Exceeded my expectations by miles!! Puno is amazing and I want to stay there for the rest of my life!! And can I just add that they have their tourism down pat!! Somehow they´re able to pull off 15 years of ´turismo vivencial´ while still conserving the authenticity of the town, people, and culture of the rural islands. Normally, when a town decides to do turismo vivencial, the town loses their authenticity and it becomes more of a show for the tourists rather than a real look into the life of the local.
Anyways, getting to Puno was a bit of an adventure. Normally, if one wanted to take a bus from Chivay to Puno it would cost $25! which in Peru, might as well be a million. The other option would be to take a 4 hour bus to Arequipa, then a 7 hour bus ride to Puno which would cost around S./32. Well in order to save money, we chose the third option. We had heard that if you take a bus going towards Cusco, there’s a place called the crossroads, which is where busses pay a toll and is in the middle of nooooowhhhheeerrrreeeeee. Once you are in the middle of nowhere, you need to start flagging down buses and find one that is going to Puno….all together costing us S./25. At the time we started the trip, we didn´t know where to get off the first bus, or even if this travel route was possible…it was all kind of through hear say. Turned out alright and we literally waited at the crossroads for about 2 minutes.
We signed up for a 2 day tour with a home stay on one of the islands (all food and accommodations included for S./60…not bad). We went to the floating islands first. There are actually villages and civilizations on man-made floating islands made out of a special kind of floating root!!! These islands have been there since the time of the Incas!!! After the floating islands, we took a 2 hour boat ride to the island we were going to stay on (the name slips my mind, but it starts with a T). On the shore we were greeted by a group of traditional women with their traditional dress on. They cooked lunch for us which (surprise surprise) was kenua soup and potatoes and a fried egg on top. Later on that day, we walked up to the two tallest hills on the island (about 13,300 feet) and watched the sun set over Lake Titicaca.
Later that night, our host families dressed us up in traditional ponchos and chullos for the guys and dresses for the girls to parade their new gringos around the island. This I am used to from living in the Colca, and it never gets old! Always a good time when you’re wearing a Peruvian poncho!! They brought us up higher on the island were they had a live Bolivian band playing and traditional dancing. The room was filled with about 150 tourists who were all dressed up in ponchos and dresses, lol. It was a sight to see.
Next day we headed to the neighboring island about an hour and a half away which was a functioning collective communist community. Something I have come to realize in Peru is how important the hats are. Whatever hat they are wearing will tell you what department, what district, what city, sometimes even what family they are from. On this island, the hat would tell you where they were on the governing hierarchy and if they were single or married. very interesting. What I loved most about Puno is a. the preserved culture and b. No one really tried to rip you off too badly. You would hardly ever come across beggars or people shoving their products in your face like you usually find in other very touristy areas around the world. Every one there is very tranquillo.
All in all, going to Puno for thanksgiving vacation was one of the best decisions I´ve made since being in Peru!! I highly recommend it to everyone that comes. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Miss you all.