Puno, 17th – 21st November, 2012.
So, time for country number four, Peru.
Walking across the border into Peru you were immediately struck by two things. Firstly the huge Peru sign that they have obviously paid someone a lot of money to design and that they clearly love as it appears everywhere (to be fair I do like it). Secondly, how similar Peru is to Bolivia, apart from the different currency, the fancy symbol and the fact that things generally work a little bit better!
Arriving at our hostel (Tayka) we were met by a super friendly man who helped us to settle in, showed us how to get the hot water to work for the shower and also advised us about a couple of tours that were possible to do from Puno. We were happy to find that we had a TV with cable, HBO proving to be most entertaining. We also learnt of the Yavari, a 150-year-old British gunboat, that is docked on Lake Titicaca and so we set off to explore it and thanks to our friendly reception man the taxi driver wasn´t able to rip us off as he haggled the fare for us! Great!
The Yavari itself was docked behind a posh hotel a little ways out of town. We went onboard and was met by a friendly old guy who turned out to be our guide as well. He showed us around, the engine being the most interesting part and then we left our donation and returned to the city.
That night we went for dinner at a lovely place that served Bolognaise pizza, not a particulary typical Peruvian dish, but by far my favourite flavour of pizza and difficult to find in the UK! We sat on the table next to the pizza oven and were able to watch as the chef prepared our pizzas and cooked them. The results were delicious and so I was very happy!
Next day we had booked onto a two day tour of three of the islands on Lake Titicaca. First stop was the famous Uros islands which are made from reeds and float on the Lake. There is a whole community who live there on the many islands and they specialise in tourism, giving us an explanation of how the islands are built, a tour of their homes and a boat ride across to one of the other islands. While there, a brief shower passed overhead and so we were soon ready to board the boat and carry on to Amantani island, where we would spend the night with a host family! Very exciting! Sadly no one had told us that the Lake can get quite rough and so we were surprised when the boat started to bob furiously in the water and huge waves crashed off the front, sometimes spilling water into the passenger compartment through the window in the roof, much to the surprise of the man sat below it! It all felt like something out of A Perfect Storm and resulted in a couple of people beings sick! Not a great part of their trip, but thankfully for Sarah and I we were unaffected.
We finally arrived at Amantani island and were all introduced to our hosts, ours a lovely, little man called Daniel. He took us to his home where we were shown to a comfortable annex building that would serve as our lodging and introduced to his wife and mother (the later of whom just sat in the corner of the dining room and shooed off the cats). We were served a tasty lunch of soup with vegetables and cheese (the cheese being the only part that we were too scared to eat). After that we were escorted to the village meeting point where the whole group was meeting to start a walk up the nearby hill, which took us to the Pachamama “temple” where the locals had to all go once a year to make their offerings for a successful harvest. The view was good, but there were a couple of annoying boys who would play music to you and follow you around until the song was finished and you gave them some money. Avoiding them was an art!
The rest of the evening was spent having candlelit dinner (no electricity on the island) which was again tasty soup but followed by rice and vegetables this time. Then it was off to the party that the locals put on for the gringos where we dressed up in traditional clothes and took part in some local dancing. All very amusing! Sadly no good photo’s of Sarah and I dressed up in local garb survived, so you will have to imagine how (silly) we looked.
Next day it was an early start and off to the final island – Taquille. To everyones relief the waters were calmer and the sun beating down. Taquille was pleasant. We walked up to the main square where it was inventory day and so everyone was reporting how much they had made or sold so that the town inventory could be updated and money given out accordingly. We then had dinner in one of the local restaurants (beautiful, fresh trout served with chips and rice) before descending down the otherside of the island to meet the boat and head back to Puno. It felt like a bit of a whistle-stop tour but we had enjoyed ourselves and met some more nice people – the choppy lake certainly helped people make friends as we were all trapped in the same boat (haha!).
That evening we went to the cinema for the second time on the trip, but sadly the caliber of the film was much lower – Breaking Dawn part two. This time the film was dubbed into Spanish so we were denied (saved from) R-Pat´s and Kirsten Stewart´s real voices and we also bumped into one of the guys from the island trip, going along to practice his Spanish (ahem!). The film was pretty much as you´d expect, but at least it was only £1.50 each.
The next day we went on a tour to the nearby pre-Incan chullpas (tombs) of Sillustani. These were huge, cylindrical stone structures of impressive scale. Sadly graverobbers over the years have destroyed a few, but many were still standing to marvel at. Also interesting to see was the huge ramp that they also had to build in order to be able to push the massive stones into place. Cranes were certainly a good invention when they came along and I´m sure that the Colla people would have been grateful for one! There was an impressive view of the nearby Lake Umayo made even better by the moody, storm filled sky in the distance. Thankfully we had been warned that it could get pretty windy or stormy at the site and so we had appropriate wind and rain proof layers at the ready, unlike some of the unfortunate people we were with! On the way back we stopped off at a local house, but after staying the night on Amantani this held little interest to us.
And that was Puno. We had enjoyed our time and found it to be better than we were lead to believe by what we had heard from fellow travellers. Next day we had a productive morning planning ahead our time in Brazil (as it will be carnival time we had been advised to book well in advance) before going to get a Cruz Del Sur bus to Arequipa in order to go to Colca Canyon. The bus was awesome, having films with either English language or subtitles and ironically they showed Breaking Dawn part 1 – yey! Despite this we would use them almost exclusively in Peru.
Adios for now!