How to Visit Puno, Peru in Two-Days

Continuation of Leaving the jungle... 

 On Sunday afternoon, Mitra and I boarded a fancy Cruz del Sur bus in Arequipa on route to Puno.  A friend had advised that we take the VIP tickets in place of the economy, despite the $5 USD price difference.  We were so glad we had.  Huge reclining chairs with so much leg space, personal touch-screen TVs, pillows and fancy blankets.  We, however, were disappointed by the food service. I thought we'd be offered beverages multiple times on the 6.5 hour flight and I intended to get my money's worth. But, we were only offered once and only received a roll with queso fresco and a cookie as the meal :(  Now that's one thing, but for some reason we both had the understanding that we would get a meal and a snack so we didn't bring any food with us ---> hanger. 

ok, you can't tell how nice it was but this is the bus.

 We arrived in Puno around 9 pm (starving) and stepped out into the freezing cold night weather.  When we made it back to Mitra's new apartment, we both began to feel the altitude. Her apartment is not properly insulated and doesn't have a heating system, meaning it gets colder inside than outside at times. Also, apparently altitude makes your digits (ha) tingly... so we had very tingly fingers and toes the first 2 days. 

 Monday morning we slept in, after a long trip and not having slept super well in Arequipa, and because our bodies were acclimating.  Mitra's kind co-worker (she works for the same NGO as me :) ) showed us around the neighborhood and directed us to a place for lunch.  After lunch, we walked down to the lake that Puno is best known for.  Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake and home to an old traditional community of Peruvians. The Uros are a cultural group who build their homes and schools floating on the water, using soil and straw layers.

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The floating islands made of straw

 Tuesday we walked to a mirador (lookout point) on top of a mountain in the city.  I wish we had timed how long it took us to walk to the top, because about 1,000 stairs plus being the second day in high altitude was a doozy.  We had to stop after every maybe 10 stairs to catch our breath. It was bad.  But, the hard work makes the view at the top even better, right?

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View of Puno and Lake Titicaca from above the Condor

 In the afternoon, Mitra's boss was kind enough to take us with his friend who used to be a tour guide, to an archeological site.  It's called Sillustani, and is an old cemetery site of both pre-inca cultures and the incas. I really enjoyed it and felt like I learned a lot about Peru and the cultural history.  I even learned some Quechua ;) 

 The pre-Inca and Inca belief systems hold that the Sun is God, and their construction directly reflects that. The tombs all face the rise of the sun, and are built high up on the mountain to be as close to the sun as possible. People say that even on the cloudiest day, there is always a ray of sun hitting the top of this mountain.  Fun fact: the prevailing brand of matches in Peru is called Inti --> Inti is the Quechua word for Sun :) 

 I found that people down in Arequipa and Puno speak much much slower and more clearly than in Iquitos.  I had no trouble understanding people and could clearly pick out the words I didn't know and ask for a definition. It also seemed that people understood my spanish much better than people around here. They certainly interact with more foreigners down there than here, plus a lack of accent I think makes a big difference. I was really on the border about going to Puno because it was pretty out of the way, expensive to get in/out of, and I didn't have any winter clothes with me. Not only am I glad that I went, but I want to go back!!

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View of Lake Umayo from Sillustani :)

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 Other differences between Arequipa/Puno and Iquitos include the difference in economic status. Using availability of change as a proxy for SES (lol), I have to conclude people are, as a whole, much better off down there. In Iquitos, you better have exact change for everything, because no one ever has change. I have tried to pay for a 2 sole moto ride with a 5 sole coin and been told they don't have change for that.  But this past weekend, Mitra was able to change several 100 and 50 soles bills! Even with taxi drivers and on the streets! I was so surprised. The only way to get change for a 100 soles bill in Iquitos is to go to the grocery store and spend 20 soles, haha   

 Now back to that Chirapa life


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