Puno, Peru

Just like Cusco, the bustling town of Puno sits on the altiplano at 3,860 meters above sea level. The air here remains just as thin. No worries though, after 10 days in Peru, I feel like having the lungs of a llama now. Thankfully, no more soroche for me.

Puno is at the edge of Lake Titicaca, the massive lake measuring 8,400 square kilometers and considered the highest navigable lake in the world. Tourists come here mainly because of this lake and its islands.

The Inka Express bus which I took this morning left Cusco on time. On a regular bus, the trip to Puno takes 6 hours but since we have scheduled stops along the way, it took a total of 10 hours. That's almost as long as taking the tourist train except the train only has one scenic stop.

We passed by the church in Andahuaylillas, an old church known for its magnificent Andean religious artwork.There were plenty of antique statues adorning the main altar. Even the pulpit has exquisite wood carvings. Old pews were set aside in one corner, now off limits for church-goers perhaps to save someone's butt from hitting the floor accidentally.

At Raqchi, 121 kms. away from Cusco, were the remains of the Temple of Wiracocha, part of a complex of pre-Hispanic village located on the right bank of Vilcanota river that included farming terraces, storehouses, apartments and water fountains. Our guide mentioned that this area used to be heavily populated and was a "tambo" (resting place) in between destinations.

We stopped at La Raya, the highest pass at 4,335 meters above sea level. Even the tourist train stops here. There's a view of a glaciated mountain. Like everywhere else where tourists abound, vendors flocked in this viewpoint to sell the same stuff available in Cusco.

The sleepy town of Pucara, our next stop, is known mainly to archaelogists because of the pre-Inca excavations being done. It was raining as we made our way to the small Pucara Museum which houses several artifacts and monoliths gathered from the nearby excavation sites.

After 10 hours on the road, we finally arrived in Puno. The bus disgorged us all at the main terminal. I got into a taxi right away and just like in Cusco, the price had to be negotiated first as there's no meter. 4 soles is all it took me to reach Hostal Don Victor, a slumbering hostal located in Melgar Street. I was surprised to find the main door closed when I tried opening it. How could a hostel close its door when it's barely 6 p.m.? Alarmed, I knocked on the door heavily. A man sheepishly peered at the glass window. He's Mauro, the hostel caretaker and he was immediately apologetic, having not expected anyone to check-in today. He got himself busy checking me in.

When I told him that I needed to see Uros and Taquile islands tomorrow, he immediately booked me up with a tour agency. When I told him I'm flying back to Lima after tomorrow, he arranged my transportation on the colectivo for the ride to the airport in Juliaca right away. Gee, I must be the only guest he has for today. Not bad for a room costing only $10-a-night except that when I opened the tap to take a warm shower, nothing came but cold water.

I skipped the shower and went out instead to drop by Lan Peru's office to reconfirm my flight to Lima. Having done that, I decided to eat dinner and what better food to eat for dinner than feasting on trucha (trout) caught from Lake Titicaca? It was delicious fried trout I had.

Back at the hostel, I thought about where to take a warm shower. Maybe I should consider taking a bath in Lake Titicaca instead. Oh no, mucho frio!

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