Andean Explorations – 9: Arequipa to Puno

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Exiting Arequipa
I came back from the Colca canyon trek and bid adieu to fellow trekkers. I was goddamn exhausted after the trek but considering the paucity of time, I booked a bus to Puno, the next city, that night itself. Fortunately my hostel allowed me to use the shower for free and I gladly took that opportunity to shower, shave and emerge as a new guy. I would definitely recommend staying at The Point Hostel.

Arequipa is a nice town and I liked the quiet streets and the overall feel of the town. As my bus cruised out of the city, I gave in to screams from my tired body and fell asleep right away. There was a problem though – my feet needed to relax but I couldn’t take my socks and/or shoes off because a special fragrance would have filled the bus. I attribute this to a manual error in planning my inventory of socks.

Bus travel in Peru
There is no public transport in Peru that you can use to travel between cities. Instead, there are a lot of buses operated by private companies. They cater to all kinds of budgets, for example the ticket from Arequipa to Puno by the finest luxury bus was S/. 80 while for an economy bus it gets as low as S/. 10. Laws of demand-supply persist and best deals are available as the bus is just leaving the terminal. Naturally, cheaper the ticket, lower is the predictability. Low cost buses might take frequent stops, have bad toilets, not arrive on time or have other surprise problems on board.

Rail network is almost absent in this region, but there are lots of airports.

Currency (I missed this in the intro post)
S/. is the symbol for Peruvian currency (code PEN) – Nuevo Sol (Nuevos Soles in plural), simply referred to as “Sol/Soles” (सोल / सोलेस्). As of today, 1 USD = 2.8 PEN

chor chor! Thief!
At night, there was a commotion and I woke up to sound of the French guy running out of the coach hurriedly. I met a French couple while waiting at the Arequipa bus terminal. It’s funny how you make friends out of practical or situational problems. I needed to pee badly and I didn’t want to take my backpack inside the Peruvian toilet, so these people helped me out (by guarding my luggage). Later, I got them exit tickets – some bus terminals in Peru have small exit taxes – ½ soles or so. This is a good price to pay for having a decently clean bus terminal.

Anyway, back to the story. Apparently while the bus was taking a stop, a thief sneaked in and attempted to steal from inside the bus while everyone was fast asleep! I was sitting on the single seat right in front of the door and was fortunate enough to be saved. But then my little backpack with all the valuable stuff was safely tucked in and entangled between my legs. Still the episode was as close I ever got to see crime in Peru.

Safe travel tip
Get one of those pouches that strap on to your shin/calf or thighs (if you are wearing shorts) and are safely concealed. Important “SOS” stuff – Passport, travel permits, reserve cash, credit cards and essential phone numbers (local police, embassy) – should go in this pouch. This pocket is inaccessible, so at checkpoints you are likely to panic and fumble (I had a problem in Israel especially, where they have hundreds of check points). But security doesn’t come for nothing, especially if traveling alone in a foreign place.

Finding a hostel in Puno

…or Peru is no different from a typical experience in India. As the bus arrived in Puno, the air smelled different. It was cold wind probably blowing over the gigantic Lake Titicaca the shore on which this city is located. The French couple and I deliberated over which hostel to check in, while touts gathered around us like fruit flies on jelly cake. The agents were almost pulling us and claiming to have the “best hotel just for you.” Finally we went to a cheap place and I got a fabulous double bedroom for just S/. 15. Perfect!

I crashed immediately since my sleep has been erratic but eventful so far. First night I arrived from Toronto and slept at 2 am, second night was in a bus, third night was in another rickety country bus, fourth night was in a tent and fifth night was again in a bus which reached Puno at 4 am. I needed a place to sleep that was quiet and where my ass remained stationary. Aww… Good night!

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery