Puno is 12,556 feet in altitude and we could feel it as we climbed the two flights of stairs to our room…but by the time we left about 5 days later we had much less trouble. It is a well kept town with a pleasant pedestrian walk with lots of designs in the street. The town is situated on Lake Titicaca which is one of South America’s largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water. Bolivia is across the lake from Puno but we didn’t go there.
Reflections of Puno:
- For about $1 per page, someone who can read/type will write a letter for you. It seemed to be a very good business as there was often someone at one of the tables dictating a letter.
- Funerals are a big deal, we saw a couple and they include music and a procession.
- While we didn’t have any problems with thefts, one of our favorite restaurants had straps to tie your chair.
- Getting money was expensive, the most expensive on our trip. You could only get a small amount at each ATM and the charges were high.
- Fun Tee shirt we saw for sale with a play on the concept of “kamasutra”.
We did only a couple of things in Puno because Lindie has under the weather. We both went to the Uros Islands and Dan also went to the Sillistani tombs. Sillistani is a pre-incan cemetary.
The Uros Islands was one of our highlights of our entire travels, up there with Machu Picchu! These islands were interesting for two reasons:
- The were literally created from blocks of sod with reeds in the lake and tied together until the reed roots grew together to make it a solid block. These “islands” float in the water and are anchored at one point by a pole and rope.
- The locals who live on each of the islands, about 6 families per island, have found a way to retain their culture and make a living by sharing their lives with tourists.
For a reasonable fee, you take a boat out to the islands where you are greeted by some of the local women. Getting off the boat onto the island is a surprise because the “land” is covered in reeds and is mushy in places. The locals are constantly harvesting and renewing the reeds that cover the area.
The women seem to primarily make artwork where they use the chain stitch to tell the story of their family. The men create the island, maintain it, and make/sail boats made of the reeds.
Their homes are small one room buildings made of…reeds, of course. They cook outside on open fires however they had added a solar panel to each home so that they no longer need to use candles or oil lights inside. Fire had been a major issue so they are safer now with the solar electricity. Roofs are made of reeds tied together and when it rains, they often leak…surprised they haven’t changed to a more solid type of roof.
I’m not sure how many islands there are now but I did read that in 2011 there were about 60 islands with a total of about 12oo inhabitants. You can view pictures here.