Wondering Peru

Trip Start Oct 17, 2012
Trip End Mar 27, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Valparaiso Region,
Friday, January 4, 2013

There are three ways to get to Cusco from Puno. The most expensive option is train via PeruRail. This will run you about $200usd. Another option would be flying and the third option is via bus. Amongst the bus options, one can go super cheap, about $15 usd or one can take a tour bus that stops at various sights throughout the drive for about $50usd. The guided journey comes with a bilingual guide, lunch, drinks after every stop, and entrance in to a museum, Incan ruins, and a church dubbed the Sistine chapel of South America. The two companies running these tours are Inca Express Bus and Wonder Peru. After our day at Lago Titicaca we headed to the bus station to check out our options as far as transit goes the next day. After bartering with the price for about 20min, we ended up taking the wonder bus for $30usd, including a buffet lunch but not including entrance to the various locations. If we decide to enter, we can pay at that time.

The next morning we wake up super early and go down on the bus station to start our adventure. Clearly we are the only budget minded travelers taking this more expensive option today, but Lydia was very interested in seeing the ruins of Raqshi and this was the only way. Plus, after our last bus adventure, we deserved a real bus with air conditioning, an attendant to bring us coca tea, and oxygen.

Our first stop was the ruins of Pucara. Actually, we really just drove past the ruins and then the group was filed in to a nearby museum to learn what has been excavated from the ruins. We chose to skip this guided tour and we walk toward the ruins. We are able to get pretty close and take pictures. Afterwards we sneak in to the museum for their bathroom and wind up checking out some of the artifacts on display. Beautiful pottery and stonework, though we didn't get an in depth explanation without our guide, we had a nice stop and actually saw the ruins which the group did not. We visited the church in the main square- your typical colonial church- and then everyone was ushered back in to the bus to continue our journey.

Our next stop is the highest point on the road between Puno and Cusco. It is also the imaginary line where the climate obviously changes from highlands to more green with lots of vegetation in the Sacred Valley. The stop is full of artisans and beautiful Andean mountain views. It's a nice chance to stretch our legs and breath in the fresh air. As our bus continues we pass lots of lamas and alpacas. The guide also points out small buildings and farmland where the colleges in both Cusco and Puno have people located to study the wildlife of the highlands. He also mentions the names of the small towns we pass through, their population etc. One town is full of artisans that make the tiles for the tile roofs that are all over this part of Peru. A beautiful drive.

Feeding time! Lunch is buffet style with various types of soups, meats, salads, ceviche etc. In general it's good and enough food that it was worth about $10usd so it almost justifies the upgrade from regular bus. Afterwards, we visit the ruins of Raqchi. These are the only Incan ruins that were found built using adobe! Amazing that it lasted so long. The reason adobe was used was because the local rocks were very porous. Much like volcanic rock, they were fragile and unable to withstand being stacked on one another to large heights as the weight would be too great. The ruins have had some restoration work but are mostly in as found condition. What's also neat about this set of ruins is that it was a massive storage facility along the Incan highway. There were over 200storage buildings, far more than any other ruins. The site also seems to be an active farm and ceramics studio. It cost us to get in but this was well worth it.

The final stop was at a church dubbed the Sistine Chapel of South America. Though Lydia does love churches, we opted not to pay for this as well. We did however peak our heads inside and we understand how it got its name. The place is just gorgeous! Every space on the walls and ceilings is painted in some way. A very special church indeed. We hung out around the Plaza de Armas and inquired about prices on various handicrafts we thought we'd be interested in later for base prices to compare to.

Back on the bus and just about thirty minutes from our final destination, Cusco. All around we had a nice trip. Was it worth the extra buck, not sure, but it was a very nice and comfortable trip and we did learn a bit. If we weren't so tight on money then the answer would definitely be yes. We would recommend the Wonder Peru Tour option for anyone doing this trek with a larger daily budget than us.
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