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29th July 2006 - Peru Trip - Day 5, July 8th - Cusco to Puno

We took two taxis to the bus station at 07:00 for our 07:30 departure. Again, we had assigned seats for the 7 hour ride to Puno, which includes five stops on the way for sightseeing purposes.

Stop 1 - Andahuylillas
This town is best known for its vastly decorated Jesuit church – we had a tour inside, but as I’m strangely repulsed by churches in general, and the fact that it was at least twenty degrees colder than outside, I took a quick peek and decided to explore the real world outside. What little I did see of the inside of the church was garishly decorated with gold everywhere – poor church my ass!

Looking around the town square was much more interesting for me. There was one building with very details painting on the outside walls – most were faded except one of an old aircraft. It was here that I think I took my most iconic photo of the trip – a resting dog at the foot of an old door.

There was also strange algae type material hanging from all the telephone lines which had been shed from the surrounding trees.

click for views of Andahuylillas

Stop 2 – Temple of Wiracocha in Racchi
This structure once supported the largest known Inca roof, via 22 circular columns – most of these are now just foundations. This used to be one of the holiest of shines in the old Inca Empire.

The rest of the site is a huge village of round homes made of rock.

click for photos of the Temple of Wircocha plus Racchi Village.

Stop 3 – Sicuani
Next stop Sicuani – how was the town? What was there to see? I hear you ask - I have no idea.

Our coach traversed some very bumpy dirt roads, performing a couple of three point turns to negotiate the narrow streets, and then reversed into a gated compound. This is where we were to have lunch.

A couple more coaches turned up and did the same – sometimes turfing out a coach that had been parked too long, so it could disgorge its tourists behind closed gates. Were we an embarrassment to the local population, or was it that the restaurant was too embarrassed to be serving so much food in such a poor area – who knows.

Anyway, the food was great. The business had even gone to the trouble to fly a few flags from selected nations – funny thing was the American flag was upside down!

As there was not much to report here, I may as well make mention of Ali’s newest acquisition – alpaca slippers. You see, the Inca Trail hike had taken a great toll on his feet, so these slippers would be more comfortable – and a magnet for any horny dog that would happen by.

click for photos.

Stop 4 – La Raya
We next stopped at the top of La Raya Pass – the highest pass in Peru at 4,335 m (14,222 ft) and the border between the Puno Region and the Cusco Region.

Not a trick is missed here, with vendors and local people posing with lamas to extract money from the altitude sick tourists.

By the way I think the bloke in the last photo below is related to Ali!

click for views from La Raya Pass.

Stop 5 – Pucara
This is a really sad town. It's very poor and dusty with really not a lot there.

We were taken to the Museo Litico Pucara which seems to specialise in just monoliths – no photographs are allowed, and as they took everyone around in a big group, the small rooms got kind of cramped. So me, Ali and Dre snuck outside for a piss and to wait in the shade.

We also went out to the main square, where there wasn’t a lot of anything happening apart from the customary selling of stuff to the tourists.

There are also a lot of the cattle made here that you see on the roofs of my of the houses – it’s supposed to symbolize strength in the family.

click for views of Pucara.

Then the drive to Puno via Juliaca.

Juliaca is a very busy town. Our guide told us that it is the centre of industry in Peru. Over in the distance there was a cement factory spewing out all manor of crap into the air. Apparently most of the concrete made is exported – shame they couldn’t keep some back and repair the pot-holed roads!

Juliaca is swarmed by trici-taxis, which are simply bikes made into tricycles with a double seat for the passengers – much like a rickshaw. There were literally hundreds of them swarming everywhere - there also bike repair shops everywhere as well.

This is where we really saw the driving habits of Peru come to a head. There would be an old truck slowly making his way down the narrow dirt street - then a car would overtake the truck – then our coach would overtake the car as he was overtaking the truck – all this would happen while another truck would be coming in the opposite direction, forcing him to brake or run off the road. At the same time, everyone would be leaning on their horns - as if that made any difference.

Anyone on a bike, including the tricycle taxis, would be expected to get out of the way of anything bearing down on them. This usually involves them steering off the bumpy, pot-holed dirt road, onto the side, which is a rougher and more pot-holed version of the so called road!

The funny thing was, with the seemingly mad driving, we didn’t see a single accident or wrecked vehicle.

We finally arrived in Puno and we were picked up from the bus station by the minibus that would take us to the port the next morning.

The hotel was the plushest we had stayed in the whole trip - and they had very nice coca tea as well. Although it was the best hotel, that night I had the worst sleep of any night on this trip. I’m guessing it was a combination of my late night double espresso and the constant honking of horns into the night that helped.

For dinner that evening, I decided to be adventurous. I ordered a local dish called cuy. When it came out it looked like road-kill. The poor animal had been flattened and was still attached to its legs and head - claws, teeth and all. The skin reminded me of old KFC chicken skin, and the meat was fatty, stringy and chewy - I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s traditional in quite a few South American countries, and the people who live in the more remote areas keep these animals to eat, much like cattle.

Oh sorry - I forgot to mention what cuy is guinea pig! (Maybe this was another reason I didn’t sleep well.) The photo below links to a set that Matt took of me and my dinner, plus posing with my meal by the rest of the crew.