Esther stepping out
High in the bleak Altiplano... not a place you want to be left behind!
(Guest written by Sean) After almost a month in Cuzco, the navel of the world, the time had come to get moving, and head over to Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border. Our transport choices were a bus or the train - having a hankering for great South American train journeys since we got here, we chose the train.
´Express´ is a slight exageration however: the bus takes six hours to get to Puno while the train takes ten... But as you might have noticed already we´re not on a particular hurry with this trip!
Got to the station a half hour before its departue time at eight am... Almost all the coaches are first class, looking quite plush and having an open air observation car at the end. But first class costs something like 130 dollars while second class costs 20... It took Esther a while to convince me but we went economical in the end.
Not that it was too bad... comfortable seats and tables, and the single second class car was far from full so we were able to stretch out and make ourselves comfortable. Train headed off at a steady pace through the Cuzco
suburbs, lots of kids waving at us... which happened pretty much all day long actually, even through the bleakest parts of the highlands... we felt like Royalty!
They took lunch requests early on - for lunch ended up having the best hamburger I had in the whole country... The train passed through the eastern side of the valley that Cuzco is in, which was pretty breathtaking - rivers, forests and hills, it resembled Northern California. Then we slowly climbed out of the valley into the Altiplano, which is the high treeless plateau that makes up most of the territory between Cuzco and Titicaca. It started to get very high... well over 4000 metres, the Sun being very bright and the air very dry - lots of static electric shocks!
Nice feeling to know we were riding all day long from more or less sunrise to sunset and just letting the day go by - nothing to do but relax and watch the view. Except that is when the Peruvian traditional band comes aboard and asks me to dance...
We later stopped at an Altiplano town called La Raya where there was a lot of things for sale.
Heading onwards, the railway line runs parallel to the road for most of the train so we could see buses overtake us quite often... but as we stretched out on our comfy chairs we didn´t care.
After spending most of the afternoon moving through the highlands we slowed down to pass through the town of Juliaca where the train passes through the centre of the market - everything was for sale, even weird pieces of scrap metal, like something out of Mad Max...
Finally we arrived in Puno on the somewhat greenish shores of Lake Titicaca shortly after dark. A little stiff but overall relaxed. Apparently the Peruvian government bankrupted itself back in the 19th Century with its railway spending. Some 150-odd years later I´d like to say thanks, train-crazy Peruvian government dudes!
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