After our fabulous trip to Isla Del Sol on Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca we boarded the bus, once again, for Puno, Peru. This was only a 5 hour bus journey with a quick stop at immigration. The border control agent didn’t even verify our passport names against our immigration papers. I could have been anyone!
Puno is a city on the shore of Lake Titicaca, famous for it’s “Uros floating islands”. We arrived after dark and the city didn’t seem very nice at first glance. We took a taxi to a VERY basic Hostel Tayka, the first place we’ve stayed at without a toilet seat in our private bathroom….huh! I wasn’t very happy about this, but luckily we changed rooms after the first night and the new room had a seat. What are they thinking – we’re still paying $25/night for the room, purchase a toilet seat!! After dropping off our bags, we headed to the main square which has a beautiful cathedral and just bordering the square is Lima Street which is packed with shops, restaurants, and tour operators. We opted not to use a tour operator for our trip to the floating islands hoping to avoid the tourist trap and decided to head to the docks in the morning for a local boat to see the Uros people.
We arrived at the docks with minutes to spare for the last departure of the day. Our trip was a full day excursion including forty minutes on the floating islands, two hours on the boat to Taquile where we would have lunch and get to explore, followed by a three hour boat trip home.
When we arrived at the floating islands, we were asked to pay a five Soles entry fee. I guess I can understand because they need to pay for the damage caused by the dock space and for us to explore their islands. We were asked to sit in a circle for a local man to give us a demo about how the islands were formed and how they live. I was not impressed! People talk about how we exploit them to make money, but how about the islanders exploiting us to take our money for what I thought was a total waste of time! If we had been able to stay on the boat and just take pictures from a distance, I still would have paid them five Soles and been totally happy. I’ve read many blog posts where people say this is one the best things they have ever done…really? After the demo, Wayne and I boarded a small reed boat (for another five Soles) to cross the small channel to another island. This was probably the best part of the trip.
The next part of our “tour” was the two hour boat journey to Taquile. After being on Isla Del Sol, we expected a very similar experience where we could explore the island and pick a great place for lunch. Boy, were we wrong! There were probably five hundred tourists getting off various boats at the same time as us, each greeted by a group of local men ready to escort them to the main square. I was confused on what was happening. I had read about some great restaurants on the island and fabulous hiking. We didn’t get either of those. For the most part, it seemed that we were not allowed to leave the group. We explored the square then our escort led us to what was probably his family house for lunch (I can’t complain because the food and view were awesome), but it was another “tourist trap” for me. If we had had something else to do in Puno on this day I would have preferred it!
The last part of the day was the three hour boat ride back to Puno. Not long into it the winds picked up and the boat was being tossed around like a rubber ducky in a three year olds bathtub! This continued for about forty five minutes and I was so glad to be back in calm waters!
So, in my “expert” opinion, skip this trip! Puno was lovely – the main square was nice, Lima Street has many great places to eat and shop, and the waterfront would have been great for an afternoon stroll. Go to Copacabana in Bolivia and Isla del Sol instead.
I know for sure that the highlight for Wayne was the evenings dinner of guinea pig, or Cuy!
August 31st – September 2nd 2013