Puno Pt. II: Back to Puno

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All dressed up for the party the night before

All dressed up for the party the night before

The next day, we woke early to a traditional breakfast of bread, butter, mate tea and a pancake. Ernesto brought out his English-Spanish book and I got a chance to work with him on his English, which was another great experience. It’s definitely best when these visits become more of an exchange than a one-sided take-away experience. While I got great a chance to learn about Amantani’s history and culture and the family, I was glad to provide support and have great conversations about life in our respective countries with Ernesto, Hilda and Juana.

My room at Ernesto and Juana's house

My room at Ernesto and Juana’s house

As we said goodbye, Ernesto encouraged us to visit them again – without the facilitation of a tour company. Some families appreciate tourism, especially when all the profits go directly to the family instead of the tour company. If you would like to visit an awesome family on the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca, send a letter to:

The Family of Ernesto, Juana and Hilda Quispe Calsin

Isla Amantani


Or just go to the island and ask for them around town. Tell them that I sent you and that I had a great experience with them – you know, the Chinese American girl from California!

The main square on the island of Taquile

The main square on the island of Taquile

We left Amantani to go to the Island of Taquile for about 2 hours. One hour was spent hiking up a long road into town, the other hour was spent looking at handcrafts in the main square and eating lunch (a lot of the South American tourists didn’t know that lunch wouldn’t be paid for, and refused to eat). We also got a short presentation from our guide about Taquile culture. Many of the men wear hats that symbolize different things. One hat worn to the back shows that a young man is unmarried, another shows that a man is married, and yet another signifies that the person is family of an elected official – those hats are extremely bright and colorful.

After lunch we made the shortcut hike down the mountain on stone stairs to the boat. One of the guys – a German solo traveler that didn’t speak a lick of Spanish – had to take a plane to Lima right after our trip, so those that didn’t have lunch with us had to hurry down the mountain to avoid being left. The other guys yelled from the boat: “HURRY! RUN! THEY’RE GOING TO LEAVE YOU BEHIND!!” for about 15 minutes until they all arrived and we took off.

As we started to head back to Puno, I realized that all the native South American tourists had become friends over time and were planning to keep in touch and hang out after the trip. Despite my lack of expectations, I did think that I would naturally just meet people on my trip – as I did in Southeast Asia. While I did meet a few people here and there, including a nice Dutch couple that talked to me a lot about traveling (and how hard it was to travel without knowing Spanish in this area), I left the bus saying goodbye to no one. Until that point, I didn’t really feel lonely. Those feelings only surface when you realize their absence.

Southeast Asia was socially fairly easy. There were plenty of solo travelers – especially travelers in their 30’s – and most of us were united by a common language (English). During this trip, most of the tourists are from South America, most are with friends, and most people stick together in groups (whether by continent, or by language). Since leaving Machu Picchu, I hadn’t had a conversation with any other American since Rachel, who I already knew in the states. It was a sobering realization that if I wanted to meet people on this trip, I would have to try extra hard to get through the language and cultural differences, not to mention the friend cliques.

* * * * *

Downtown Puno

Downtown Puno

The next few days were bummy but chill days for me in Puno. I ate, walked around town, and got to know the little city that I actually came to enjoy. The sun was out, I ate some great local food, and in the end I actually did meet some people. The first night after my trip, I bumped into Kristyn, one of the girls from my Machu Picchu group, who was having dinner at the very same restaurant. It was relieved to talk to a familiar face and got to know her crew – a group of tourists that were going across the south of Peru on motorbikes, even in the rain. I got to know her tour guide, Eduardo, who was a local from Arequipa. We hung out later at a bar up the street and told stories about our tourist travels – my trip to Machu Picchu, as well as his “tourists that almost died” anecdotes during his mountain biking, rafting, hiking, and motorbike trips.

Learning Chinese at a "Chifa" restaurant in Puno

Learning Chinese at a “Chifa” restaurant in Puno

I also had an interesting conversation with the man working at the Bolivian consulate where I got my visa in Puno. Despite being a bit formal at first, he later warmed up to me a bit and started asking me questions. He was surprised that I was 34 (he thought I was 25, just like everyone else in South America). He asked about my occupation (O-N-G), why I was traveling solo and still single at the age of 34, and even what hostel I stayed at and how much I paid. I think he was just more curious than anything about the girl from California (as I’ve come to be known) who works with youth back in the States and pays $20 soles a night for a hostel room with cold showers. It was kinda amusing.

Early parade for the Epiphany festival (fitting for my name)

Early parade for the Epiphany festival (fitting for my name)

Later that evening, I also went around to the Lonely Planet recommended bar – Kamizaraky Rock Pub – where I befriended all the guys that worked there, as well as some guys passing through Peru from Argentina. For the first time, I felt at home traveling solo. I had great conversations with people about traveling, about life, about things to do in both Peru and Argentina. I only wish I could have spent enough time there to get to know people more in-depth. Maybe they’ll still remember me and keep in touch.

These guys

These guys

My trip from beginning to end in Puno reminded me that despite some challenges, there’s always a way to find a bit of redemption in the end. Sometimes you have to try, and sometimes it happens when you’re not looking.


Posted: January 28, 2013

Author: Tiffany

Category: Americas, Blog, Peru

Tags: , , , , , , ,

+1 Comment
  1. Coool Tiff!! Sounds like you are opening up to the city and the cities are opening up to you.

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