Señor and Señorita flee the rampaging mob

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May 25th 2011
Published: June 17th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Sillustani Funeral StackSillustani Funeral StackSillustani Funeral Stack

One of the funeral stacks on the sacred hilltop in Sillustani. This particular one was built by the Inca's and was around 10 metres high.
After crossing the border in a majorly dodgy manner we decided to stay in Puno for a couple of days to check out a few sights locally. Our friends Heidi and Kayleigh had decided to jump a bus out of there asap as the protests against the mining operation were heating up but we wanted to go see things so we opted to stay.

Night 1 in Puno:
We came into town without seeing much sign of the protests that had made entering Peru so difficult. After eventually finding the immigration office in the middle of town and being officially stamped into Peru we tooled off to a hostel our friend had booked for us. Despite my best efforts to ditch them, two amazingly annoying guys came along with us and proceeded to bitch about the standard of the place we had gone to. I explained that I had booked us all suites at the Sheraton Puno but there had been some sort of mix up but they weren't having a bar of it. One of them got into an argument with the 70 year old woman who ran the hostel in his atrocious Spanish so in embarrassment we fled
Uyamo LagoonUyamo LagoonUyamo Lagoon

This lagoon surrounds the hilltop the Sillustani funeral stacks are built on. It is an amazing view.
to another place on the opposite side of town. Then we slept.

Day 1 in puno:
Our friends went out to see the floating islands on lake Titicaca after waking us up at 6am. We declined to join them as we were keen to go and see the Sillustani funeral stacks. Firstly though we went down to town to grab some food.

Here we saw our first real sign of protestors. Wandering through the main plaza there were people sitting around everywhere, mainly staring at us as we went by. It seemed crowded but not very lively so we ate and bailed.

The Sillustani funeral stacks are above ground tombs built on a sacred hillside outside of Puno. They were built by three separate civilizations and in three separate manners. The most impressive were the Incan constructions that were a good fifteen metres high and were made with huge stone blocks that fit perfectly together.

That night we heard our first real protests. Some of the protestors were marching past our hotel when some stupid English girl stuck her head out a window and laughed at them. I have no idea why, I can only assume
Vez at Uyamo lagoonVez at Uyamo lagoonVez at Uyamo lagoon

As i said in the other caption, an amazing view. Even better with Vez in the shot.
she was an absolute prick with a single figure IQ. Apparently the protestors thought so as well because they began throwing rocks and broke a window before she literally pulled her head in. The hotel locked it's doors and everyone cowered inside in fear.

All our friends escaped on buses that night, reportedly having rocks thrown at the bus and the road being blocked by big fires. Fortunately they made it through to Cusco without loss of life.

Day 2 in Puno:
With nobody left to wake us up at 6am we enjoyed our first sleep in in living memory. Eventually we got hungry and went down to town to discover that the whole place had closed up. Shops were closed with bars and shutters down, locals were hiding in their houses and if you wanted to visit a restaurant you had to bash on the shutters til somebody stuck their head out a second story window to check you weren't a fire wielding mob. We found a restaurant willing to risk everything in order to feed us but when we tried to leave we heard some chanting from outside and had to wait 5 minutes while we
Sunset near SillustaniSunset near SillustaniSunset near Sillustani

We passed this stream on the way back from Sillustani to Puno. The sky had some amazing cloud formations catching the sunset.
watched a mob go past with big sticks, rocks and whips. I very daringly snapped some photos from the closed second story window.

We hit the docks and grabbed the worlds most rickety boat out onto Lake Titicaca. Despite having a heee-larious name, Lake Titicaca is the worlds highest navigable lake, sitting at 3875m above sea level. One of the more awesome things is that when the Incas began their conquest of South America the local populace (the Uros) jumped in their Dinghy's and cruised out onto the water where they built islands made out of the reeds that grow all over the place. My Spanish is improving rapidly, but the guy who told us about it spoke so ridiculously quickly that we only understood about a third of it, therefore my explanation may be flawed. Google it if you care.

The islands have big cork blocks around the edges that are anchored in place. Above this, reeds are harvested and laid in thick layers. The reeds rot over time so more layers are continually added to keep the islands above water level. There are houses, restaurants, pigs, cows, chickens, toilets, everything you need on these islands. There
Vez sailingVez sailingVez sailing

On the way out to the floating reed islands.
is a permanent population of around 500 people on the islands with the rest living on the mainland and coming out on boats each day.

