Floating on Titicaca
· by wendy
Our fancy transportation from Cusco spoiled us. When we pulled into the station, it was back to reality. Puno is a busy, dirty city and we still had to find accommodations for the night. Getting old, right? After lugging our bags around for awhile, we came across Hotel Puno Terra. The dude manning the reception desk offered a nice matrimonial for only 160 soles, almost $58. We shook our heads and told him no thanks. A little Wendy negotiating got him down to 70 soles, our budgeted amount of $25. Not only that, it included breakfast which would in turn bring our room under budget! Too easy!
Part of our agreement with Mr. Reception man was that we would go on a tour of Lake Titicaca the next morning. No matter, we were going to do that anyway and this guy made it easy. We didn’t have to go searching for it. All we had to do was show up in the lobby the next morning and transport took us to the dock. From there, we hopped on a boat which took us to our first stop, Islas Flotantes, the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca!
These islands were impressive. Made out of only reeds, the islands will last for about 30 years. The inhabitants continually add reeds to the top as the ones underneath begin to deteriorate. We were given the play by play of how the islands are built and then dressed up to look like locals.
Then the sales pitch began. The locals that dressed us up ushered us over to their merchandise in hopes we would take something home with us. I made the mistake of actually being interested in a tapestry but later realizing that I shouldn’t buy it, what with having to carry it around and having no house to put it in. The sales pitch turned to begging as I began my retreat. It was heartbreaking. Luckily, the next item up on the day’s agenda was taking a quick ride on one of their reed boats. We made our escape.
Our reed boat ride was short and sweet and cost us 10 soles each. They finally got our money! Next it was back on our tour boat and off to the next island, Taquile, two and a half hours away. This real island was very interesting. The entire sides of the island were stepped with rock walls.
We followed a stone walkway up to the top, center of the island and enjoyed a typical meal of trout and rice. During our meal, we learned about the people of the island who are not only farmers but weavers. They weave hats, belts and clothing all to be sold or worn by the inhabitants. Some belts are woven and worn by men and include hair from their wives. The men also wear certain hats depending on whether or not they are single or married. This tradition has only taken hold in the last ten years.
On our way back down the hill to our boat, we stopped for a photo at this arch with the lake in the background. The children all jumped in which we thought was cute until afterwards when they demanded money for posing. Native island inhabitants are tough to deny!
Finally, we hopped back on the boat and relaxed for the 2.5 hour ride back to Puno. Upon arriving, we headed to the one and only restaurant we ate at the entire time in the city, Machu Pizza. When asking the taxi driver to take us there, he said, “Machu Picchu? En Cusco?” We laughed and corrected him, but how could he not know about this amazing place in his city? Machu Pizza might be our favorite restaurant in South America! The garlic sour cream and best hot sauce we’ve ever had that they served on the side kicked our pizza up a notch. We went to bed with big bellies, ready for our early morning trip to Bolivia.