Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Puno’ Category

First Quarter

We’re pretty well exactly a quarter of the way through our trip, and this milestone corresponds with the end of our time in Peru. We spent today in Puno after our three busy days out touring; packing to do and lots of catching up with photos (selecting, shrinking file sizes, uploading to Flickr and then including in our blog) – so far I have only put yesterday’s pictures on, but there are plenty more to come from our island visits…

This morning we popped out for breakfast to an eatery on the main pedestrian street linking the two main squares; pancakes all round with fruit juices.

Parque Pino
IMG_5074

Jiron Lima, linking the main squares
IMG_5075

The cathedral
IMG_5076

Plaza de Armas
IMG_5077

Later on we vacated our room for cleaning and walked the stiff climb up to Cerro Huasjapata, a hill offering great views over Puno and Lake Titicaca. The name means ‘witness of my love’ which could explain the ‘X loves Y’ graffiti all over the rocks there. We rested awhile at the top to get our breath back while the girls invented games among the rocky outcrops; I attempted a series of photos to create what might be termed a Punorama.

Statue on top of Cerro Huasjapata
IMG_5083

View towards Lake Titicaca
IMG_5088

View over the higher parts of Puno
IMG_5091

We noticed a square near the top with seating and two polished concrete slides, so we paused there before descending for lunch. The girls risked the smaller slide and only Hannah eventually plucked up enough courage to try the longer, curvier one.
IMG_5106

Down to a little cafe at the back of a courtyard where All Ways travel have their main office for a light lunch of sandwiches (girls) and salads. Then back to our hotel to sort out photos and to continue our attempts to find a hotel in La Paz. Our preferred choice (Posada de la Abuela) is full for the first three days, so we need an alternative; TripAdvisor shoots some of Lonely Planet’s recommendations down in flames, so we keep a close eye on the former.

Out for tea, back to Ricos Pan. The waitresses can never manage a smile and service is tardy – and we have tipped well on our previous visits. (This establishment receives fulsome praise from LP…) The cakes were rather good, anyway – some sort of Black Forest variant and another which seemed to contain rich chocolate mousse.

Back via the supermarket to get something to eat for breakfast tomorrow; we shall be off so early that we’ll need to eat on the bus. We just got caught in the beginnings of a thunderstorm; time to move on, apparently.

Out to the nearby pizza place where we had our pasta a few nights ago – this time for a pizza (cooked before our very eyes in a wood oven). We were down to our last 50 Soles by now (about £10), having settled the hotel bill earlier in the day, so we did the menu maths carefully.

During the meal we asked Hannah and Ellen about their time in Peru; here are their verdicts:

Likes:

  • Leading alpacas out to pasture
  • Ellen’s tooth coming out on her birthday
  • Lasagna
  • Chicken and chips (pollo a la brasa)
  • Ellen’s birthday ice cream lunch
  • Seeing blue butterflies
  • Holding a clicket beetle
  • Banana pancakes in the jungle
  • Salpicon de pollo
  • Playing football with Melissa
  • The sunset from the hill on Amantani
  • Dressing up on the floating islands of Uros
  • Fresh pineapple juice
  • Hot springs on the way to the Colca Canyon
  • Eating trout from Titicaca
  • The big slides at Puno – scary but fun

Dislikes

  • Mosquitoes and the heat of the jungle
  • Passing Peruvian ladies squeezing the girls’ noses
  • Being forced off the narrow pavement into the road by inconsiderate tourists in Cusco.

As for me, here are some highlights:

  • Santa Catalina convent in Arequipa – the colours, the oases of calm
  • The entire Inca Trail, and especially visiting Winay Wayna
  • The night sky viewed from Amantani
  • Visiting Ticanipampa school
  • Sunrise on the Madre de Dios river
  • Almost all the food we have eaten in Peru

And low points:

  • Astonishingly thoughtless noisy guests in this hotel
  • Grim toilets on the Inca Trail
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Ticanipampa

After what seemed the worst night ever (one of the other guests switched on his television quite loudly shortly after midnight and again around 4am!)  I woke up with a splitting headache and wasn’t sure whether I would make today’s outing. 

