Sorry to start this blog on a negative note, it doesn’t get much better but it gets funnier… if you like bathroom humor.
The bus ride to Puno… sucked. It was super hot for the first few hours until we got to elevation, and then we were serenaded with the noise of a young boy puking constantly a few seats in front of us (poor thing). The cherry on top was the German couple sitting behind us who refused to let us put our seats back, even though the people in front of us had theirs all the way down. When we stopped for a bathroom break Harriet put her seat back slightly (less than half-way) but when the couple got back on the not-so-gentleman said bluntly “it is impossible.” We tried to explain that with the seats down in front of us it was super uncomfortable, but they were having none of it, and because we didn’t want them kneeing us in the back the whole way, we put our seats up. We were rewarded for our kindness with what we have come to recognize as a typical German attitude; no sorry, no excuse me, no thank you.
Happy to get off the god-forsaken bus we went straight to our hostel in Puno, where we met out new hotel Mama, and made ourselves at home for what would be a longer than expected stay.
On Saturday morning we diverged from the typical tourist path and explored the weekly market that pops up on one of the main streets. We wound up at the shore of Lake Titicaca just as Mindy’s stomach began to rumble. The kind lady at the cafe suggested two tea bags for a “loose” stomach. Mindy tried it, the first of many not-so-successful home remedies.
We wandered the city for a few hours, wondering why all the stores and restaurants were closed on a Saturday, belatedly realizing that the whole city had been without power all day. At the market we got fixings for Moroccan salad (with turned out to be a bad choice for Mindy). Back at the hostel we played cards, made food, and bonded with our fellow travelers by candlelight. We ventured out to the supermarket, clinging tight to each other in the pitch black while the city stomped by in a raging frenzy.
Arrangements had been made for an island tour in the morning, but after a restless night for Mindy, who had to move her sleeping quarters to a surface closer to the toilet, we decided to postpone our trip for a day. Our goal for that day was to dry up Mindy’s insides, trying everything from BRAT (bananas, rice, apple sauce, and tea) to our hostel Mom’s guaranteed cure of coca-cola caliente (coke warmed up in the microwave).
For lunch Harriet got her go-to chicken, and Mindy risked eating plan rice (with a little salt) and coca tea. We ate at an adorable cafe on a beautiful balcony overlooking the main tourist street. Lacking forethought Mindy sat in a corner, locked in by the table, which she quickly had to crawl under in a hurry on her way to the bathroom. The waiter noticed, laughed, and later commented about how much exercise Mindy was getting, rushing to and from the bathroom.
We almost left our only remaining access to money in the ATM… AGAIN, but don’t worry, we have implemented an improved system.
Back at the hostel we met two North American girls, chatted, and went to bed early hoping Mindy would make it through the night so we could go on our island tour the next day.
Mindy wasn’t feeling great in the morning, but she decided to tough it out, and was confident that she could make it after pretty much starving herself the previous day. We woke up at the crack of dawn and made it to our boat just in time with our tall, deceptively young-looking guide Carlos.
Our first stop was at one of the Uros islands, the community of 60 or so floating islands in Lake Titicaca. It was smaller than an elementary school cafeteria, with only 10 families residing there, and a president that rotates from family to family. Carlos, our adorable guide, showed us how to build a floating island using the roots and stems of the reed-like plant that grows in the shallows called totora. We also got a ride on a totora boat which had a spine of empty water bottles even though it didn’t need them.
Then it was off to the big island of Taquile, where everyone ate lunch. Mindy forced Harriet into starvation and we took a walk while everyone else enjoyed fresh trout. After lunch we walked to the main square at the top of the island, where adorable children sold colorful woven bracelets every few hundred feet along the path.
We enjoyed a scenic walk down the other side of the island to depart from a different port, but we arrived at our boat missing two young, dreaded, Brazilian hippies who confirmed everyone’s worst assumptions by somehow getting lost on the straight path from the square to the port. After wasting an hour and lots of gas looking for them (not to mention our well-intentioned guide sprinting up a huge mountain to no avail) we finally received news that they had arrived at the port and had made it onto another boat.
Mindy, who had thought she could make it back to Puno, didn’t survive the unexpected detour, and was forced to use the #1 only bathroom on the boat (read: a hole going straight into the lake). At least now we can tell everyone she took a poop in lake TitiCACA (hehe). Even though Mindy was miserable she was ever-so-thankful for the moral support of her cousin, who opened the windows, sprayed perfume, and guarded the door in the cramped boat.
Back on the mainland our new friends Mandy and Leann cooked us a fabulous dinner of stuffed peppers, and were so kind as to make Mindy her own meal of rice and veggies, forcing her to finally start putting nutrients back into her body. We played pool with the Australians Nick and Ben, and had an embarrassingly hard time understanding their English.
The next morning we finished our preparations for our first border crossing, trying to square away our money situation (or lack of access to it). We rode to the bus station in the most popular form of transportation in Puno, a teeny taxi which consists of a little (highly decorated) enclosed trailer towed by a motorbike.
At the border crossing we were thankful to be some of the first people in line. Being Americans we were the only ones who had to fill out a huge form, pay $135 for a visa, and visit multiple windows, but we finished just in time and didn’t hold up the bus.
Goodbye Peru, hello Bolivia!
Arriving in Copacabana a man got on the bus to let us know that a hotel was offering a special deal, just $6 a person for a private room and private bath, so we took him up on the offer for the convenience and the location. We had prime real-estate on the shore of Lake Titicaca and watched a beautiful sunset over the water from the window of our room, went out for a chicken sandwich, and laughed at Argentinian hippies who kept getting turned away from playing horrible music in our restaurant.
While getting ready to sleep we were again entranced by the view, watching a thunderstorm shoot lightning while hovering over the lake.
After a great night’s rest we were on our way to La Paz, but not before eating a huge breakfast for under three dollars while watching the rain fall on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
In the midst of a hectic scene we made it onto our bus with our backpacks, but were surprised when an hour into our ride someone got on the bus and said “time to get off, see you on the other side.” We were left on our own to figure out how to cross lake Titicaca in little ferries, while our bus went across on a huge barge.
Reunited with our bus, we settled in for the last few hours until La Paz. As the lake disappeared from sight Mindy apologized to the Pacha Mama (mother earth) for muddying the clear waters of Lake Titicaca.
Look out La Paz, here we come!