From Cusco, we headed to Puno on an overnight bus after half a day of running around and changing our itinerary. I was really nervous that we would never get to see Machu Picchu but I was also really excited for Lake Titicaca! The overnight bus via Cruz del Sur was really nice and comfy–the seats almost reclined all the way too, which was a huge plus.
We got to the Puno bus station at 4:30am and immediately realized how cold it was (the city’s elevation is over 12,000 feet). Only carrying our day packs with clothes originally for the warm Machu Picchu climate, Megan and I pretty much put on everything we brought with us. When we walked into the bus station, were were surrounded by a crowd of people trying to sell us tours. Luckily, we needed a day tour so for 35 soles each (less than $13 USD), we booked an all day boat tour that would take us to Uros (the floating islands) and Taquile on Lake Titicaca. The shuttle picked us up at 6:30am from the bus station and took us to the edge of the lake.
Then we got on the boat and it took us about an hour to arrive at the floating islands. The floating island we visited was very small, only housing about 4 families.
On the island, we got a see a demo of how the island is constructed. Since the island is built from reeds, when you step onto it from a boat, your feet instantly sink a few inches into the ground. The Uros also use the same reeds to build boats and huts for the island. In the demo, we learned that their reed boat is considered the “Mercedes-Benz” of the island.
The textiles are beautiful on these islands. Bright colors and tapestries that tell the story of the floating island. If you buy a textile from a particular family, the money goes directly to that family. But if you take a ride on one of the reed boats for 10 soles, that money goes into a community fund that’s used when families can’t afford something on their own such as medical expenses. The community fund can also be used to help maintain parts of the island.
There are also a bunch of kids running around, and it’s so adorable. I wanted to play with them all day! One little girl was really into my notebook and pen so when we left the island, I ended up leaving my pen and a few pieces of paper so she could draw some more. It was also really sweet to see her sharing the pen/paper with all of the other kids on the island too. They were soooo cute…
After playing with the kids a little longer, we left the floating island and cruised the lake for another 45 minutes until we got to the island of Taquile. Home to about 3,000 people, Taquile is a quaint little island that overlooks the Bolivia side of Lake Titicaca.
We hiked up to the top of the island and had the most amazing panoramic view of the lake. It was such a gorgeous day! Then we meandered through a room filled with beautiful textiles (this island is known for their colorful textiles) and gathered as a group for lunch. UM, LUNCH. We got to eat trucha (trout) from the lake itself! So delicious. We also had a bowl of quinoa vegetable soup which was some of the best soup I’ve ever had.
The people of Taquile still dress in traditional attire. The clothes that each individual wears says a lot about them as well. Leaders wear multi-colored hats, single men wear hats that are half red and half white, married men wear hats that are completely red, single women wear bright garments, and married women wear darker clothing.
The island community is also based on collectivism. There are no jails, court houses, or police on the island. You simply obey the rules or you must leave the island. One of the rules that stuck out to me the most was that if you see a friend working, you must stop and help them until the job is finished. Another interesting one is that you only take as much land as you and your family need. If your family grows, you either move to a bigger house or the community helps build another room in your existing home. Even the restaurants here adopt the community’s values, all offering the same exact menu for the same prices so they don’t compete against each other.
When we finished our tour of the main area of the island, we made our way down the hill’s steep steps back to our boat. Throughout the entire walk down, textiles, bracelets, and other souvenirs are laid out about every 10 feet so you can grab a couple of items before you leave. And how can you say no when someone like this is asking you to buy a bracelet….
You just can’t. I bought so many bracelets here.
Shortly after we got on the boat, we learned that it would be about 2.5 hours until we got back to Puno. Since Megan and I didn’t sleep much during our overnight bus ride the night before, we passed out on the boat. Yes, we should have stayed awake and admired the lake more…but that nap…was. so. glorious.
When we got dropped off at the bus station, we had a few hours to hang out until our next over night bus ride at 10pm back to Cusco. Although we only visited Puno and Lake Titicaca for less than 24 hours, the amazing day spent on the lake was definitely worth the trip!
Next stop MACHU PICCHU! :)
[Normal blog posts will resume in 2 weeks but there will be a fun recipe on Thursday!]