We all went out around 8am in search of breakfast and found ourselves back in Ricos Pan for a selection of pastries.  We popped into the covered market for a large bottle of water and a packet of Oreos. 

After we had had our breakfast in our room we headed back downstairs and waited in the lobby for our coach.  Around 9am a small minivan turned up and we were introduced to our guide Ivan and a young trainee, Vanessa.  It turned out that we were the only people to book this tour for today!

After a 40 minute ride, with the second half on a bumpy road, we stopped at what seemed to be a small farm.  We were introduced to Julio, who took our orders for lunch time.  We were given the choice between chicken or trout, since we had trout yesterday, the four of us opted for chicken.  And then we were off to Atuncolla.

At the time of booking this trip we were told that some of our money would be used to buy school supplies (that was the main reason why we chose All Ways Travel) and now we were on our way to visit one of the schools this agency supports. 

The school is called Ticanipampa School and I have nothing but respect for both pupils and teachers.  The school seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and when we arrived we were greeted by every single pupil and teacher, all 45 children and 5 teachers – we had never shaken so many hands …

Colegio Ticanipampa
IMG_5026

We were taken into the main classroom, which was also used as a dining room, and were asked to sit at the front of the room facing all the pupils and teachers.  We introduced ourselves and told them where we were from.  The children were then given the opportunity to ask us some questions – e.g. what do we do for a living, what is the weather like in England, what sports do we/England like to play, how old are the girls, …  We could then ask them questions in return and learned a lot more about their daily life.  We found out that all the children board at the school for two weeks, then go back home for two weeks as they are needed at home to work the land.  At the same time they are given projects to work on at home.  Also during those two weeks of no school the teachers will visit the pupils at home in case they need any help with their projects.  After two weeks at home they return to school for another two weeks.  We later found out from one of the teachers that most children live quite a distance away from school and sometimes have to walk or cycle 20 – 40 km to get to school.

IMG_5017

IMG_5018

Tomas and Viviana were chosen to show us around the rest of the school.  We visited the boys’ boarding room, which they share with the male teachers and the girls share with the female teachers.  The rooms were filled with bunk beds and on the walls we could see a morning and an evening prayer.

The boys’ dorm – remarkably tidy…
IMG_5020

The kitchen was a small and dark room, and the pupils weren’t really allowed in there apart from peeling potatoes and carrots.  Other than homework the children also had to fulfil everyday tasks like cleaning, doing the dishes, looking after guinea pigs, etc.  We also learned that each of the five teachers was in charge of one particular area of the school, e.g. kitchen, library, etc.

Kitchen
IMG_5022

The library had a couple  of bookcases with text books and exercise books and two computers.  We were surprised that everything we could see in the library had been won by the pupils at recital and singing competitions!  We had had a taster of this earlier on when three boys each separately performed a poem or song for us.

Library/computer room
IMG_5021

Daily timetable
IMG_5031

Rota of chores
IMG_5032

Hannah choosing her lunch
IMG_5033

At the end of our tour we were led back into the main classroom to say goodbye to everyone and we shook hands again after they all had sung a happy farewell song.  This school is so amazing, the children don’t have much, but see the school as a second family and they are so eager to learn and gave us the clear impression that they really want to be there.  I walked back to our minivan feeling quite emotional and really hope that we can come back in a few years’ time to see what has become of the school and the children.  At the moment they only provide education for the first three years of secondary school, but Viviana told us that they were hoping to build another classroom for the 4th grade as the children don’t want to leave the school.  (Some of the classrooms were built by British youngsters who had come over in 2007 as volunteers.)

After the school we drove on to Umayo lake where we met a fisherman who took us down to the lake via a precariously steep path with loose stones.  We then got into two little fishing boats and were taken to the other side of this peaceful and beautiful lake to visit Sillustani.

