The highest navigable lake in the world…
I guess when we first arrived in Peru the two main things on our list of things to do were Machu Picchu and The Amazon, and with them over and done with we only had reccommendations to go by. Thankfully, just about everybody reccommended the same thing – a visit to Puno!
Day 80 – Friday 12th July 2016
We arrived in Juliaca at around 06:50, roughly an hour away from Puno, which was reachable only by taxi (the expensive option) or public transport (the cheap option). We decided to take public transport because it was literally ten times cheaper, but proved a little tricker that we anticipated. Thankfully between getting off of the bus and leaving the station itself we made a couple of friends, Josh and Benni, who are travelling South America together from Germany, and speak a little more Spanish than we do! With their help we managed to find a minibus all the way to Puno, where we had a hostel booked for the next couple of nights. Josh and Benni didn’t have anywhere to stay, so as a return favour we told them to follow us to our hostel in hope that there would be room for another two, which there was. By 08:00 we’d checked into our new home with our new travel buddies, and everything was going really well!
After lounging around for a while we teamed up with the guys again, this time to go exploring. We took a couple of Maps from the hostel and headed for the main square in Puno, unsure of what to do from there. Upon arrival in the main square we noticed that there’s just about nothing to do other than eat, or take a photograph of the cathedral:
We reverted back to the map looking for inspiration and decided to head towards the Manco Capac viewpoint, but half way there spotted a different viewpoint, which seemed much higher and likely to offer better views, and decided to head there instead. Our new destination, known as Condor Hill to the locals, was a massive bird at the top of a giant staircase. We started confidently having tackled Machu Picchu just a few days earlier, but found it a real struggle and had to stop quite a few times on the way up. Turns out that Puno is at an elevation of 3,810m (12,500ft) so there’s a lot less oxygen up here, which left us really short of breath quite a lot of the time. Josh somehow breezed to the top about twenty minutes faster than us, with Benni not far behind him, but we put that down to the fact that they’re yet to climb Machu Picchu (and nothing to do with the fact that they’re just fitter than us). From the top we got a much better view of the bird, which we thought was a massive turkey but happened to be a condor (funny that), and an awesome view of Puno and Lake Titicaca:
As with every climb, it was much easier on the way down. We stopped for food at a restaurant suggested by the manager of our hostel, where we paid just £2.25 per person for a three course lunch, which all four of us found pretty astounding. Then, after eating, we headed back to the hostel again for a freshen up and what was meant to be a quick lay down, but ended up being a much needed two hour power nap.
Up and ready to hit the town again we stopped at reception where we met the guys and booked a group excursion after deciding to spend another day together, details of which I’ll share with you later. We then walked to the harbour, checked out the local market, and wandered around a few more shops as the sun started to go down not long after 18:00.
We had a pretty early dinner from a set menu in another or the restaurants recommended by the staff in our hostel, then stopped at the supermarket on the way back to pick up some snacks for whenever we might fancy them.
The hostel was pretty cold, so we spent another night in bed pretty much fully clothed. It’s nippy here anyway, let alone being right next to one of the biggest lakes in South America.
Day 81 – Saturday 13th August 2016
Breakfast started at 06:00 which worked out pretty well for us given that our day started at 07:00 with a bus back to the harbour. Our excursion included a tour of Lake Titicaca with two stops, the first at the man-made floating islands of Uros, and the next at the natural island of Taquile. After a cup of seriously strong coffee to get us started and a couple of rolls for breakfast we got going, unsure of what to expect but confident of a pretty spectacular day.
It was after thirty minutes or so that we arrived at our first stop of the day, one of roughly two hundred of the Uros islands. All of the islands are made of totora, a plant which grows on the surface of the lake. We spent nearly an hour on the island, getting to know the locals in disbelief at the fact that people still live this way. While I’m sitting writing this blog from my smart phone, they’re getting by with nothing but fish for currency and homes that have to be rebuilt out of fresh totora every fifteen days:
Back on board our boat we continued for over two hours to Taquile, which is natural, but still inhabited by those who rely on tourism to get by. With a population of just two thousand, Taquile has absolutely no laws, simply because everybody needs each others help to make things work the way they always have done. There is literally no crime at all on the island.
We had lunch with a local family, which was inclusive in the excursion price that we paid, but didn’t drink anything because that cost extra. It was then that we made another friend, a Spanish girl called Maria, who accompanied us for the rest of the day.
After lunch we walked to the main square of Taquile and made the most of the views by taking a group selfie with our new friends, before continuing back to the boat for our return to Puno:
Upon arrival in Puno we gove our details to Maria and said we’d meet for dinner, but forgot to take her details and couldn’t contact her before we went out, which we felt super guilty for! We decided to spend a bit more money this evening as Josh and Benni had to catch the 22:00 bus to Cusco for the next chapter of their adventure, and in celebration went for the most Peruvian of Peruvian dishes available. For our mains, a mixture of llama and alpaca. To drink, Pisco sours. Then for the table, to share, guinea pig:
Altogether we spent about £50 between the four of us, which included beers for all and a pretty impressive slice of chocolate cake each for dessert. Even on an expensive night out in Peru, spending just £12.50 each really isn’t bad at all!
Back at the hostel we said our goodbyes as Josh and Benni left, but only after exchanging details, discussing a potential meet up again in a few weeks time, and inviting them to visit us at in London next May when we are back home (sorry mum).
Being our last night in Peru we started to pack ahead of hitting the road again tomorrow, but it wasn’t long before we decided to just leave that until the morning and go to bed instead. It’s been wonderful, and we’ve experienced things here that I could’ve never imagined, but as they say, all good things come to an end. Besides, it’s not all bad, there’s a pretty important sports event going on that we’ve to get to!