I spent some time in a new cafe, that just opend a few days ago, to wait for my nightbus to Puno. The owner of this place was very talkative and was very interested in the history and culture of his country. Later I also gave him some tips about how to make his place more attractive for the people, which he took seriously by taking notes.
While we were talking I suddenly heared my name (in a french accent) from outside of the shop. It were Romain and Christelle with her uncle and aunt who were just walking by. It was great to see them again and quickly we asked each other about our trips. But time was too short since they had to catch their bus to Arequipa. See you in France then!
A bit later I also left for the bus terminal (Terreste). I was too early but when I went to my bus company they told me that the bus is going to depart half an hour earlier … ohh … they said it’s because of the coming strike they want to avoid problems.
So I wanted to go to my bus and showed a guard, who protected the gate, my bus ticket. He told me something and I understood that I had to wait. I waited for five minutes until I found out that I had to pay a special departure tax (1 soles) first, before I could enter the bus. I didn’t understand why the guard didn’t try to explain it to me again, since I was standing two meters away from him, waiting.
Finally I was inside the bus and already regretted not having bought a more expensive ticket than only one for 20 soles. Something that looked like excrements was looking from above me and dozens of flies were hanging from the ceiling. They were slow and didn’t fly around, fortunately, but still disgusting. When the light inside the bus was switched off it was better.
The bus was full and even some people were sitting on the floor and that in a nightbus. The drive was also terrible and very cold. A sleeping bag would have been much better. Next to me a guy from Italy and a girl from Berlin were sitting, the rest of the bus seemed to be occupied by locals only.
At 6am we arrived in Puno. I didn’t sleep at all on that bumpy road and listened all the way to my music. At the bus station a taxi driver wanted to bring me to a hostal. First I was avoiding him, but his offer was good. He was even offering the hostal I wanted to go to and the prices agreed with what I heard.
Instead of trusting the Lonely Planet I tried wikitravel.org, which seemed for accomodations much more accurate and updated. And it was correct, the cheapest room you got for 20 soles. However I was offered for five soles more (instead of ten) a room with bathroom, which I took in the end.
The taxi driver, who brought me to the hotel also sold trips to the floating islands. For 30 soles I could spend a whole day hopping from one island to another. It sounded okay and efficient, since I only wanted to spend a day in Puno.
Before my trip started an hour later (7am) I had some breakfast, which I could get from the hotel. A couple from France (again ) was sitting next to me. They were from Strassburg and so I asked them a few questions since I am going to be there soon too to join Claire. That almost everybody can speak German there calmed me down a bit, due my no knowledge about French.
The Floating Islands
The tour started very touristy and our boat was full of people waiting for the departure. Before we started, a musician played some traditional songs on his charango (ahh … I love this instrument) and asked for money of course.
It took us half an hour until we arrived on the first floating island. It was a strange feeling to walk on it, very soft and you could even feel how it moved like a boat. That’s why they have to be anchored somewhere, but sometimes it happens that an island gets loose and colides with another one.
The president of this island welcomed us and introduced us how these islands are built. Every two weeks another layer of totora (a rush growing there) has to be laid out to guarantee the stability of the island (since this plant rotts away). Since the islands will become thicker and thicker this way, they will reach the bottom of the lake (16m) one day. Then it’s time to start a new island and leave the old one behind. But this takes 60-80 years.
The president also showed us the artwork they are selling, which we were able to buy afterwards. The prices were a bit too high in my opinion, but those people have to survive, too. However, there wasn’t a big variety in their products and from family to family (everyone has its own booth) the handcrafts repeated.
For 10 soles we were offered to go on one of their boats for a ride. The money is for the community, school and the children they said. Most people did go on the boat … not me (shame on me).
The native people were singing popular songs to the people on the boat as “Row your boat” and even new pop songs as farewell. They did it only for the entertainment of the tourists of course, and we didn’t really saw how they were in normal situations. One girl stayed on one of the islands over night. She probably can tell better how their life is.
Then we moved on to a bigger island, that did not belong to the floating islands. It was a nice island and we had some nice lunch there, which wasn’t included in my tour. For other people of the group, the 16 soles menu was included. During lunch some people performed some traditional dances, which didn’t look very happy actually. Some people from our group, including me, were asked to join their dance and so we did. Fortunately there is no evidence for this event anymore
Later on we went to the main plaza, which was a very quiet place with a very few shops around. We had 20 minutes for it, which was enough and went down to the shore where our boat was waiting for us. This one brought within 2.5 hours back to Puno. I was still tired again, but I wanted to walk around the city and find some food, too. Many restaurants were offering their cheap special but I wasn’t so hungry and after a little tour and a little snack I went back to my hostal.