Thursday, July 12, 2007

Past Vacation #19 - Peru 2006 - Part Seven - Driving South To Puno

On day eight we got back on the bus and headed south to Puno. The drive was pleasant and we had a chance to see the Andes countryside. Our first stop was in the town of Andahuaylillas. The bus weaved its way through narrow streets, making some of us cringe, on the way to a 16th century church often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. The church was worth the harrowing drive. It is incredible. This was one of the wife's favorite places. Unfortunately, due to the age of the artwork, we were not allowed to take pictures. We were told that some art thieves would take pictures to show to their clients before stealing the actual art. Several paintings were stolen from the cathedral in Cuzco and only blank spots are displayed. Sad.

Next stop on our trek south was Tracqui, a pre-Incan ruin with 46 foot walls. It was pretty neat - something else I had never heard of. Further down the road we stopped for lunch. The selection was a little limited but it was enough to get me by. After we left one of our group realized she didn't have her purse. The bus was turned around, almost getting stuck in some soft sand in the process, and returned to the restaurant. The owner was standing outside with the purse in his hand when we pulled in.

The road eventually peaks at a light headed 14,222 feet. The bus stopped at the pass where there were vendors selling handicrafts. Our stop was short as we were on a schedule. The road headed down through the busy city of Juliaca.

Next stop was Sillustani. Just before we arrived, there was a foul odor on the bus. One of the members of our tour group, a particularly whiny one, had come out of the bus' bathroom. She was suffering from intestinal distress. The toilet had reverse flushed on her. I felt sorry for her ... sort of.

Sillustani is the location of the most perfectly preserved Chullpas. Here we met up with a new guide. He gave us a tour and a history lesson about the cylindrical funeral monuments in which mummified remains have been recovered. In a nearby lake we saw an island where a Vicuña reserve is located. Vicuña are endangered as their wool is prized by many.

We left Sillustani and stopped at a local farmer's home. They showed us around their humble home, showing us what a typical meal is and sold some crafts they made - We bought a rug shown in this picture. Peru is famous for the huge number of potato species consumed. They supplement their diet with a thin mud soup that provides needed minerals. Their little daughter, dressed in brightly colored clothes, was a delight and showed off for the cameras. This visit was a treat and a great way to end the trip south.

The day ended with the bus arriving at the Libertador Lake Titicaca Puno Hotel. The elevator wasn't working very well so many of us took the stairs to our rooms, not an easy feat at 13,200 feet. The lady who had been reverse flushed on took the elevator - the elevator got stuck - the alarm sounded for over 20 minutes before someone realized what the noise was. OK, now I really felt sorry for her.

We enjoyed dinner at the hotel in preparation for our adventure on Lake Titicaca tomorrow.

Here ends Chapter Seven. Pictures can be found here. Coming up in the next chapter: Lake Titicaca, the Floating Islands of the Uros, and Taquile Island.

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