We arrived in Puno just in time for dinner, so we checked into our hotel and headed out to explore the town. There is a main street, Libertad, with a lot of bars & restaurants along it which was located very close to our hotel, so we strolled along the street with our group until we found something we liked. There were no Peruvian restaurants along the street, which was quite ironic, so we wound up at a pizzeria named Ekeko’s. The pizza was better than I thought it was going to be & the serving was so large I could barely finish it. At one point, a three piece band came in and played traditional Peruvian music which was a nice touch.
The following morning, we woke up relatively early to hop onto the front seat of a three wheeled bike named a triciclo for a ride to the port for our day out on Lake Titicaca.
We boarded our private boat where we learned a bit about the lake on our way to the first stop. The lake is shared between Bolivia and Peru, so we stayed on the Peruvian side for the entirety of the day. It is South America’s largest freshwater lake & is known as the highest lake in the world at over 3,800 meters above sea level! Lake Titicaca and some islands within it are home to some more withdrawn sects of Peruvians, but some of which opened their arms proudly to show us their cultures. Our first stop was the “floating islands” which are unlike anything I have ever seen before. The islands are actually not islands at all, but floating land made out of reeds. Home to the Uru people, the locals construct the islands out of reeds themselves. They stack reeds on top of each other to the point where they float and can build structures like huts on top to live in before anchoring the island to the bottom of the lake. It was one of the most unique places I have ever been. Not only did we learn how they make their islands, but we learned about their culture, heard their local woman sing us a song, and were told stories about how islands are literally cut in half when people do not get along. The people were so proud to show off their culture and the art they make – I purchased a gorgeous tapestry made by hand.
After touring the island, we were invited to take a trip on one of the grand boats they make out of reeds. It was very impressive and is propelled by two people as if they were riding a bike.
After our excursion, it was time to leave the Uru people and board our group’s boat to head to our next destination, Taquile Island. It was here that I really began to notice the affect the altitude made on my body. We arrived at the shore and had to climb up 150 meters on uneven, rocky stairs. This took a lot out of some people, but also affected me quite a bit. I was huffing and puffing by the time I made it to the top, but wasn’t the last one there. It was something that, if you took your time there would be no problem getting up there, but when you are with a group and rushed it was taxing on the body. Once we made it up to the top of the island, we were rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of Lake Titicaca – the water was so blue.
We were told about their people’s culture – including that children are encouraged to live together before marriage as a trial period. If, after this period, they decide that they do not want to get married there is no penalty and they continue to seek a suitable mate. If someone is married, they always wear a red hat & if they are not, they wear a white hat. The people of the island are known for their handwoven textiles, so we were shown how they make their dye and textiles.
After the learning experience, we went to a local person’s house and were treated to a delicious dinner with fresh ingredients grown on the island. The backdrop of lunch was a stunning view of Lake Titicaca.
After lunch, the townspeople set up a volleyball court for our group to play against them. Despite their short stature, they demolished Team Contiki!
We then walked down a ramp along the water back to our boat. The sunlight hitting off of the water made for stunning pictures.
Then we boarded our boat and watched the sunset over Lake Titicaca as we went back to Puno!
After we arrived back in Puno, we went to a dinner theater style show where we ate traditional Peruvian food while people performed traditional music and danced in traditional Peruvian attire.
We were all exhausted after dinner, so we decided to head back to the hotel for the evening.