First I arrive to Puno after an 8 hour night ride and wake up to see this as my view out of the bus window.
After rolling into town, I took a short walk only to run into a very kind couple I had met on the journey over. David and Ros absolutley brightened my evening with their enthusiasm towards my journey, especially the hand stand portion in which they partaked in!
I’m going to jump right into the purpose of my one night stay here in Puno, sounding just like it’s spelled is Lake Titicaca! Located on the border of Peru and Bolivia, about 3,811 meter above sea level, it’s the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. With man-made floating islands and several other occupied pieces of land, I thought a day trip was well worth my time.
The excursion started with a quick native music performance that led into a peaceful boat ride through this massive body of water. (By volume, it is the largest lake in South America).
Naturally, I got lucky and met a sweet couple from England that was all smiles and great fun to add to the day. Meet Sarah and Paul as we enjoyed the rooftop and attempted this tricky handstand. With limited space, a round surface completed with the rocking motion, she captured it on the first try!
Another power duo that brought me more inspiring conversation was Veronica from Ecuador and Harold from Columbia. Now residing in the states, they’re creating ways to support the youth abroad (look for her link soon!).
First stop is on of one of the many floating islands, home to about 2000 Uros. They live by fishing, weaving and now, tourism. As well as catching fish, they hunt birds such as seagulls, ducks and flamingos, and graze their cattle on the islets. They also run crafts stalls aimed at the numerous tourists who land on the islands each year. Although tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, it personally gave me mixed feelings about being there. Was this their choice or am I just one more set of footprints on their sacred land?
Stepping onto the floating island gave you the sensation of walking on a mattress or firm trampoline covered in thick straw. Whether or not the natives were thrilled to have company, they maintained gentle smiles as they welcomed us. We got a lesson on a Totora reed that is often eaten for iodine, can be used to treat hangovers and used in tea. When in pain, the reed can be wrapped around the wound for relief and if it is hot outside, they roll the white part of the reed in their hands and split it open, placing the reed on their forehead as it’s cool to the touch. It tasted like fresh celery and lettuce, yum!
I chose to stay back and check out the huts rather than taking the jaunt around in the traditional boat.
This is 18 year old Julia, a new mother that has lived her entire life on the island. I was so thankful that she was eager to sit and talk and even more joyful when she allowed her baby girl to reach out for me.
Another round with bright sights and kind people as we wrap up this stop.
After about an hour we headed for one of the largest islands called Taquile. Once you dock, it’s a solid climb to the central plaza for a gorgeous panoramic view. I hope the photos give you at least a partial idea of the incline that these natives live with everyday. Keep a lookout for the elderly man carrying stock up the hill behind me!
This is a ceremony happening in the center where the “leaders” gather and discuss issues in regards to the island. The hats represent the status of the men and the women are wearing garments that shows she’s married to a political figure.
Noon hits and we’re guided (by a local in sweet sneakers!) to our hill top lunch that is really in someone’s front yard! Here, the buildings make as homes, tienda’s and restaurants. Up, up we go again!
Take a seat, enjoy the view and meet Katrina and Emma. These friendly ladies were traveling here from England and made for great lunch dates! We were served quinoa soup and homemade bread with raw salsa. For the main dish, Trout that was caught that morning! There’s no electricity on the island, therefore they can’t keep fish for long resulting in the real use of the term “fresh catch of the day”. Dessert was hot tea made with coca and mint leaves.
Now for the photo tour of the walk down the other side of the hill.
The sky darkened as we made our way back to Puno.
Although today was uniquely entertaining, I’m already looking forward to my departure tomorrow. Returning to one of my favorite cities in South America… I’ll see ya soon Cusco!