After a long day at Machu Picchu, I had another travelling day to get to Puno on the shores of lake Titicaca (all the teenage boys can laugh). So to make the days travel a little more interesting, I took the Inca express bus, which takes 10 hours but instead of stopping at truck stops in the middle of no where it stops at tourist centric places, 5 stops and a lunch stop all with toilets in a comfortable bus. Despite my dislike of big buses and hoards of people this trip was not too bad although the afternoon had the two longest stretches to drive.
The first stop was at an ornate church in the town of Andahuaylillas. No photos were allowed inside but I was given a disc with photos on it. The Jesuits built the church and everything inside is done in 24 carat gold leaf. I’ve noticed that in Peru while churches are everywhere many people still follow Incan beliefs where the beliefs are based around Mother Earth, the sun, the moon and the stars.
The next stop was at Checacupe to see a restored Incan rope bridge. I opted to use the stone bridge next to it as wobbling bridges are probably my worst fear. I guess it’s the feeling of not being safe!
The third stop was at the Incan ruins of Raqchi. Here there are some reasonably tall and intact walls of a temple. The only issue is 30 odd years ago the erected roofs on all of them to stop them from eroding so it ruins the impact of the site. There were a few things not seen at other sites like columns and circular food stores. Also on the hill is visible the old defensive walls that the Incans used especially when they were expanding and integrating other civilisations in the region.
We then had lunch at a tourist buffet that was included in the bus fare but some of the worst food I’ve eaten in South America ever. It was bland and boring. I did pat a juvenile llama out the front and bought a souvenir from the woman. The llama loved being scratched behind the ears.
After lunch we stopped at a place called La Raya, which was the high point of the trip at 4300m. Good thing is I’m acclimatised now in Cusco at 3300m so didn’t find it bad. Similarly Puno is at 3800m and its ok. I have bad memories of La Paz still, headaches and lack of sleep.
Last stop was in Pucara to bust a museum with some interesting stone carvings. One of a man with a knife in one hand and a severed head in the other and the other was of various things. The site at Pucara was mostly pre-Incan civilisations . Incans were really only around after 1000 AD, so a fairly recent civilisation.
Today I had yet another tour, this time to the floating island of Uros and then to the island of Taquile, both on lake Titicaca the worlds highest navigable lake, whatever that means. It sounds good and gets repeated often and no one can tell you what makes a lake navigable. It is something to do with it being sufficiently wide and deep enough without obstructions.
Our first stop was a mere 30 minute boat ride from Puno where the floating islands of Uros are. The people explained how the floating islands are made, the fact they are anchored and they are in the area due to the calmness of the lake.
It’s now I realised where this tour was headed, we were ushered into homes to have a look and immediately things to buy came out. Then there was the once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in a reed boat, except it wasn’t a reed boat the use, but one built for tourists.
We continued on for the 2 1/2 hr boat trip to the island of Taquile. The island has a group of people who have a few different customs and speak Aymara rather than Quechua (all Peruvians learn Spanish and Quechua). We had to hike up the hilly island to the town square. No steps but a 30 degree incline most of the way.
At the top is a town square, And the usual stuff like the church and official buildings. We walked a bit further to our restaurant for lunch where some people seemed to have it included and others didn’t. I think it’s used as a bargaining tool to sell tours. At least the meal was relatively cheap and the quinoa soup was rather tasty.
The walk down the other side of the island was all steps and rather steep. The path went through a few arches which are littered all over the island one of which was on the now old lonely planet guide (a new one was published this month). Interestingly the guide criticises the tours from Puno for being aggressively commercial.
After the 3 hr ride back we got asked for tips, a clear sign the competition to lure tourists into ever cheaper copycat tours. I can’t help thinking how great the Panama tour was and it cost $75 USD but never once did I get asked to tip, but something or get taken somewhere purely with the intention to get me to buy something. Well Oscar got a tip from me, today they got no tip from me. I’m happy to pay for a tour, I just don’t want to feel like tourists are cash cows to be milked.
Puno has been a disappointment to me. It seems that they tried to over commercialise everything and the town is a series of copycat pizza restaurants with almost identical menus and all with pizza ovens. The floating islands are amazing, but I think it gets more tourist traffic than it would because its on the way to Bolivia and Arequipa.
Tomorrow I have my favourite South American full cama bus ride, this time to Arequipa in a fully flat recliner. Only issue is its a 6 hr ride and I get to Arequipa at 9pm so maybe no time for a nap.