IMG_5046

IMG_5048

They row by standing up and pushing…IMG_5049

IMG_0101

It was well after lunch time and we were all getting pretty hungry but walked up the hill instead to visit the chullpas, or funerial towers used for important Inca people.  The towers were round and wider at the top, and they all had a little door facing the east (sunrise).  Just as we were leaving Sillustani up came the first tourist coaches of the day – we had beaten the crowds and it was a nice change not to be surrounded by lots of other tourists for once.  I do think that All Ways Travel are very good at that – they do make their tours special and different from all the other tour organisations.

An Inca chullpa
IMG_0107

Distant pre-Inca chullpasIMG_0109

Interior of a chullpa showing ‘lego’ constructionIMG_0114

Finally we were on our way to lunch.  We were greeted by the chef and his wife and after washing our hands were given a little plate with cheese-filled wontons, followed by a large bowl of quinoa soup.  Already we were beginning to feel pretty full, but then came our dish of chicken and rice, with one tiny bit of brocolli and cauliflower and two little slices of sweet potato.  Again it proved far too much for us, but surprisingly everyone had enough room for dessert!  This was the first time ever on a guided tour that we were offered dessert and very tasty it was too – a slice of peach covered in a mixture of chantilly cream, condensed milk and peach juice.  The girls wolved their dessert down!

The best was yet to come – the girls were each given a llama or alpaca to look after and walk down the road to one the fields for them to graze.  Hannah & Ellen absolutely loved this, and I think this really made their day.  Once back in the house came the inevitable question : “Could we have a llama when we get back home?” …

IMG_0129

IMG_0138

IMG_0144

IMG_0147

Our visit was ended by Ellen and Melissa (the chef’s daughter who was 7) playing football and having great fun.  All too soon it was time for us to return to Puno, and on the way back Ellen commented that she now had a new friend in Peru called Melissa!

Once back in our hotel we all had a rest and only went out for more chicken and chips for supper.

Tomorrow is our very last day in Puno and Peru – we have some fantastic memories to take with us, though.

Read Full Post »

Taquile trek

Not the best night’s sleep (yet again), but not because of the cold; the problem was more to do with the three heavy blankets and a sheet which were provided to keep out the cold – they wouldn’t stay put… Much pulling and adjusting and negotiating – you’re either squashed beneath the sheer weight or else half exposed to the night air. By the morning the sheet was entirely adrift and the blankets diagonally skew.

But one night-time trip to the outside loo did at least give a memorable view of the night sky. A combination of the altitude (less atmosphere in the way) and the total absence of light pollution on an island with no electricity made for a spectacular display of more stars than you’ve ever seen with the naked eye, with the Milky Way running so clearly across from horizon to horizon. One of the highlights of the trip, and not even mentioned in the brochure…

Up at 6.30am to get dressed and packed before breakfast. Now this went down well with all of us – fresh, thick pancakes! With strawberry jam to spread on them and coffee with condensed milk, we were really set up for the day.
IMG_4912

Time for some last photos – of Ana-Ruth’s family, of the view from the bedroom window down to the deep, deep blue lake, of the terraced hillsides – then down to the port with our bags to catch our boat.

IMG_4914

IMG_4910

IMG_4921

IMG_4930

IMG_4931

IMG_4932

Only a short hop across to nearby Taquile, and we were taken to the non-touristy side of the island to walk up, across and down to the sort of expanse of sand you would only expect to find at the sea-side. Titicaca is so vast that it’s easy to forget that it’s a lake, and the sight of sheep being driven down to the shore to drink reminds you that this is fresh water (well, 1 gram of salt per litre). And indeed all the water for our tea, coffee and soup will have come straight from the lake. It’s surprisingly unpolluted (except around Puno and Copacabana) and boiling should have got rid of any residual nasties – we haven’t had any upset tummies, anyway.

The part of Taquile that we saw was sparsely populated, with a wealth of magnificent views down to the lake or across the farmland. Not at all the Tacky-le we had been led to expect by the guidebooks.

First view of Taquile
IMG_4939

IMG_4943

IMG_4960

IMG_4961

IMG_4967

IMG_4968

IMG_4980

We had lunch at an isolated restaurant by our beach, eating fresh trout from the lake – we had just enough cash to pay 15 Soles for each portion (the girls shared a plate) plus cold drinks, and we were then down to loose change only.

