Sometimes you really have to experience the pits to learn to appreciate something as simple as a bus ride. The sweaty, swervey trip from Puerto Maldonado to Puno will certainly make me appreciate any bus with air conditioning, or at a bare minimum a driver without a deathwish.
Alas, Riley & I arrived in Juliaca alive and thankful for the arid, high-desert air. We promptly took a collectivo to Puno and got our first views of the famed lake.
Puno sits along Lake Titicaca at 12,507 feet above sea level. The lake is home to much mythology, including the legend of the founders of the Incan empire. It certainly has a majestic feel, and it is undeniably enormous (holding the record for the “highest navigable lake in the world”).
We arrived in Puno with a stroke of luck – during our first walk around the city, Riley & I stumbled upon a huge city celebration. What they were celebrating I honestly don’t know. There were confusing signs about a bicentennial in 2021, and the date June 26th was printed everywhere, leaving us wondering what on earth was special about us being there on November 10th.
Whatever the cause for the party, it brought out local musicians and military members in spades.
Another highlight of our time in Puno was trip was our trip out onto the lake itself. I would have loved to spend some more time in the region. There are a ton of islands that seem worth visiting, and a whole Bolivian side of the lake that we skipped over. But we were short on time, so we settled for the one day tour that took us to the floating Uros islands and the sturdy Taquile Island.
The floating islands were rather puzzling. There are several dozen of them, all made of a reed called totora. I can’t seem to figure out why people would choose to live out there rather than the much more inhabitable, regular islands or the mainland. I suspect that touristy gimmicks play a role, but the that doesn’t detract from the novelty and quirky history of the reedy wonders.
Taquile was a breath of fresh air (literally) as there are no cars or motorbikes allowed on the streets there. It’s also filled with quirky plants.
After our day on the lake, and a nice Chinese dinner with our new Polish friend, we made our way back to Cusco.