Our last stop in Peru was Puno and a two day excursion to Lake Titicaca.
Puno is a bit of a strange place; quite urban feeling and with overpriced tourist restaurants, though we did manage to find a really good and really cheap pizza place. We stayed at Hostel Pacha which felt a bit like a motel rather than a hostel, did the job and wasn’t too cold at night.
The main reason to stop in Puno is for trips to Lake Titicaca, often described as the highest navigable lake in the world (at around 4000m) and the biggest lake in South America.
We managed to negotiate an excellent value two day tour that would take in the floating Uros islands, Amantani and the island of Taquile. It cost around 100 peruvian soles or £25 and including a homestay on Amantani, two lunches, a breakfast and a dinner.
The first stop on the tour was at the Uros islands. The Uros are man-made floating islands with the base of the islands made from the reeds that grow in the lake. The houses and lookout towers are also made from the reeds, the base of which the Uros people eat and use to clean their teeth.
These days, you get the impression that people only bother to live on the islands for tourists and the income that comes from them. There was an emphasis to buy from the islanders (once they’d showed you round their huts) and the prices for food and drink was very expensive. Originally, the reed islands were built to protect the people from invaders – they were hard to invade with the islands in the middle of the lake – but now the islands have been pulled close to Puno for the convenience of day-tripping tourists.
After the Uros islands, we (excruciatingly slowly) chugged our way to the island of Amantani where we met Francisca and her daughter Leticia, whom we were staying with that night. We dumped our bags and then had a basic lunch of soup followed by carrots, potatoes and a piece of cheese.
Francisca, her daughter and her elderley mother, all lived together in a basic house on the island, along with a bunch of chickens and a lamb. There were no dogs on the island as they prefer the peace and quiet and it seemed to be a rule not to keep them.
It was eye-opening but quite difficult to see people living in such poverty with extremely basic conditions. Francisca made lots of wool items that she sold for extra money and I ended up buying a hat at over the odds but didn’t mind as they needed the money more than we did. We bunged Francisca and Leticia a bit of extra money for their hospitality the day as the boat departed.
Whilst on the island, we also hiked to a temple high up on one of the hills. Every time we looked out at the endless lake, it was difficult to remember that you weren’t, in fact, looking at the ocean.
The next morning, we headed to the island of Taquile, famous because all the men on the island are constantly knitting and the colour of their hats even represents their social and marital statuses. We hiked from one end of the island to the other, before getting the (painfully slow) boat back to Puno.
It was a great experience and we were very happy with the guide (as you can see here with Ashleigh being happy – with the guide).
After one more night in Puno where we witnessed a fiesta with dancing (see pic below). We hopped on a bus the next day and headed over the boarder to Bolivia.