Sunday, November 30, 2008

Puno: On the Shores of Lake Titicaca - Nov 27-30

The town of Puno isn´t all that interesting, but there are interesting things to see in the area. We took a tour to Uros, a series of floating islands. Actually, they are bunches of reeds that the people build houses on.

They also make boats from the reeds. They last about three months, and then rot... leaving all the tourists in the middle of the lake to be eaten by piranahs.

We also went to Taquille island. This is supposed to be a very traditional culture, still using the traditional clothing. Unfortunately, we had a crappy guide who hurried us up the hill from one side of the island and back down the other side. It felt like the Bataan Death March, especially since we were doing this forced march at 12,000 feet altitude! It really was a shame, because we met other people who raved about the tour. The guide really can make all the difference.

Saturday there was a great local market in Puno. It stretched on for miles, and you really could buy just about anything. I settled for some rubber glue for my tire patch kit. Very exotic!

Then we visited the boat ¨Yavari¨. This was an old steamer brought in pieces to Lake Titicaca in 1870. It took them 6 years to haul it up the mountain on the backs of donkeys and re-assemble it! It is now being restored by an English woman who bought it as scrap for $3000.

That night we had drinks with Sylvia Owen, the dermatologist I had met on the road from Cuenca to Loja, Ecuador. After a few mishaps, she had decided to ship her bike back to Montana and do some traveling by more ¨civilized¨ means. It was nice to catch up.

On Sunday, November 30, we left Puno, kind of. Karen was flying back to Panama, and I still had my bike in Cuzco. So we flew together to Cuzco, and she continued on (same flight) to Lima to catch her flight to Panama. I went to my hotel, packed up the bike, and rode back to Puno. I was planning on then riding to La Paz, Bolivia, but as you will soon see those plans changed.

I was not looking forward to the ride from Cuzco to Puno. After all, I had just done it by train a few days before. Wrong! Of course, it was a totally different trip on the bike. I saw much more, and from a totally different perspective. The altiplano is incredible.

Llamas I expected... and saw. Sheep did not surprise me. But I really had to stop a few times to watch flocks of flamingos in the river. That I was not expecting!

This old man was tending his sheep and let me cross his land to get to the river where the flamingos were. He was facinated by my motorcycle.

I stayed at a decent hotel (Hotel Monterrey) in the middle of the pedestrian mall in Puno. For you bikers reading this, I highly recommend it. The staff, especially Fidel, was great about helping me lay down boards over the stairs so that we could park the bike safely inside. Since I hadn´t been able to find anything else in Puno with parking, this was particularly appreciated.

Tomorrow, plans for Bolivia... but plans change!

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