The last leg of the Cusco-Puno corridor is, you guessed it, Puno. My host has organised bus tickets for what turns out to be yet another 8 hour bus ride. We leave early in the morning and do not reach Puno, which is situated on Lago Titicaca ~ the largest lake in South America and at 3,811 m is also the highest lake situated above sea level located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. At least one of us gets some sleep..
We wander off to the Plaza de Armas ~ there is one in every town in Peru ~ for some lunch ~ I try the local ceviche, my favourite Peruvian dish ~ after which we head to the Puno market, which is a real visual treat. I buy a bag of corn which looks like the ready-to-eat toasted corn kernels stuff that taste like peanuts, but instead it's the cooking kind..oh well. We wander all the way up to the lake until suddenly the weather turns. Everyone packs up in a hurry before they get drenched. We manage to grab a taxi back to our hotel before we get soaked.
In the evening we are invited by Ciro to visit a handicraft assocation called Suri Andino Associacion de Artisanas de Puno .The setup is rather odd in that they keep us waiting outside (well, inside an empty but freezing cold bus) for what feels like an eternity, but eventually we are led into a small back room down an alley where a number of women and men from different communities across the province have gathered to listen to the history of Suri Andino, delivered by Magdina the President of Suri Andino (middle).
The association started in 2007 with 100 women and received technical assistance from Agro Rural with raw materials, training and marketing (attending regional fairs). They make hats, gloves, jumpers, etc. Today only 15 women are active in the association, which experienced many teething problems in the beginning but managed to succeed through strong leadership and smart outsourcing ~ they collaborate with 8 other associations ~ to fill large orders. Today they export to Switzerland, make finger puppets for Britt, communicate via email and transfer knowledge to other women artisans and associations, as is the case during this visit. Mostly, they grapple with quality control, how to better spread management responsibilities and succession planning. I am impressed with the spirit and tenacity Magdina displays. Clearly having a driving force like her is key to their success.
Another 5 AM wake-up call (yikes) and we tumble out of the hotel and into a share combi (mini van) to Juliaca, the nearest airport about 40 kms up the road from Puno. An unexciting industrial town, we chose not to stay in Juliaca for the night. We are on separate return flights to Lima and say our goodbyes at Juliaca airport. I have a bit of a wait and settle in with a book and a strong Peruvian coffee.