Puno – City by the lake Titicaca
After a visit to the White City of Arequipa, we headed towards Bolivia. On the border of Peru and Bolivia, there is the largest lake in South America – Titicaca. We decided to stay for a while on the peruvian side of the lake, in Puno. The town itself is not very attractive, but by pure luck, we ended up in the middle of the festival. The streets were crowded with dancers and instumentalists. The parade was in the full swing and one colourful group after another was marching across the main square – Plaza de Armas. The music and dancing took over the city.
We found a fantastic place to eat, a cevicheria called Las Mareas. Restaurants like this one specialize in the national delicatessy – ceviche. The place was full of locals and the food was affordable and amazing. We felt in love with this special, peruvian way of preparing fish during our first few days in Peru while staying in Lima. In the evenings, the streets of Puno turned into a market and fruit and vegetable were sold from the piles, on the street. The traditional snacks in this area are quinoa crispy pancakes with honey. You can get them for 1csol (0,3$), what a treat!
The Uros Islands
This side of the Titicaca Lake is famous due to peculiar, floating grass islands called Uros. People who live there are descendents of the tribe that long ago escaped to the lake from the expanding Inca Empire. Today, they speak their own unique language, different from quechua. During our trip, we navigated among hundreds of floating islands with grass huts build atop.
Everyday life of the islanders
After cruising around for a while, we made a stop on one of the islands. We were welcomed by the colourfully dressed locals. Each island is inhabitated by a few families and each one has its own president. On the island that we visited, this honour was held by a middle-aged lady. She told us some stories about everyday life on the island and how they were build. They usually spend time maintaining the islands’ construction and fishing. Later on the dried fish is traded for fruit and vegetable, in Puno. Women are often busy making traditional clothes. They are often decorated with the scenes from the local mithologhy, where Mother Earth plays the biggest part.
One island can be visited not more often than twice a week. There is some controversy around it and some tourists see theses visits as a “human zoo”. We absolutly loved our stay and we felt the citizens of Uros really wanted to share their culture and experiences with us.
Uros Island floating away towards… Bolivia
The traditional mean of transport are the boats made entirely from grass. You need to pay 10 soles for a ride. The locals told us that they need money to buy medicine, educate thair children and buy ropes, otherwise they are going to float away to Bolivia. We belived them because we saw how modest their lives are. This tiny bit of luxury – a radio powered by the solar battery, did not changed our impressions. We felt like we were visiting a totally different civilization.
Peru to Bolivia by bus
The next day, we left for Bolivia. The bus took us to the border, where we had to disembark and walk through the control points. It was not long and soon enough we were in a whole new country. The bus continued to Copacabana on the shore of the Lake Titicaca. The town was very small and, although we had only an hour to walk around (because we had to catch a bus to La Paz), we were satisfied with what we saw. We walked by the beach and had some amazing coffee at the irish cafe called El Condor.
A brief stop in La Paz
On our way to La Paz we had a ferry crossing. The bus could bearly fit on a barge and we were transported seperetly on a small boat. We made it safely across but it all felt a bit dangerous. La Paz is wonderfully located in a basin, surrounded by mountains, but the closer we got the less atractive it became. We heard it is a bit dodgy and unsafe city, so we only planned a quick transfer at the bus terminal. After 2 hours of waiting, we departured onboard the night bus towards Uyuni. New exciting and incredible places were waiting us not far away!