May 17, 2014 § 3 Comments
Leaving Cusco, I thought that I was done with my stomach bug. But a couple of hours in on my nightbus ride to Puno, I found out that I most definitely was not. And, let me tell you, being stuck on a bus without a real bathroom, way too many people, a stereotypical Peruvian bus driver (ie: sharp turns and fast speeds like there’s no tomorrow- I thought there wouldn’t be for a while), and that gross bus smell of people sleeping and coughing for seven hours is not fun. At all.
The only good thing I can say was that I randomly bumped into my Spanish Tent-Mate from the Salkantay Hike at the Cusco bus station, so I was comforted by the presence of a known soul on the floor above me on the bus. And had someone to borrow plastic bags and toilet paper from, whoo.
We got into Puno at around 5:30 AM, right as the sun was starting to come up. For two milliseconds, I saw the outline of the lake and the mountains on the horizon, and it was beautiful. Then, it was time to lunge into a taxi and drive to a random hostel and attempt to check in at 6 AM.
Thankfully, I managed to grab the last room at El Manzano and passed out for a couple of hours. Then woke up, moved up to a room with a private bathroom, and passed out again. In the afternoon, I decided that I migth quite possibly be dying, so I went to the tourist hospital. After several hours of waiting for the city’s doctors to pop into our clinic on their rounds and a whole list of medical procedures I’d much rather not get into detail about, I left with some stomach parasite analysis, two boxes of antibiotics, and four liters of a bright pink electrolyte drink to substitute for the IV cord (guess dehydration can get pretty serious). Eew.
BUT, despite all of this, I’m going to say something that I never thought I’d say: I’m happy to be in Puno!
Originally, I didn’t even want to spend a night here, just pass on through to Bolivia. I heard that it was a dirty and industrial and gross and cold city, and that the Floating Islands are like a Tourist Trap Disneyland: completely fake. But, fate prevented me from moving on from Puno, and I’m kind of glad.
The city itself is not spectacular. Yes, it is poor and dirty and dusty and cluttered. But, somehow, I find it more interesting than Lima or Cusco, or any of the other bigger Peruvian cities that I have stayed at. It’s not flocked with tourists, it’s ridiculously cheap, there is an amazing (BIG!) supermarket, the people here are genuine and nice, there is the most impressive street market leading from my hostel to the port, it’s on a lake, and the hostel that I ended up bumming at for five days is exactly what I need: simple, quiet, a private room/bathroom, kitchen facilities, breakfast, a yard, a rooftop, and the best internet I have had in Peru. For $13 a night, it’s a perfect recovery spot.
Yesterday, I took a very short stroll around Puno. Hit up the main market for soup and juice, then strolled around the lakeside as the sun was going down.
Today, checked out the main square and booked an afternoon tour to some ruins outside of the city. The things that impressed me most about this delapidated city are the colorful buildings:
, and the fact there there doesn’t seem to be a single street lamp or any kind of indication for lanes. And there are a lot of taxis/bikes/vans/cars zooming around- just kind of driving where and when they feel like driving, I guess:
I can definitely see why people are not charmed by Puno, but, for me, it happened to work out great. Happy to be stuck here for a few days. If nothing else, I have had time to stumble upon many ideas and blogs about off-the-beaten-track activities around Lake Titicaca, and as soon as I am ready to carry my backpack again, I will tackle them all!
For now, here’s the street market outside of my hostel:
And the unsused train tracks you follow through the market:
Which brings you to the lakeside:
There’s not picturesque promenade along the lake, but I like it’s grunginess. And there is a pier you can stroll on, as well as water boats for the children (though, with the water being covered in a thick layer of unidentified green gunk, maybe that’s not the best activity):
And then, to top it off, there is the lighthouse:
And we all know that I have a soft spot for lighthouses and ports : )