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2003-01-17 - 5:06 p.m.

And then we went to Puno. I didn't think we'd like Puno. We didn't like Puno. It was a touristy, uninteresting town, and we got talked into a touristy uninteresting hotel. And we were both sick - I had a cold and Melch had stomach problems, and then Melch had a cold and I had stomach problems. And then there was the altitude, as we were only going higher (for the record, Puno is at 3855 meters, over 500 meters higher than Cusco). But that didn't stop us from being tourists! In our only full day in Puno, we did not one, but two guided tours. First, we went to the Floating Islands, described by the South American Handbook as little more than floating souvenir stalls, which is what they were. The islands are made out of the totora reed, so they really do float. Here I am standing on one of the floating islands.

In the afternoon, we took another guided tour to Sillustani, precolumbian funeral towers just outside of Puno.

The landscape was stark and barren, which appealed to me for reasons I may never fully understand.

The tours only leave in the afternoon; they say the light is better then.

The next day, we took the first bus out of Puno to Copacabana, a small town overlooking Lake Titicaca, on the Bolivian side. It was our last week together, so we splurged on a nice hotel - the corner room on the top floor of the hotel, overlooking the lake. The view was amazing, which was good, because we were still too sick to leave the hotel room that much. Also, it turned out that staring at the water from the hotel room was preferable to actually getting near it (apparently, the sewage system in Copacabana dumps everything straight into the lake). Here's the view from our hotel room:

After three days of doing nothing but eating, reading, and playing gin rummy, we finally made it to Isla del Sol, a nearby island and the site of the main Inca creation myth. We took a boat to the north end of the island, where we saw some ruins. It was beautiful.

In the distance, you could just make out snowcovered mountains.

We hiked halfway down the island to a hostel, where we ran into the French couple we had met in Cusco. We liked it there. And it was cheap (10 bolivianos per person per night, about $1.50). There was absolutely nothing to do but lay on the beach, read, and play cards. It was like taking a vacation from being on vacation.

This is what I did most of every day:

And here's Melch, after his one foray into the lake:

We only planned to stay one day, but we were there for three. We had one more day in Copacabana before we went out separate ways, me to La Paz and Melch to Cusco, where he flew to Lima, and then Santiago, and then Punto Arenas, where he's meeting up with some friends to hike around Patagonia. If my entries from here on out sound a little down, it is because I miss him. When you spend 24 hours a day with someone for almost two months, you kind of get used to having them around. He made me happy. Traveling without him is not the same.

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