Happy birthday to Jef and his sister, Lisa, born on the same day 15 years apart! They both love vanilla cream pie as their cake of choice; I hope Lisa gets hers but it looks like Jef will not!
But he did get a nice breakfast at the buffet this morning :).
A not-too early start, we met Juliana in the lobby at 8:45am for our transfer to the airport. Since it's a domestic flight, we only needed to be there an hour ahead of time. Check-in went fine, catching the plane went fine and arrival went as scheduled. The airport is actually in Juliaca, a fairly new (1980's) town about an hour from Puno. We were met by Abel and a driver (didn't catch his name but I think it was something like Mario Andretti--or that's who he thought he was!!).
Apparently, the reason the airport is there instead of Puno is that the politics are corrupt and a politician paid someone off to make sure it was located in Juliaca. And apparently, the Juliaca area has a contraband (like illegal chinese knock-offs) and narcotics problem with these things coming thru Bolivia.
Mario Andretti roared through Juliaca's very rutted roads and into Puno in record time. Puno is an important agricultural and livestock region; important livestock are llamas and alpacas, which graze on its immense plateaus and plains. Much of it's economy, like Juliaca, relies on the black market, fueled by cheap goods smuggled in from Bolivia. It's population is 150,000 and growing right up the hills around it. Abel said pretty soon it will be known as "Puno York City"--yep, that's where the title for today came from :p.
The elevation here is 12,500 ft, the highest we'll hit all trip, I think. A shout out to our Sparta friends and fellow travelers, Lois and Jack Harr...we've talked traveling to Machu Picchu and Peru and both wondered about how the altitude would affect us so just to let you guys know--I think it's not too bad except for shortness of breath when climbing hills.
Puno is on the shores of Lake Titicaca (said just as it looks!!). Lake Titicaca, straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains, is one of South America's largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water. Said to be the birthplace of the Incas, it’s home to numerous ruins. Its waters are famously still and brightly reflective. Around it are national reserves sheltering rare aquatic wildlife such as giant frogs.
We arrived at the hotel around 1:30, checked in and hit the hotel restaurant for lunch. The hotel, Eco Inn, is nice but a little bit out of the main area of Puno so no restaurants around. After lunch, we walked up the road to see what's here. We found a couple of very, very small markets and bought some crackers, cookies and a wonderful looking large roll for dinner (in the room, elise!).
It just started storming--lots of thunder and lightening as well as rain. So glad we're not flying or driving the crazy roads now!
Lastly, just wanted to add that Condor travel has been great; they've meet us every place they're supposed to and always on time. We started off being disappointed that we weren't with a group but as the days go by and we see the big groups leaving so early every morning, we're starting to appreciate the leisure time we have. We're getting to see lots of things that we wanted to do that's good.
A full day of touring tomorrow--hitting islands in Lake Titicaca and riding on a traditional reed boat...but that means a very early start; pick up is at 6:50am!!