We left Bolivia by bus to head into Peru. We only travelled a mile or so when we reached the border. Off we got. Had our passports stamped and back on the bus. Fifty yards later and it was off the bus to enter Peru. As we drove through the countryside it was difficult to see the join.
As we drove into Puno it looked like a holocaust scene. Rubble and half finished/half demolished buildings. Like so many of the places we have been the outskirts are awful but the town centre is quite nice. So it was with Puno. Our hotel was at the end of the main tourist street.
While we were on the bus a chap had got on and had offered us hostel accommodation and tours etc. Now off the bus he was helping to carry our bags and showing us to a bus desk while arranging a taxi. We booked a bus out of town for a couple of days later. We had thought about flying but it was way too expensive. Anyway our chap took us to a taxi and got in with us. At the hotel he helped us book in (not that we needed it). I gave him a tip but he looked a bit taken aback and said it wasn't necessary. He gave us a leaflet for the tour office he worked for and then left.
Lake Titicaca is part Bolivian and part Peruvian. 60%/40% depending on which country you are in. They both claim the 60%.We had come to the Peruvian side to visit the floating islands. We went to a tour office. Sadly not the one our chap had pushed. We booked a boat trip for 45 soles each, which is about £10. It was a day out visiting two islands. Later that evening we had a call from the tour office. Would we like to upgrade to a faster boat? Ok we said. The lady was insistent we didn't tell anyone else about the deal.
We were collected at 7am and driven to the port. There were about a dozen of us in the party and we had a motor launch to ourselves. Oswaldo was our guide. A very nice chap who spoke excellent English and had a great sense of humour. He was born in Puno, had spent 5 years doing a degree in tourism and clearly knew his stuff.
First stop on one of the islands. Having a fast boat we arrived long before the masses. We got lots of fascinating facts about the history of the island and its people. Then it was a walk across the other side and a chance to meet a couple of the locals. The island has a strong Spanish influence. The men do knitting and the women weave. We were shown some of the local textiles. Jill couldn't resist a hat. The colours they wear and the style of hats indicates who is married, who is looking and who is not interested. Next stop another island for lunch. Although the Spanish insisted everyone be Catholic the locals pick the bits they like and worship the sun and moon etc too. Lunch was cooked in a hole in the ground filled with hot bricks.
After lunch it was off to the floating islands. When the Incas and Spanish conquered the area the Uros people built house boats and lived on the lake amongst the reed beds. They were too much trouble to deal with so were left alone. Soon they built floating islands. These consist of large earth blocks held together with twine to form a base. They are then covered with reeds which they replace every few months with a fresh layer. Each family has its own island. They build reed houses to live in. In the past they made textiles and then traded them in Puno. They do still do that but tourists are now their main trade. They have a basic life but all seem really cheerful. It was a fascinating place to visit. Walking on the islands was like walking on a big sponge. Amazing in the 21st century.
Back in Puno we went for dinner. I'm a meat eater but am never too sure about things I've never eaten. This time it was alpaca. Lovely animals but no more or less than a sheep. So I thought it's a local dish let's try it. I had alpaca in an amaretto sauce. It was lovely. Very tender and zero cholesterol.
Next day and it was time to head to the bus terminal for a 21 hour trip to Lima. You get fed on board and have back to back crap movies. I slept well but am never completely relaxed hurtling through the night on mountain roads. On route we passed through Pisco where a massive earthquake devastated the town some years ago. It looked like a nuclear bomb had been dropped. A quite sobering sight.
We eventually arrived in Lima. After 21 hours my humour level is close to zero. Our bags were off loaded from the coach and taken into a small room with a counter. Four coaches had just arrived so it was total chaos. I tried to get our bags before they went inside but a large chap kept telling me to go inside. Trust me you couldn't get a fag paper in the room. I knew he couldn't speak English but I think my face said it all. Then a lady next to me let rip at him so he half backed away. I held up my ticket shouted 'Dos Mochillo signor' and pointed at our ruckies . I think my face said it all again as the chap behind the counter passed the bags to me. Now I didn't seem to be too popular with crowd. Time to leave said Zebedee.
Outside and in a cab. We were soon at our hostel. We have been to Lima before and it's ok but nothing special. We've used it as a pit stop before we do another mammoth bus ride to Ecuador.
Last little thing. In Bolivia and Peru most houses and shops look half built. Oswaldo explained that once you complete a building you have to pay a tax to the government. As usual people are smarter than politicians. They get permission to build a 3 storey building and only build 2. Nice house, no top floor and no tax to be paid. Oh and classic South America. We went to the airline office to price a flight. Empty office with two ladies behind desks. We walked up and started to talk. 'You need to take a ticket' said one. We looked puzzled. She came out and went to a small computer screen and printed a numbered ticket. She handed it to us and said' Have a seat'. Now we were allowed to talk. Go figure.