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.

Isla del Sol

I met a girl as part of the Uyuni tour who I went to La Paz with and as we were traveling in the same direction, we headed to Copacobana and Isla del Sol together as well.

Copacobana, Bolivia is on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is the worlds highest (elevation) fresh water lake. We were told to stay on Isla del Sol so when we arrived in Copacobana at around 12 from La Paz (just a 4 hour ride), we booked a water taxi to the island. We also went ahead and booked accommodation as we didn’t want to run into a situation where we had no place to stay.

This was one of those instances where it does NOT pay to plan ahead. We arrived after about an hour and a half boat ride on the south end of Isla del Sol. The ride cost us 15 bolivianos or around 2 dollars. We met another traveler who was staying at the same place as us. As I was getting over being sick, I felt better than the day before but not 100%.

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The daunting hike you face as soon as you arrive at the island.

There was a girl waiting for us at the docks to take us to the hotel. The view getting off of the boat is daunting. After just having been sick, being at elevation of over 3000 meters, I wanted to cry. Walking up just the entrance to Isla del Sol was incredibly difficult for me. I thought I might have a heart attack. We basically hiked up a mountain for 50 minutes with a 15 kilo bag and huge purse.

It was so painful. I had to stop numerous times behind everyone. When we finally reached the top (after passing numerous hostels that I came to found out cost about a 1/3 of what we were paying), we still had to walk another good 15 minutes.

View from the top. Was it worth it? I think so.

View from the top. Was it worth it? I think so.

I was more than ticked off and exhausted by the time we arrived. I cannot recommend Hotel del Sol. It is overpriced and difficult to get to. The views, of course are gorgeous, but they are gorgeous throughout the entire island. We dropped our bags and headed to the place down the street for a drink.

We relaxed finally and I was glad I had made it to the top. The rest of the night was simple and consisted of taking more pictures, a hike up a smaller hill and then a dinner where everything I wanted to eat, seemed to be unavailable.

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At least we got some nice photos at the top.

The next day was simple and at least our hotel included breakfast. There are only a few boats back to the mainland each day and as I was ready to catch the 1:30 bus, I opted for the 10 am boat. Due to the epic walk, you have to leave about an hour early. As we mentally prepared for the exhausting walk back to the pier, we had some guys stop us and ask if we wanted to be taken from the other side of the island. As we could actually see those boats, we opted for that and headed down.

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Until next time!

Isla del Sol is dreamy. It is a peaceful place with great views.  It is not for those with asthma or who cannot hike up a hill. It would be very difficult for an unfit person to stay on Isla del Sol or really get to enjoy all it has to offer. However, if you are up for a bit of work to reach your destination, the island may be a perfect option for you.