Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hello, Peru -- Our time in Puno

With heavy hearts, Veronica and I said goodbye to Bolivia. We took a bus to Puno, Peru (the border crossing went smoothly...hurray!) and arrived in Puno Tuesday around 2:30 Chicago time. We spent the rest of the day adjusting to our hotel, the new city and our upcoming days.

On Wednesday, we kicked off the day with a trip to The Floating Uros Islands. We knew going into the trek that, once upon a time, there were a group of people living in the Puno area who fleed to Lake Titicaca to avoid the violence between tribes on the mainland. These people literally built their houses and communities on floating reeds.

Sounds cool, right? Sadly, the whole thing was a load of bull. Okay, that was a little harsh. They are kind of like a working historical society. You know, the ones that have people dressed in old clothes churning butter? Once we arrived on our island, we were shown demonstrations of how these islands were built, operated and maintained. Then we were kind of stuck there for a painful 20 minutes while the fake locals tried to sell us cheap tourist trinkets.

Interesting but a bit of a bummer.

But we ended the day on a definite high-note. We visited a historical ruins site called Sillustani (see-you-stah-ni), which is home to these huge ancient ritual sites and burial grounds. Puno is 3,800 meters elevation, but the site was over 4,000. It was quite breathtaking, both literally and figuratively.

After an hour hike up (with several breaks along the way) we came to the top of the site. See the pic below (it just does not do it justice)

There were several masses of rock scattered across the site similar to the one in front of me in the picture. These are tomb markers. The tombs on the highest peak (like the one pictured) are actually for children. Kind of sad, but I suppose I would choose no other place to be laid to rest.

On our way back home, we stopped at a typical country farm. Once again, like The Uros Islands, this was more of a sample museum; no one actually lived there. They showed us where they plant stuff and where they cook stuff and where they sleep....then they showed us.....

The guinea pigs!!!!!!!!!!!!! They had llamas and alpacas, too, but you can bet that I was busy fawning over these Domino look-alikes. (I wanted to set them free, but Veronica held me back).

So, overall, nice day in Puno. I do not like Puno as much as Copacabana, but had a great time all the same. Tomorrow we take an early and lengthy bus to Cuzco. The bus is kind of a tour and makes several stops at ruins along the way. From Cuzco on Friday, we will start hiking the Inca Trail! Wish us luck!

Happy thanksgiving to everyone at home! We will both be thinking of you!

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