Wherein we learn the following:
1. Lan Peru has nice new planes and fantastic service, but they can change your flights at the last second. Literally.
2. You don't have to be an American to be a gringo. I had to fight Benj on this one big time. I won. French people aren't gringos? As if!!!
3. You can get high, like 4200M high, without drugs. And it's gloooooorious! (After the headache goes away.)
4. Taking photos can cost you. 1 Nuevo Sol, to be exact. So have change handy!
5. Every song on earth has been covered by a Peruvian flute group. Makes excellent muzak, and a fantastic game to play when you're at breakfast... name that tune... I challenge anyone to a duel, I am the master.
So Benjamin and I started our trip rather uneventfully. Just kidding. Chaos ensued before we even got on the plane. Because as we were waiting to board, I had a strange feeling... don't ask me why. I asked Benj to go to the desk to see if everything was all set and next thing I knew the gate agent was crossing out the flight numbers and seats on our boarding passes and writing in new ones by hand. He then told us to RUN not walk to a different gate upstairs because we had been put on an earlier flight that was leaving in about 90 seconds.
There we met 2 disgruntled gate agents who were really pissed off when we asked to have our seats together, as we'd had before the scribbling-on-the-boarding-passes incident. We were told huffily that the flight was overbooked and that we should be happy we were on it at all. When we explained that we were on the flight leaving 10 minutes later and had never asked to switch, a smile appeared, the demeanor changed, and 2 seats miraculously became available together.... in the exit row, no less. Airlines work in mysterious ways.
All this was fine until we landed in Juliaca, where the person who was supposed to meet us at arrivals was nowhere to be found. Nor was he reachable by mobile. A very kind lady offered to try him for us, had no luck, and then said we could go in her bus with her group and that she'd drop us at the hotel. Alone I never would have agreed. But with Big Brave Benji along for me to protect, well, we went for it. We didn't realize until we finally met our host Filipa at the hotel a few hours later that the problem had been caused by our last-second flight change. Oops.
Arrival at Juliaca. Altitude pills were consumed beforehand!
En route from Juliaca to Puno
Perurail! (Which will play a part in our story later, of course.)
Ladies in the town of Puno
This mode of transportation is only bested by the mototaxi... how I wish we'd taken one.
Saturday morning Benj and I wandered, like two white giants, into this market. Miles and miles of produce, meat, and furniture. This is a market for the locals, not like the touristy ones you find in Cusco.
At the market
Saturday afternoon we went to Sillustani to see some ancient burial sites. Beautiful scenery, breathtaking views of Lake Titicaca, and our first encounter with French tourists... we didn't realize we'd be surrounded by them for the rest of the trip!
This cost me one sol. (At least he smiled.)
So did this. (Maybe a smile costs 2.)
This one was free!
On Sunday we took a full-day boat trip to visit the Islas Flotantes (floating islands) inhabited by the Uros people and then to Isla Taquile. It would have been just a half-day trip but honestly these are The Slowest Boats In The World, so it takes 3 hours each way to and from Isla Taquile.
The floating islands are absolutely incredible, though we did have a strange sensation there. Not seasickness... something to do with the over-exploitative nature of the growing tourism business here. Benj and I both felt uncomfortable with it on several occasions.
I bought this! She made it! Blue flamingos! How cool!
They start learning the hard sell at an early age.
Fortunately Benj is a master negotiator. Two for one!
We left our floating island on a cool reed boat.
From Isla Taquile we had this amazing view of the Bolivian Cordilleras.
And of this Telefonica satellite dish. Which tells me 2 things. 1) Telefonica is everywhere. 2) This island is pretty well-connected, and not just by slow-moving vessels.
Ah yes, here I am.
And here is Benji, my fantastic travel companion.
On the way back to Puno, around 5pm.
One last view of the floating islands as we return to our hotel.