Friday, October 30, 2009

Transportation in Puno, Peru

We are now on our way back to Lima where we have to catch our plane at the end of the month. Our original plan was to travel by bus from Potosi in Bolivia directly to Arequipa in Peru with a stop in La Paz to catch another bus, which represents almost 24 hours of travelling. But one thing about buses in Peru and especially in Bolivia is that things rarely happen the way they were planned. For instance, if you buy your tickets from company ABC for the 8:00 o’clock bus you may easily end up on a bus operated by the company XWZ and leaving at 10:00 with a transfer in a city you can barely pronounce the name. If you’re lucky this bus will go to the same city you wanted at first. So there was no direct route from La Paz to Arequipa and we booked a bus with a transfer in the small town of Puno in Peru on the shore of Lake Titicaca. But even that route wouldn’t work as planned as it took longer than expected to cross the border and we missed our transfer in Puno. At this point we were very exhausted and instead of taking the evening bus we decided to spend the night in Puno and catch the next bus to Arequipa in the morning. The beauty of all this messed up system is that they are so used that nothing goes as planned that they can change your tickets or rearranged your route in no time and no cost. This is what I called the institutionalized disorganization in a previous post! We just learned to use it to our advantage ;-)

But the beauty of this hiccup is that it gave us the chance to see Puno since we didn’t stop here on our way south to Bolivia. Puno has peculiar means of transportation we didn’t see elsewhere in Peru or Bolivia and we didn’t want to miss the chance to try them. The first one is this modified motorcycle with the back wheel removed and replaced by the seating cabin and a double wheeled axel. I don’t know the name of it but I call it a Put Put and the feeling inside is quite interesting and hard to describe. Although the back axel is the width of the cabin and sitting on two wheels the whole structure is a quite unstable and swings from one side to other at every turn under the sound of Danielle’s laugh, who is having quite a fun, and the puff puff of the underpowered motor trying to get some speed in the busy small streets of Puno. It is like going on ride at the amusement park but in a pea can. To our amazement we made it alive to the restaurant after a 15 minute ride that felt like half an hour!

After a good meal and a bottle of wine it was time to come back to the hostel and for this we jumped in the second type of mean of transportation peculiar to Puno, the man powered three-wheeler! You probably saw these bicycles in a tourist area somewhere in your travel but here it is an actual public transportation device used by anybody. We thought we’d seen everything with the Put Put but this was before getting a ride in this! At least, in the other one we had the psychological feeling of protection offered by the thin can covering the motorcycle. But here nothing just the crash bars surrounding us as we went through the now busier streets of Puno. Also it is good to remember that Puno is at about 4000m (13000ft) of altitude so for the poor driver this is not a lot of air to breath! For us, let’s say that the thin air combined with the exhaustion made the bottle of wine we drank during dinner hit our brain like an 8lb mace! Now Danielle is having a real good time and if you know Danielle you probably know her laugh, which is completely contagious to everyone around. Those pictures show the driver to be very serious but this is not how things were during the ride. He was laughing as well as the pedestrians and the passengers of this other tricycle which passed us on this three lane boulevard while Danielle was mimicking a race between us and them! Even though we were not going very fast, at every bump we had the feeling of being ejected out of our seats. This was a great ride and we sure recommend it to anyone visiting Puno.