First published 16th July 2008 on

This blog appears to have become a bit of a wanker spot (the irony being that I’m probably the biggest wanker), so here’s a few more things that have annoyed me over the last few days.

Smug travelling couple. He’s wearing canvas trousers cut to mid calf, a friendship band, the beginnings of a ridiculously coy goatee and a permanently slightly disgusted expression on his face unless he’s ostentatiously snuggling up to her in a manner that says “Look at me world! I’m a seasoned traveller and I’m NOT a virgin”. She looks like a starving anorexic, with straggly blonde hair and something that exposes her midriff, with lots of different ethnic rings on her fingers and maybe a braid. She looks half mongoloid from food deprivation, and either sounds ludicrously confident ordering people around or has a whiny baby voice that she uses to get him to deal with any awkward foreigners or situations. I hate these cunts because they’re usually smug patronising boring bellends when you are forced to converse with them “Oh you haven’t been to visit the nose flute playing tribe of limbless windowlickers in the Amazonian rainforest. Well we stayed in one of their huts built out of shit and caiman vomit and they were so welcoming and it was really like spiritual” and they’re doubly as selfish as they would have been as individuals. What is it about some people that when they get into a relationship they not only forget about other people’s personal space but usually the existence of other people. These people are inevitably the bastards who will twat you with their rucksack without so much as an acknowledgement. Someone’s nicked your seat? It’ll be a smug couple! What’s worse is they’re usually much richer and better looking than you so they’ll get away with whatever abhorrent antisocial behaviour they get up to. They generally have no real respect for the people of the country they’re in. If you’re travelling alone in Morocco and have covered up your head and arms and still get shit from some of the older blokes (bitter experience here), it will be the smug couple swanning around in fucking THONGS and no fecker says a word.

Anyhow, I managed to get the bus to Puno, and arrived there about 4am, plenty of time to freeze my tits off and then witness one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen – over the vast, shimmering Lake Titicaca – from the dingy inauspicious confines of Puno bus station, in between avoiding touts and nutters. Apparently Lake Titicaca is actually pronounced (to avoid causing offence) “Lake Titty haha” which means “Puma stone”. So that’s alright and not snigger worthy at all then. Shame there’s no dusty titi monkeys there.

Sunrise over Titicaca and already I've been sold a tour ticket.

Managed to book a tour to the Uros floating islands at the bus station (down to bossy Theresa’s advice, really I should have booked a full day tour to Uros and Tiquane island – although given the way the tour went that would have been a whole day of people trying to relieve me of my cash for nothing. The tour was due to start at 8.40am but at about 7am (after I’d been wandering around amusing myself like Tom Hanks but in a poundstretcher version of “The Terminal”) the bloke who’d sold me the ticket chased me round the bus station shouting Miss until I turned round, and insisted I took a cab to the office in town with this other bloke. I was all “¿porque?” thinking it’s pretty weird to take a cab with an absolute stranger in a strange town, but I took it anyhow, thinking that selling boat tours was a pretty bad cover for serial killers. In their office a woman was breastfeeding a very cute baby whilst another bloke pretended to be complimenting the baby. I was given a tiny map of Puno and told to come back in 40 minutes. Went to the Plaza de Armas (where some sort of military cadet parade seemed to be getting set up) and saw the Cathedral, but was moved on by some wanker in a shiny uniform – along with everyone else sitting on benches in the plaza, I wasn’t mistaken for a vagrant I swear – whilst having a ciggie (For various reasons I couldn’t go into here I have dismally FAILED to quit smoking here – besides its 3 soles (about 50p) for a packet of tabs.) Back at the tour office I was eventually herded onto a bus with some fellow travellers – couple of smug couples and a few up their own arse single male travellers- whoopeee!) and taken to the port where we were put onto a boat that looked like the Orca in Jaws after the placcie shark had finished with it- we weren’t allowed to sit on the top of the boat because the chap who ran the boat (incidentally also our guide) said he would be fined – although it would be ok to sit on top once out of Puno Harbour. Hmmm. Our guide Carlos (the Jackel!) had shades and a goatee superglued to his face and was the SPITTING image of Bill Hick’s character in “Ninja Bachelor Party” . He gave us some spiel about the people on the islands whilst the boat bobbed up and down in the harbour (which helpfully took about 40 minutes off our actual tour time). The Uros islands were built out of reeds layered on top of each other and have been there for centuries since the Uros indians fled the Incas to live there. Since then the Uros people were taken over by the Aymara people and speak their language now. The islands are home to about 10 families each and amusingly if a family has a fall out they just cut the island in two – like in Steptoe and Son but more drastic! After cutting through reed beds scaring moorhens and Titicaca grebes out of the way, our boat arrived at the island near to a watchtower inscribed with the message Kami sarani, which is the Aymaran way of greeting someone. Sadly there didn’t seen to be a Wakiri (welcome) back – the guys there seemed pissed off there were so many tourists crammed on the boat (22- the tour salesman had said there would be a maximum of 15). Eventually we were waved through and moored first at an Island where locals specially dressed up greeted us from the boat (not sure if they were wearing fat suits but everyone was enormous which was disconcerting as the islands tend to bob up and down, and the reeds sink slightly but not unpleasantly beneath your feet.)

