Having experienced a radical culture shock first off in La Paz, I was of similar expectations for the road ahead. Upon leaving La Paz towards the Peruvian boarder and Lake Titicaca, the hostility of the landscapes was ever increasing with baron countryside seen on all sides of South America’s highest lake – situated at 3,800m above sea level.
Puno is a small yet developed harbour town on the Northern region of Lake Titicaca. It is a well established area, which, despite catering for tourists and being a hub for Western visitors to the lake, has maintained the quintessential Peruvian spirit. At the heart lies a relaxed square that is host to a large church and many family run shops and restaurants.
The highlight is a five minute walk to the harbour; a great expanse of clear blue water which stretches a total area equal to one fifth the size of Denmark. Stacked with boats and tourist excursions, this is the last stretch of developed and globalised land one would see before venturing off onto Lake Titicaca towards the floating islands of Uros.
Sadly, of the 80 or so floating islands created and inhabited by the indigenous people of the lake, few had escaped being popularised by tourism. Yet saying this, the financial gain for those inhabitants was cardinal to much of life.
By exhibiting their culture and opening up their homes to people like myself has allowed mothers to send their children to schools in Puno and buy electric lamps. Rather than using potentially lethal candles, those living on the Uros Islands no longer have to run the risk of burning away their reed-made home.
Upon returning ‘home’ to our hostel in Puno, I took a brave move to attempt running. The temperatures were not low and neither was the altitude. With little time to acclimatise to 3,800m, the thin air would warrant frequent pauses when merely walking up a flight of stairs.
Walking around hadn’t appeared too strenuous, so a light jog shouldn’t be much harder surely? I set off with the view of seeing how it goes. This poor lack of judgement inevitably led to me being in an extremely oxygen deprived state. I managed one mile. A mile run in 8 minutes 30 seconds, before having to crawl back and realise how impressive those who live and train at altitude are