A straightforward hop across the border took us from Bolivia’s Copacobana to Peru’s Puno. Both towns sit on the shore of Lake Titicaca, but there the similarities end, Copa’s almost bucolic atmosphere replaced with the hum of a hectic urban sprawl.
There’s really only one reason to stop off here – a visit to the floating islands of Los Uros, a 25-minute boat ride from Puno. They’re effectively a large village archipelago (villapelago?), built from the reeds that grow on the lake. Each island has a foundation made from thick slabs of buoyant root beds, which is then overlaid with a thick carpet of criss-crossed reeds. It’s a strange, spongey surface to walk upon, and the whole thing bobs up and down as boats motor by – an unusual feeling!
There are over a hundred of these islands, each of which hosts a handful of families, but those that cater to the gringo horde (guilty) no longer feel particularly authentic. Ours was effectively a floating souvenir stall, and the islanders’ kids singing for a few extra soles was pushing things a bit for my tastes. Still – the islands’ fascinating construction made Puno a worthwhile stopover, and those soles do help the islanders resist the mainland, so let’s not feel too bad.