Puno and Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca (spelled Titikaka down there) is the highest navigable lake in the world at a staggering 12,500 ft., and 922 ft. deep at the deepest point. One cannot see land at some points across the lake (3200 square miles is the surface area)… moral of the story: Lake Titicaca is HUGE. It’s apparently ranked 18th size-wise in the world. The lake was extraordinarily beautiful. An incredible difference from a lake of this type in Peru and one in the United States… were Lake Titicaca in the States, the pristine shorelines would no longer be pristine, but would all be over developed with high rises and hotels. Thank you, Peru, for keeping this magnificent lake pure.
Anyway, this part of the trip included a couple nights in Puno, a homestay on Amantani Island, a visit to the floating Uros Islands, and a lunch and stroll across Taquile Island. Oh, and if you ever visit Peru, skip Juliaca… it’s a shithole.
Our introduction to this part of Peru was driving through Juliaca, which thankfully, I had read up on before the trip. It made the other rundown parts of the country look luxurious. Note: Never stay in Juliaca… unless you like staying in the most crime-ridden parts of most larger cities.
We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived in Puno. The lake-side city was made up of closely packed buildings, but the roads were paved (an upgrade from Juliaca). We were unceremoniously dumped at the bus station, where we quickly discovered we would have to cab to the hotel, Balsa Inn. 7 soles took us on a zig zagged route there. Our room’s single window looked out into the hallway… awkward. But there was hot water and a large enough bed for two occupants. Score!
The next morning, a boat, the Bahia Azul, ferried us at a snails pace first to the Uros, manmade floating islands in the lake. Fascinating, but mostly for the benefit of tourists these days. They are made of an insane number of reeds. The “President” of one of the tiny, floating islands provided us with a few fun facts about the islands. This odd presentation included dolls and mini replicas of their huts.
Next we travelled to Amantani (also at a snails pace), where the group was split between numerous families for homestays. I cannot for the life of me recall the name of the family we stayed with, but I have never pretended I’m good with names. Second moral of the story: I really wish I had either kept up with my Spanish from high school, or else had practiced A LOT before visiting this unique country. Back to the trip… the homestay family only spoke Spanish, and the other 3 people staying with us in their home also spoke either fluent Spanish or spoke it exceptionally well. We felt quite awkward and out of place. However, the food the family provided us with was exceptional, and surprisingly healthy and fresh.
We hiked the island, which is made up of two similar peaks – Pachatata and Pachamama. It was a beautiful view of the enormous lake. Hell, every view was fantastic!
Third moral of the story: Puno is an easy place to plan one’s own trip, do NOT use Edgar Adventures, whom G Adventures contracts with. The company was subpar, our guide was an asshat, and the whole tour was poorly organized.
On our final night in Puno, my counterpart located a French-Peruvian fusion restaurant located just around the corner from our hotel. The style was intriguing in and of itself. Why not try it?! This culinarily-confused restaurant, with the less than impressive name of La Table del Inca, sat on a quiet street with a less than remarkable interior. However, once the staff finally gets their shit together and decides to wait on you, the food is stupendous. Now my typical American friends, don’t expect some gargantuan portion size like you’re used to. The portion size was small, but the food was astounding.
Upon exiting the magnificent restaurant, we discovered the thunder storm we had heard while devouring our meal was, in fact, something else entirely. This Georgia girl looked at her companion like he was completely mad. What the fuck (Sorry, Jesus) is thunder snow? There’s no way that’s a thing. Uncle Google to the rescue. One definition is as follows:
Thundersnow, also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thundersnowstorm, is an unusual kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain. It typically falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone.
While I don’t understand a lot of that, apparently some do. There wasn’t much snow, but the fact that even my scalp got sunburned on the boat today, and I was sweating profusely, the whole phenomena was astonishing. You learn something new everyday!
We spent our last day wandering Puno, shopping, bartering, and eating. That night, we took a shared van to the airport in Juliaca. Forth moral of the story: Do not use Edgar Adventures. Terrifying ride that included multiple jaunts into oncoming traffic on dark roads at high rates of speed for a bus. Yes, I’m repeating #3 because it is just that important.
We flew to Lima, where we proceeded to stroll across the street to our napping site before our final flight out of Peru. After a miserable wait in an hour line at the subpar Wyndham, we slept for 3ish hours before walking back to the airport.
Adios Peru…. You knocked off many bucket list items, and provided us with unbelievable memories.