Tours to the islands of Uros and Taquile can be really expensive, so we didn’t bother looking around for one and instead headed down to Puno pier straight after breakfast. The receptionist at the hotel told us we’d be too late to get onto a collectivo boat to get to Isla Taquile, but we tried our luck anyway.
We got on a boat just after 8am, paid 25 soles each to the guy plus the fee of 20 soles each for the islands. We did specifically ask to be put on a local boat, but soon realised that we were just added to a tour. Because we didn’t pay anything extra than we would jave with the collectivo, we didn’t complai. Especially sine we had the added “free” bonus of a guide. So far so good…
After around 30 minutes the guide comes over to us saying we are on the wrong boat. Everyone had booked an overnight stay on Taquile, whilst we only booked the day trip. So he drops us off on this little island in the middle of the lake, promising his amigo would pick us up in 5 minutes. The floating reed island was tiny, no bigger than 5 by 5 metres. With a small warning to stay in the one place, he drove off. This wasn’t one of the tourist islands, and even though none of the inhabitants were there, they clearly didn’t expect any visitors.
5 minutes pass – no amigo in sight. Several boats drive past but none stop to collect us. We slightly got our hopes up when after 15 minutes a boat turned towards our direction only to pass they island from the other side. Finally, after 20 minutes our Robinson Crusoe ordeal found an end. Amigo came and “rescued” us. How’s that for an authentic Titikaka experience?
Another 2.5 hours later we arrived on Taquile. The climb up to the plaza is steady and not too difficult. However, the lack of oxygen in the air forced me to stop a couple of times. It took us around 15 minutes to reach the top of the island. Make sure you bring plenty of water and wear a hat, the sun is scorching. I didn’t bother wearing one and now the part of my scalp where I part my hair is burnt and a little sore.
The views around the island over the lake are stunning and very reminiscent of a Mediterranean island. The locals earn their money largely by selling handmade knitwear. There are a few stalls on the way up that sell little bracelets and souvenirs and a bigger shop selling hats, beanies, bags, cardigans on the plaza.
Because we piggybacked on a tour, lunch was organised and set up. We would have preferred to go to one of the proper local restaurants on the island but instead were moved along to one of the many tour group catering facilities. There was no choice for the starter (quinoa soup), but a choice between omelette and trout as well as a mix of both for the really indecisive ones. For 20 soles the food was alright, not a culinary highlight though.
After lunch we descended the 500 or so stairs down to the pier on the other side of the island. I definitely wouldn’t have fancied climbing them on the way up! The boat was already waiting and within 3 hours we were back in Puno.
We never actually set foot on Isla Uros because the boat that collected us had already stopped over before it came to our rescue. We drove past it on the way to Puno though and managed to take a few pictures. It’s a very pretty and interesting island (from afar) but surely not as exciting as our little private experience.
Back in Puno we walked right into what must have been some sort of local dance/music/folkore festa. Hundreds of dancers were roaming the streets dancing to the music of their band. It was amazing to see so many guys taking part in it as well and taking pride in wearing the very colourful costumes. The whole city was buzzing!
Because of the festa there were quite a few street food stalls out, so instead of having a sit down dinner, we just joined the locals and went for alpaca skewers and fried chicken with noodles costing 3 soles each. Both tasted really good.
Tomorrow we’re off to Cusco – getting closer and closer to Machu Picchu.