After our salt flats tours ended in Uyuni we were left with a crappy decision of how to get north to Puno, Peru as there is no easy, cost efficient route. We could do it a bit more scenically and trek west back into Chilé, and then up the coast into Peru OR we could head the faster route north through Bolivia’s capital of La Paz then head west to Puno from there. Frankly, both options sucked as they each involved 18-24 hours of bus rides. Since we were coming right off the heels of three days in the middle of nowhere we opted for the “fastest” option of going north. It meant we took an 11-hour overnight bus from Uyuni to La Paz then had a three-hour layover in the bus station until we could catch our five-hour bus ride over the border to Peru.
While the the bus to La Paz itself was fairly comfortable the ride was miserable. Not even dwelling on the uneven roads of Bolivia and the frequent stops, the main sleep deterrent was fear of theft. Our readings have always indicated the most likely time to get something stolen is on overnight buses and especially overnight buses in Bolivia (people we met had this happen as well). So we were both on guard way more than usual which lead to very little sleep. We always do our best to protect our stuff so our strategy is putting Katie on the window seat with all valuables under her feet then me on the aisle. This means a thief would have to somehow crawl over me and pull the bag out from under her without either of us noticing. We feel good about this as the only other technique thieves use is cutting a bag and stealing stuff without moving the bag. But we have a great PacSafe bag which is knife-proof so it can’t be cut open and all the zippers have locking clips so they can’t be opened without the bag jerking around heavily. We figure the best offense is a good defense and lasers were too expensive.
Once we got to La Paz (without any issue-phew!) at 5am we had to wait until 8am to catch the next bus. Normally this wouldn’t be that bad but the bus station was open air and it is their winter down here so it felt like we were hanging out in a refrigerator and we definitely don’t have the gear for that. After finally leaving the North Pole we set out towards Peru and arrived in Puno around 2pm via a much more comfortable bus/ride.
Puno itself is a little city on the water of Lake Titicaca (inner Trav giggles). The lake itself is the world’s highest navigable lake and while the name typically elicits dirty jokes it actually stands for “Rock of the Puma” (Whah Whah). Tourism in the area is almost all focused around the lake, with the main attraction being the floating islands of Uros which were pretty awesome to see.
The floating island village is made up of 89 different islands made completely of totora reed. Each island is roughly 30ft by 40ft in size and about 1-2 meters thick. The islands are made by attaching blocks of reed roots together which create a floating barge then layers of the soft reed are laid on top to create the platform to live on/build on. New layers of reed are constantly added to each island to keep them afloat as the water over time disintegrates the bottom layers. On top of each island, reed houses are built as well as other reed structures like watch towers, boats, lavatories, etc.
We took a tour of the islands while in Puno. The tour consisted of us boating out to the islands where we got off on one and learned how they are made and ended with a ride in a reed boat. While definitely touristy it was a good way to see the local culture and get a cool experience while in town for just 48 hours. Aside from playing tourist we enjoyed a chance to get some good meals (including trying guinea pig for the first time), get our clothes cleaned and take some nice hot showers. It’s really about the small things sometimes and we appreciate the catch up before we tackle our next big adventure of Machu Picchu.