Puno and Lake Titicaca
Our Peruvian Journey started in Puno after a flight from Atlanta to Juliacca via Lima. We took a 1-hour taxi ride from Juliacca to Puno where were met on the shore of Lake Titicaca by our host. The rest of the Journey was via boat to the floating island in Uros where we booked a villa for the next 2 nights. By the time we arrived at the villa, it was about 1 PM.
Time to Relax
We were a little tired from the trip so we decided to take a short break at the accommodation before going back to Puno to see the town. Puno is a sprawling town on the shores of Lake Titicaca not far from the Bolivian border. Puno has a lot of 1-way streets and a different standard of driving than we are used to. Car horns are widely used to signal I am coming through. The taxi driver dropped us off at Plaza Mayor de Puno in the center of town. Within a few minutes, we started to feel that we were at 12500 feet above sea level. Normal walking ended up being much slower as we were having a harder time breathing.
It was a warm day and we needed to try to adjust to the altitude. Therefore, we slipped into a restaurant for something to drink, relax, and to enjoy the view of the town square. There were a lot of people walking around and since we were traveling during COVID, all were wearing masks even in public outdoor areas. Luckily, this did ease our concerns that we probably shouldn’t have traveled during COVID. Peruvians were taking it seriously and many precautions were in place. Most places were doing temperature checks, hand sanitizing, and even sanitizing the bottom of your shoes. Our host organized a taxi to pick us up on the square at a certain time, we met him and then returned to the shore/dock to take the boat back to the villa.
At this point, altitude sickness had kicked in completely, we were tired, any movements other than a very short walk were laboring. My wife was feeling nauseous, I was just having trouble breathing. I realized that had not taken my medications due to the overnight flight, one of them is Plavix. Therefore, I took my medications and decided to lay down on the bed for a few minutes. That was a terrible mistake, the mixture of the altitude and Plavix, my heart started pounding and felt like it would jump out of my body. Fortunately, it was only for about an hour before it returned to a somewhat normal rhythm. It was not normal but I didn’t feel like my heart would explode. Within a few hours, things were becoming more normalized.
While I was waiting for things to become normal, I wanted to get some videos and pictures of the sunset from our private deck area. As the sun began to set, the warm 70F temperature dropped to the low 50F range within a short time period. The sunset was beautiful over Lake Titicaca and the mountains beyond Puno. However, I was a little too early for the complete sunset and was feeling bad at this point. I decided to relax on the bed for a few minutes and then get more videos. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and missed the best part of the sunset. Due to feeling like crap, I did not worry as we always had tomorrow night.
Dinner and Bedtime
Our host asked us what we wanted for dinner, chicken, or fish. Since we were in bad shape we decided to skip dinner that night. The villa is on stilts on a floating reed island, there is no electricity other than solar panels. Due to being at 12500 feet above sea level, it gets cold at night. They came in and turned on the propane heater and asked us to turn it off when we went to sleep. Interestingly, they also provide hot water bottles to place in the bed to keep you warm. Our bed had about 7 thick blankets on it along with the water bottles, we were not cold, but not super warm either.
Full-Day in Puno and Lake Titicaca
The next morning we woke up and were feeling a little better but decided to take it easy and not push it too much due to the altitude. My wife said she never wanted to leave home again, as she had never felt that bad before. We opted to have breakfast and to hang out at the villa for a few hours. However, we needed to go into town at some point to pick up some souvenirs. Early in the afternoon, the host took us back to shore and organized a taxi to take us to the market in Puno. As with the previous day, we were scheduled to meet with the taxi driver at the main square in a few hours.
Out of Shape or Altitude Issues?
We found some t-shirts for souvenirs and started the 2km walk towards the square. Since the altitude could be an issue, we took our time and walked slowly. Sadly, that was not enough as we stopped every 100 meters or so to catch our breath. Due to COVID, we were wearing masks as well, this probably didn’t help. After about 30 minutes, we decided to take a taxi the final 400 meters to the square. I know this sounds bad, but the last 400 meters were uphill and we had been on fairly flat land so far. The taxi was about $1.50, so not expensive, but was worth every penny. We walked around the square a little and then went to a restaurant for something to drink and to catch our breath.
After the break, we returned to the square as the taxi was coming in 20 or so minutes. I did a short video shoot in the square while we were waiting. The taxi was a few minutes late and we almost took the wrong taxi, the same color and make of car and the guy looked the familiar. Luckily, we noticed that he did not have a stuffed animal on his dash. Our taxi arrived a few minutes later and we were back to the boat and the island.
Reed Boat Cultural Tour
We went to our villa for a few minutes before our hosts took us on a reed boat tour and they explained the culture of the Uros people. The Uros people live a very simple life, with no utilities from a municipal source. As I mentioned earlier, the villa is solar powered. They gave us a short tour and explained how the reed islands are built and maintained. In addition, they explained how families live, including marriage, building their own island, etc. It was a very informative tour and the hosts were very friendly. Most of their income is from fishing and the renting of 2 villas on their small island.
Their island was only about 7500 sq ft in size, I believe 3 generations lived there with about 9 people total. They primarily lived in one villa, with a separate kitchen and dining structure. There were 2 villas you can rent, both could hold about 6 people. After the boat ride, we relaxed for a few minutes before having dinner in the dining area. It was a great meal with chicken, rice, fries, and fruit.
We were very tired at this point and decided to hang out at our villa and get ready to leave the next day. I wish we would have had more time there, but we only had a week in Peru. The next morning after breakfast, we took the boat to the shore. Again we were met by our driver for the 1-hour trip back to the Juliaca airport.
Puno, Lake Titicaca, and the Uros Islands are a very quiet and peaceful place to visit, but you need to acclimate yourself prior to arriving. I really wish we would have had more time as there are many things to do in the area. However, due to COVID, many of the tours were not operating.
Please check out the videos on YouTube from our Peru trip including the Reed Boat Cultural tour with our hosts.
Also, please check out the place where we stayed for the 2 nights. It is a great option and you get to meet and learn about the locals.