The Peruvian White City & Booking it North

After Puno, my expectations were set a bit lower for Peru. A lot of backpackers head for Cusco after Puno. As I was waiting for my boyfriend to do Cusco, I headed south to Arequipa.

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One of Arequipa’s many white traditional buildings.

Arequipa is also known as the White City due to all of its traditional colonial white buildings built using local white stone from neighboring volcanoes. It is a beautiful city with a lot of activities to partake in outside the city, one of the most famous being Colca Canyon. I’ll be honest, after Bolivia I was a bit tired of tourism. I really just wanted to enjoy the city. I spent most of my time eating and just planning my next moves.

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Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas was my favorite in all of Peru.

My workaway/volunteer that I had planned for April had fallen through. As such, I immediately looked for an alternative for the month I had left. I wanted to stay some place where I could learn to surf so with that as my parameters, I searched.

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Lovely architecture to discover around Arequipa’s many corners.

Something popped up (well two somethings) and my hope was restored. My next two weeks would be spent in Huanchaco, Peru just outside of Trujillo followed by Lobitos, Peru, both little surf towns. Little did I know, I was about to have the worst workaway experience yet.

Puno, Peru – Not my cup of tea

After Isla del Sol, I grabbed the 1:30 bus in Copacabana and headed for the Peruvian border. They make everyone get off the bus, exit Bolivian customs, pay any fees if you overstayed (not me), and then walk across to Peru and go through customs there.

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Welcome to Peru!

I was very excited for Peruvian food. My first meal out in Peru was a bit of a sticker shock though. Fifteen dollars for dinner and a drink?? That is absurd compared to the prices I was paying in Bolivia. Yes, I realize that in the USA this is a typical price, but I had already been abroad for almost two months now so this was a surprise.

Puno is not my favorite Peruvian city. It is a rather large city on Lake Titicaca but with a bit of a sketchy feel. The bus station is nothing to write home about and the ATM there ate one of our friend’s cards. He was trying to head out that day. I should have followed suit.

I then decided to stay with two other people as we got a hotel room for really cheap. $15 dollars cheap (do you now see why I thought $15 for a dinner was expensive?). I should have left after one night but I stayed two and at least I had wifi/internet compared to Bolivia’s horrific excuse of a internet.

I did one tourist thing in Puno which I immediately regretted. I took a boat ride around the floating islands or otherwise called Uros.

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A view from Uros.

Now, you may read some positive reviews about the floating islands but I’m assuming these people haven’t been traveling around as long as I had, or that they chose to see past all the negatives. Perhaps it is because I just took a local tour boat instead of a proper tour, or I didn’t see the right islands. I took a boat to the islands for 10 Soles (~3.1 USD). I then paid another 5 for the islands. Once at the islands you continue to pay to ride on an authentic reed boat where children jump on and sing, and then beg for money. I couldn’t help but feel the whole thing was set up just to make money from the tourists.

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The local form of transportation.

Now, the islands themselves are kind of interesting for just floating and people having lives on the islands (restaurants, kind of shops, families with homes). Having people trying to sell you things the entire time you are on the islands really puts a damper on my feelings towards them. Perhaps I had the wrong expectations going in.

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Goodbye Uros!

After that uninspired visit, I was ready to leave Puno and quite apprehensive about Peru in general. Fortunately, the rest of Peru was NOT like Puno.