Without knowing anything or planning anything whatsoever, my friends Sunni, Rachel, Nicole, and I decided to head out to Puno (ie Lake Titicaca) for the weekend.
All of the buses to Puno leave from Cusco around 10 PM and get in around 4-5 AM, so we left Ollanta around 7:30 to get there on time. Since we were running a little late, we tracked down the only "taxi" driver we could find (sidenote: taxis are more like random men that happen to own cars.) Midway through the taxi ride, he asks if we would like to take a "short cut" through the valley. Seeing as we were running a little late, we agreed. Turns out this "short cut" is entirely composed of dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. For the first 30 minutes, we were all convinced he was taking us somewhere either to rob us or kill us since none of us had ever taken that route to Cusco.
Luckily, after a very turbulent ride, we survived and made our way to the Cusco bus station - which was absolutely packed. All of the buses were sold out except for one teensy local bus company, so we snagged the last few seats and waited for our 10 PM departure. After initially getting on the wrong bus, we re-checked out tickets only to find out that this bus did not leave at 10, it left at 11:30. For an hour and a half, we essentially ate our dinner of Doritos and drinkable yogurt and sang songs until we were delirious.
When the bus finally pulled up, we realized that we did not have the bed seats, we had the regular upright seats located next to an entire group of loud Peruvian high school students. We had it pretty good though, considering that there were people on this bus without seats, just chillin in the aisle for 7 hours. One Peruvian woman actually fell asleep on Nicole's lap. Needless to say, we were very thankful when we finally arrived in Puno.
We arrive in Puno at 8 AM with nowhere to stay and no idea where we were. After walking around the plaza searching for food and/or lodging, we stumble upon a hole-in-the-wall hostel known as "Titikaka Backpackers." Antioneta, the owner of the hostel, may have been the nicest and sweetest person I have ever met. As soon as we got there, she made us breakfast, gave us a guidebook, and told us what to do to get a tour of the Titicaca islands. She even offered to wash our underwear for us, to which we politely declined.
After a nap that felt like an eternity, we hit the streets to find some food. Again, we stumbled upon a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was sooo cheap and sooo good. I believe my sandwich was 3 soles, which translates to less than a dollar - yesssss. We explored the city for a little while and spent wayyyy too much time booking our tour for the next 2 days.
Before we knew it, it was time to eat again! The lady at the hostel recommended a fish place nearby, so we went to grab some trout and kingfish ceviche yummmm.
They also had a spectacular dance show the entire time which I cannot even begin to describe. There were 4 dancers that performed about 10 dances, each from a different region from Peru and each in traditional costume. The finale with the condor costumes was absolutely amazing.
After scarfing down some cheesecake and peculiar Peruvian cocktails, we hit up another bar before heading to the CASINO. Yes, we found a casino in Peru. And guesss who won big money?? Yours truly! I didn't really understand the premise of the game and it is all in Spanish, but somehow I won 10 big ones (soles, that is).
Our tour the next day began at 6:45 AM, so we turned in for the night after the casino. Of course, Antioneta, the sweetest person of all time, had hot tea waiting for us when we got home.
To be continued...