Nobody likes Puno. Apparently we’re the only ones.
When we mentioned we had a hotel in Puno for two nights after our Titicaca tour, each person was respectively dumbfounded. “Por que? Es feo!” “Es aburrido.” “Ohh, strange, why?” “Ack, we hated Puno, I wish we’d seen the Bolivian side of the lake.”
Well, sure, if you’ve got limited time, there’s really no need to stay in Puno. It’s small. The food isn’t quite up to the Arequipa and Lima standards, there are a lot of ugly unfinished buildings. But it feels like a real Peruvian city, not just a facade thrown together for tourists. Plus, we are time-rich, so a hotel room for $14.63 a night with HOT WATER in a city that’s smaller and quieter than Lima in which tourists normally don’t stay for long…perfect. But we’ll get back to Puno.
Our Lake Titicaca trip began with the overnight bus from some alternate universe where it’s okay to drive a double-decker bus at 55 miles an hour down a rumbling, curvy road, STRADDLING THE YELLOW LINE. I mean, I really thought I was used to the driving here. If we survived Lima traffic for 8 months, surely we could survive anything. Maybe not; on our 7-hour overnight bus, Zac and I each managed about 2-3 hours of sleep. In fact, at some point, I exited my halfway-sleeping state to specifically tell Zac, “Don’t go through the front window, okay?” We were sitting in the very front of the 2nd level, complete with gigantic windows to display the terrifying driving. Note to Self: don’t peak behind the window curtain, you won’t sleep a wink.
We arrived sleepy, but less cranky than you’d expect, at 5:00am to the bus terminal. About 15 minutes later, a woman holding a sign, “Caitlyn Seff” directed us to the group taxi, and we were shuffled off to the tour agency where we spent 2.5 hours waiting around for the tour to start. We weren’t the only ones; every couch and chair surface was covered by backpackers and blankets, trying to grab those elusive ZZZZZs from the night before.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the tour:
7:45am Taxi to Pier
8:00am Boat to one of the Uros Islands – the artificial island made of reeds!
This place was really cool! There were 9 little homes on this island, all of which were run on solar panels. They made their islands from the reeds growing in the lake, and add fresh reeds every few weeks or months. It was a little weird walking on this thing.
11:30am Boat to Amantani – assigned to a family for the night.
2:30pm Lunch with Family
4:00pm Climb mountain Pachamama to view the sunset!
7:30pm Dinner with Family
8:30pm Dress in traditional Amantani garb and go to a local party.
9:15-10:00pm DANCE. DANCE. DANCE. (Or rather, run around in circles with the locals dragging you along.)
6:30am Wake up call for breakfast.
7:30am Meet the boat at the harbor. Take necessary pictures.
8:00am Leave Amantani (bye!!) and head to Isla Taquile (where our guide was from!)
9:45am Arrive at Taquile and meander slowly, with many breaks to the top of the island for lunch.
11:30am Early, but MUCH DESIRED lunch.
All in all, we loved our Lake Titicaca tour! I know it’s a somewhat touristy thing to do, but it was really fun, we got to stay with a local Amantani family, we learned a lot about the different islands, and we did some decent climbing. It was beautiful, the weather was lovely, and we weren’t even that cold! I definitely recommend the 2-day, 1-night Titicaca tour to anyone. And just in case the other tours are different – our tour company was Jumbo Travel.
At 12:30pm we took our 3-hour boat ride back to the port in Puno.
It was remarkably easy for us to find our hotel. We didn’t have a map, we just kind of wandered in the way that my directions sort of seemed to go, then asked a security guard. After showers and email check (pathetic, I know), we wandered out for SO MANY EMPANADAS and dinner. I really love empanadas. Can you make them with whole-wheat flour?
The best thing about walking the streets of Puno alone is that there’s 1 less person to judge you for eating another empanada. For real, it’s reason enough to leave Zac at the hotel. It’s also pathetic. I’ll get a picture up soon.
Just like every other city, there’s always SOMETHING going on. There was some sort of march near the Plaza that had something to do with healthy foods. I saw (in Spanish) “hands off my healthy food” or something, and also “To feed your kids: quinoa, amaranth, oranges…” and a list of other healthy foods. I’ve heard that there’s a flurry of action across the Andes because the people are desperately trying to keep big agriculture and GMOs out of Peru. Can’t blame them for that!
Otherwise, Puno is kind of a quiet town, except from the hours of 1:30am-2:30am when Zac and I were both wide awake due to an insane amount of traffic on the streets below. I mean, we’re on the 4th floor with closed windows, so that’s LOUD. Perhaps that’s why we’re the ONLY GUESTS staying in this entire 5-story hotel. I hope that’s the reason.
Additionally, I woke at like 3:30am to a splitting pain behind my right eye, which was leaking (tears, I think), and swollen halfway shut. When I propped up my pillow, the pain subsided, and all traces of the swelling were gone by morning. Maybe a sinus infection, but then again, Zac may or may not have elbowed me in the eye in the middle of the night. I wonder how many chocolate bars and empanadas I would get if that were true. Form your own theories in the comments!
Our next step is a 5-hour daytime bus to Arequipa, where we’ll simply pick up my computer charger from the hostel where we stayed last week (UGH, oops!), and maybe stay one night. After that, it’s back to Lima to swap out our warm clothes for SUMMER CLOTHES cause we’re heading towards the equator!