Our last trip with Cruz del Sur took us from the beautiful Arequipa, at an altitude of 2.400 meters, to high up in the Andes, to Puno at 3.800 meters. The bus ride was perfect to see the impressive changing landscapes; the higher we climbed the more Llamas and Alpacas we could see. Snowy peaks rising from behind brown and red mountains, immense stretches of land which seem to go on forever. To go to Puno, the bus rides from behind a mountain and slowly descends into the city which is quite the view: Puno is much bigger than we expected, built upon the hillside facing lake Titicaca, with long, long streets connecting the higher neighbourhoods to the lake shores, not to forget the several sculptures decorating the hilltops.
Puno is quite breathtaking, and I mean literally! Once dropped off at the hotel, we walked up the stairs to our room where we fell on the beds, gasping for breath and feeling as if we had ran a whole marathon! The air at such altitudes is much thinner and it will take some time to get used to it. The room was neat and tidy and we could see both mountain and lake. The beds were covered with thick blankets, which seemed a bit too much considering it was sunny and 25°C, but than made complete sense once the temperature hit -7°C at night!
Tired and breathless, we walked around for a little while, booked the island tours for the next day, freshened up at the hotel and had dinner at a nice place called Mojsa where we could enjoy the pizza lady getting busy with her orders and a wood oven.
The following day, we were picked up by a bus, along with a few other tourists, which took us to the harbour. We hopped on a boat and sailed towards the Uros floating islands on lake Titicaca. On the way, we sailed among reeds growing tall above the surface of the water, and in the distance we could see rooftops of little houses. As we got closer, we could see the floating islands spread across the water. Visiting the islands requires paying an entrance fee. That money goes to maintaining the schools, medical center and other activities for the entire community. We went off to one of the islands where we got some information about the history of the islands, how they are built, how the people live, etc. Afterwards we could visit the five houses there which each seemed to have a kiosk filled with souvenirs. It was a bit too touristic, lacking the authenticity we were expecting. Still, it was nice to see. After visiting another island (which seemed to have only a restaurant and watchtower), we sailed back.
An afternoon nap, a little walk, dinner at Mojsa again, an art exhibition and a good night’s sleep. The next day, a final bus trip awaits to our final destination: Cuzco!