We left for Puno, Peru on Ben’s birthday. We caught the 9am bus and it was a 3.5 hour trip. The border crossing didn’t take too long and we hummed along next to Lake Titicaca. Crossing to Peru meant a time change back an hour, so Ben had a 25 hour birthday. Puno has a population of 110,000 and is known for its access to the floating islands. On the day we arrived we walked around the city and found a nice cafe that sold empanadas. Then we checked into our accommodation. I had booked Ben and I into a five star resort on the lake for his birthday. The Libertador looked like something out of a James Bond film. It was large, white and obtrusive and had it’s own island near the shore of the lake. When we checked in we were given a cup of tea at reception and given a “sunrise” room. The room itself was very nice, with a bed even Ben couldn’t reach the sides in and all the treats of a fancy hotel.
We went into town that afternoon and went to the lookout. The taxi couldn’t make it up the pot-holed road, so we ended up walking up seventeen flights of stairs. The altitude that we had forgotten about reared its head again. We spluttered and gasped our way up, coughing up a lung on the way. The view from the top was lovely. Then we headed back to the hotel to indulge in the spa and steam room facilities. We had dinner in the fancy restaurant at the hotel. Katie met us there and we opened a bottle of champagne. Ben had alpaca for dinner and we had creme brulee for dessert.
The following day we went on a kayak trip to the floating islands. It was just the three of us and two guides in a boat. This was a much more interesting way to get there, rather than the super-slow boats that most tourists take. We paddled through the reeds for about an hour. The islands are made of reeds and float on the water. The people first went into the reed back when the Spaniards were invading the area. They went to the reeds to hide, which was successful for them. Since then, the families chose to live on the floating islands in little houses and make a living from tourism. We looked around the islands, which were quite squishy to walk on. Then we dressed up in local clothing and pretended we were locals. There are markets everywhere on the islands where you can buy trinkets from the mainland. Kind of pointless really, but most tourists love it. We paddled around in a large reed boat to another island, then caught a boat back to Puno.
That afternoon Ben and I went back to the spa and the steam room for a relaxing evening. We had gotten used to living like kings and weren’t looking forward to going back to the $10NZD a night hostel dorm rooms (although the bank balance would appreciate it). We left Puno on the Inka Express. It’s a tourist bus, full of gringos, that takes you on the scenic route to Cusco. We stopped at five places along the way to look at museums, mountain lookouts, old ruins and churches. It made for a long trip, but was an enjoyable way to travel. We had our first experience of seeing Inca ruins and learning of the Quechua history.