OYOP: Puno, Last Stop in Peru
We arrived on the bus from Chivay to Puno, Peru on the night of New Year’s Eve. We were tired from another six hour bus ride to get there, and we managed to eat dinner and find our hostel in the midst of all of the New Year’s Eve hustle and bustle on the streets. There were lots of people selling yellow everything : hats, clothes and flowers on the streets. And of course, there were fireworks.
At midnight, we saw the fireworks from our room on the 5th floor of the hostel. I’ve never quite seen a show like it. People were just crowded in the middle of the busy city streets setting off fireworks at the same time. These were the kind of fireworks that are normally advisable to only do over water or at least outside of the city limits. The next day, we saw a news headline titled “the consequences of fireworks” with reports of accidents and injuries. But admittedly, it was a stunning show.
The next day, we walked to the lakefront of Lake Titicaca and caught a boat to the floating islands of Los Uros. We were the only foreign tourists, as has often been the case when we have opted for local public transportation over tours, and we got the most stares of the whole trip so far on the boat ride.
One little girl, an 8-year old from the Peruvian city of Juliaca, stared at me for quite a while until she finally came up and started asking me lots of questions about where I was from, my name, the names and birthdays of just about everyone in my family, etc. Eventually, she was holding my hand and sitting next to me the entire trip boat trip. And yes, I got my third photo request. The trip with her was an unexpected treat and I got to use my conversational Spanish too. I’m not quite at an 8-year old level, but she was very patient.
The floating islands are very touristy, though still fascinating. The island’s indigenous people are those who fled to live on the lake when other conquerors were taking over the land. These islands are not natural; they are made out of reeds which rot and have to be replaced frequently. That goes for all of the houses and other structures on the islands as well as their boats, which must be replaced every two years.
When you hop on a local or tour boat to visit the islands, you are brought to a random one and given a presentation by the local inhabitants on how the island is made, a bit about the history and then are sent off with different family members on the island to try on the local clothes and marvel at the handmade crafts.
Our presentation was in Spanish since we took a local boat, but I think we picked up a good bit. It seems that tourism is the main and possibly only source of income for the island locals. It was interesting to see how fascinated the Peruvian tourists who were on the boat with us were and into taking pictures and getting into the tourist spirit as we were over these unusual sights.
We then took the “Mercedes Benz” of the reed boats to the capital of the islands, an even smaller floating island with a restaurant, a fish pond, and tents filed with more crafts.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the streets of Puno before dinner that night with a couple we met the week earlier in the Peurto Maldonado airport. We had a nice menu del dia for dinner and since it was New Year’s, it included a dessert and beverage too.
We have been splitting a “menu del dia” or “menu touristico” for most meals that include a soup and a local dish as an entree. This has made our total cost for the two of us for lunches or dinners total about $7-$8. Breakfast has been included almost everywhere we have stayed, and we often get cheap snacks for long days of walking around or traveling. We have also been into some street food lately like tamales and saltenas, fried puff pastries filled with meat and veggies.
Overall in Peru, we stayed in 11 different rooms and camped for 3 nights. We hiked up mountains, into the rainforest and down a canyon. We traveled by air, boat, van, bus, mototaxi, car, and on foot. We met people from around the world and spoke with them in English, Spanish, and French. We ate local food. We got sick from local food. And now we will leave Peru for Bolivia. It’s been fun, Peru. Wawawewa!