Puno to Cusco

Trip Start Apr 03, 2006
Trip End May 29, 2006

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

We left Copacabana last Tuesday for Peru, just 3.5 hours including the very simple border crossing at Kasani - you get off the bus and get an exit stamp then stroll over the bridge for an entrance stamp and we were in Peru!!! yeah! The road to Puno follows the west side of Lake Titicaca with some gorgeous views, oh and we gained an hour which was nice.

Puno is on the north west shore of Lake Titicaca and is known as Peru's folklore centre, very commercial and geared for tourism. Perhaps the most efficient arrival ever - hostel, 2 day island tour, bus tickets to Cusco, quick call home and a trip to the bank within 90 minutes. Entered Peru wearing my NUFC shirt with Nobby on the back and loving the banter with the locals - Solano really is a god over here, they totally love him and Newcastle. Everyone is dead friendly and chilled, especially the two Victors we met who gave us tips on where to eat.

So Wednesday was the start of a two day adventure to 3 islands on Lake Titicaca. First stop the 'floating islands' of Uros. the people there keep life very simple and everything revolves around reeds which they use for boats, houses and even making more spongy islands. Met some locals and took a ride on a traditional reed boat taking in the glorious sunshine and spectacular views. Next stop Amantani which is both beautiful and peaceful. We were greeted by Flora our host for the evening and welcomed into her home. Local lunch of soup and potatoes before climbing to one of the island's peaks, Pacha Tata for sunset with stunning backdrops. There is another peak called Pacha Mama and these are the gods that the Inca tradition makes offerings too annually for a prosperous year. Given back to Flora we met her father Inocensio, husband Ananai and son Cristian. They are Quechua speakers but thankfully understand and speak some Spanish so had some chat with them. Cristian was a fabulous artist at the tender age of 8 and kept us entertained through dinner. The evening was a local fiesta of dancing which involved hokey cokey type moves which john perfected and general swinging from side to side, hilariously dressed up in local clothes. John got away easy with a poncho and hat whereas Amber was strapped into many layers of skirts and given an intricately embroidered blanket. Dancing at altitude is tough but the beer helped and we had a giggle with Al and Diana from Washington who were also on our tour. We had a ball and got fully involved. A really amazing experience born out of very simple things and highly enlightening.

Thursday we left Flora and co and headed to Taquile, 45km from Puno, only about 1km wide and 6km long. A leisurely stroll and a nice spot of lunch. This island is really different as it is a cooperative - everything costs and is divided up weekly in a meeting? They have different items of clothing to indicate status - man with white hat to the side = on the market, man with white hat to the back = not married but has a lady, man with red hat = married. Ladies get a belt when they are married. They are only allowed to marry within the island!

Friday - the road to Cusco

We splashed out on a luxurious ride from Puno with InkaExpress to take in some sites along the way and have a nice spot of lunch. The route crossed the antiplano (highlands) and we had been promised some spectacular sights which were delivered from start to finish. We climbed to La Raya, the highest pass on the way at 4321m. the descent along Rio Vilcanota was rapid and we had lunch in Sicuani at 3690m and met a nice chap called David from London. Raqchi brought the site of the Viracocha temple ruins which was probably the largest roofed building ever built by the Incas (only the central wall remains though). last visit to Andahuaylillas, a village 32km south east of Cusco to look around the 'Andean Sistine Chapel' from 17th century.

In Cusco we are staying in a lovely more luxurious hostel called Rumi Punku with a genuine Inca doorway into a lovely tranquil courtyard. We have a tv and loads of hot water (yeah!!!!), a real oasis. Inca trail sorted for Monday then we found ourselves in Norton rat's Tavern off the main square for happy hour gin and tonics... many... and darts. John kicked everyone's ass which was highly amusing and they were in awe of his skills! let's just say that the fun didn't end there as it we found ourselves celebrating Tony and Lee's birthdays (2 guys from Chesham we met at Norton rats's) and there was sambuca and Pisco....

So Saturday was a quiet day chilling in Cusco. It's a very touristy place, known as the ancient Inca capital, a commercial hub geared for all a traveller's needs. A nice feature though are the remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways now incorporated into many modern buildings, like our hostel. Plaza de Armas is the main square with 4 churches and big colonial buildings, indeed the most grand we have seen in South America.

So now it's Sunday and we are heading out of town on a tour this afternoon to visit some villages and ruins. It's all about tomorrow when we head off on the Inca trail at 0520 for a 4 day trek to Macchu Picchu. We are so excited!!!

So that's all for now. Hope you enjoy this update and we look forward to sharing our trek with you next week.

Loads of Love,
Amber and John. xx
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