IMG_5001

IMG_5004

IMG_5007

Before lunch, we were given more information about life on Taquile, and Kirsten proved uncannily accurate at guessing the answers to our guide’s questions. E.g. the colour-coding of their woolly hats; a white top indicates a single man, while a white-topped hat combined with a coca leaf pouch shows that a man is engaged (the pouch is usually restricted to married men). The ladies of Amantani wear a black head-dress with embroidered decorations while those of Taquile adorn theirs with pom-poms at the corners; big and colourful when they’re single and smaller and less showy once they get married.

A marriage belt, one half made by the bride and the other half by the groom. The halves are joined on their wedding day.
IMG_4989

The bride’s half
IMG_4991

Taquile is also notable for the fact that the men do the knitting while the women weave; on Amantani it is decidedly non-macho for a man to knit.

After lunch and shortly after noon we climbed aboard for the long journey back to Puno, stopping briefly at Taquile’s main port to collect a party of four who had stayed overnight here instead. We crawled the 40km or so back to the harbour, arriving around half past three.

A minibus to take us back to our hotels, but we elected to get off at the Terminal Terrestre to sort out our tickets for Saturday. We found the Tour Peru desk and booked four seats in a row near the front for the miserly total of 70 Soles (for a three-hour trip from Puno to Copacabana, including immigration formalities). It was still a little more than I expected, having read online that tickets would only be 10 Soles each if booked at the bus station rather than through an agency, but we mustn’t quibble over a couple of quid.

A taxi back to the hotel, and we found an email waiting for us to confirm our room at Hotel La Cupula, Copacabana – it has the top rating on TripAdvisor with four gardens, a selection of hammocks and good views of the lake.

Also waiting for us in our room was our washing – we’ll do the same again when we go on tomorrow’s day trip (beats a day of washing by hand…)

Out for supper to Ricos Pan – sandwiches all round and enough room left to share a couple of slices of a rich chocolate cake and a volcanic (in shape) lemon meringue pie.

Read Full Post »

Amantani sleepover

A better night’s sleep – no TV at 1.30am or loud conversations in the corridor at midnight. But the world still comes to life with the rising of the sun so we heard blenders whirring, metal buckets clanking, shutters opening from 5am onwards.

We had vanilla cake and orange juice for breakfast in our room, then went down to reception at 7.35am to wait for our transport. To our surprise, the coach was already there so we got on and drove round Puno to pick up another two members of our group, a young Swedish couple (a lady from Canada was already on board).

Then to the harbourside to buy last-minute items such as water, fruit, rice or other gifts for the islanders. We thought we had the food organised, but we bought a couple of packs of coloured pencils for the children (not knowing if our host family would have children, or if they would be boys or girls).
IMG_4738

As we waited, an American couple approached our guide to ask to join our group rather than travelling with the ‘classic’ pool tour; in fact, we expected a total of nine from what we had been told in the ticket office.

Around 8am we clambered over a row of waiting ‘Amantani’ boats to find our vessel.
IMG_4741

Unusually, it was equipped with matching sofas and armchairs inside to provide a comfy ride; not that these were secured to the floor in any way. Also seating outside and on top for those requiring more fresh air.
IMG_4742

We set off from Puno and made our way through channels cut in the reed beds, past the steamship Yavari and the posh hotels nearby, and soon we were nearing the floating islands of Uros.

We have been reading about these for perhaps two, two and a half years – the islanders perpetually renew these man-made rafts with fresh layers of totora reeds as the bottom layer rots away.

And what a versatile reed this is; not only are the islands constructed of it, but so are their houses, boats, handicrafts, seats – and they even eat it…
IMG_4748

Anyway, despite all our reeding up beforehand (sorry) we were still taken aback at the vibrant colours of the costumes and the brilliant Titicaca sunlight which seems to suffuse everything here with an inner glow.

