October 4-6, 2015
After a 7.5 hour bus ride we arrived in Puno. Our hostel was surprisingly nice, though it was on an unpaved road. We went for a walk into town and noticed how small Puno was. The central square didn't have much going on. We did, however book a tour for the following two days to 3 islands in Lake Titicaca.
We were quoted 125 soles/person by first tourist office we went into. The second office quoted us 75 soles for the same tour (we later were offered 60 down by the dock). After booking the 2 day/1 night tour of the islands in Lake Titicaca Sylvie and I bought some snacks and made a lunch for the second day of our tour.
Lake Titicaca was quite a site, though not as impressive as Lake Malawi! Crowding the dock were dozens of tourist boats, all very similar. We've learned from our previous tours that no matter where you book a specific tour and how much you pay you receive the same service as everyone else.
We were picked up from our hostel at 7:15 and got dropped off at the pier. After a short 30-45 minute ride in a boat we made it to our first of the 3 islands we were visiting. The Uro Islands are comprised of a fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. The Uru People have lost their language ~500 years ago and only hold onto a few of their ancient customs/beliefs. The islands are mostly for tourist purposes now, at least that is how it felt. It was still an amazing experience. The islands themselves are hand built by the islanders. They lay down reeds on top of soil and continue to do so weekly until they need to build a new island ever decade or so. The men lift up their houses while the women place the reeds underneath.
After visiting the Uro Islands we spent another 2-2.5 hours on the boat.--We were making our way to Amantani island where we would be spending the night with a host family. There must have been some type of 'speed limit' for the boats because it took us over 2 hours to travel ~15 miles. We met our host family and they showed us to our rooms (nicer than I had anticipated). They served us a lunch of potatoes, potatoes, measly veggies, and fried...cheese? As you can see from the pictures below our dinner wasn't much better. It upsets me greatly how poor the food was since I could clearly see the family eating chicken in the other room. The host family didn't even sit with us! This entire ordeal was simply a way that the islanders could profit. As cool as it may sound to say, "I spent a night with an indigenous family on a small island in Lake Titicaca" the reality is the entire homestay experience was completely fabricated and 100% ingenuine!
Prior to dinner all the tourists on the island hiked up the mountain Pachatata (which translates to Father Earth) to watch the sunset. Pachamama (Mother Earth was the other mountain on the island). The sun set well before 6pm (around 5:30) because of how east we are. By 6:30 we could see countless stars in the sky. It had gone from light to dark in such a short period of time!
That night the locals dressed us up in their local clothing, played music for us, and danced with us. The next morning we said our goodbyes and were on our way to our 3rd and last island, Taquile.
After another hour-long boat ride we arrived at Taquile where he hiked 2kms to get to the main square. We then waited over an hour to hike another 20 minutes where we waited another 15 minutes to then walk 5 more minutes to go to our lunch spot. Throughout our walk we came across local shops selling sweets and products specifically tailored to 'gringos'. I really wonder what this island was like 100 years ago? I think tourism has allowed the islanders to get lazy and give up on their sustenance farming lifestyle in favor of sitting around all day in hopes of selling 3 Sublime Candy Bars to passersby.
Sylvie and I packed our lunch to save 40 soles while the others enjoyed fresh Trout from the lake. After yet another hike, down 540 stairs, we were back at our boat.
Back on the boat Sylvie fell asleep while I finished yet another book: The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry. The boat ride was a little over 3 hours and I was ready to get back.
Back in Puno we spent several hours planning out our first couple weeks in Bolivia and reaching out to a few workaway families. Tomorrow we cross over into Bolivia via Copacabana and end up in La Paz. We have a 3.5 hour bus ride to Copacabana where we have to go through customs (and pay $320 for our visas). After an hour or so we have to catch a ferry to cross over Lake Titicaca and then we take another bus to La Paz. Our bus leaves Puno as 7:30 and we should be arriving in La Paz around 4:30 (9 hours of traveling). This is nothing compared to what we have in stock a few days out. Not to scare you guys too much but this is what we're planning: Bus from La Paz to Bolivian Jungle. I'm sure our experience will be much better though!