The day after our island-hopping tour, we parted ways with our Spaniard/Lithuanian/Peruvian friends who were continuing on to La Paz, Bolivia. We would have joined in, but people from the States have to pay $130 just to cross the border (thank you, Evo Morales!), so we stayed behind in Puno. The initial idea was to stay a third night on Isla Amantaní with a local family and learn about their living culture, but another four hours’ boat ride to get there did not seem too likely to happen when I was still a bit dizzy from the altitude.
We ended up deciding to head back to Arequipa that night and just explore around Puno a bit during the day. We started with a simple trek up to the Mirador del Condor (Condor Lookout) which can be done in an hour or so from the main square. It was a short hike, but at over 12,500 ft above sea level, it was an exhausting one all the same. We ended up just hanging out in markets and wandering the town instead of hiking any more that day.
We checked out of our hostel, left our backpacks in the luggage storage, and headed down the street to the main square. From there, we just meandered generally upwards through neighborhoods, asking for occasional help and not understanding the directions the kind puneños were giving us.
We finally came across the blue staircase we could see from the Plaza de Armas, which took a really long time to hike up. The streets are narrow and steep along the hillsides, so I was already out of breath before we even got here. We had to stop every few flights of stairs to fend of headaches and dizziness. Whew!
Once at the top, the view was really amazing. You could also climb up to the top of the condor statue (that clanks threateningly in the wind as its metal feathers bend and bang against each other), but the platform was filled with amorous teenage Peruvian couples blasting several songs at once from their cell phone’s radios. We opted to stay on the ground.
Above is one of the striking views of Puno afforded by the somewhat miserably long and steep hike up to the Mirador del Condor. The contrast between the bustling, anthill life in Puno as compared to the (well-touristed) relatively tranquil life on the lake was something to be seen, and something that I am glad we took the time and money to go check out.