We arrived in Arequipa, but only spent a night there so made the early bus the next day to Puno, which is the town that sits on Lake Titicaca. It only took 7 hours and caught us out, as we thought it was a 9 hour journey. It went pretty quickly as we were right at the front upstairs so got a great view of the mountains. It rained most of the way though.
We got to Puno at around 9.30pm and realised we has arrived right in the middle of something big! We managed to get a taxi after a while, but when we got close to the centre of town, we came to a stand still…right in the middle of a carnival! We couldn’t move at all! We saw men running with huge trumpets and women dashing in heels waving huge flags and boys selling drinks at every angle. We crawled slowly and the taxi driver pointed that we are close the hotel. It took us another 10 minutes to crawl a little bit closer, then we grabbed our bags and tried to weave our way through the throngs of cheering locals whilst grapeling with our backpacks and dragging Jack through the crowds! It was amazing! We checked in and went upstairs. Hadn’t
eaten all day we hoped to order a bit of room service, but that was a bit optimistic! We watched the street party for a bit then tried to sleep to the music, bands, partying noise out on the streets and woke up to it still going!
In the morning, Coca leaves were there to make coca tea even before breakfast. Richard had a few, I had one cup, not really knowing how many leaves to put in! I switched to coffee, well…nescafe and a few bits of fruit. We heard and saw the carnival passing our window and ran out to see it! Before we knew it, we were caught up in the crowds again and found ourselves miles from the hotel. No sunscreen, no water, just money and sunglasses! At least I had my Colombian hat!
We followed and cheered and joined in the carnival for a few hours. It was so colourful, energetic and noisy! The old guys were given shots of Pisco, the Peru spirit. It was just past 9am, and we realised they had been going all night! Pisco keeps you going along with coca tea!!
We walked down to the Lake which meant following the old train tracks. We saw thousands of carnival dancers practising off the route, having lunch, or getting changed. 20 minutes later we reached the pier on Lake Titicaca. We passed all the tourist shops and avoided hawkers etc. We saw a boat looking like it was about to leave and saw that the locals were paying S/10 each, so we bought a ticket and got onboard. Not knowing where, how or when we were going. The boat ride took us through reeds that had been cleared and soon we saw the beginning of life on the water… it was an amazing sight! We first got pelted with a water balloon from kids on boats, then we saw the first of the floating islands, called Uros Islands. There was a full on football match with spectators, goal posts, strips and what was clearly a little party going on! Right next to it, I almost missed it, but it was a girls volleyball match! Net, uniforms, teams the lot! All on this floating island! As we came round the corner, we saw all the floating islands. We saw traditional reed boats, families on speedboats and loads of solar power panels on top of the reed houses on the islands,
Our boat stopped at one the islands, and we got off with another 8-10 people. The Chief wanted us to look around first and then he explained that there is always 7 families on an island. Each house is built of reeds, slightly elevated from the floor and has a bed and a bench made from tightly wrapped reeds.
The Chief explained why the Uros people came out to live on Lake Titicaca and how they made the islands. They were hiding from the Spanish invaders and took boats to hid underneath the reeds. They realised that after a while they could knit the reeds together to make a floating island and then they expanded. They just keep adding the reeds each time they disintegrate into the lake and they underneath of the islands are at least a metre think with reeds and what looks like mud packed together.
We spent a few hours on the island, got extremely burned and dehydrated and headed back on the same boat to Puno. Without realising, as we sat on the outside deck on the boat and got pelted again with water balloons (we learned later that it is water fight carnival in Peru at this time also) Richard got burned to a crisp in the blazing sun at altitude. Jack smartly, sat inside downstairs chatting to a Taiwanese girl we met on the island. Richard resembled a very red burst tomato for a good week after!
Loving Puno, we headed back and took in more of the carnival, watching a much younger crew dancing some hip hop style of dance with a lot of whistles, more like a 90ties rave than a traditional Peruvian dance!