Yes, it’s touristy and that’s how the islanders make a living. Each island with its own moored tourist boat; you get off for a historical/engineering overview with your own guide, then you’re dragged into a hut to try on traditional costumes (yes, there was even something that fitted me) and then the hard sell (how can you refuse after all that?). They must be making a packet – we spent 100 Soles on a couple of cushion covers (we think Mrs Brewer has something similar from here) and the odd necklace thrown in. That’s twenty quid – a fortune by local standards. And virtually everyone in our group came away with something.

A floating primary school
IMG_4757

A neighbouring island had this fancy lookout tower
IMG_4762

An introductory talk about our island; Suche = Catfish
IMG_4765

A demonstration of how the islands are constructed
IMG_4773

Local handicrafts
IMG_4780

The Prices go native
IMG_4784

A view from the lookout tower
IMG_4797

A passing reed boat
IMG_4823

One freebie – Kirsten jointly won the ‘guess the depth of the lake’ competition (it’s about 20 metres at this point) and received a necklace and miniature reed boat with two figures on board.
IMG_4824

In case you’re wondering what we were wondering, no, the floating islands can’t drift off to Bolivia overnight; they are anchored by long ropes and eight-metre stakes.

We had the 8 Soles tourist trip in a reed boat (we could have opted out, but no-one did) from one island to another, being serenaded by five ladies as we departed. Traditional songs in Quechua and Spanish, then ‘Row, row, row your boat’ and even ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’.
IMG_4809

We spent ten minutes on the second island – didn’t buy anything more – and then moved on.

Now a long trip to Amantani, the island where we would spend the night.
IMG_4828

A calm, steady voyage, and we arrived a bit before 1pm. We disembarked, walked a bit and waited – like evacuees – to be allocated our families by the community Presidente.

Ana-Ruth led us quietly (and a little reluctantly, it seemed) up the hillside to her house. Most buildings are of mud brick construction with a tin roof and an outside loo in a corrugated steel shed. Our house, a little grander than most, has a larger outside loo with a basin and a shower too (but still a manual flush).
IMG_4846

IMG_4858

A little time to make ourselves at home – we have a double and two single beds in a room considerably bigger than that in Hotel Presidente.
IMG_4853

Then down into the kitchen for lunch. We sat around a wooden table at one end of the kitchen and were brought big bowls of quinoa soup (with potatoes and carrots) – tasty but filling. Then a large plate of rice, local potatoes and tomato with slices of grilled cheese on top. None of us could manage everything – but there again we’re not out working in the fields all day. It’s simple, plain food – they only eat meat on special occasions, sauces don’t seem to feature and neither does dessert.
IMG_4851

Springs of Andean mint (muña) – no tea bags here
IMG_4849

After lunch, a rest before popping down to the community centre which is supported by All Ways Travel. A big hall with tables and chairs where local children come after school to read books, do colouring. We were invited to ‘read with the children’ but we got the impression that a lot of them just wanted to get on by themselves without daily inane interruptions of foreigners asking them how old they are and what their name is (usually inappropriately in the formal third person).
IMG_4860

IMG_4862

Soon we moved on (the children hardly responded to our farewells) and had a brief go at grinding quinoa flour and turning over soil ready for planting.
IMG_4864

Also a bit of background about island history and customs; divorce is unknown here, and prospective couples live together before they get married. Wedding celebrations go on for three days, and a lot of the financial burden falls on the bride and groom. There is no electricity (bar a few solar panels and no running water; President Fujimori gave the islanders a generator, but they can’t afford the fuel to run it and so the impressive network of street lighting remains permanently off.

We then began our walk to Pachatata, a hill top with views to both sides of the island. The plan was to get there for sunset, but this is a high part of the world and we were climbing above 4000 metres, not far off Dead Woman Pass height. The girls struggled, but much to our and their delight, they made it to the top with no ill effects, and in time to see the sun go down. We had all brought head torches, so we lingered longer than all the other ‘cheap’ tours who also gravitated to the same hilltop, like flying ants.

View of the upper part of the village
IMG_4867

The main square
IMG_4868

As I was going to Pachatata…
IMG_4872

Terraces in the evening sunlight
IMG_4883

In time for the sunset…
IMG_4900

IMG_4902

A Twix for the girls from a ‘cafe’ just below the summit, then down in the twilight – we were the first group back to the main square, where we once again met up with our host families.

