Travel God was watching over me

Thursday, January 12, 2012
Puno, Peru
Inca Express to Puno … Not.

A travel story best forgotten.

The information that I was given by Eve back in Auckland was that I had a 8 am bus leaving from Av Pardo 865.However the bus left at 7 am from Av 28 Julio.

Let’s back up the bus first. The local agency arranging my Peru sector is Condor Travel.On the Condor Travel itinerary that they gave me in Cusco, it said for today “Early morning you will be picked up in your hotel for the day long bus trip … to Puno ….”

On what Eve gave me back in NZ, I thought that I had to make my own way to the bus station today.

Last night, as I wasn’t on the hotel’s Condor Travel am guest pick up list, the hotel checked with Condor Travel. Yes, I was right: the transfer to the bus station was not part of Condor’s Travel plan. The hotel also said that the bus leaves at 7.30 am. All I had was a voucher to exchange for a bus ticket. I was advised that having no bus ticket was not a problem.OK ... My plan was to get to the bus station at say around 7 am. All I knew that I was assigned seat 23.

Awoke early and after breakfast left by taxi at 6.35 am to Av Pardo, only to find it was certainly no bus station but a residential address. Outside were another bus (not Inka Express) plus various tourist companies minivans parked. The bus driver didn’t know where Inka Express operated from. Someone walking by did so off we went and I arrived at 6.55 am to find my bus ticket awaiting me and that the bus was leaving in a few minutes! Wow, the travel god was watching over me.

Today I had 380 km to travel from Cusco to Puno. While the trip took 10 hours, we had 5 stops including a 50 minute lunch, the actual driving time is only about 6 - 7 hours.

The picture that looks like a wall with holes in it is of an Inca control gate.

First of the 5 stops was at Andahuaylillas. This is a pretty Andean village lower than Cusco so is greener and has good agriculture. We were here to visit the local church that was being renovated. From the outside it didn’t look much but inside and when they do finish it, it will be amazing. Sorry, no photos allowed inside. The 17 century Jesuit church has baroque embellishments like its murals and frescos which are painstaking being restored. Besides the 24 carrot gold leaf on the altar, part of the altar (tabernacle) is in silver.

Next stop was Rachi with some 2,000 inhabitants. It has the remains of the Temple of Viracocha. Twenty columns foundations remain that supported the largest known Inca roof before the Spanish destroyed it.

The residential area with the remains of the 100 houses were mainly 1 storey. Abode mud brick were used to build as there is no building stone in this area. The abundant volcanic basalt rocks were cleverly mortared with sand, fine stone and a cactus extract which provided the ‘glue’ that has lasted till now.

Also seen are the 150 round storage buildings, one has been restored with the thatched roof.

This area is also renowned for their ceramics as evidenced by the products that the local were trying to sell to us tourists. No, I didn’t!

Surrounding this area are the Inca’s terraced agricultural fields which is still being used today. I saw sweet corn, maize and potato growing. Note the stone steps still being used.

Onwards we headed passing the locals undertaking their washing ...

Sicuani was our lunch stop and served at a local restaurant. I was half expecting a box lunch but no, this was 3 course with soup, mains and desert.

On either side of the 4,335 m (14,200 feet) highest point, Abra la Raya pass, we saw herds of Alpaca and llamas grazing on the highland pampas. Surrounding in this area were small villages. Look at the buildings with small or no windows simply to keep in the heat. No trees so Inca fire was fuelled by animal manure. It also provided the heat source.

Final stop was Pucara / Pukara with the museum of stone and ceramics artefacts found in the archaeological site and again no photos inside the building.

The inside of the church was cold and dark. Thank goodness for the digital camera as the little light available was enhanced. No flash. Rest assure it was dark so I gave it a go and am surprised at the result (1/8, 1/5 hand held so may be blurry). This church definitely needs restoring.

As we passed through Juliaco, what surprised me were both the abundant (30,000) tricycle / motorcycle mode of transport plus the thoudsands of unfinished buildings - note reinforcing rods pointing skywards. The story is if the building is still in progress of being built, no property tax needs to be paid! Juliaco has the only airport in this region and with the many factories is attracting new settlers hence a building boom.

Arrived Puno at 5pm and finally into tonight’s 4 star Casa Andina Private Collection which has a wonderful view looking back towards Puno.

Here are two photos one as the sun is about to set and then with the city lights on.

Trout or more alpaca tonight?

Don’t worry, Eve is sorting out her South American agency information source. Thanks Eve.
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