Puno to Cusco on the Inka Express

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August 14th 2010
Published: August 28th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

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A couple of Peruvian kids posing with their alpacas... for the right price.. 1 or 2 Soles.
Thursday, August 12th:

We woke up in plenty of time to pack up and check out of Hotel Don Julio. The hotel had a taxi come to pick us up and take us to the bus terminal for our trip to Cusco on the Inka Express. Although the terminal wasn't far, it was still amazing that the taxi took us and our baggage to the terminal at 6:30am for 3 Soles or $1.25 US! When we arrived at the bus terminal, we paid our 1 sole each travel or transport fee, then found out which ramp our bus would be leaving from. While we waited for the bus at 7:30am, I bought a couple of coffees with cream. The menu said coffee was 1.50 Soles each, but I had to pay 3.50 Soles each to get cream with them! We went out to the loading area to discover that there were two Inka Express busses waiting... both going to Cusco. I think they sold so many tickets that it took two busses, especially when both of them appeared to leave completely full. The Inka Express bus trip is more than just transportation to Cusco. They are fairly new and comfortable busses (some double-decker) and they stop at five places along the way, and have a guide and onboard "stewardess" serving coffee and water.

Our first stop was at Pukara, a site much older than the Inkas, dating back to 1,500 BC. We didn't visit the archealogical site, but the guide took us to a neat museum and gave us a good explanation of the site and the civilization that existed there. Afterwards, we were given 10 minutes to browse the museum, but unfortunately they don't allow photographs anywhere inside, so the photo of the courtyard will have to do. The next stop was a bit different, stopping at La Raya, the highest point in the trip at 4335 meters (14,200 feet), where we got out to take pictures of the scenery and the many natives hanging around, many with alpacas. There was also a number of vendors there. Manoli bought an alpaca scarf for 10 Soles. The lady had asked for 25 but accepted Manoli's offer of 10. Obviously this stop was pure tourist, but it was still interesting. One tip, if you buy something and give them a large bill, don't miss the bus, as some of the vendors have limited change. We had to rush to not be the last ones on the bus because Manoli gave the lady a 50. After La Raya, we stopped at the Secuani village for a buffet lunch. The food wasn't anything to brag about, but it was good and filling, and several locals played pretty decent music while we ate. We reboarded after lunch and headed to our next and probably most interesting stop, Raqchi. This was an Inkan temple site built to honor their God of Gods, Wiracocha. Again, our guide gave us a real good presentation on the site and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where we now were. Although heavily eroded and fallen down, it was still a very cool site to visit. We then continued on to the town of Andahuaylillas to visit one of the neatest churches in Peru, St. Peter and Paul Cathedral I think it was called. The church was so ornate it seemed unreal. Unfortunately, they are working on restoring it, so there was a lot of construction platforms and canvasses covering some of it. Also unfortunately, they don't allow any type of photography inside, so you'll have to take my word on how wild it looked. From there, it was only a short 45 minute trip into Cusco.

After disembarking from the bus in Cusco, we looked for our driver that Hostal Amaru was supposed to send, but couldn't find him. Some guy kept trying to tell us we should get a taxi (probably his or a friends), as these folk (hostal drivers?) never show up. I didn't believe him as I'd had real good communications with the hostal folks, and lo and behold just a few minutes later I found a guy holding a sign that said John Chester and Oliver Puch. The four of us (the other couple turned out to be French) were taken up into the main part of town to our hostals. We were staying at Hostal Amaru, but the other couple were staying at Hostal Amaru II at which we arrived first. Believe it or not, right after we stopped, two young locals came to the van, grabbed the couples large (and I do mean large) backpacks and proceeded to lead them up the stairs to their hostal! You talk about service, and this is for a hostal, not a 5 star hotel. The driver then took us up a couple more blocks, then down one, all on the narrowest steets you can imagine, to our hostal. Eventhough we have only been here a few hours, I can already say I'd recommend either of these hostals to anyone. Check-in was a breeze, with a friendly hostess and an assistant that took one of our bags (mine, the light one, when I insisted she not tote my wife's bag) up the stairs to our room. The room had a large full-sized bed and a twin bed, along with a TV and very nice, neat bathroom. The view from the room is awesome and the hostal has several beautiful interior courtyards. After dropping off our bags, we headed out to see the town and have a light dinner. Our hostal is only a couple of blocks from the main plaza and the whole area was really hopping with people and full of shops and restaurants of every kind. You'd have to use a grid approach just to see all the stores, restaurants, and travel agencies! We ate dinner at La Trattoria Adriano. Manoli ordered a bowl of cream of mushroom soup (and ate some of my dinner) and I had chicken skewers. Manoli said her soup was good and my chicken was very tasty. After dinner, we wandered the streets a bit more, then stopped at a little store to buy shampoo, water and a bottle of Coke for me. Then, it was back to the hostal where I'm writing this while Manoli wathces TV. Tomorrow we may just browse the stores or take the Sacred Valley tour. We haven't decided yet.

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