Welcome to our fortified floating island.

They already had stalls set out with loads of the same sort of tut you can buy at any market in Peru (but at 10 times the price), and whilst Carlos the Jackel explained that they had given us reeds as gifts to eat but as last time he came some tourists got sick he and the boat driver would eat the reeds for us (there were about 2 reeds there), they flapped around embroidered tea towels showing their traditional way of life. It’s a shame everything was so overpriced, and once (after climbing down from the watchtower looking naive) I’d been immediately ripped off by a fat kid with a plaintive face selling “hand made” postcards for 10 soles, that I soon discovered were being sold on all the stalls (I asked fatty in Spanish if he’d painted them too – he looked embarrassed), I kind of lost any enthusiasm for shopping – although I bought some other postcards for 1 sol each, and the bloke then promptly tried to overcharge me by 10 soles for stamps – even though I guess the people there were only trying to get us to share what they thought was our traditional way of life (having cash to throw away on useless, meaningless crap- hmmmm”). After the shopping we were ORDERED by Carlos onto a reed boat (these looked really gorgeous and ornate from a distance, shaped like dragons and suchlike) which ‘r inspection was an inflatable covered in reeds. Carlos then sped off in the “power” boat, waving happily at us. Fatty came along to sing about 20 songs in different languages and a thin reed-like (ironically) voice, whilst his enormo-mum rowed the boat. Once we were in the middle of the lake between islands, the boat stopped so Fatty could demand cash from us for the “entertainment” (because he needed the cash for schooling – despite looking about as childlike as Gary Coleman in “Different Strokes”) and his mum could demand 10 soles each for the boat trip (which apparently Carlos had mentioned once in Spanish, well before telling us all to get on the boat as it would take us to the next island – which were I come from does not constitute hiring a boat for a trip). I paid both (to be fair they needed the cash for pies), mainly as I had a 10sol note I’d accidentally ripped and fixed with tape (people are really strict about cash here), but a ruddy faced Swedish bloke and the two blondde babes he was with refused to pay. When Fatty’s mum lumbered down the boat to shake her belly at them and shout – the girls capitulated but the bloke was like Bjorn Borg the Ice King, which I think may have caused a little bit of bad feeling, as immediately we landed on the other island Carlos was there telling us “I said you would have to pay”. Actually he’d misrepresented the whole thing, but bollocks to it, a boat trip for a few quid, no matter how bollocks the boat is, isn’t the end of the world (It’s the LIES I can’t stand! Joke!).

Seconds after this picture, she pulverised a Swede.

Guess what was on the next Island? An even bigger market!!! And a couple of cafes which might have been cool had we more than 20 minutes there. At the third island we visited, Carlos promised us “a surprise. The biggest bird ever. You will see!” At this rate I expected a chicken in drag, but it actually turned out to be a huge baby condor.

