The bus ride from Arequipa was a beautiful one working our way through the llama filled altiplano to higher and higher elevations. The bus was filled with chatty local women each with two long braids down their backs, interesting wool hats that made me want to run to the market immediately, and mouths full of coca leaves. We took cues from the ladies and bought a sandwich bag full of barbequed llama meat still attached to vertebrae, purple potatoes, and large kernels of corn to munch on during our journey.
Our next destination was Puno, a city on the banks of Lake Titicaca set at an elevation of 12,565 feet. It seemed like every other traveler we talked to thought Puno was a waste of time and a place only worth visiting to access the Peruvian islands of Lake Titicaca. We found it to be not as terrible as people made it out to be but having decided a few cities back that we were to make a detour into Bolivia we really didn’t have much time to spend in Puno anyway.
Getting off the bus we could not figure out why the station smelled so strongly of chicha. It took us about ten minutes before we realized that the smell was coming from us. A half bottle of pisco had managed to completely leak out into Andy’s backpack leaving us trailing a strong stench wherever we went. Luckily most of it evaporated and none of the electronics were ruined.
Our usual method of wandering around until we saw a hotel that looked just dingy enough for us worked out once again. The bed was amazing and after talking with the desk clerk and waiting half an hour we got hot water long enough for a good shower. We decided to leave for the islands the next morning and since we weren’t going with a tour there wasn’t much planning for us to do. We spent the day walking around in a drizzle buying chocolates from grateful little old ladies and sorting through piles of used American clothing. Andy managed to find a wool sweater which at this elevation he was happy to have. Taking the advice of our guide book, we also bought some food staples for whichever family we would end up with on our island home-stay since it can be hard to get things like sugar and rice on the isolated islands.
The next morning we left most of our things at the hotel before going down to the docks and buying a round trip ticket on the public boat with stops at Uros floating islands, Amantani, and Taquille.