I arrived in Puno to find out that there is a strike in Bolivia. So no meeting Marjo early and staying an extra in a town everyone say stinks. Fortunately, I found I kind of liked it here. I met some good people and on the extra day, while it rained outside I sat in Ricos Pan, a super great lunch and cake place. So much for my not indulging myself again since the Arequipa purge. Unlike Nepal and India I don’t think I will be coming home to fatten myself up after bouts of cholera. Instead I will be going on a diet.
Anyway, the only reason most people come to Puno is to see Lake Titicaca, the surrounding islands and to cross the boarder into Bolivia.
The standard tourist package is a 2 day one night tour of the Islands. First Uros, the floating islands, then stay on Amantani and a quick stop the next day to Taquila. Not interested in the set tourist trail I was more into kayaking the lake. Sadly though on this side of the lake there were only tandem kayaks and I was in no mood to share my experience with a tour guide. So thanking the guides for their time I joked I’d get a fisherman to take me over.
Heading over to the docks the next morning at 7a.m., a long walk through the very dirty streets of Puno, I found a bunch of local boats. The local boats a the same as those the tourist companies use, but if you do it yourself obviously it’s cheaper. So I hopped on one and we were off. First to Uros. I was damn cold on the boat. I shivered inside away from the wind, watching the locals share their snacks with each other. I was really kind of sweet. I wish I had brought something to share in the communal gnashing.
This lake is huge and incredibly deep. How deep? I don’t remember. Google it. But I can say this it is so deep that when Jacques Cousteau came to explore it and try to discover the Lost City of Atlantis within it’s deepest he couldn’t make it to the bottom .
We had 20 minutes to walk on one of the floating islands of Uros. Made entirely on reeds, the road was squishy and gave way a little under your feet when you stepped on to it. I found a couple and another guy had stayed there overnight. I had left my bags at the hostel not realizing this was an option. Rough guides steered me wrong again. But after about 10 minutes I was happy I wasn’t staying over night. I walked 5 steps in one direction and hit water, walked 5 steps in the other direction and hit water. I repeated this two more times, always hitting water within 5 steps on this tiny square island. I was going to scream. I can’t imagine leaving here. If the water was at least clean and warm to swim in. But no. It was just so claustrophobic and constraining. However, very sweet, in that they had everything. A floating post office, cute little straw cabins with electricity, a fish net in the middle of the island and even an adorable black kitten playing with the straw and mud.
There are a multitude of these floating islands and every family has there own. You want to move out…just build an island. Easy, eh. Plus they build everything out of these reeds, chairs, canoes, catamarans, watch towers in the shape of fish etc. Really pretty fascinating.
Off next to Taquila Island. An absolutely gorgeous green paradise which you can only really enjoy after walking 500 steps up. An arduous climb but well worth the view. As we panted our way up, stopping to turn to admire the view, not catch my breath of course, locals stopped us and asked if we wanted to stay over night. What?! Darn rough guides. I totally would have stayed her, but the darn book made it sound like you could only stay on the Amantani tourist trap Island. Apparently, the Puno tourist industry don’t want tourists to stay on the Island, thus controlling the income of the natives (according to the natives) and so don’t let you know you can stay there.
I was very tempted to stay, after my friend said he would lone me some warm clothes. Because although the sun was burning now, it would be very cold later. I opted to go back in the end, but only after a walk around the island and a fabulous lunch of quinoa soup, turcho (fish) and fries and rice (yup, you always get both. Can’t have too many carbs in this country).
The ride back was so crowded we had to sit outside on deck. Three local women were out there huddling together and napping. I almost joined them to stop my lips from going to blue. Seeing as the ride back was even colder than in the morning I was happy with my decision of heading back.
Although at one point I was concerned as the driver kept checking the engine and adding water to it. Then close to shore the engine began to sputter and he handed those of us outside life vests. I asked the guy next to me what was up. He said the life vest were just for show. Ha!