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Published: November 24th 2014
We were up early on Friday morning to catch the bus to Puno. Unfortunately it wasn’t private transportation this time and we had to catch a public bus. The bus, however, was a tourist bus so it wasn’t like we had to share with people transporting chickens like my imagination suggested. It was a very nice coach and we had seats right near the middle door. It turned out that rather than just travelling to Puno, we were doing touristy things along the way.
I was relaxing, listening to my iPod, when we arrived at the first stop. It was a church in a small town. I didn’t really get what the attraction was, though. Due to my headphones, I missed any information the tour guide gave us on the bus, and inside the church he kept turning away from where I was standing when he spoke in English. Presumably there were other English speakers over there, but it meant that I couldn’t hear a word he said. Anyway, it totally was a church with the usual decorations inside. As you might guess, I wasn’t really in the tourist mood for whatever reason.
the bus and continued on. This time, I was pretty much falling asleep when the bus stopped again. We were at an archaeological site which was pre-Incan and Incan. I’m sorry but I have no idea what it was called. It consisted of a really large temple, of which only the central wall still stood. We were also shown the granaries and the urban area. While looking around I saw Steve and Larissa (the Inca trail couple from Perth, see previous blog). Apparently they were also travelling to Puno. They were on a different bus, but it seems there are a couple of different companies that provide essentially the same service as each other. As it had only been a day since we’d seen each other, there wasn’t much more to say besides “hello”.
Once again, we got back on the bus and headed towards Puno. Our next stop was pretty close – only 25 minutes. This stop was for lunch at a buffet restaurant that seemed to be basically in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the other buses seemed to be having lunch elsewhere so it wasn’t too crowded. It was pretty tasty too.
We continued on towards Puno and our next stop was the top of the pass. Carol, Barry and I weren’t particularly excited because it was at an altitude of 4,300 metres, 600 metres less than the pass we travelled between Arequipa and Chivay just over a week ago. Not only that, but it was pouring with rain on the way there, so we declined to get off the bus. This turned out to be an even better idea because it started hailing. Needless to say, the stop was very brief.
The penultimate stop on the journey was in another town that I can’t remember the name of. There was a closed church, which made for a decent photo, and a museum. Compared to the museums in Lima and Cusco, it was very tiny so we spent most of the time just hanging out in the town square until the bus was ready to leave.
Finally, after about nine hours we arrived at Puno. The journey was not quite over yet though. We were picked up by a minibus and taken to our hotel which is about 20 minutes outside of Puno in the
village of Chucuito. It was worth the extra time though because Puno is a bit smelly, and our hotel is really nice, and right on the shore of Lake Titicaca. We also arrived just in time to see rain and lightning over the lake.
The next day, I actually temporarily left the tour. We were scheduled to head out to a local community for a night staying with some local people in their homes. When I booked the tour, I didn’t really want to do that so I had organised to skip it. This meant I had an extra night in the hotel in Puno. The tour company organised this, and also organised a day tour for me to the floating islands in Lake Titicaca. So I headed off early on Saturday morning by myself. I was picked up by some guy organised by the tour company and taken into Puno to get on a boat.
The boat was small, but it was also only half full so that was good. Besides nice comfortable seats inside, we could also climb up on to the roof to take pictures or just sit up there. Only
eight people could be on the roof at a time, but I think there was only about ten of us anyway so it was never an issue. We headed out to the floating islands, which aren’t that far from Puno, considering the size of Lake Titicaca. It’s the highest navigable lake in the world (I’m not sure what the exact definition of navigable is in this context) and the 11th
largest lake in the world. Just over half the lake is in Peru, the rest is in Bolivia, which no doubt makes for some smuggling I’m sure.
There are a lot of floating reed islands there. Apparently the tours rotate around between them all so the people all get some money from tourism. I have been told that the people first started living on these man-made islands to escape the Incas, and to escape the Spanish, so I’m not sure exactly when and why they started. But it’s been a long time and they are pretty impressive. The islands have up to ten families living on them – at that point they cut the islands up and they become two islands. The island we visited was called
Suche Maya, which I think they said meant catfish. There were six families living on there. We started off with a demonstration of how the islands work, and how the people live there. We got to taste the food they get from the reeds, and we met the president of the island. The president serves for one year and is always one of the women.
