Thursday, August 23, 2012


Good afternoon from Puno! We have been spending some quality time relaxing here in Puno, and after two days of basically recovering from our trek, we started to wander around the city. Yesterday we first went to the Naval Musuem here in Puno. However, on our way we discovered that a festival of typical foods was going on. Luckily for us it was still fairly early in the morning and they were setting up the festival. After confirming with a police officer that the festival would be going on for quite a while, we continued to the musuem. In the musuem we learned a lot about Peruvian naval history. It showed various battles and wars, how Bolivia was cut off from the sea, and now a large part of Chilean territory used to be Peruvian. Additionally it explains how the naval boats on Lake Titicaca got there. Mainly of British origin, they were brought over in parts, and then using a combination of train power, human power, and animal power, all the parts were transported to the lake where they were reassembled, sometimes through a multi-year process. The naval musuem is essentially a room next to the naval office in Puno, so it isn´t terribly large, but for a free musuem, it is definitely worth checking out.

After the naval musuem we went back to the food festival where we tasted chicharrones de alpaca which were little bits of alpaca meat served with two types of potato.

The alpaca was pretty tasty, and one of the potatoes was actually a dehydrated potato which was very rich and starchy. We also tried two different types of bread, quinoa and trigo, neither of which was particularly tasty. In addition we had a glass of chicha to wash it all down. It was nice to see that the community would sponsor such an event, and there were quite a few locals out and about eating as some of the stalls sold entire meals. Since we were more interested in trying a few different things we didn´t get a "completo," but we did have a good time asking about all the different foods.

After the food festival we decided to visit a decommissioned naval ship, the Yavari. We flag a cab and tell him where we want to go, he seems to nod as if he understands what we want and says it will cost 4 soles. He proceeds to drive us two blocks and tells us that we have arrived, obviously nowhere near a naval vessel. We then pull out our map and explain in more detail that it is close to such and such hotel, etc. and he tries to charge us more. I gave him two soles and said no thanks. We flagged a mototaxi who knew what we wanted to do and took us there. Basically the boat is moored behind the Sonesta Posada Hotel, and when we got off the mototaxi, the driver told us to walk down a questionable looking path and the boat would be there. We followed the path, and at first were somewhat dissapointed as the path leads to a very rickety looking "pier" and then there is an old boat. We were pleasantly surprised that after braving the "pier" and making some noise by practically falling off the boat, a lady emerged and gave us a tour. We got to see the 375 horsepower diesel engine which replaced the original engine that was powered by llama dung (apparently a plentiful resource).

Also, the ship operates as a bed and breakfast and you can spend the night for $45. The ship was also enlarged at one point, and now is being restored as a tourist attraction. Getting home from the Yavari was very simple, it is about 5 KM outside of town, and there is a collectivo that costs 60 centimos that goes from the center of Puno to the Sonesta Posada Hotel and back. In fact, it even says Sonesta Posada Hotel on the front of the collectivo, although not officially affiliated with the hotel. Basically, we could have avoided our transportation headache in arriving at the Yavari simply by taking this collectivo, which we took to get home. Apparently the Yavari is not a terribly well known tourist attraction, so many locals don´t know how to get there.

After visiting the Yavari we went to the Coca musuem, which turned out to be a Coca and traditions musuem. We watched a video about different dances the indigenous people do, many of which make fun of the Spaniards, as well as saw some exhibits about the uses of the coca leaf from pre-Incan times to the present. The video was a little boring as Sarah almost fell asleep, but the exhibits were fairly interesting, it looks like the Incans and pre-Incans knew of the medicinal properties of the coca leaf. Coca also was used as a sign of friendship when given as a gift.

This morning we took a trip to some of the floating islands in Lake Titicaca. We took a motorboat to one of the floating islands to meet the island´s president. Seven families live on this island and the president gave us a demonstration of how they build the islands. There are reeds that are about 10 meters long that grow in beds of a cork-like material in the lake and these people tie the cork together and then cover it with beds of reeds. They also build their homes and other structures out of reeds, as well as using the reeds as fuel for cooking.

Additionally they make boats out of reeds and historically fished and hunted ducks to trade for other goods on the mainland. Now, aside from about 15 islands which don´t allow tourism, most of the islanders make a living selling trinkets and artisania to tourists. The children go to school on the mainland, and it seems that fewer and fewer stay in this way of life. We did get to take a ride on a reed boat to a different island, where we explored some more and I got another passport stamp. Supposedly the post office on this island is the only floating post office in the world. With that, it would appear our time in Peru is done, and tomorrow we will be heading for Copacabana, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. We will keep in touch!

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