Situated on the western shore of Lake Titicaca — the world's highest navigable lake — Puno is a pleasant little town with a seaside feel. It's actually a fairly big place: but like most gringos, I only explored the small and all-touristy city centre, and the docks. Puno is the gateway to the islands on the Peruvian side of the lake, including Los Uros, Amantaní, and Taquile.
The docks of Puno, early in the morning.
Fate was against me as I boarded my bus out of Puno (to Copacabana) this morning. I'd just gotten on the bus and sat down, when I remembered that my passport was in my big backpack, which was stowed in the luggage compartment underneath. Since we were going to be crossing the border into Bolivia on this bus ride, I needed my passport. So I got off the bus, and ducked down to the luggage compartment to extract my passport from my bag. And that's how I left Peru with a bang.
While in Taquile this morning, I went shopping in the handicraft centre there, and picked myself up some beautiful local hats. Taquile is very famous for its woollen hats, which are hand-knitted exclusively by the men of the island, and which are of excellent design and quality. I liked them so much, I decided to buy three! The other two will have to become presents for some people. Quite stylish, and quite protective when it comes to that harsh altiplano sunlight.
After last night's roaring party on Amantaní, this morning we the crew said our farewells to Amantaní and to our one-night-stand families there, and headed for the next island on the Peru side of Lake Titicaca: Taquile. On this famous island, we completed the arduous hike from lakeside to village, we relaxed in the sleepy town, and we checked out the local craftsmanship offerings.
Our first stop on this morning's boat ride was Los Uros, the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca. The Uros people constructed and moved to the islands hundreds of years ago, in order to escape Inca domination on the mainland. The islands are artificially built out of reeds, which constantly rot and need to be replaced, in order to keep the islands in existence. Amazing place, and certainly a very unique setup.
Myself, Chris, and two random Belgians that we met at Qoni Wasi headed down to the Puno docks this morning, to grab a boat-and-island-stay package deal with one of the captains down there. We found a deal that included a boat to Los Uros, Amantaní, (next day) Taquile, and back to Puno, as well as a night's stay with a family on Amantaní. Quite a few fellow crazy travellers were on the boat with us, and the rides themselves were quite scenic, if a bit long.
Basic, cheap, and friendly place, located a few blocks from the main square and tourist boulevard of Puno. The whole hostel is a bit squashed in, between other establishments; but the rooms aren't too small, and the staff are quite nice. We stayed here before and after our trip to Amantaní — decent enough crash pad.
Chris and I were wandering around Puno after dinner this evening, when we encountered a big festivity taking place in the middle of the street, just round the corner from our hostel. Not sure exactly what the locals were celebrating; but they had a good old bonfire going in the middle of the (dirt) road; there was a most impressive brass band playing; and an impressive number of locals (with surprisingly few gringos) were standing around the fire in a big circle, with a few dancing in the middle. Good fun to watch, and everyone seemed friendly enough about letting us in to the circle of spectators.
After a very short night's sleep last night, I managed to pull myself out of bed at about 8am this morning, to check out of Hospedaje El Artesano for the last time, and to meet Chris at the Cusco central bus terminal at 10am. It felt really good to have my big bag on my shoulders, and to be back on the road again; but I couldn't believe that I was actually leaving Cusco after all this time (almost 8 weeks!), and that I was once again free of work and study commitments. But I guess I'll get used to it.