SUMMARY POINTS... will write up later
- Arrived at Puno early in the morning and the original plan had been to stay the night there and then go to the floating islands on the next day. Thankfully I got chatting to a German girl who told me how she was planning on going to the islands directly after arriving on the overnight bus from Cusco, and then heading across the border to Bolivia the following morning. This was a great idea as there was no reason for me to spend 2 days in Puno, as there is little there beyond the main strip of restaurants and tourist agencies.
- After checking into a hotel, and leaving my bag of gear in a room I ventured down to the dock (deliriously tired after not having slept on the bus!)
- Boat to islands, each island had several women in brightly coloured dresses waiting on the edge waving at you, then when our boat approached our allocated island (each boat had it's own island to visit) they said "Welcome" in the local language (**TODO... add the correct words here!!**). It was all incredibly fake and touristy, but the islands themselves are purely genuine, as are the people who are best seen in the privacy of a non-tour environment (as fortune would have it, some of us would get to experience this later on!)
- After the "president" of the island (each island containing about 6 families) gave a talk about how the islands were created, the predictable sell approach started. They split our tour group into separate groups of 4 people and we each got corralled into one of the huts for the hard sell. I actually fancied buying one of the rugs that I'd seen previously, but unfortunately it was made by a DIFFERENT family to the one I was dealing with and these guys didn't have anything nearly as nice. Doh! Interior of the huts was interesting though... despite being pokey they had electricity and even TV!!
- Walking on the island was an unusual feeling... floating on reeds! The islands are anchored into place and can be moved to different locations if required. Quite incredible!
- After a quirky singsong with the island women, we went to another island for some lunch (took a reed boat across!).
- Some people were heading on to another island to spend the night. Those of us heading back to Puno for the night had to wait on the second floating island for some time. This is where it got really good. While waiting about an hour for our boat to arrive, 4 of us: myself, plus 3 German girls, got to interact with the islanders going about their daily lives without any tour guides or tourist boats in view.
- One memorable moment was when I had to help "move house". Literally. The buildings on the islands occassionally "settle" and begin to lilt sideways so have to be periodically shifted (once every 3-4 days or so). This involves literally lifting the building while some logs are shoved underneath to straighten it out. I was called upon, being a strapping young 'un of course... but ironically almost pulled my back in the process.
They gave me a free necklace for my trouble. Which was nice!