March 13 was the scheduled departure from Puno.
The night before, we had a sad goodbye with the Grifo folks. Ryan helped them with an English lesson CD on their computer for awhile and we looked through our hard drive of music and listened to Whitney Houston and Madonna (their choice).
We woke up early, secured the camper for travel and ventured into town one last time to pick up some last minute supplies – also Annabelle, Sylvia and Max wanted to climb to the top of the Mirador. The Mirador sits on a hill above Puno, a 1,027 foot ascent up steep streets to a staircase of 622 steps. Half of us had already climbed so Mark took the kids while Jack, Ryan and I ran to the mercado. Jennah stayed in the camper. The plan was to meet up at noon and have lunch and then leave for Chile.
We split up and Ryan, Jack & I headed for Scotia Bank (yes, there is a Canadian bank here) to withdraw money. When we got to the ATM, I didn’t have the card. I have the only card as Mark lost his wallet at the gas station with the sodium cyanide trucks. I guard the ATM card – where could it be? I think you all know the answer this already. We began the ascent of the Mirador but I was certain Mark didn’t have the card, we had stopped to buy something on the way into town and he didn’t seem to have the card. We texted Jennah but she couldn’t find the card so we grabbed a taxi and returned to the camper where the card was not found. We hopped a combi and returned to wait for Mark.
And guess what. Mark had the card.
We still had shopping to do and lunch so we decided to just postpone leaving. Because we like Puno. We spent a wonderful last day shopping and talking with Puno friends. Ryan and Jack got interviewed and video taped by a team of high school students who had a project for their English class.
School here is all boys or all girls and everyone wears a uniform. Sylvia LOVES the uniforms. She asked me if there were any schools in Fairbanks she could go to wear she could wear a uniform – and I said home school requires a uniform! So she is most excited to buy one, they sell them everywhere. There were some things I wanted to buy anyway. They sell these things I would call knitted sock tights. They are thickly knitted footless tights and they are $2.40 USD a pair so I bought Sylvia two more pairs. So warm for winter! Annie didn’t think they were very stylish. Ryan got his hair cut ($1.60 USD) and the daily lightning and thunderstorm rolled over the lake so we headed to the van to wait out the rain (we hardly ever drive the van, we usually take a combi but we had a lot of groceries to buy so we left Trek inside to guard the van). We got to the van, hung out with Trek, dropped off our bags and waited out the storm. Once it passed, we headed to the music store so Jack could buy a mamaquena. He has been wanting one since before we arrived.
Jack, Jennah and Ryan headed to dinner and the rest of us went to the mercado. We had to do the last vegetable and fruit shopping trip. We returned to the van to drop off the bags and the mamaquena before heading to Plaza Vea, the hyper mercado, for water.
Mark went to open the back of the van but the lock had been smashed in! The door was unlocked! We do not keep the generator in the car but all of Mark’s tools are there and I left my smartphone in the car because of the rain. It appears that someone tried to break in and then Trek kept them out. We gave Trek a lot of love and praise! Mark decided to run to Plaza Vea while we stayed in the van as the back door no longer locked. Its a quick trip, we were a block away. Max, Annie, Sylvie and I were sitting in the car when the bad guy returned! Outside there is very loud music playing all the time (at this time, it was Jump!) so he must not have even thought to look for people in the car. Trek growled and I looked toward the back and the guy was trying to open the back door! I told the kids to STAY THERE and jumped out of the van with my keys in attack mode but the door opening made the guy run away faster than I could catch him – and really what would I have done if I had caught him? It was very exciting.
Mark returned with water and there were 4 excited different versions of the story. We returned to the grifo where the folks there were incredulous that this had happened to us twice! In the morning, Mark took the smashed lock out and headed to a shop where they are repairing it so we will be able to lock the door. We are waiting for his return to leave Puno. The Grifo folks came and got Ryan to fix their printer and then wanted him to go to Sillustani to pick avocados in the avocado field but its a 3 hour trip so he stayed here. Or else we would never leave Puno.
Like everything else in Peru, the lock was carefully saved and rebuilt where in America it would have been thrown away and a new one ordered. It cost $18 to rebuild the lock. While the lock was being rebuilt, Jack & Ryan hopped a combi into town to pick up a few guinea pigs as farewell presents for the Grifo family and some seeds for the garden in Alaska.
We are heading to the Atacama having decided to skip Bolivia. 24 days on the shores of Lake Titicaca has been enough like Bolivia that we decided we didn’t want the hassle right now. We may change our mind later but at this time, begging for gas sounds pretty awful. Bolivia is even poorer than Peru and that is hard, too. Other overlanders have told us that we should bring rice to give people as gifts. Also it is the rainy season and the salt flats are muddy. Bolivia is officially on hold.
We said another goodbye to the Grifo people.