Cheaper Prices in Puno
I noticed that prices of goods are cheaper in Puno than in any of the Peruvian cities I've been in. The alpaca scarves/sweaters, indigenous crafts, etc. were not only cheap but abundant. Some of the local merchants can be "sweet-talked" into giving you the items for a cheaper price than what they normally ask. Shopping can be a great experience in this part of Peru. Try it!!!
Transportation to Juliaca Airport
The ride to Juliaca airport from Puno's city center is about 40 minutes. There is a shared transportation service in a van offered by many of the hotels in Puno. The fee for the shared service is $5, while the private transportation service costs $30. Check with your hotel to avail of any of these airport transportation options.
(Info based in Sept. 2007)
Chullpas de Sillustani
I visited the Chullpas de Sillustani, which are a set of pre-Colombian funerary towers. The towers date from the period of Inca occupation, but they were built by the Aymara-speaking Colla tribe. Notice the fine craftmanship of the towers. It's amazing how they built these stones. Even with modern tools, it continues to puzzle modern age archeologist. One theory is that they use the weak area of the stone to make their perfect cuts. Some say there is one weak point, others many points. First they will drill holes at this weak points. Then, they will pour water so that it could freeze. Finally, with the pressure form the ice, the rock will begin to crack in near perferct form. I'm not sure if it works, but whatever this ancient people did has left us with an interesting wealth of sights in the Andes.
Lake Titicaca: Taquile Island
My visit to ‘Taquile Island’ was part of a day trip on Lake Titicaca. The island is located nearly 35 kilometre or 3 hours sailing from Puno. Shortly before we arrived at ‘Taquile Island’, our guide of the day, Manuel, told us about the island we were going to visit. It is inhabited by around 350 families consisting of 3000 people and the small community is still following old traditions. The three main rules are: Don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t be lazy! There are no theft and no divorces on the island… Unbelievable in today's world. However, the community is very protected from the outside world and the local residents may seem a little shy. Our guide asked us not to contact the locals - it’s OK if they contact you first, else don’t speak to them. Please respect their community and way of life.
We arrived at a small harbour, but were asked to sail around the 1 kilometre wide and 6-7 long island. The island council distributes all visits to the island so that all families have their share of tourism revenues. I was glad we had to go around the island because the staircase in front of us looked very steep. From the other harbour, we followed a small path up the hilly island. It was also a quite steep walk, but with great views of Lake Titicaca and the surrounding green areas where cows and sheep were grazing. We didn’t have to take care of the traffic because there are no cars or other vehicles at 'Taguile Island'.
We ended the first part of our island walk at a community house. We were seated at a long table and lunch (included in the day trip) was served. A tasty soup for starters and freshly caught and fried trout for main course. Fantastic! Some elderly residents started playing music and dancing for us. We weren’t allowed just to sit and enjoy the entertainment, but were invited to join the dance. Not a dance I have tried before, but very funny and there was a great atmosphere. We were presented for their souvenir and craft – but again we didn’t feel obligated to buy. 'Taguile Island' is especially known for their beautiful textiles with unique designs – and it is the men who knits the products.
Knitting skills are actually quite important for a ‘Taquile’ man. If a man wants to merry a woman he must prove his sincerity by knitting a waterproof hat for her! He has three attempts to do so and if he don’t succeed he can say goodbye to his loved one. He will never have another chance to marry her… All residents wear a knitted hat (‘chullos') in a colour that indicate their social status. A black hat = part of the island council, a red hat = married, and a red/white hat = unmarried.
Our island walk continued up to the island’s main town. Here was a small square with a few shops, the 'town hall', and the church. Our boat would pick us op at the first harbour and we walked across the island. We arrived at the top of the steep staircase and enjoyed an amazing view of Lake Titicaca. The climb down the staircase was tough, 544 steps – all uneven and not with the same height or length! I’m glad I didn’t have to climb up the stairs.
'Taguile Island' was a great experience. As mentioned we only visited on a day trip, but it is also possible to stay overnight at the island.
On our way back to Puno we passed a few of the 41 island around the lake. We came very close to ‘Amantani Island’, which also is inhabited by a small community. There are two old temples -'Pachamama' and 'Pachatata' (Mother Earth and Father Earth) – on the island, but we didn’t visit.
‘Parque Pino’ is a small square in the centre of Puno. The square is named after Dr. Manuel Pino, who was an old war hero, and a statue of the doctor is erected in the middle of ‘Parque Pino’.
Around the square are the church of ’San Juan Bautista’ and the ‘National College of San Carlos’.
‘Parque Pino’ connect to ‘Plaza de Armas’ by the pedestrian main street, ‘Jiron Lima’.