Thursday, September 11, 2008

Puno

Wednesday 6th Thursday 7th August

Puno is another favourite spot on the gringo trail perched on the Lake Titicaca shoreline, being a stop off point for people travelling from Bolivia to Cusco, Peru. It boasts boat trips to the "floating Islands" - a group of 37 man made islands constructed from reeds where indigenous tribes of Uros people live.

I visit an old iron gunship called "Yavari" that was used to patrol the deep waters of the lake from 1870 onwards. Designed by James Watt and Co. and built by Thames Ironwork and Shipbuilding Co. both of England; the ship was dismantled into a 2766 piece jigsaw puzzle and carted over the Andes by mules and men!! A small matter of 6 years later, the ship parts finally arrived and were re-assembled on the lake. Once the engine was fuelled with Llama dung, she steamed away for a Christmas Day maiden voyage. Since 1987 she has been part of a restoration project to bring her back to former glory....



The town is squeezed in between Andean foothills and the lake affording a 2 mile expanse of flattish land. Most is used! Buildings ooze up hillsides, most unfinished due to government taxation on completed structures. A steep climb of 600 plus steps gives striking views of the town and lake all overseen by the dramatic 30 foot iron sculpture of a condor....



Town streets are too much of a challenge for tiny 125cc motorbikes, converted to passenger carrying taxis. Here passenger becomes engine and assists in the uphill battle....



The main square houses the baroque style Cathedral completed in 1757. Impressive from the outside with fantastic carvings, the inside is less so....



At night Puno comes alive! Gringo bars are plentiful on the main thoroughfare. Plazas host indigenous acts where bands, comedians and street performers entertain large crowds. A bonfire in the street keeps the chill from the air.....



While the main stage rocks it up....



10 days and 3000kms from where my flight leaves Buenos Aires, I resign myself to the fact that Puno will be the furthest leg of the journey and tomorrow begins the long haul back home. I celebrate in style with a few pisco sours....

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