We got a Tour Peru bus from Copacabana to Puno for S/.6.92 each. It was unusually nice and the conductor unusually helpful going though the border control. We soon found out why - he wanted to sell us a hotel in Puno. We decided to go and look at it as it was in the centre and there was a free minibus there. It was pretty good, normally S/.87.00 with bathroom but with the bus conductor as broker only S/.34.80. We took it, and although we didn't know it yet we had just joined a seamless tour that took us all the way to Cusco.
After we had checked in, the bus conductor appeared again and asked us our plans. We said we wanted to see the floating islands in the morning and go to Cusco in the afternoon. He could supply both these things at a reasonable price (S/.50.00 each) including minibuses to the port, back to the hotel and to the bus station. We decided to choose convenience over any potential savings and booked it.
Puno is very busy compared to laid back Copacabana, and the Peruvians hassle you to buy things much more than the Bolivians. However, Puno was nice enough for one evening and has a good selection of restaurants on the main pedestrian street.
The next morning, when they were 20 minutes late picking us up we realised how stupid we had been - having paid this guy money and not even knowing where his office was, we didn't even know for sure if he worked for Tour Peru, he had just been on the bus and acted like an employee. Anyway, our fears proved foundless and someone turned up and took us to the port. There we boarded a boat with four other people and chugged out to the islands about 20 minutes away. The boat was big for only six people and there was a guide who spoke good English and Aymara and had lots to say. All the other boats we passed were jam packed with tourists, so it seemed we had inadvertently chosen a good one.
The first island we stopped at was quite big and had lots of stalls on it selling souvenirs. The guide told us all about the islands. They don't move around because they are anchored to the lake bed (If I had a floating island I would want to move it!). They add a new layer of reeds every few months and the bottom ones rot away. They also eat the reeds - we tried some and it tasted quite nice. It was quite weird to walk on because if you stayed in one place you slowly sank into the reeds.
We took the boat to another island which was much the same except that it had a church made of reeds. There are around 30 islands and although people live on them, their only source of income now is selling things to tourists. There were hundreds of tourists spread around the islands.
To get to the third and final island we paid S/.5.00 each to go by reed boat. The method of rowing is very unusual as the guy stands behind and moves one oar left to right behind the boat - a bit like the tail of a fish. That took about 15 minutes and from there we got the motor boat back to Puno. There was a minibus to take us back to the centre even though it was only a 10 minute walk.
We had a quick lunch and then caught our transfer to the bus station (a taxi and guide). Unsuprisingly, the guide could book us into a hotel in Cusco for S/.30.00 a night, with bathroom and transfer from the bus terminal. As the hotel in Puno had been good and we were arriving late at night we took it.
However, the bus company these mysterious guides had chosen (Libertad) turned out to be a bad choice. The bus was old and dirty and once it had left the bus terminal sat for three hours in a side street in Puno. To add insult to injury, they also showed the film Anaconda. Consequently we arrived three hours late in Cusco at 12.30am. The transfer had obviously got bored waiting so we got a taxi (S/.5.00 - twice what it should be but we didn't know how far it was at the time) to the hotel. It is called Hospedaje San Bleño and is near the San Blas church on Carmen Alto. It is very nice and good value for the price - the showers are the best we have had since Argentina and the staff helpful.