Arriving in Puno after having spend such great days in Arequipa is a bit of a shock. Puno is confusing, noisy, ramshackle, and smelly. Streets are filled with people bustling one way and the other.
The night we arrive both A and I are feeling a little under the weather. It is the altitude, I am sure. We manage to find our way downtown from our hostel and wander around the streets to find vegan food. We have no luck, so we stop by Plaza Vea. Believe or not, but Puno has a huge supermarket in the middle of it’s narrow streets. It sits right by the abandoned train tracks.
We buy avocado, olives, and bread. We walk back to our hostel and the friendly girl at the reception tells us we can use the kitchen on the fourth floor if we like. We thank her and go to fix our sandwhiches. The staff at our hostel are wonderfully friendly. We enjoy the somewhat boring breakfast and we go on tours.
Puno itself isn’t worth much praise. But it sits among beatiful surroundings. On our first day we visit Sillustani. An old burial ground, which is actually an old dweilling as recent archeological findings has discovered. It is a beautiful place to visit. We walk with our group and our tour guide, Freddie, who has a lot of knowledge about the place. A is tired though, she isn’t finding the place as facinating as I am. When we get to the top she wants to go back and after a little bit of talking back and fourth, we decide to go down. I don’t gwt to see the whole place. But A gets to go down and relax. She is hungry.
On our way back, we visit a traditional household. They serve potatoes with mud. A loves it. She wishes there was more. She is so hungry. At the hostel we order a pizza. Order is restored by a 22 PEN pizza. My budget hurts.
The following morning we go on a tour to visit the island of Taquile. First stop are the floating islands of Uros. We are going on a motor boat. We meet a New Zealand couple, Jessie and Luke. A is brimming with joy. Finally some people to talk to! She immediately undertakes the task of entertaining the couple, who are really sweet. They play with her and indulge her ideas. We also meet Chihiro from Japan, who lives in Oregon. Chihiro loves hiking, she tells me we should come visit her in Portland at some point and I REALLY want to! Chihiro is great. A loves her. She LOVES meeting new friends!
The islands of Uros are a curious experience. We are greeted by the chief of the island, who gives us an introduction of life on the island and how the island is build and maintained etc. The intro is quite long and A looses interest. A bird seems to think the intro is too long as well, she shrieks in a loud, persistent voice as the chief continues to explain and our guide translates. A mostly enjoys talking to our new friends. Chihiro and A walk around the small island, talking and taking pictures while the rest of our group sit politely and listen.
We are invited to try on traditional garments, to have a look inside the houses, to buy souvenirs and take photos. Later we go for a little boat ride in a traditional boat and the women of the island sing us some songs. I have an unsettling feeling that everything is part of the big tourist machine. I don’t know weather to laugh or cry. On one hand, the money brought in from toursim helps support the islanders and their lives, on the other hand, what kind of life is it to always have foreigners visit your home. To have to let them inside your house, have them take photos of you, sing songs for them, and so on. I myself wouldn’t want that kind of life.
Chihiro and talk about it sitting on the roof of our noisy motor boat. She says it must be weird having to sing those same songs every day. I totally agree with her.
After Uros we have approximately three hours of motor boat sailing before we reach Taquile. Jessie and Luke are amazing, they play with A on the whole ride. A tells them stories, she smiles her incredible smile and laughs loudly. None of us listen to our tour guide. It is a bit unpolite. But we have fun. I look at A and know why I love her so much.
Taquile is a beautiful Island. However, it also has the tourist bug. So many visitors every day. Children there are accustomed to jump into photos and afterwards asking money for posing. A young girl runs to stand in front of A and I while Chihiro takes our photo. We wait and explain to her that we would like a photo without her. She stands there for a while and then moves. She has taken a liking to A’s doll with the pointy hairdo though. She wants him. But it is A’s son. A doesn’t want to give him away.
Afterwards A keeps asking me why the girl wanted her son. She is so sad about it. It is so strange to her that someone would want her son without her wanting to give him away. I tell her that the girl is used to having so many strangers visit her island every day and quite probably she often receives gifts. “She doesn’t see just another girl when she sees you, sweety, she sees an opportunity to receive a gift”, I tell her. “But he’s MY SON!”, A says forcefully. I know what she means.
We take in the breathtaking views of Taquile. Look at the beautiful handicrafts in the artisan shop, and, finally, go for lunch on top of the island.
It is delicious! And there is a vegan option! Quinoa soup and rise with vegetables. A has the soup and fish. She was so hungry, but she can’t eat very much. Conversation flows at the table. We talk to Jessie and Luke and to an Indian couple from Chicago and to Maya from Israel.
Afterwards, we try out traditional hats and pose for pictures. We have a great time. A and Jessie have a secret that they have to carry out on the boat ride back. A is so excited about it. She laughs and looks secretive and gets that wonderful spark in her eyes.
We walk to the other side of Taquile to take the boat back to Puno. Everyone is a bit tired. But the mood is amiable and we chit chat as we go down. I am thinking that one of the best things about travelling is the people we meet. Such wonderful, magic people ❤ ❤
In the evening we buy tickets for Copacabana, Bolivia. Our adventure continues.
Photo diary from Puno: