best stop was the unplanned one. Yet another carnival celebration was going on in an industrial town near Puno. Our bus had to stop, and then slowly proceed behind the dancers and bands. The German tourists were in a party mood, so they were cheering at the windows until the shaving cream was sprayed at them, and then they were a bit more cautious with their interactions with the street partiers.
When does this carnival end? We were told that this was the last weekend. Hurrah!
When I got to Puno there was
Heading down the highway
Bus had many German tourists, two from Japan, two from France, a girl from Hungry, and a few Americans and me
a lady offering to help with taxis and booking bus to Cocacobana. Even though I knew there would be a price, I figured I would take the easy way out yet again. She booked bus to and from Cocacobana, and the boat to Isla del Sol, and went to the hotel with me in the taxi. Oooops, we went to the wrong hotel....but they had rooms for me for 70 dollars... NO, I have a reservation at the Plaza hotel. Reluctantly, the lady walked me up a street or two to my actual hotel, the one with a great room for $27.
The next morning she met me at hotel and went with me to the bus station, oh, and yes I paid for the trip with the money that she owed me when I paid for bus tickets the day before. Still, it was peaceful going with her to the exact stall where everyone has to pay international travel tax, and then to my correct bus where she instructed the driver to walk me to the boat. What she didn´t tell me was that I needed change to pay the police stop on road to Cocacobana (1
Guide told us that Cusco exports more corn than any other area of world. I guess that answers my quesion about land ownership here.
dollar), and $4 to get onto the island, and $20 to get boat back to the mainland. Hmmmm, guess that was her cut. She said she´d meet me when I returned to see if I wanted to tour the reed islands.
When I booked the tourist tourbus I knew I was getting into that slick highway of commercialism, but I was amazed at the efficient way that tourists were herded, corraled and fleeced. There is no way that you can protest paying the Bolivian police $1 at the make-shift road stop outside the tourist town. They put two cars to block traffic, probably only at the time when the tourbus is scheduled to arrive. Your only option landing at Isla del Sol is to pay the local ticket people $4 or pay $20 to return by boat to the mainland. When you walk along the island heading to the ruins, you have to pay $15 to continue on the path, and yes, they have booths at both ends of the road. By the way, that ticket has increased by 50%, according to guide who had been there last year.
When I got back, she was waiting. I
There seemed more poverty on the road outside of Cusco, heading towards Puno
said I was too tired to tour reed island (I´m not interested) and that I could book my bus back to Cusco tomorrow. She said she could book me a window seat on a good bus for 40 soles, which is much cheaper than the Tourist bus. The trip will be 7 hours. O.K., no matter which way I look at it, I have to take a long journey back to Cusco. I gave her a fifty soles bill but she didn´t have right change. I got it from an Irish traveler. She says she´ll book the ticket and meet me at hotel tomorrow morning to get me to the bus. Hmmmmm, a matter of trust, eh? O.K. fine, roll the dice....she better be in the lobby at 7:30, otherwise I really have been conned.
Overall my advice is to avoid tourist/travel agents, but I know what it is like to be tired of traveling and planning. If you do book tickets from agents try to pin them down about what is the exact cost, and is there other upcoming fees. I have met many travelers in Internet cafes franticly trying to sort out their next hotel or bus
First stop the ´most beautiful chapel in Peru´says the guide. The trees in plaza were over 400 years old
and complaining about terrible travel agents. Note that the travel books are out of date when it comes to cost, so plan for a 30 to 50 percent increase, especially at current trendy sites such as Cocacobana and on to La Paz.
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