After spending the morning in Machu Picchu, we had lunch in the MP town, then took the train back to Ottalaytambo. Immediately upon arrival, we were ushered into a bus and whisked away for a 2 or 3 hour drive to Cusco again. I don’t understand the logic of the timing of going back to Cusco via bus, but that’s a question that Intrepid Travel must answer.
It didn’t seem to make sense to take the train to the bus when we could have gotten there faster by staying on the train. I also don’t understand why we didn’t just spend an extra day in Cusco when we were there in the first place. For me it ended up being a day of rest because I wasn’t feeling well and the group left me so I didn’t even have the option of spending any time as a group. I hit the shops but didn’t buy much as I am not one to buy lots of touristy trinkets. I also had a great dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. The place even had a live band so that was fun.
The next morning we took a bus to the bus station in Cusco and got on a bus to Puno for a 5-7 hour ride. The bus was two levels. I had a prime seat in the front of the bus although the window had a huge crack in it. The bus was very hot but I was able to sleep, watch a movie and listen to music so the time went quickly. I hear the lower level was the air conditioned with leather seats, but I don’t know if that was accurate. Interestingly our tour guide sat on that level…….
In order to get to Puno, we had to drive through some really dingy looking neighborhoods and when we arrived at Puno, it didn’t look much better. Fortunately, our hotel was right near the main center so the area was good. We went out for dinner as a group at what seemed to be an American Italian restaurant then went to bed. Talk about a boring two days!
Fortunately, the trip started to pick up again. Our last trek together was to Lake Titicaca. We were joined by other random people. The tour was in both English and Spanish. Upon arrival to the homestay island of Amantani, we were separated into groups of 2 and were escorted to our home for the night. My roomie and I ended up staying in a house with the tour guides as well which was nice because they were able to translate for us as the owners didn’t speak any English, only Quechua. Our house was nice with a flush toilet and even a shower but others were not as lucky. We helped our lady shuck peas from her garden which was an odd experience since it was pretty much in silence. Other than that we didn’t really have any interaction with her. She didn’t eat with us or try to communicate at all.
Soon after we settled in, the group trekked up a mountain to see the view but I stayed behind because I was tired of being abandoned on the trail. Turns out that wasn’t the best idea for two reasons – one the trek was easy so I could have done it and two after sitting by the polluted shoreline for a while, I got lost trying to get back to my house. I had to play charades with people to try to get home. Ultimately, someone took pity on me and brought me to his house which was conveniently right next to a bar! My house lady found me eventually and we went back to the house to have dinner. Next we were rushed into costume …..well, their native clothing and ushered over to a party. (I don’t know how they keep that black cape on their head. Mine kept pulling my head and tilting my head back!) The party turned out to be a lot of fun, but again, we were rushed out at a certain time when the natives were ready to go to bed.
The next morning we took the boat to Taquille Island for no real reason. You have to hike all uphill again and while you do see a really nice view, it seems to just be an excuse to charge you for lunch. Overall, not worth the bother. On the way back to the boat, I was again left behind but this time it was with two additional people. We ended up asking directions and had to trek over giant rocks on the shoreline to find the port. This was another huge fail on both Intrepid Travel and the local guide. They didn’t even look for us and we were missing for a long time – enough time for everyone to take a swim in the lake.
Finally we went to the reed islands which is the whole reason you go to Lake Titicaca. Surprisingly, there were a whole lot of mini islands instead of a few bigger ones. It was interesting to see them, but of course, you then get pressured to buy the stuff they are selling. They only sell a few things that they make and they import the rest of their stock – seems a bit silly but as they have no other income, I guess they have no choice.
Once we got back to Puno, we settled back in and then got ready to go out for our last night together. We went to a dinner at a place with a show, Balcones de Puno. The show was fun – native dancing with lots of energy. Afterwards, a couple of people came out with me for my birthday and that was a ton of fun – bars, Latin dancing and karaoke. Great night! At the end, we were locked out of the hotel……might be nice if they told you ahead of time that they were going to chain the gates and make you stand outside banging on them to be let back in. It also makes me think that if there was a fire, these hotels are probably not the safest places to stay. Overall, it was a fabulous way to end my time with the group!