JAN 30, 2016 – After another night in Cusco, I took a bus to Puno, a city along lake Titicaca. It is much less touristy than Copacabana along the Bolivian shore of the lake, and looks rather poor. Nevertheless, there are some streets with fancier restaurants, travel agencies and other services for foreign visitors. Just a few kilometers away on the lake lie the floating islands of Uros. They are built from a plant called Totora, which grows abundantly near the lake shore, and inhabited by a traditional people who speaks the Aymara language. It seems like the inhabitants of the islands, or at least some of them, have accepted to devote a large part of their lives to tourism. They receive the tour groups on their little islands, explain how the floating islands and huts are built, and let visitors dress up in their traditional clothing. Then they offer to sell different handicrafts to them. A ride in a fancy-looking rowing boat built entirely of Totora is also offered against a small fee. Finally the group is dropped off on another floating island where food and drinks can be bought. To me it felt like the Uros people were giving up a large part of their identity and privacy by letting so many visitors see their houses and wear their clothes – they treated their traditional dresses as if they were a carneval dress-up.
Later that day I saw carneval or a similar celebration going on in the center of Puno. The costumes were very colorful and the dances synchronous. A lot of good and cheap food was sold in the streets. Only the music failed to impress me. Later that day I traveled on to La Paz, skipping Copacabana altogether.
JAN 28, 2016 – I got up at 4:20am in order to be at the entrance of Machu Picchu in time for the first tour. There wasn’t really any reason to get up this early as the weather was cloudy, most of the ruins were covered in fog and it started raining quite heavily during the tour. Nevertheless, I was glad to have a guide explain the history of the city and its buildings to me, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to find a later tour. Afterwards I climbed nearby Montaña Machu Picchu during my assigned time slot, but got no view whatsoever from the top due to the fog. Luckily the rain stopped around 11am and it cleared up, so I was able to visit the stunning mountain city a second time with better visibility. The breathtaking landscape architecture, perfect mortar-free walls on some buildings, and good condition of the site in general made Machu Picchu a real highlight of my trip so far. I was glad to see this one last – after Teotihuacán, Montealbán, Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Tikal, and Llactapata. The only weird thing was the absurdly overpriced catering outside the site, and the lack of places offering coffee and shelter. I got lucky and found a guy selling cheap coffee and food, but apparently this was intended for the tour guides really.
Just like in Cusco, I stayed at the Supertramp hostel in Machu Picchu. The hostel was very beautiful, full of nice murals, and offering good breakfast even early in the morning.