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Published: January 19th 2012
Up at the crack of dawn again this morning, I was showered, dressed and packed ready for a hearty breakfast. I had a ten hour coach trip in front of me that would take me further up the shores of Lake Titicaca and on to Cusco. I had had a craving for eggs for the last couple of days, and I wasn't going to be let down by the hostel again this morning. With an appetite like the seven nation army, I went into the hostels tiny kitchen and fried myself the eggs I'd bought last night. The few backpackers that were up at the same time as me looked on as I sipped my coca leaf tea, with a look on their faces as if to say 'How come he's got eggs?'.
After breakfast, I hopped into a taxi which took me and my seemingly increasing number of bags, to the Turismo Mer office. I say office, but as the taxi pulled up outside, it looked more like an old style open air car park with water filled potholes and one solitary coach. I was greeted by one of the many ridiculously smiley girls, who helped me with my bags and showed me to my seat. Green Toad Busses had yet again managed to score me a window seat so I was more than happy. After a quick visit to the toilet for my upset stomach, our journey got underway and we began to climb the road out of Puno.
Wilfred, our guide, introduced himself and welcomed us aboard the coach for today's trip. Wilfred explained that we'd be making the journey to Cusco with a few stops along the way to visit places of historical interest. I'll admit I was little confused, or I hadn't clearly read my instructions properly. I had thought that it was a straight drive through the mountains to Cusco, rather than going on a guided tour along the Panamericana Highway. I was pleased that it wouldn't be another mundane coach journey, but this was to be short lived.
I had got news the night before that I hadn't been taxed properly by one of my jobs in Australia and that I actually owed the Australian Tax Office money rather than the other way around. I had asked Tina to file the early return for me on my behalf, and in trying to do her best had managed to make things vastly more complicated then they actually needed to be. Waves of anger passed over me and I could feel a huge rage building up inside. I was relying on the money from my Australian tax return to fund my trip back to the UK across the states, and to have it suggested that I should skip this part of my trip made me want to explode.
I just couldn't be bothered to listening to the monotonous droning of Wilfred's voice now. As much as it had been a pleasant surprise to find out that I'd be visiting some places of historical importance on my journey to Cusco, I just wanted to get there now. Retreating into myself and listening to my iPod for the rest of the trip seemed like the best thing to do.
The highway took us through barren rocky landscape with dilapidated houses dotted along the roadside. Our first call was the small village of Pukara one hundred kilometres from Puno, where we paused to visit a lithic museum that showed works of Incan's that had been recovered. Due to my dark mood and the fact we weren't allowed to take photos, I failed to pay much attention to what was being said. I wandered outside and took a few snaps of the town and it's beautifully ornate church before clambering back onto out coach as instructed. Although we were delayed here for an hour, due to mechanical problems with the side door, we were entertained to the ritual celebrations of a wedding that was now pouring out of the church. It was wonderful to have now seen a wedding on each continent I had visited, and bizarrely managed to lift my spirits a little.
Abandoning any hope of fixing the door and deciding to leave the door wide open, we continued on our journey to our next stop at La Raya. Situated at four-thousand-three-hundred-and-thirty-five metres above sea level, it was the highest point between Puno and Cusco. Unfortunately it had begun to rain pretty heavily, so any hope of getting a few shots of the snowed capped mountains was washed away. As the driver and co-driver attempted to fix the door, I couldn't help but laugh. I loved the way that everyone thought that the door might begin to work if they all stood and watched it, each trying to proffer some misguided help. Although today hadn't started well, I hoped that the trend wouldn't continue. I was anxious enough about having a bed for the next week as it was, without getting there much later than planned.
Having tied the door closed with a length of cord, we made our way to our buffet lunch stop at Sicuani. The strange little restaurant had a Peruvian band playing traditional music in the corner as I walked in and had a picturesque view of a small waterfall and mountains in the background. Wishing to interact with the group as little as possible, I grabbed a small plate of food and made my way outside to sit quietly and keeping myself firmly to myself. Having eaten, we climbed back on to the coach where the rest of the group gave the driver a round of applause for having managed to fix the door. I was still unimpressed that we had been delayed, but nevertheless glad that at least I wouldn't be annoyed by the draft from the open door.
Speeding along the highway in an attempt to make up for lost time, we arrived at the next archaeological stop in Raqchi. The sun temple of Wiraqocha, that had been partially restored, stood sentinel over the small village famous for it's pottery. It was the first time I had been genuinely interested on today's trip, and as soon as I was able, I split from the group to explore the sight on my own. It wasn't an enormous sprawling site, but sitting in the base of a valley it reminded me a little of the temple ruins I had seen in Ayutthaya. Many of the buildings that had been restored had been topped with thatching, in an attempt to demonstrate how they might have looked. From what I could make out of Wilfred's mumblings, the Peruvians weren't able to identify exactly what had topped the many buildings of the Incas. This was down to the fact that the conquistadors had killed many of the Incan historians, making it impossible to accurately identify anything which remains.
After my rushed tour we headed for our final stop in the small village of Andahuaylillas. It's claim to fame was the small church of St Peter who's walls and ceilings resembled those of the Sistine chapel. Wilfred insisted however, on referring to it as the 'Sixteen' chapel, much to my amusement and frustration. So as to maintain a cool head, I again chose to separate from the group, choosing to enjoy the solitude of the church on my own. It was beautifully decorated, with ornate murals and carvings filling every inch of wall space. As ever I managed to get a sneaky couple of shits before returning to my seat on the coach, eager to get going to Cusco.
It was only a short journey to the former capital city of the Inca Empire, and I admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw the many unfinished buildings lining the streets. Wilfred explained that many of the houses remained unfinished once they had been built for tax purposes. If a house wasn't complete, then the owner didn't have to pay tax on it - a fascinating concept, but one that my OCD wouldn't have been able to deal with. As we entered downtown the traffic slowed to a near standstill, meaning that we arrived almost two hours behind schedule. Wanting nothing more than to get to my the hostel as quickly as possible, I grabbed my bags and hopped in the first taxi that stopped.
Much to my relief, when I finally arrived at Hospedaje Recoleta, they had got the details of my booking from Dream Hostel and I was soon being shown to my four bed dorm by the courteous Eduardo. As much as I was thankful that the day was finally over, I went to bed deeply irritated that I wouldn't be able to finish my trip as planned.
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