A walk in the dark back to the house, then supper. Quinoa soup followed by rice with a mixture of vegetables. All very filling, but I’m not sure I could stick out a lifetime on this diet; I’ve been spoiled by the marvellously creative Llama Path trek food. We met both of Ana-Ruth’s children, 13-year-old Mikey and Kenia who is six.

We opted out of the evening Fiesta for the tourists (dress up in traditional costume and dance) because it was dark, cold, late and a fair distance to walk.

Candlelight in our room; hope our thermals keep us warm tonight – plenty of blankets, anyway.

Read Full Post »

After a rough and noisy night, not due to traffic but due to other hotel guests we were all awake by 5.30am.  Ellen had recovered from her travel/altitude sickness and had managed to keep some water down earlier on in the morning.  It seemed like we were all ready to pop out in search of breakfast when Hannah announced she had a headache and upset stomach.  Now it was her turn to flop on the bed to try and recover while Tim and Ellen (who was starving by now not having had anything to eat since yesterday lunch time) went down the corridor and ended up buying breakfast at the hotel’s coffee shop.

By mid-morning Hannah seemed recovered enough to have a short stroll to a nearby square in order to warm up in the sunshine and get some fresh air.  I’m glad to say that she managed to get her strength back fairly quickly and was even able to have something small to eat for mid-morning snack. 

Puno is so different from Cusco and Arequipa.  You still see quite a few taxis, but the streets aren’t jammed with them.  Whilst sitting in the square we were only asked once if we would like to have our shoes cleaned.  It seems that “shoe shine” is mainly for the local people.  I almost miss the ladies asking me if I would like a massage (I honestly can’t remember how many we were asked that question in Cusco, it was starting to drive me mad by the end of our stay there)!

After our mid-morning snack we decided to visit a couple of tourist places in order to get some information on trips to Amantani/Taquile and Sillustani.  The first place offered us the 2-day trip to the floating islands/Amantani (overnight stay) and Taquile for 60 Soles, but we were more interested in a company called “All Ways”, which organises its own tours and offers more money to the local people.  In the end we chose to go with them, it is a little more expensive but we know our money will go directly to the local people on Amantani island as we will be paying our host family 25 Soles/person directly.  We were also advised to take some food for our family, so we bought a 1kg bag of sugar and a 1kg bag of rice.  The man in the office told us that only a small group of 5 tourists was due to leave tomorrow, so we decided there and then to leave tomorrow and return on Wednesday, visiting the less touristy side of the Taquile island on the way back.

On Thursday we will then go on a one-day tour to Sillustani, which is only a 30 min drive by coach.  There we will visit a library and school where we might do some reading or drawing with the local children.

Once we booked our trips and paid for them we headed to the local supermarket to buy some goods for our host family.  Then it was back to the hotel to dump our stuff and top Ellen up with Calpol as she complained again of a headache.  Fortunately after a flop on her bed for about half an hour she recovered fully.  Back at the hotel we checked our emails and replied to some of them, but weren’t able to send them.  (We managed tonight though through Webmail.)

For lunch we went back to Ricos Pan (where earlier we had bought our mid-morning snack), Hannah chose a ham sandwich, Ellen a ham & cheese sandwich, Tim had a Buriffata (ciabatta roll with ham/lettuce and some sort of onion sauce) and I went for a vegetable quiche with carrots, spinach and mushroom.  The girls shared a banana juice (their favourite drink at the moment, one way of getting plenty of fresh fruit!), Tim had an ordinary tea and I chose “cafe cortado”, which was the smallest cup of coffee + milk I had ever seen – but it was extremely tasty.

After lunch we visited the other Central Supermercado and were pleasantly surprised at the size of it and the layout.  We arrived at the cheese counters and carried on past the meat counters, vegetable stalls, fruit stalls and cereals.  We went down the fruit stalls and walked past them slowly so we could compare the goods.  One lady came running towards us laughing and arms in the air – we had just walked past her stall!  I thought she was so funny and sweet that we turned around and bought our baby bananas, grapes and apples from her stall.  We then took our shopping back to the hotel (everything is within easy walking distance), grabbed our cameras and bottles of water and went back out to catch a taxi to a ship called “Yavari”.

