Welcome to Puno! The second most popular city for tourists next to Cusco. It is a city of hundreds of tiny streets crammed into the hillside leading down to the famed Lake Titicaca. Last night, we settled on a place to stay that was a little outside of the madness and closer to the lake. And guess what we woke up to this morning? Yes, of course, torrential rain. We waited it out for about an hour and luckily it moved over. We decided to chance it and check out boat tours to the infamous native-built reed islands.
We were able to secure tickets to the islands for a good price and the weather looked a lot better, so we went for it. We had also read it was a bit of a tourist trap from one source and that it was cool from another. When in Rome, right? It took about 30 minutes to get out to the islands, and there were tons of them! I believe these ones started out with natives living on them and surviving by fishing and such, but from what I understand now, they primarily live off of tourism. When we arrived we were ushered onto one of the islands, seated in a semi circle with the rest of the tourists from the boat, and one of the inhabitants spoke in Spanish about the history of the islands and other things. I didn’t catch much of it, though.
We were then split into little groups and ushered into various reed huts which I thought seemed cool, until we were sat down in a row and an old woman desperately tried to sell us cheaply made souvenirs. It was a bit awkward. Pretty quickly we exited the hut and the man who had talked to the group about the history of the islands was trying to herd us on to their reed boat (he called it the mercedes boat of love) to take us to the capitol island. For another fee. We were under the impression that what we had paid the guy on the mainland included the round trip fee and a visit to two islands. Hmmm, what did we miss? We decided to wait on this island and see what happened. Some of the other tourists chose to go on the native’s boat while some of us stayed behind. We were the only gringo tourists while the rest were Peruvians, I did catch one of them grumbling that it was “mas carro” which means “too expensive”. At least we weren’t the only ones feeling taken advantage of. We watched as the native used a 15 horsepower motor boat to slowly push the reed boat across to the other island. We settled in on the roof of the main boat, expecting to be stuck there for a while.
Eventually, the main boat took us to the capitol island anyway and we were able to exit the boat and explore for about thirty minutes. It was a tiny island with an overpriced restaurant and a filthy bathroom and a bodega with a few snacks. We all agreed the whole thing was a bit silly, but oh well, at least the weather was nice and we had a nice boat ride.
Once back on land we wandered to the center of the city and found some lunch, a little ice cream treat, and some more stickers for the bikes. We then decided to make our way back to the hotel to do some work on the bikes. Both Linus’ and my bikes had developed an annoying chirping sound, and Sam’s had just randomly quit on him in city traffic yesterday. Linus and I decided to walk back while the others took a tuk tuk. Yes, the tuk tuks and crazy drivers are back. On the walk back, we ended up on the hair cutting street. As Linus hadn’t cut his hair since August, he decided to enquire. For less than $3 he could get a cut. Why not? It actually ended up being a better cut than his $10 cache valley cut, and the girl was super nice.
It was nice to walk back to our hotel through the less touristy parts of the city. We both agreed we find it more interesting and satisfying to see how the locals live. Once back at the hotel, Linus showed me how to remove various parts of the outside of my bike and after doing this, tightening some screws, testing the bike, still hearing the noise, and repeating the process, we solved the problem. I ended up taking the front faring off and tightening the metal casing around the headlight. Voile! No more deafening high pitched squeak to drive my OCD ears nuts.
Tomorrow we head around the lake to cross into Bolivia by Copacabana. Hopefully it won’t be quite a trap as today’s excursion. But if it is, I am confidant it will quickly become a distant memory as we venture into the crazy roads of Bolivia!