The following morning saw us getting up at stupid o'clock to catch a bus from Arequipa to Puno. A number of people (including our tour leader!) were still drunk, so the bus ride was...interesting. It was also filled with truly terrible movies, including The Game Plan, in which The Rock discovers he has a kid. Really quality stuff.
Our first afternoon in Puno mostly consisted of food, if I remember correctly. And an awful lot of television. The following morning, we piled into pedal trikes and headed for the docks. I'm fairly certain our trike driver nearly died of a heart attack through overexertion getting us there.
|Super flattering photo. Except not.|
From there, we boarded a boat and headed out the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. The floating islands are really nifty. For starters, they FLOAT. And the Uros people live on them! Just bobbing around with a shit ton of water underneath you. Kind of like a boat, only it's a giant boat that's made of stuff that decomposes pretty quickly... The islands are made out of the local reeds with peat underneath, and they're anchored to the floor of the lake. The local people showed us around, and gave us some of the local barley bread to try. Along with the reeds they use to build the islands. They taste like celery (aka DISGUSTING)...
|Demonstration of how they build the islands.|
We then had a trip on a reed boat to another island, which caused me to panic that the entire thing (the boat, not the island) was going to fall apart under my body weight and I would drown in Lake Titicaca. Logic: sometimes, my brain lacks it.
|The boat in question|
Unsurprisingly, the boat was completely sturdy and made the trip without any problems at all. On the second island, we got back on a boat that had a motor and allowed us to be more than 2 feet from the water, and had a trip of several hours to Amantani Island, where we were to have an overnight homestay. Upon arrival at Amantani, we were divided into groups. Ness, Sydney Sider, and I met our host mum, and attempted to make small talk via the A5 sheet of paper we'd been given listing various Quechua phrases. It did not go particularly well...
She took us back to the house and showed us to our room. Soon, her 11 year old daughter came home from school, and attempted to make conversation with us in Spanish. We'd done some basic phrasebook type Spanish before leaving Australia, but being able to order beer or ask for the bill really doesn't help that much in a homestay situation... Especially when Spanish is a second language for both sides of the conversation. #AWKWARDTURTLE
After a lunch of quinoa soup, potatoes and grilled cheese (YUM!), we were taken up to the local soccer pitch. Playing soccer at altitude is not an enjoyable task. Or so I hear - I was having trouble breathing just from walking up the hill to the soccer pitch, so I sat on the sidelines and
Following the soccer playing (or lack thereof), it was time for a 'little' walk. Trying to climb a mountain at altitude is not fun at the best of times. But when you're being followed by a small child playing Frere Jacques (badly) on the panpipes? That kid was lucky he didn't get punched in the face... From the top of Pachatata, you could see clear across the lake to Bolivia, and we got to see a pretty spectacular sunset/moonrise:
Back at the house, we had dinner and met the rest of the family. This included a toddler, whose name we never learnt but who we nicknamed Squealie due to her...exuberant nature. After dinner, our host mum came into our room and assisted us in putting local costumes on over our clothes. There were many many layers involved, and I ended up with a super attractive boob shelf.
|I conveniently don't have a photo of myself in this attire.|
So here's one of Ness instead. Sorry Nessa...
Then it was a walk up another giant hill (in the dark!) to a dance with every tourist on the island. Turns out? Running around a room in some kind of conga line for fifteen minutes at a time AT ALTITUDE? Not real fun. Well. It WAS fun. It was just hard to breathe by the time we finished. After a few hours of "Oh God, I can't breathe", it was back to the house, where we passed a freezing cold night under about a hundred layers of bedclothes.
The following morning, the three of us bade a fond farewell to our host mum and Squealie (the others already being at school/work), and the entire group boarded a boat back to Puno. We had the afternoon to ourselves and, as someone had a copy of the Lonely Planet, a few of us decided to check out their recommended sights in Puno.
One was a total waste of time, but the other? That featured a statue of the first Inca, and a pretty spectacular view:
Next up, travelling from Puno to Cusco, a whole bunch of historic stuff, and our group gets some exciting new additions. (And when I say 'exciting', I mean 'batshit crazy'...)