At the airport I met José and Simona and we tried to get a Taxi to Perú. It was supposed to be cheaper than a bus and It actually is, IF you find 4 people to share a “colectivo”… after half an hour or so, the taxi driver found a Peruvian woman and we left Chile. After the usual formalities at the border, we arrived in Tacna, Perú. At the bus terminal, we realized that we are at the wrong one, so we got a taxi to the correct one (1€ for the three of us and a 10 minutes’ drive).
At the second terminal, we got our tickets (20 Soles ~ 7€) to Puno and a dinner with soup and main dish for 4.5 Soles (~1.5€)…
After we waited for 2 hours until 8pm, we went to our bus, which was not really the standard you are used to after traveling in Chile or Argentina. Because the bus didn’t have any heating (although promised), some women of the bus company offered us some warm jackets for the night, which we accepted thankfully, as they were for free and we didn’t know what t expect. The bus itself smelled a bit, the seats we had were a bit broken. Additionally we draw most of the attention on us, as we were the only foreigners in the bus. Anyway, after a bit of beer, the seats were sufficient to sleep in them.
Around 1 o’clock in the morning, we stopped and some police/custom guys entered the bus with some flashlights to search for something. They found this “something” in our rows, when we denied the question if the warm jackets were ours. They took them and wanted to go, when one of the women came and begged them, nearly crying, to leave the jackets here. We still don’t really know what happened, but we assumed it was some kind of trafficking business.
Apart from that, we arrived in Puno the next morning around 6 o’clock without any problems. After we got off the bus and got our stuff, we walked around the city to find our hostel, which was a bit more difficult than we thought, as the locals send us in different directions, every time we asked them.
Finally we arrived, got our beds and tried to get used to the height of 3800m. While I felt quite alright, apart from breathing problems after walking up and down the stairs, José felt pretty sick and Simona was also not too fine. So I relaxed in one of the hammocks on the roof in the sun and waited for them to recover. A bit later the height hit me as well…after all of us napped for some time and felt better around the early afternoon, we finally left the hostel to explore the city and see the Titicaca lake (Titi = puma; caca = grey).
After visiting some street markets, we went to the harbor, had some food and got a ticket for one of the boat, which go to the “floating Islands”. These are islands, build from grass and weed that float on the lake and accommodate some of the native people of the region. From the boat the whole scenery looked pretty interesting and we learned something about how the people there build their islands and how they live on them after we left the boat and gathered on one of the, but afterwards we found ourselves in one of the most strange and uncomfortable situation. Our group split up and each part joined one of the women who life there to visit their hut. Afterwards they showed us some hand-made, native-art- things (stiched pictures, bracelets, small figures of their gods) and tried to talk us into buying these things. In South America you get used to people offering their goods a bit more aggressively, but that was a weird situation, because we were more or less trapped on their island and they created a feeling of owing them something after visiting their homes and taking pictures. In addition “our” woman forced us to buy her stuff instead of the one next to her, which supported the feeling that they heavily depend on tourists buying things. In the end we bought a couple of pictures which ended up being around 2-3€ for each of us, but when we left, the feeling of being on a safari or in a zoo and visiting “native beings in their habitat” stayed.
After this “unique” experience, we bought our bus tickets to Cousco for the next morning to continue our trip and went back in the hostel to recover from the day and the really thin air.