Before starting this post, I wanted to give a little plug for my other blog, called Military Finance, which is part of the Saverocity blog. I started it about a month ago, so it’s still a little light on content, but any suggestions would be welcome! It deals with all things military personal finance (non-travel of course). With that out of the way, onto my final installment.
After our last night in Cusco (which I think is my favorite city in Peru), we woke up early the next morning for a long, 8hr bus ride to Puno, which is the major Peruvian city on Lake Titicaca. The bus ride was comfy, and beverages were available the whole way, but it was a long and slow grind. Along the way, we stopped at several sites; unfortunately none was notable enough to mention, other than the llama farm/restaurant where we stopped for lunch. I’ve included some adorable pics below.
We arrived in Puno in the late afternoon, and unfortunately found the city to be very dirty and polluted, although the people were very nice. The combination of 12,000 ft elevation and gas fumes everywhere prompted us to stay nearby our hotel that night. We stayed at the La Hacienda Puno, which, while the staff was incredibly nice and accomodating, I cannot recommend at all to stay at this hotel. The hotel was cold, and not comfortable, although the breakfast buffet was decent.
We woke up to a beautiful day the next morning, got picked up at our hotel, and taken to a boat, and onwards to the famous floating reed villages of Lake Titicaca, inhabited by the Uros tribe. It was quite surreal to imagine that these people live their entire lives atop 6ft of floating reeds, only rarely going into town to trade.
The entrance island, where we paid a toll
We got to ride on one of their boats for 10 soles (~$3)
In their native dress, with some Swedish friends we met
After a couple hours learning about their culture, we boarded a speed boat to take us to Taquile Island, and really see how natives that were cut off from the world truly lived. BTW, you can spend a night on the floating islands; a room costs about 30-40 Soles per night. You’d have to inquire with a tour operator.
This is a room in the only hotel on the floating islands
Taquile Island is a de facto isolated community, with their own government and justice system. They don’t pay taxes to Peru, speak mostly Quechua, and pretty much keep to themselves. They subsist on mostly fish and plants, and work hard throughout their lives, meaning we saw some very old but very healthy people carrying huge loads up steep trails while we were there. It is a beautiful, peaceful island, and the lunch they provided us (Lake Titicaca trout) was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting there.
It was forecast to be a rainy day
Typical adobe huts
We stayed again at the hotel that night, then caught an early flight from Juliaca, the nearest airport to Lake Titicaca, on Avianca to Lima. We had a several-hour layover, so decided to hang out in a lounge. BTW, just a quick plug for the app Loungebuddy, it’s great, and offers solid reviews of lounges at most (not all) airports. There are two lounges in the international terminal in Lima Airport, the Sumaq VIP lounge and the VIP Club Lounge. Both are right next to each other, and enterable either with a business class or above ticket, or with Prioritypass. We had both, so decided to use our business class tickets to save the fee for my wife. Here is a review of the Sumaq, and here is a review of the VIP Club. Both had slow wifi, because they were both packed, but I would say go to the Sumaq. It is bigger, has comfier chairs, has better (and stronger) pisco sours, and has showers.
We boarded our flight from LIM – BOG, an Airbus A330, and were very pleased with our seats:
They were not completely lie-flat, but were close, and anyways it was only slightly over a 3 hour flight, plus they had The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on the entertainment options, so I couldn’t sleep! The food and service were both excellent; I am very pleasantly surprised by Avianca.
After another hour-long flight from BOG – Cartagena on an Airbus A320, we were in Cartagena and our on way to the beach! A short cheap cab ride (200,000 Colombian Pesos – about $10) brought us to the Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros. We had a lovely time there, it was a very clean hotel, right on the beach, with a great pool and very friendly staff. We stayed three nights there, but only paid for one, because we got a best rate guarantee for the other two. (BTW, this went towards my IHG Big Win promotion, where my targeted offer is for 160,000 IHG Rewards points!). The breakfast buffet was great, we got upgraded to an ocean view roomw/ balcony because I’m Platinum Elite (which you get with the Chase IHG Visa), and we got a free gift at the front desk every day (which was only two bottles of water, but it was in the 80s-90s, so it was more welcome than you’d think!).
The only ocean room available was two queen beds
Ocean view from our balcony! Not too shabby!
The beach and water were really nice, but not as relaxing as you’d like. Unfortunately, touts hawking goods, food and massages bother you every 5 minutes; I finally got to saying, “Tengo un allergia” (I have an allergy) to every passerby, which I think sufficiently startled them to stay away. That particular beach is the perfect size for a nice 30 minute run, although the downside of the hotel location is that you need to take a cab to visit downtown Cartagena.
running for my life from a vicious predator!
Downtown Cartagena is a totally cool, quaint village surrounded by tall, thick walls erected by the Spaniards, and is totally worth to walk through both during the day, and then again later at night, as you’ll see and meet different people both times. The San Felipe Castle is ok to walk through once, but I wouldn’t recommend a guide, as it’s not that extensive. There are many cafes and restaurants, and quaint little shops in the downtown area; just watch if you’re walking in the streets, as drivers don’t always follow the rules of the road! We ate at Casa de Secorro, which was good, but not amazing, and the 2nd night ate amazing carne asada at a roadside stall called Donde Javier with some cheap Colombian beer, probably the runner-up for most enjoyable meal of the trip!
I loved the overhanging balconies and beautiful architecture!
Our trip back was uneventful, on the same Copa airlines flights we arrived on. Thanks to our Global Entry, courtesy of Amex Platinums, we cruised through immigration and customs, and drove back to pick up our son from my parents. A most enjoyable trip!