There is no direct local bus from Chivay to Puno. Your only option at the moment is to take a bus back to Arequipa and take another bus from there to Puno. Because our time is limited we unfortunately had to go for the tour option.
We paid 115 soles each which on paper included the following:
– Comfortable, air conditioned tour bus
– English-speaking guide
– Wifi on board
– Stopover for snacks and pictures
Here’s what we got:
– Transit van with no air condition
– Spanish speaking guide
– Two bottles of water, sucky sweets, crackers and chocolate coated almonds
– Two photo stops
I appreciate we’re travelling during the low season. However, if you can’t provide a service, don’t sell it or at least offer it at a lower price. We were basically just put on a pre-organised tour with Spanish nurses and doctors who happened to have two spare seats.
We left Chivay at around 1pm and arrived in Puno around 7pm. The bus drive between Chivay and Puno makes for beautiful scenery and really high altitudes. It is one of the most scenic journeys we’ve ever taken. We saw lots of Alpaca and even black and pink flamigos. The highest point we reached was just over 4500m above sea level.
Brian and I weren’t too worried about being at high altitudes, but we definitely notice a difference in our health. We both have a slight cold thanks to the air con on the flights, but on top of that we feel a bit woozy at times, lethargic and definitely notice the lack of oxygen in the air. Flights of stairs and hilly roads are leaving especially me out of breath. They are minor symptoms compared to what happened to one of the guys on the tour who completely lost his consciousness. Pure alcohol dipped in cotton wool did the trick for him though. If you can’t get hold of it, a simple hand sanitizer rubbed in your hand and then taking a few sniffes should help as well. Apart from that went drinking coca tea in the morning and at night. I am not sure it makes a difference though.
The last hour or so from Juliaca to Puno it was raining so hard that even the manic drivers thought it would be best to slow down a little. There was also thunder and lighting and the sky over Lake Titikaka looked verified apocalyptic. We arrived at the Casona Plaza Centro hotel (after having went to Casona Plaza first – silly Google maps) at around 7pm, completely soaked from what can’t have been more than a 3 minute walk in the rain. Slightly annoyed and clearly drenched the little receptionist woman thought it’d be a good idea to ask us to move to their “sister company hotel” down the road as the hotel was overbooked for the first night. The reason for the overbooking being that three (yes, three!) separate tour groups had arrived and there was no room left for us. We weren’t having any of it. After all we had made the reservation months ago. What annoyed us most was that they didn’t even offer us a lift or someone to carry our bags across. When we mentioned the magic word “discount” in connection with our stay and said we would move for the two nights for half the price because they had screwed up, magically a free room became available out of nowhere. First impression of the hotel, not very favourable at all.
The whole of Puno seems to be group tourism oriented. You won’t see many independent travellers about.
After the seven hour journey and trouble with the hotel, we just wanted to have something easy and not too fussy for dinner. We headed over to Cafe Buho but were told by some rude German bloke, after waiting around for like ten minutes, that they were already closed. So we went to Mojsa instead and enjoyed another really good dinner and friendly service.
Tomorrow we’re going to try our luck and explore Isla Taquile the cheap way.