Our final stop on Peru´s conveyor belt of tourism was to Puno. Puno is right next to Lake Titicaca, which Peru and Bolivia both claim to be the world´s highest navigable lake. Other countries dispute this, but Lake Titicaca, its islands, and the indigenous people who live here are truly a marvel.
We arrived on Monday before Election Day, so our requirements for a place to stay were simple: a room with CNN, hot water, and toilet paper. Any of these criteria can be hard to meet on its own in Peru, but luckily we found our way to Don Tito´s Inn and got exactly what we wanted.
After making some arrangements for our island cruise, Ravi and I checked out the Puno Day Festival. Apparently, the local Oruru people gather in traditional garb and dance in a parade around the town. It´s a big deal, but after a while, visitors get the sense that every group has the same dance, and every band plays a variation of the same theme. Perhaps this is a display of unity, or maybe symptoms of a limited repertoire, but the spirit of the festival was fun for sure.
Tuesday morning, the 4th, we left bright and early on a day trip to two island systems within Lake Titicaca.
The first, Islas Uros, or ¨Floating Islands¨ were actually quite cool. Apparently a millenium-plus ago, this group of people were sick of being attacked and instead manipulated reeds that grew naturally in the Lake so that a meter or two of old reeds would sit on the bottom and float, and newer reeds on top. The structure was strong enough not only to hold people, but houses and, hence, their entire civilization.
A few of these floating islands were open to tourists and we got to witness the interesting lifestyle of these people.
The second island was Isla Taquile. I wasn´t a big fan. Didn´t feel that it had much to offer the average outsider. It is a decent-sized island, full of old Inca-era terraces, and a hole-in-the-wall town square. We walked around for a bit, had lunch, and hopped back on our boat to Puno, taking nearly 3 hours.
Luckily we arrived just before a bad, though short-lived storm hit Puno, with horrible winds and wicked downpour. The worst part was that, when we returned to our hotel room to begin our election night vigil in front of CNN, the cable was out! After some panicking, the cable did shortly come back and we were up until the wee hours watching returns and speeches on that historic night.
We left early again the next morning for our bus to Copa Cabana, Bolivia. And as we crossed the border, were hit with an infuriating $135 entrace fee each, just for Americans, due to the rosy relationship between our two governments. That totally was a bummer!