Our journey to Peru involved many steps and modes of transportation. This is mainly because the airport in Santa Cruz is on an island, so we had to take a taxi (from the hotel) to a 5-minute long ferry, where your luggage goes on the roof of the boat. Then there is a (private, not optional) bus to the airport (eco-friendly and open air). From there, we flew to Quito for our last overnight near that airport. We had an early flight to Lima and a long-ish layover before our flight to Juliaca, which has the closest airport to Puno. All was quite uneventful, besides slightly worrying about our luggage ending up in the ocean 🙂
We were met at the Juliaca airport (as arranged) by a driver to bring us to Puno, about 80 minutes away. It was a huge van which was good as Jack wasn’t feeling well, which started on the plane. We all felt the impact of the altitude on landing as we were at 12,500 feet. The airplane actually has to pressurize the opposite way as usual on landing! (Cabin pressure is normally set at a lower altitude – around 8-9k feet).
We got to our hotel and our room was on the 5th floor! Ack. That is a lot of steps at 12,500 feet. Luckily we were rewarded with a lovely view of the city out to Lake Titicaca (the reason for our being there).
Our first day was very intentionally free. We needed time to acclimatize. Even after being at 7-8k feet for about a month in Ecuador, we were all aware of our breathing (and we took prescribed meds which speeds your respiration rate to ease adjustment). We made it out for lunch, but ordered pizzas in for dinner. Everyone was off, especially Jack and I. Day 2 ended up much the same but we made it to a small museum about Coca plants / leaves and traditional dance/costumes. This area is particularly rich in traditional festivals. Many of the dances, we learned, mocked Spanish colonials. Costumes are incredibly intricate and very colorful.
The reason we came to Puno is it is the jumping off point to the islands of Lake Titicaca, specifically the Uros floating islands. Brief history here. We had intended to do a “home stay” on one for 2 nights, but due to Jacks’s not feeling well and (and me not very either) we cancelled the overnight and decided to take an afternoon trip out there. (This also meant we ended up heading to Cusco earlier than anticipated- more to come).
We got picked up at our hotel and brought to a small boat for about 30 minute ride to the island we would visit. Turns out there are tons of islands, and even an elementary school on one. I hadn’t quite expected so many.
The boat was totally full and we got to chat with some nice couples from the UK and Australia. We landed on a small island where, it indeed, was made of reeds! It was kind of squishy (not wet) to walk on. The “president” of the island then explained how they make the islands of mud and reeds and have to refresh and stomp them regularly. We then split up and all got to see a house (basically a small rectangular hut, though they have electricity thanks to solar panels) bathrooms are actually in a separate building but a western toilet. (Doesn’t flush, but goes into a kitty-litter type tray apparently ).
Then the women who showed us their houses and sold us the goods they make (or say they make;). They all speak Quechua, Spanish and a bit of English.
We also had the option (we took) to take a ride in a traditional (but made for tourists) boat. They don’t use these any more but it was still kind of fun.
Some complain the islands are too touristy, and they are a huge tourist attraction and cash grab for locals due to that and the boat ride. However we still found them charming. It is a way for them to make money in a pretty isolated region, too. In fact the islands’ populations are growing!