Exit Peru

Puno Travel Blog

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The rest of my stay in Arequipa was a bit of a blur, between on-the-tab beers at the hostel, games of giant jenga, lots of World Cup games and getting a taste of Arequipan nightlife. There´s one particular street in Arequipa, Dolores, which is lined with clubs, bars and places to eat. There´s also another street that houses Arequipa´s biggest club, the Forum, which I didn´t end up going to, and the local gringo hangout, Dejavu. One rather tropical club on Dolores surprised me by going from salsa to trance in the space of a minute. Interesting. The music all round in Arequipa is not noticeably different than other places, although they do play a little more commercial house music which is a pleasant change.

On Monday, after the wonderful Australia vs Japan game, I headed off to Puno with two English guys who were headed the same way. We´d scouted around for the cheapest bus and felt proud at having found one for 12 soles. Big mistake. I´ve learnt my lesson now.

Why you should rethink that cheap bus fare:

1. The bus won´t leave at the appointed time. In fact, the guy collecting tickets at the bus terminal won´t let you pass through the main gate because he knows the bus isn´t there yet, even though it´s 15 minutes past the time. But he doesn´t call  you over when the bus does come, you just have to be persistent.

2. You will have to listen to some guy practically shouting at you for way too long, wonder what the hell he is on about, then shake your head in disbelief as he tries to sell everyone on the bus some random health product: and people actually buy it!

3. The person in the seat in front of you, or maybe their kid, will urinate on the floor so that, unbeknownst to you, your bag, which is ever so innocently lying flat with its bag straps on the floor, will become absolutely soaked with the stuff. However, as the general smell of the bus consists of urine and other bodily fluids, and your English friend behind you spilt some water on the ground, you´re not entirely sure it´s pure urine, because you can´t believe someone can´t hold it in for 5 hours.

4. Well, not really their fault because a 5 hour bus trip is actually almost 7 hours, as the bus stops everywhere, for anyone, seemingly.

5. I saw a dead woman lying on the side of the highway. I´m still not quite sure how to deal with that, as I´m pretty sure she was dead, maybe hit by a car. No one seemed to take any notice, only one older Peruvian man on the bus who shared my incredulity.

Anyhow, we made it to Puno just as it got dark. I bought a bus ticket to Copacabana for early the next morning. I couldn´t wash my bag as it wouldn´t dry in time, and when I woke up the next morning, I knew someone had definitely pissed on the floor and saturated my bag. It was rather embarrassing having to carry it around like a baby trying to avoid the urinated-on bits. I comforted myself with the fact that urine is sterile (hard to believe when it smells so vile!)

Puno, incidentally, is a bit of a shit-hole which we´d been warned it would be, but we found a simple hostal and went in search of dinner. It´s very touristy in places due to the reed islands (floating islands built entirely of reeds), so walking down ¨gringo alley¨ meant being harrassed to buy stuff or go to someone´s restaurant. It was the most hassle I´ve experience in Peru. We succumbed to the charms of this older man in a suit, wearing one of those beanies with the ear flaps. His restaurant offered live folklore music and a set menu, at 17 soles a tad more expensive than we were used to paying. I had the trout, which was nice, but tiny, and I don´t count 2 slices of carrots and one bean as a ¨salad¨. George tried the cuye but had a double take when he realised he was eating its head, and could see its eye socket. Poor little cuye.

We found a ¨rock and reggae¨ bar called Positivo which was quite nice to sit in, listening to reggae (and not reggaeton) for a change. Drinks were relatively expensive but as I was leaving Peru I found it a good excuse to use up some of my Peruvian money before I crossed the border.

flynn says:
If you are travelling some distance, never go for the cheapest travel method unless you are stuck for money - but I guess you know that already. In fact, bugger the cultural experience - how do you think the locals would travel if they had the money.

Posted on: Jun 18, 2006
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photo by: lrecht