Retroactive blogging is difficult. Nevertheless, I will try to remember some of the highlights of the trip to Puno and Lake Titicaca a week past the event. We took a tour bus company (Inka Express) to Puno- it was more expensive and took longer than a regular bus, but was also nicer and we stopped at some cool sights along the way. We saw a church (in a town the name of which I cannot recall), the ruins of an Incan temple in Raqchi, and a museum in Pukara, plus lunch along the way. Again, definitely the better bus experience, though being bilingual means having to hear the tour guide make the exact same jokes twice in a row.
So, Puno: definitely cold and less attractive aesthetically than Cusco. This is, thankfully, unimportant as the point of going to Puno is more in the surrounding destinations. The remainder of the first day was spent using our hostel’s internet to get a feel for what we wanted to do during the remaining days and then to search out tours. And food. Our hostel (Bothy) was offering tours of Lake Titicaca and Sillustani ruins; however, we found that by walking down the main street other travel agencies were offering the exact (really, the exact) same thing for 15 soles less. Ha!
So, after eating pizza it was bedtime. I wasn’t really up to hitting the town quite so early in my journey, plus it is supercold in Puno at night. And, the next morning was an early one in order to get to Lake Titicaca (tour of Uros Island and Taquile Island). The man making pancakes (advertised as unlimited for breakfast at the hostel) was truly surprised that we would want more than one pancake. Silly man,
The bus to take tour groups to the port picked us up at the hostel, along with some other travelers who booked through the hostel (at which point we realized the previously mentioned fact that it was a price different for the exact same tour), and took us to the lake. There was a bit of a delay in leaving, as the Peruvian coastguard was inspecting our boat for half an hour. Something about passengers names not on a manifest or too many passengers on the boat. Anyway, we eventually got going and made our way to the Uros Islands (floating islands). More having to hear everything twice, though in this case our tour guide’s English was sufficiently bad that knowing Spanish was probably necessary.
Anyway, the floating islands: really super cool to see, though not much to do on them. Of course, except for taking photos and learning how they were built. Really shocking to see this entire island chain made our of reeds though. So cool.
Then, on to Taquile Island. Basically, a tourist attraction because of the isolated, unique culture and being otherwise pretty. Seeing that island was more or less a lot of climbing, with lunch in the middle, highlighted by a demonstration of local dance and some traditions of the island. It was quite pretty and a great view of the lake, but maybe because we were rushed due to the delayed departure, not that great. Oh, and the stairs down were a pain in the ass.
The island tours took all day, and that night we enjoyed some chifa (Peruvian Chinese food) before going to bed. The next day involved a tour of Sillustani, which are ruins of funeral towers. But, before the tour there was a half a day to explore Puno, during which it was quickly realized that there isn’t much to do in Puno. I wasn’t too keen on paying money to go into a museum of dubious quality, and the free sights aren’t really much (just an old house, an arch, etc.). I wanted to go up to a mirador (overlook point), so we took a taxi up to one because the walk up is supposedly dangerous. However, we didn’t stay there long because it was isolated and there were groups of people lying around, some of whom looked suspicious. Especially the guy that popped out of the rocks by the statue of Manco Capac. That was a shame, because it would have been an otherwise nice place to sit and eat sandwiches.
The tour of Sillustani started in the afternoon, after an hour-long bus ride to the ruins. And, let me say, world’s worst tour guide. Not only was his English so bad that I am sure all of the English-speakers couldn’t understand him, but also he was just rambling and boring. Yeah, very bad. The ruins themselves were cool, though, and the location was pretty peaceful and pretty to look at. On the way back we stopped by a tour of a typical country family’s house, which was cool though a little uncomfortable to be a big tour group wandering around this random family’s place. And, with that concluded our stay in Puno and the surrounding areas.
The bus ride back the next morning was an interesting introduction to Peruvian travel. Left late from Puno, and stopped the next city over to pick up the rest of the passengers. There, there were some problems with room for luggage or some such, and we left even later. After that the bus was full of smelly people, crying babies, people playing music and the bus kept stopping in small towns to pick up local people who would sit in the aisles. So, the bus ride took a long time. But, we finally made it back to Cusco safely.