Initially the taxi driver told us it would cost us 4 Soles, but once in the car their seemed to be some confusion as to which “Yavari” we wanted to go to. I thought there was only one, so told him we wanted to see the old ship. It would cost us 7 Soles instead as that ship was way outside the centre. Never mind, we paid our 7 Soles. The driver dropped us off at a very posh looking hotel and pointed to the ship on the lake. We got out and approached the security guard at the hotel, apparently to get to the ship you need to walk through the posh hotel’s reception and restaurant.

Once outside we walked down the garden and the wooden walkway, and were cheerily greeted by an older man in overalls. Turned out that he was involved with the restoration of the ship and after we had read the introduction he offered to guide us around the  ship.  The ship was made out of iron and all 2766 parts were made in England in the 1860s and then sent to Peru.  They were delivered by boat to Arica (now in Chile, but then in Peru), then put on a train to Tacna and then carried by men & mules for 290km to Puno.  It took 6 years to build two gunships.  The “Yavari” was launched on Christmas day 1870, the 2nd and smaller ship, the “Yapura” in 1873.  Several years ago an English lady (her name has just escaped me) started the restoration work, she believed her great-grandfathers were involved in the original building of the two ships.  The project entirely relies on voluntary donations of visitors, and the ultimate aim is to get the “Yavari” sea worthy again in a couple of years’ time to take tourists out on the lake.

IMG_4708

IMG_4710

IMG_4713

IMG_4717

IMG_4721

IMG_4722

IMG_4727

IMG_4729

Posh hotel on its own island near Puno
IMG_4734

After we thoroughly enjoyed our visit we returned to the hotel for the girls to have some “play time” on the computers, followed by showers and supper out.  We went to a very local pizzeria where Tim & Ellen opted for lasagne, Hannah chose plain pasta with butter and I had spaghetti bolognese.  After quite a long wait, we were rewarded with very tasty food.  We ended up having a lovely conversation with Jeanette, the owner, who thought the girls were twins!  She asked for my email address in then end and wanted to know our plans for the next few days.  She promised us a Pisco Sour if we returned to the restaurant before moving on to Bolivia on Saturday … now there’s an offer we might not be able to refuse …

Read Full Post »

Cusco to Puno

We were awake before the 6am mobile phone alarm – the girls sleep well, but we grown-ups have far more broken nights at altitude, it seems (I slept much better 3km lower in the jungle, despite the noisy wildlife!).

The girls’ special stones
IMG_4552

A snack breakfast, final packing and out with all our luggage to get a taxi by quarter to seven. Several small taxis stopped for us – rather optimistically – but we needed a big one for our six backpacks plus extra bags of snacks, rain jackets, etc., for the trip. After four or five big empty taxis totally ignored us, one stopped for us and the driver knew exactly where to go, depositing us within feet of our waiting coach at the Inka Express terminal.

We checked in, loaded our two big rucksacks and found our front-row seats on bus number 2. A good view through the windscreen (with the driver sat lower) as well as to either side, so we have plenty of photos to choose from today…

As we set off, we were handed a glossy fold-out brochure about the route and the destination (Puno and Lake Titicaca), and we assumed that this was part of the luxury package. It then became apparent that these were for sale ($5 or 15 Soles) but we got one anyway as a souvenir/useful information source. (Indeed, it is helping to jog my memory as I write this entry.)

Five stops before Puno; four site visits and one lunch break. On board throughout the nine-and-a-half-hour journey we were offered coca tea, coffee, ordinary tea or water; we all stuck to water to accompany our biscuit snacks.

For the most part, we followed a well-maintained and fairly straight road (much better than the bumpy, twisty night journey from Arequipa to Cusco four weeks ago). And wonderful views of the Urubamba Valley (initially) with a cloudless sky overhead; a really scenic route to travel.

