After spending a week in charming Cuzco and then traveling through the wide-open Peruvian countryside, arriving in gritty Puno was a shock to the system.
Already the suburb of Puno – if you can call it that – started to elicit a feeling of depression with its jumble of shoddy brick buildings. But at least the suburb had spacious streets.
From the bus window, Puno appeared to be nothing but endless decrepit brick structures – bleaker even than New York’s bleakest inner city neighborhood.
It had a terrible effect on both Elise and me. We got into a bad mood, and I struggled to point out anything that would cheer her up. Even the lakeshore was depressing, given its nearly treeless cement walkways. Fortunately, once we’d dropped our packs at our hostel and were able to walk around, we discovered a pleasant pedestrian zone and a great vegan restaurant, Loving Hut, which had a phenomenal Asian soup and smoothies packed with nutrients. But it would all be worth it in the end, given what was to come next!
Postscript: the next morning on our way to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, Puno looked a lot more cheerful as the sun was out and the townsfolk were celebrating Puno’s 349th anniversary.