Political unrest during my holiday???? What???

Puno Travel Blog

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So, I arrived by my rickety bus from Copacabana on the 19th, fully planning on spending all day and a night in Puno. I didn't want to take a chance that the buses would be overbooked the next day, so I walked directly from my arrival door at the bus station to talk with someone in reservations for Cusco.

When I told them I was planning on spending the night and leaving the 20th the girl at the desk got flustered and was rapidly trying to tell me something about...politico...something or something. She was talking too fast and in a different dialect that I had been used to so I was clueless. I finally found a gentleman who worked at the terminal who spoke enough English and basic Spanish to tell me I had to leave TODAY.

It came out that the entire city of Puno was planning a strike against the government for welching on promises made during their most recent elections. I finally understood they were not joking, but trying to get me out of a situation I did not want to be in.

I booked the first available bus out of Puno the same day...7 hours later. So with 7 hours to wander the city I caught a cab to the town center and walked towards Lake Titicaca. It was quite a way from the center to the lake, so I actually caught a transport that was part motorcycle, part bicycle, part rikshaw. But the driver helped me in, made sure I had enough leg room (not much to spare) and off we zipped through the town. It was so fun. He almost ran over half of the town whipping through the streets, but for only 3 soles, it was well worth it.

Lake Titicaca was beautiful, as usual. Radiant blue and the skies were sunny and warm. As I was sitting at the park on the lake a young lady came up to me. I thought at first she might be scamming me, but she explained she was just trying to learn English and would I mind talking to her. I remembered my youngest daughter living in Germany for a year and how she would have to depend on the kindness of strangers to communicate, so I said yes.  I am so happy I said yes. Her name was Jennifer and she was an absolute gem! I got to practice my Spanish and she practiced her English and between the two languages, we were able to sit and chat on a perfect day by the lake for over 2 hours! She was 18 and very sweet. She had had a very, very rough life; having lost her mother and 3 siblings a few years earlier. She was learning English so she could be a guide in Cusco eventually. At the rate she was picking up conversation, she is going to be a rock star at guiding!

I eventually said my goodbyes and headed to find the transport thing back to city center and off we went on that crazy ride again. I was able to ask where I could find some good food and he dropped me off in front of a family member's stall, where I ate another amazing meal of some sort of unidentified meat and potatoes and had a nice, cold beer. Whew! I needed that!

I caught a cab to the bus terminal in plenty of time to get my reserved seat and I'm glad I showed up early. As always, they oversold the bus by about 50%, but I had my seat. Since it was a big tourist bus where we were all on the top deck I had a great view of everything. A good enough view to see the military trickling into the city on our way out.

We never heard the outcome of the "strike" but I spoke with several locals in Puno and they were very concerned with violence from the military. With the impending issue, they were more concerned with helping tourists get out of the city than they were with their own safety.

So, onward to Cusco and the Inti Raymi festival. Puno was pretty, but 7 hours was enough to spend there.


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photo by: lrecht