We had the pleasure of spending one day in Puno, after another long bus ride, this time coming from Cusco. We arrived in Puno at 5:00 AM and luckily got a room upon arrival.
FREE TIP!!! For these bus rides that arrive in the morning, have one person get the bags and have the other go and get in line right away at the hotel/hostel. Both times we arrived super early, the place we are staying had a room ready before 6:00 AM. The first time, people in front of us got the room so we had to wait for our check-in time at 1:00 PM, whereas the second time we were the first ones in line so we got a room right away at 5:30 AM. And trust us, you want a room at 5:30 AM!
After a much needed nap, we walked around the small city that sits right on Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world with an elevation of 3,812 m (12,507 ft). Unfortunately, their Plaza de Armas was under construction so we didn’t get to see that. We ended up eating some lunch and walking along the coast for awhile before our tour took off.
Our tour was about a 20 minute boat ride which took us to the Floating Islands that the Uru people occupy. Our guide informed us that, surprisingly, over 2,200 people live on these islands that are made entirely of reeds that grow in the lake.
We had the opportunity to land on one of these islands and have an explanation of how these islands are built, how the houses are built and essentially how they survive. It truly was fascinating and the amount of work that goes into these islands is staggering. To ensure these islands, with their homes on them, stay afloat, they have to apply a new layer of reeds every 14 days because the old layers get wet and bogged down.
One note on these islands. They are kept afloat (pun intended) nowadays by tourism, meaning the second you get off the boat they are looking to sell different items. You split off into groups and are taken into their homes where they show you the items their families have made. I am still making fun of Caitlin because I got up and left right when their talk was done and sure enough Caitlin emerges from the hut with a pillow cover.
The people then take you on their boat made entirely of these reeds, which are kept floating by thousands of pop bottles. This costs about 10 sols per person.
My favorite part was when the boat captain’s daughter, who is probably four years old, started singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and a couple of other nursery rhymes in about five different languages. When she was done she walked up to each person, held out her hand and we were expected to pay. We enjoyed the trip and nothing is a back breaking expense, but just be prepared for some serious guilt to be laid upon you. We have a pillowcase to show for it :).