We´re driven to the customs point at Preu / Bolivian border for the ferry crossing at 7:30 as planned. In the next 3 hours there are constant assurances of which boats will leave with which passengers on, and which wont. By 10:30 many people go and our party is left behind until an evenmore (overly) small water craft turns up..........................we board the boat and thow our luggage onto the top deck, followed by ourselves as there are no more seats inside.............To put Lake Titicaca into context, our crossing, and not at its widest point, is 100km and will take 9 hours. 10mins into our voyage, Peruvian border patrol turns up, some passengers are moved onto another boat, still not enough seats for us downstairs. Then another boat turns up, money is exchanged - in that oh-so-not-discreet South America way, and finally at 11am we are on our way.
Boat is probably built to carry 25 passengers for only a very-short distance, today there are circa 40 on board with full back-packer luggage sacks in tow, it´s very obvious that the boat is too low really, and it´s one of those "we probably shouldn´t be doing this" moment (and it definitely
won´t have been insured). Just a couple of guys taking advantage of a way to make some money whilst the border is blocked. But this is so typical of how this continent operates, and you kind of get int the mindset after a while...................but it´s so un-British.
The boat is full of hippies and travellers, smoking all sorts of stuff that hippies and travellers smoke (allegedly....) and surprisingly the first 6 hours of the voyage pass quite quickly, and the calmness of the lake means there is little swell or motion to it all................we´re probably only going 5mph anyway.
Begins to turn dark, and the crew rattle around the discarded diesel drums to eek-out every drop into the engine (John not at all happy with this). It also begins to dawn on us that we won´t dock at Puno in daylight. Even stranger is that as the darkness closes in further, there are no lights on our boat.......????? So here we are, travelling like refugees accross this lake, in the dark, with no ability to see or be seen.........and as we do finally approach Puno............the engine stops..................out of fuel........you just don't need it do you...........???? Denise is noticably not happy with the casualness of it all now, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at getting the thing going, we do re-start and almost drift to the quayside and the armed personnel waiting for us.
We´re told that Immigration is closed, so we can´t get our passports stamped, and are now "illegal immigrants" on top of everything else.....! The port area is without many lights or people, and is quite un-inviting, feels a little threatening really. Most passengers head into the hostels dotted around the area, but we´re booked into a hotel in town so try to get hold of a taxi. Anyone who has been to South America will tell you that at least every 3rd car is a taxi, but in Puno tonight............no cars and no taxis - something just isn´t right about this town tonight. A couple approach us and tell us of protestors in the town and we should not be out at this time, and guide us to our hotel via the safest route.
Sensitivity to drama is waring thin today, know what we mean......??? but as we settle into our room, we can hear the chants of angry protestors running past our hotel and down the main street - the advice of the couple we met earlier had more impact now. Mary - a lady we have booked a "homestay" on a floating island of Titicaca calls to meet us and tells us that the protestors have taken and closed the port area, (hence no immigration office being open)............the jigsaw of it all starts to come together. But in that oh-so-South American way, She tells us to "no worry, tomorrow will be different - you see".
How true Mary´s words will come to be, and what a great friend to us she will become also.
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