We arrived by bus into Puno on Sunday evening and settled into our Hotel, Plaza Major. It is a soulless place and seen better days but the room was a good size with a very large bed and plenty of hot water.
Puno itself is not a place to take to your bosom. I did not find it had any charm but Debbie was less critical. It seems to serve only as route in and out of Lake Titicaca so numerous travel agencies fill the streets. It has the usual mandatory Plaza de Armas complete with large church and tourist restaurants but not much besides.
We ended up having an enforced day of rest because I was struck down with a dodgy tummy from some questionable local delicacy and ended up asleep most of the day. However, it allowed Debbie to write up last week`s travel blog while I lay dying.
The following morning we were up early to visit islands on the lake. The Floating Islands of Uros were fascinating. They were originally constructed by locals trying to flee the Inca conquerors, disappearing into the reeds and living from hunting birds and fishing. Today they are mostly a tourist attraction but people still live there in reasonable numbers, though the young are leaving to work in the city. The island we visited had 3 families on it. It was about 30m by 20m, made entirely from reed, and was about 2 metres thick. It is anchored to the lake bed (20m below) by ropes and the inhabitants have to add reeds continually to the surface to stay above water. Their homes are simple, one room affairs in which the whole family sleeps and, I imagine, it is a damp and insect infested existence.
We then went on to Isla Taquile, a two and a half hour boat trip. Or so it was supposed to be as the engine gave up the unequal struggle after an hour and we spent a pleasant time floating about whilst the jump jockey of a driver swore loudly and spanked the engine with a spanner. Meanwhile, loads of other boats lumbered past unconcerned at our predicament. When eventually jump jockey decided that his engine had completely expired, we were forced to wave towards other craft in the hope of rescue and, in time, another boat, full of French, stopped to take us aboard. How humiliating being rescued by the cheese eating surrender monkeys!
Taquile, has pre-Inca ruins and extensive Inca terracing on the side of it`s hill that is still used for farming. It has a small village with a large square where there is a co-operative shop that sells good quality woollen goods but at a price. The entire Island is run on a co-operative system in which everyone is expected to work partly for themselves and mostly for the community and keep strictly to the rules. There is a hierarchy, of course, so some Islanders are more equal than others. There is also a strict dress code to distinguish between the unmarried and married and some hybrid fashion for widows and widowers. As a man, you cannot become an Elder unless you are married and as a woman you cannot become anything (other than a mother and workhorse). It is possible for a couple to live together unmarried, and even have babies, but only for 3 years and the male is free to end the relationship at any time. The babies are then expected to be cared for by the girl`s parents. Well it all seems to work, so good luck to them.
Transport does not seem to be our forte at the moment because, not only was the spare boat sent to pick us up the slowest in the world (getting us home well after dark), but the bus to Cusco managed to add one and a half hours onto a five hour journey. There are no road signs in Peru and it is impossible to know if the distance to the destination is one mile or a hundred miles. Patience is a virtue.