Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Journey to Puno

Our next port of call was Puno on Lake Titicaca.
We decided to take the "Inka Express" luxury bus, which runs the 390km from Cusco to Puno, stops at several archaeological sites & has a multilingual guide on board.
Our guide was interesting because he was obviously proud of his Quechuan ancestors & was at pains to tell us that there were other important cultures before the Incas.

We stopped at Andahuaylillas which has a beautiful church with a painted arched ceiling, like a miniature Sistine Chapel with very ornate carving behind the Altar. One of the interesting features is that when it was built, the local artisans introduced Inca religious symbolism into many of the paintings & sculptures - there are Inca Crosses & Coca plants imbedded into Christian symbolic paintings. The church was built on the foundations of an Inca Temple - you can see the Inca stonework at the base of the exterior walls

The next stop was Raqchi, another ancient Inca site with the highest standing Inca Temple wall. The guide pointed out a path that is part of the "Inca Trail", so the trail starts at least 150km from Cusco.

We stopped for lunch at Sicuani where Barbara played with a fluffy white baby Alpaca. They are so cute, cuddly & I can assure you they are absolutely delicious !

A Peruvian band entertained us & made my day when they played the Eagles Hotel California on guitar & Peruvian pipes.

The last stop, after going over the 4,335m pass at La Raya, was Pukara where we were shown ancient carvings by pre-Inca civilisations. We were also given the chance to buy more Peruvian trinkets by the swarms of locals. The women's hats were interesting & unique - they were designed to protect the women from the sun while they worked in the fields, obviously the men didn't need them as they don't work in the fields.

Puno, Lake Titicaca

We arrived at the bus terminal, which is always in the slum area of town - not a place you want to be left in carrying heavy bags. We fought off the touts trying to get us to hotels that give them "back-handers" & got a taxi. One of the touts even got in our taxi, he got out when we told him we already had a hotel reservation.

Our hotel was not as we expected from the web site - it was advertised as having a 24 hour coffee bar, panoramic views from the restaurant & Internet. The 24 hour coffee bar was a thermos flask in reception, the panoramic view was of roof tops but from one window, if you leaned right out you could just see the next street. The Internet was one of the office PCs that you could use if they weren't using it. The room was very cold & had no heating !
We soon found a better 3 star hotel, in the main square with all amenities, for just $15 a night more.

Central Puno was quite nice, with a pretty main square (every main square is called "Plaza de Armes" in Peru) and a pedestrianised main drag lined with restaurants & travel agents.

We found a good restaurant which served "Gordon Blimey" food & had a traditional Peruvian band with traditional dancers most nights.
The food was "Peruvian Nouvelle Cuisine" serving baby Alpaca steaks & Cuy (Guinea Pig).
I tried the Cuy, it came done to a crisp with its little feet wrapped in frilly baco-foil. There was hardly any meat to eat, unless you are supposed to eat it all, including the bones !
The baby Alpaca, however, was delicious.

The local women wore traditional dresses which looked like school girl's skirts with large scarves slung over their shoulders containing either stuff to sell or a baby, you couldn't really tell. They weren't as persistant at selling as in Cusco - they actually went away if you said "no, gracias". There were the same hoards of shoe polishers in the main square who would insist that they could do a good job polishing up my Gor-tex, high tech walking boots.
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holly08121 on

Really interesting. Didn't try the guinepig then!

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