When we got back to town there were no taxis and a little moto-taxi guy told us all cars were off the streets because the protests had swelled and were targeting cars. He refused to take us past the centre of town so we walked up through the main square. By now it was absolutely PACKED!

We hit the hotel and huddled together for warmth like rats for the rest of the evening.

Day 3 in Puno:
The hotel was close to empty, with only 5 other people staying there. Like us they were trying their best to escape the city but were not having much luck. They came in around midday and told us they had been to the bus station were a national policeman had told them there would be no buses that day but there was a possibility one might sneak out at 4am so they should come to the station around 3.

We wanted food so we went for a stroll through the city. There were big
Vez is a child sometimesVez is a child sometimesVez is a child sometimes

She was a little bored so hid under some reeds on one of the islands.
mobs charging up and down the streets with banners and flags held in front chanting "Miners no, farmers yes" (but in spanish). The were all carrying sticks, rocks and whips so we did our best to avoid them. It seemed as if the were following us though, every time we turned a corner to escape they followed us around the same corner and made ground on us.

The streets were filled with the townspeople today. As the city had virtually ground to a standstill due to the protests the schools were closed, most businesses were closed and those that weren't were shuttered most of the time. The people were taking full advantage of what amounted to a holiday for them so the streets were full of impromptu volleyball games. Someone would string a net between two lamp posts, mark a scoreboard on the sidewalk with chalk and they would get a game under way. These proved popular and most games had a huge crowd of friends onlooking.

Every time the protestors turned into a street there would be a flurry of activity as people scurried to get out of their way. First we would hear some chanting getting
Floating Islands at sunsetFloating Islands at sunsetFloating Islands at sunset

This was shot from atop a super-rickety tower on one of the floating islands. You can see the way they have houses etc all built atop the reed islands.
louder, then the ladies selling fruit and sweets on the street would start to grab their wares into a bag and dart into their houses and lock the doors. The volleyball net would come down and the players and spectators would run into a sidestreet.

It was about this time Verity decided she would live up to her nickname of Señorita Badass. When the mob approached and everyone started running i would try and hustle her into a sidestreet so we didn't get stoned to death. Meanwhile she would saunter along, looking the epitomy of Sydney Hipster Cool. Ugh.

We found the train station and were informed by a nice little man in a stupid uniform that there would be a train at 6am but it would cost $220us each. There were soldiers from the army everywhere around the station, all holding massive assualt rifles. We decided to double check the bus station.

There was nothing going on at the bus station but a volleyball game and the remnants of a ton of barricades that had been hastily erected. I got talking to a woman by the side of the road who said she could get us
Protestors outside our restaurantProtestors outside our restaurantProtestors outside our restaurant

I was super brave to take this photo. /sarcasm
out that evening and we should come back at 5:30. Promising start, but when we returned with some other people in tow at 5:30 she said it was too dangerous and there was no way.

Fortunately we started talking to an amazingly dodgy man who had teeth missing and completely bloodshot eyed. He claimed he could smuggle us out at 5am and then get us a bus to Cusco from a nearby city named Juliaca. We were a little iffy about this as the national policeman had told us the protest was moving to Juliaca, but figured it couldn't be worse than Puno. We agreed on a rate but our conversation was cut short.

We think that a man had been trying to sneak into the bus station, no doubt to loot it, when some of the local riot police caught him and dragged him out the front where we were. Two of the cops held him while the other whipped out his baton and started smashing his knees repeatedly while the guy struggled to escape. Anyone who knows me is aware of my strong anti-pig sentiments so I was pleased when the guy finally broke free and ran at the cop with the baton, clearly in a red misted killing rage. He bashed the cop a few times in the face with his fist before the other pigs mobbed him. At this point we heard a noise behind us and a door in a big metal shutter opened and a group of guys started sprinting toward the cops, clearly intent on giving them a taste of their own medicine. We left very quickly before we also got bashed.

When the van showed up at 5am the streets were quiet apart from the main square (which they decided to drive through for some insane reason). We bailed out of town using back streets and when we got to the highway had to go really slowly to pick our way around the piles of rubble everywhere. We got out without incident though and eventually jumped a nice bus from Juliaca to Cusco. One of the great things about South America is the quality of the buses, most of them have large leather reclining couches for seats and serve meals and alcohol.

We will take up the story next post in Cusco. Verity has also promised to do some back posts as well, mainly on our time in Bolivia and Argentina so keep an eye out for them.


I am reading: Wheel of Time: Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
I am listening to: Jay-Z - the Blueprint 3
Total KM travelled so far: 19444


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