A condor moment

Allegedly it had fell from the nest and been abandoned by it’s mom, and it seemed to love the guy handling it – it was very sweetly rubbing it’s head against him and making small squeaky noises – completely at odds with it’s flashing eyes and huge beak and claws. I donated a sol to the alleged look after the condor fund and was allowed to stroke it’s huge head. It felt like a baldy bloke and despite the fact it was a semi-tame baby and the whole situation felt a bit exploitative,it was very awe inspiring. Probably my only chance to see a condor close up in Peru too (sure I saw one on the way to Maccu Piccu, and I’m sticking to that), as I didn’t get to visit the Colca Canyon – which some smug couple is bound to tell me is the ONLY experience worth having in Peru!). Then we were whisked back to Puno via another port about 2 miles away from town (which we all got a bit freaked out about by this point – half expecting Carlos to have a brother who ran a taxi company). From the boat it appeared scarily that the islands were burning down – perhaps the traditional cooking method one of the women there was demonstrating was abandoned for a good reason. Carlos led us to a bus back to town from the port, telling us pointedly to walk slowly -right as we were passing some sort of port security blokes.

Got dropped off at the Plaza de Armas again and found a really sweet courtyard cafe with an incredibly inattentive hostess for a coffee, before having a nice meal of “local” trout in cream and white wine (it was rather yummy). Then meandered around Puno, eventually ending up back at the Port as they have a touristy market there and I fancied a shop. This was the friendliest place in Puno, which seems a lot more retiscent than Cusco (the Plaza de Armas is just the cathedral and municipal buildings, no concession to turistas). In some ways that’s good, as perhaps the local identity isn’t diluted, but given how run down the place is, despite such a gorgeous location (Puno has a waterfall monument a lot like Cusco’s but poorly maintained, crumbling and graffittied), perhaps they could do with more tourist money – and Cusco has managed to keep the balance relatively sympathetic to locals. It’s a toughy.

Anyhow Puno on the whole is a lot less open and smily than Cusco, but at the port market the women were charming. Yes they were trying to sell me things, but they were also sharing jokes, and weren’t too bothered when I didn’t want to buy things. So of course I came away with a new rug (hopefully for the new flat when I get back), jacket and scarf! Hey big spender.

Strolled along the shore of the lake, watching strange long beaked birds poke about in the mud, until the sun started to set, then I headed to the bus station to wait for the bus.

Sun starts to set over Titicaca

Had a few hours to kill, so wrote my postcards, drank hot chocolate, shivered in the cold (Puno bus station is so cold they put the temperature up in Farenheit to avoid freaking people out – it was 21 degrees, and definitely not centipede), got a little stressed about the lack of any other information besides temperature, went on the internet and possibly sent some slightly stressed out emails – who can tell, spent 5 minutes trying to flush someone elses floating poo down the toilet so nobody would think it came from me, was unsuccessful, asked the women playing backgammon at the bus company stand what puerta to go to (each puerta was a door leading to about 6 different rampas where the bus could possibly be), went where I was told and thankfully found – a whole load of stressed people both tourists and locals waiting for the bus which hadn’t shown up. Finally it arrived and I got on. Behind me two yank girls had discovered they’d booked seats that weren’t next to each other so one would have to sit on me. They moaned and whined until a single bloke traveller took the offending seat. He turned out to have been on the bus tour, not that he said that much to me, he was far too seasoned a traveller for such nonsense. It was a beautiful full moon, so after counting the number of stray dogs on the streets of Puno from the bus (17 compared to Cusco’s paltry 10 the previous night – I thought it would help me get to sleep!), I flitted in and out of nearly sleeping and looking at the gorgeous craggy and bleak Andes. Got back to Cusco about 3.30am and despite being knackered was on form, getting a cab straight back and even chatting with the cabby! And not waking anyone up on the way back in. Phew!

So today’s my ultimate day in Cusco, and I’m really going to miss the place. Typical just when you start getting into something good, it’s over!