Puno / Lake Titicaca / Arequipa
After the Machu Picchu experience I was getting ready to move on to see the rest of Peru. Next up was Puno and more importantly, Lake Titicaca.
Too get to Puno, I took one of the inexpensive overnight buses from Cusco to Puno, just a little heads up, when you take the bus in Peru, be sure to wear enough clothing, because for some reason they turn up the A/C really high. I had like 3 layers of clothing on and was still freezing. Puno by itself doesn’t have much to offer for the real tourist. It’s just your average Peruvian town with a viewing point and several areas worth visiting. All in all, took me a few hours to wander around a bit since I arrived early in the morning around 7. I was waiting for the tourist info to open up.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world sitting at 3800m+ above sea level. There are several of things to see and do for the visiting tourist. One of them is the Uros Islands, which I’ve visited. These are man-made floating islands made of reeds. These islands were originally made for defensive purposes, probably that they could escape in times of danger. But these days these islands are mainly a touristic hotspot and it was surely noticeable. Since I didn’t have much time to actually prepare a plan or way to visit the island by myself, I decided to get a tour to the Uros Islands. And it wasn’t all too bad, we stopped at one of the floating island and they gave us a short explanation of how the islands were actually made. After that we got some time to ourself to check out the little island and of course buy some of the souvenirs to support them.Afterwards we went with one of the handmade boats out of reed to another island. Of course we had to pay for this short 5 minute boat road, which was actually being pushed by a smallboat with electric engine. This was the central island with a restaurant, little convenience store and of course… more shops with souvenirs. All in all, quite touristic, understandable though since I don’t think these people have much to survive on besides tourism. Of course I could be wrong. Afterwards we went to another island where they had several fishing pools, where they were breeding different types of fishes. One the other tourists actually got some fish from the pool and which were immediately prepared by the people there. Talk about fresh ceviche! Anyhow that was about the end of the 3-4 hour tour with not many stops and a lot of variety. Not totally worth it in my opinion, but since I don’t have another choice…meh.There are 2 other famous islands, Amantani and Taquile, you could visit on Lake Titicaca, but these were further away which took more than a few hours to visit. These villages are actually more interesting since they have traditional tribes and families living on the island. They aren’t influenced by the modern city of Puno and still live a very basic life. You can actually stay with some of the families and live a day in their shoes doing chores and all that. Next time when I get the chance I’d rather do that and visit the other islands instead of Uros. Not that it was bad or anything but felt like it wasn’t really worth it. Oh also, you can visit Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian side too.
Since the tour was only a few hours and there was not enough time to visit the rest of the island, I went and booked another tour to Sillustani. It is a pre-Incan burial ground with mysterial tombs. The tombs itself didn’t impress me much, but it was actually the ride to the burial ground that impressed me the most. The place was about 31 km outside of Puno, passing through various plains which seemed to stretch out all the way to the horizon. At the burial place itself, which was located on a hill, there were several of these plains to see and admire. Truely breathtaking landscapes.On the way back we stopped at a local house and got more information on how the people in the area live and survive. They actually even have little houses built for their guinea pigs. The sad truth is that these guinea pigs are probably not being raised as pets… but rather for consumption. Sorry Sof….. since you love guinea pigs so much I’ve decided to not try cuy.
I forgot to say that I only spent a day in Puno, I arrived early in the morning and at night I took the overnight bus again to Arequipa. This time I came prepared with 4-5 layers of clothes!A lot of people that I’ve encountered, actually just 2-3, told me they just LOVED Arequipa and wished they stayed longer there, so I had high expectations there. But I was kind of disappointed when I arrived there. Sure the architecture was amazing and not just on the main plaza, the houses leading up to the plaza were amazing as well. All of them had this gate as an entrance to the main area with a small inner court inside, before you reach the actually building. I’ve seen this type of buildings in a few houses and areas, but not the whole center. That in itself was a nice little suprise. But maybe it was the fact that it was raining cats and dogs during the time that I was there. For some reason there doesn’t seem to be a good sewer or water drainage system on the streets and since Arequipa has a few hills, the streets just literally turned into small rivers. It was quite a hell to walk through the streets, not taking in account the fact that there are barely any traffic lights in the center. Considering that the city was building according to a “block” system, it just seem necessary to me because it was a pain in the ass to try to cross the street! Anyway, in Arequipa I just watch a couple of basketball games. They had an exhibition tournament of younger teams playing against eachother that weekend so I went and checked it out. Also because there wasn’t much else to do when the rain was pouring down at night. I enjoyed myself though, these kids were playing like semi-pros, hard but still fair. In fact, most people who come to Arequipa actually plan to go to the Colca Canyon. You could surely notice it by the sheer amount of tourst agencies that offer tours. But once again, I went the cheap way and went there by myself, allowing me more flexibility and freedom. Next up! Colca Canyon and surroundings!