IMG_4553

IMG_4554

IMG_4577

IMG_4598

Our first stop; Andahuaylillas and its ornate church, known as the ‘Cusquenian Sistine Chapel’. Perhaps that’s going a bit far, and it is in need of a fair amount of restoration as the natural vegetable pigments used by the painters centuries ago have deteriorated. Vast amounts of gold leaf covering the altar; this was a church to mix Inti with INRI – i.e. the usual Catholic fixtures were topped off with representations of the sun (Inti is the Inka Sun God) for the locals to worship. Of course, all photography is forbidden inside the church, so you’ll have to Google it for yourselves…

Andahuaylillas church
IMG_4570

Next up, the Palace of Wiracocha (the most important Inca Deity) at Raqchi. The sheer scale of it surprised us, as we have heard all about the major Inca sites near Cusco, but nothing about this one. Two hundred circular store-houses (some restored), each about 10 metres in diameter, many (remains of) houses and then the temple itself. This has a central supporting wall up to 20 metres high (the base is of perfectly-fitting stonework topped with adobe) and 22 pillars on either side used to support a vast thatched roof.

Raqchi pond
IMG_4611

IMG_4616

IMG_4617

IMG_4620

IMG_4631

A little way on we stopped in Sicuani for the obligatory buffet lunch, only this time it was included in our ticket (well, apart from the fact that only hot drinks were included, so we had to splash out on a bottle of water for the girls). Not the best food we’ve had in Peru, but it filled us up for the rest of the journey.

We noticed what looked like every local family having a Sunday picnic at the river to do their washing; wet clothes hung on bushes to dry in the sun.
IMG_4639

Blue loos
IMG_4642

A short haul up to La Raya, which is a high pass (4300 metres) marking the boundary between the districts of Cusco and Puno; we had a brief photo stop, avoiding undue physical exertion.
IMG_4651

Then a long drive to Pucara where we were shepherded around a small museum exhibiting pre-Inca artefacts (pottery and carved stones) found at a neighbouring archaeological site. Once again, no photos allowed – except for some stones standing outside.

The long road to Pucara
IMG_4665

Square at Pucara
IMG_4680

Central courtyard of museum, Pucara
IMG_4679

The other claim to fame of Pucara is that it is where they make those bulls you see on rooftops (for fertility/prosperity/good luck, depending on your guide…)
IMG_4677

Finally the long stretch along to Puno. The land is so flat here on the Altiplano, in marked contrast to the hills around Cusco. We passed through Juliaca – a sort of Peruvian Slough. Not the sort of place you would ever go for touristic reasons, unless to use its airport. Industry, pollution, a thriving black market (cheap goods from Bolivia) and 20,000 tricycle taxis, apparently. And somehow I failed to get a good photo of even one…

Beautiful Juliaca…
IMG_4696

IMG_4695

More photogenically, we drove alongside the Pucara river which hosts flamingoes from the north of Peru at this time of year.

As we neared Puno, the road degenerated to a dirt track and Ellen was travel sick after the long journey and the long day. Soon we were in Puno bus station and a taxi took us to our hotel near the centre of town (about 5.30pm by now). Percy (now is that a Peruvian name?) the Hotel Keeper met us outside and we were shown to our room.

A little cramped with four beds squeezed into it, but at least it’s facing away from the street. The long-sought internet access is disappointing (I am sitting at the end of the corridor outside our room to get a decent signal) but we have hot water and we are warm enough – and there is an eclectic selection of cable channels on the TV.

I popped out with Hannah to leave my passport number at reception and to get a few snacks and drinks for supper (Ellen has flopped out on her bed and isn’t fit to go out anywhere today); we found a mini supermarket at  the corner of our street – it only stocks non-perishables, though.

Tomorrow we’ll try to get some tours sorted out – the ‘ethical’ one I am interested in doing comes with a hefty price tag (e.g. 165 Soles for an overnight island stay, while Percy thrust a leaflet at me advertising the same sort of thing for only 60 Soles) but we’ll see if booking locally is cheaper than doing it online.

Read Full Post »