24th September 2007, Monday (Day 3)
We woke up to the wonderful news that India had won the T20 world cup.
While planning out Peru itinerary, we had a choice to make between Arequipa and Puno. While Arequipa gives access to the Colca Canyon - the Grand Canyon of South America, we picked Puno over it for two reasons: One, the floating islands seemed unique enough a concept to experience and two, Puno is situated at an altitude greater than Machu Picchu’s allowing for better acclimatization.
We woke up a late, had a lazy breakfast and headed towards the Lima International airport. Most places in Peru are situated very high above sea level making travel by road very difficult if not impossible. Air travel is the first choice, not the last resort. The sheer volume of traffic has spawned a spate of mom-and-pop airlines, with dilapidated, ill maintained, ancient planes operated by semi-qualified pilots. The result is obvious - a very high occurrence of air crashes.
Formalities taken care off, we settled in the flight and spent most of our time, as the pictures below show, shooting the Andean peaks and playing the usual pranks.
I don't think we disgusted the Peruvians too much.
Gayu was extremely nervous about how the hotel in Puno would turn out . Hotel Taypikala was wonderful. Spacious. Quaint. Clean. Very neatly decorated. And with an awesome view of the lake. After freshening up, we proceeded to Mercado Artesanal (Handicraft's Market).
With a number of crisscrossing streets lined with boutiques and eateries, this is a must visit place in Puno. Andean masks, pottery, jewelry, reed boats, Pisco and a lot of alpaca clothing. This is a good place to buy good quality souvenirs (which, unlike in Egypt, are not made in China).
What fascinated me most was the Peruvians simply would not bargain! They were warm and smiling. But they would not drop their price one bit. We tried the "walk-off routine", "bulk buy", "compare with the next shop" etc. They seemed to be comfortable with you buying anywhere in the market. The only way I could wiggle anything out of them was by asking them to throw something in.
They finally did. It was a lot of fun. But then it was starting to get cold and our stomachs has started to growl.
We had picked Apu Salkantay to eat even before we had left US. It is a Fodor's Choice with a cent-dollar sign next to it The roaring fire in the stove had us cozy in a few minutes. We ordered our very first Cusqueña, ordered hearty Peruvian food with Preeti and Gayu going for the trout, Vijay and me sticking with vegetarian (I ordered the Hindu curry), the experience was right what Fodor's had promised.