Today I go to Peru! We left Copacabana at 8am to drive the 15kms to the Bolivian/Peruvian border. We were told this land crossing could take anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours depending.... I was more concerned that the officials would give me a hard time about lack of space in my passport since it's pretty much totally full of stamps. Everything went very smoothly and the whole group managed to exit Bolivia and enter Peru in under an hour, bonus!
The boarder crossing, as always I suspect, was interesting. Full of people and life, it was a Sunday so there were markets on both sides of the boarder and many marching bands playing their tunes, it made for a lively and noisy experience.
After the crossing we drove just two hours around the lake shore of Titicaca to Puno. Puno as the Rough Guide correctly states "will not win any beauty awards", it's an ugly looking town, but we are just here for one night. We checked into the hotel at 11am (thank god this one is clean) and it's a family run affair and so far the staff have been lovely.
After being given a couple of hours to get some lunch we were to meet the group at the hotel reception to go to the Uros Islands. Betsy, Evey (a quiet Dominican girl in the group who lives in New York) and myself found a local place and had chicken soup for lunch, it was pretty tasty and only $3, I just prayed the kitchen was clean and we wouldn't get sick.
The trip leaders had a surprise for us, to get to the port (where we would be catching a boat out to the Uros Islands) they had organized bicycle taxis (kind of like rickshaws). We paired up and it was fun as the Peruvian peddlers all tried to race each other to get there first. At the port we took a pretty nice boat ride out to the islands made of reeds where the native inhabitants lived.
To be honest I was a little disappointed with the whole Uros Island experience since it is now over run with tourists and it felt rather disneyfied and staged. The group all felt very rushed through the explanations of how the islands were built and how the people lived on them. One reason for this may have been the local wedding that was going on, it seemed our island hosts were perhaps keener to get back to the wedding celebrations that attend to us. Can't say I really blame them.
One funny moment however was when the group piled onto what was described as the "Mercedes Benz" of boats. A large raft type boat made of reeds, with a ladder up to a seating area and two magnificent puma heads on the front of the boat. One of the ladies from the island and an extremely drunk old man were supposed to row us around the islands in exchange for an additional S10 per person ($3). Unfortunately for them the winds were too strong and the old drunk man too useless (really does seem like the women do all the work in these communities ) so after being blown off course onto another island we had to be rescued by a motor boat. We all thought this was extremely funny but the lady started to cry, it was noted however that she soon cheered up when we all still paid her for the crappy boat ride.
We had a group dinner that evening which was great fun since we ordered two guiena pigs for our starters, these are a local delicacy and are cooked slow roasted on a spit. I also had my first pisco sour in Peru and I can see these getting quite addictive :) The group has really bonded and it was a lively dinner.
On the way home half the group ended up in a Peruvian disco as the outside sign had incorrectly labeled the venue a karaoke bar. We stayed regardless, ordered some beers and watched with amusement the vertically challenged and very drunk locals continue to drink until the equally short bouncers threw them out. I don't think I've actually ever seen as many REALLY drunk people in a disco anywhere.