Next we were each taken by a local person and shown their house. A fellow who called himself John took me and some girl from the tour to his and his wife’s house. It was very basic, but seemed pretty comfortable. They then dressed the girl up in some of their clothing, while I got to wear one of John’s hats. This was only done for the purpose of having our photos taken. They then lead us out to the centre of the village where they showed us their handycrafts. I really liked one of the textiles and I accidently haggled John down to 70 sols. When he first suggested 80, I said no but it actually took me a while to calculate that it wasn’t that much, about $30. As this
was actually pretty reasonable I found myself accepting the new price.
After the shopping was done, we were herded onto a reed boat and taken to another island. This island didn’t seem to be one where people live. Instead, there was a restaurant and a shop. Inside the shop you can get your passport stamped. I didn’t have my passport with me, but I didn’t mind.
We boarded our tour boat again and left the reed islands. From here it was a couple of hours to the island of Taquile. The island was originally named Taquila (pronounced “tequila”), after the man who owned it but the name has gradually changed to Taquile (pronounced “tequila-ee”). After arriving at the island we had a rather steep walk up to the main square of the small town. It took about half an hour, but was quite an effort considering we are at an altitude of about 3,800 metres. I managed to survive that and we had a bit of free time before lunch to look around. There wasn’t much to see though – a handicraft market and a photo exhibition. In the main square they had one
of those posts with signs showing the direction and distance to various places around the world. I am not sure it was that accurate though, considering Madrid and Paris were apparently in opposite directions.
We had lunch in a restaurant just off the main square. They set us up outside on one side of a long table so we could eat while looking at an awesome view down to the lake. When we finished, our guide gave us a demonstration of the handicrafts made on the island. Apparently women do the sewing and the men do the knitting. The most important piece for a man to make is his hat. The reason is that it can tell other people about his relationship status. If it has a large white section and is worn to the side, the boy is looking for a girlfriend. If he turns it backwards, it means he has a girlfriend. If he gets married, he wears a new hat with no white on it. We then had a lovely 40 minute walk to the other harbour on the island where the boat was waiting for us.
That was it for
the tour, but we had about a two and a half hour boat ride back to Puno. On the way back, I started to get worried because I couldn’t remember the name of my hotel. I was hoping that the whole transport thing would be organised properly. When we did get back, the tour guide had to ring someone from my tour company (I think) and he then put me in a taxi so I was hoping that it was all good. However, the taxi was heading in the wrong direction. I said to the taxi driver that I thought the hotel was the other direction and he just said “si”. I assumed he knew a shortcut or something. Apparently not, though, because he took me to a completely different hotel. I told him it wasn’t my hotel and then remembered I had my tour itinerary in my bag and showed him the name of my hotel. He then started taking me there. However, he was contacted by someone on his radio and after much discussion he pulled over in the middle of the city. He said something to me in Spanish and I guessed there was something being organised
because he didn’t make me get out or anything. Eventually the guy who had picked me up in the morning pulled up and told me there had been a mix up and he was going to take me to the hotel. So I got back okay in the end.
Sunday was a pretty lazy day. The others weren’t going to be back from the homestay until lunchtime so I just hung around the hotel until they arrived. We then went for a walk around the village. There wasn’t much to see. There is an old fertility temple but it was pretty small so we opted not to go in. Apparently all that’s left is a statue of a phallus. It seems that is the symbol for the town though because the church used to have some decorating the tower until the Catholic Church caught wind of it and all but one have now been removed. We had a look at the church from the outside and a look at the main square, but there wasn’t much to see. We headed back to the hotel.
And that’s almost it for Peru! Tomorrow we head to
the Bolivian border for the final day of the tour. I will be staying in Bolivia for a week before heading back to Santiago, and then home. I can’t believe how quick it’s been going!
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