From aero to zero (sea level) - this adventure has been breathtaking (quite literally!!)

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June 14th 2019
Published: August 9th 2019
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13th June – Fly back to Lima (via Silustani)

After our exertions on Lake Titicaca yesterday, we both had a remarkably good nights sleep although I think this was down to exhaustion rather than acclimatisation!!!

So, our adventure is nearly at an end. We were picked up at the hotel at 08:00 although our flight, from Juliaca airport, wasn’t until 13:14. Why so early? I know!! Let’s squeeze in another ancient archaeological site as if we haven’t seen enough already!! We were told it was on the way to the airport anyway. So that makes it OK, does it??

As the bus climbed up the road leading out of Puno, the driver suddenly swerved as a car pulled out in front of us without indicating. We heard a dull thump on the side of the bus but our driver just kept on driving; eyes on the road. At a convenient layby, the bus pulled over as we all clambered out for a final photo looking down on Puno lying peacefully alongside the lake. There was a black mark where we suspected the impact to have happened. The driver inspected the mark and then muttered something to himself in Spanish. Probably the equivalent of: ‘That should come out with a bit of T-Cut!!’ I’m sure the driver of the car with his wing mirror hanging off would need something a bit more substantial (like a new wing mirror!!)

On approaching Silustani we were advised that it was short climb to the top. Everything with our guides have been ‘short climbs’!! I suppose its all relative. It’s short in relation to climbing the north face of the Eiger (but at 4000m above sea level, just as demanding!!) I still feel that these guides have no perception of distance or else they are getting the English word ‘short’ mixed up with the words for ‘long and arduous’!! He continued: ‘The climb is only about 200m. Those who don’t want to go, can wait at the bottom in the small coffee and gift shop.’ After my good night’s sleep, I was up for this. 200m is not far. I felt good.

The bus pulled in to the car park and we walked across to the coffee and gift shop. My legs felt like lead and I was wheezing as if I had advanced stages of Emphysema….and that walk was only twenty five metres across the car park, although I did increase my elevation by six inches as I stepped on to the kerb so it must have been that which contributed to the condition I now found myself in!! I was one of five who decided to wait at the bottom of the site!!

Up until now, all the archaeological sites have been Incan in origin. Silustani is a pre-Incan cemetery on the shores of Lake Umayo. The tombs, which are built above ground in tower-like structures, are the remnants of the Qulla people. The structures housed the remains of complete family groups, although they were probably limited to nobility. From below, it was easy to make out the cylindrical shapes of said tombs so I was happy at this stage to tick this one off my list!!

During our two weeks in the Andes, Roisin and I never felt we really adjusted to life at this high altitude. However, we did not suffer some of the symptoms associated with altitude sickness such as headaches, slurred speech, nausea or death!! It was just the shortness of breath that affected us. Come to think of it, maybe we did acclimatise after all!!

Back at sea level in Lima my first reaction was to kiss the tarmac but I thought better of it as I didn’t want to be arrested for thinking I was taking the piss out of one of Chiles most revered main men with Peru being a catholic country!!

Seventeen of us flew back from Juliaca to Lima but not all were flying home tomorrow. Patricia and her daughter Ruth were flying on to Ecuador then heading to the Galapagos Islands whilst Savi and Geoff, fellow bloggers, were continuing their adventure to Argentina to witness the magnificent Iguazu fall before spending some time in Rio, Brazil.

14th June – Last day in Lima and the flight home

Departure days for most vacations are usually ones of ‘hanging around’ especially if taking late afternoon or evening flights. Our flight was 20:00 (8pm) Our ride to the airport was expected at 16:00 so we had plenty of time to do some last minute shopping or to pop down to the tourist sights we missed first time around. We met back up with Peter and Pat over breakfast, who had arrived back late last night, bussing the 154 miles back from Paracas where Pete had flown over the famous and mysterious Nazca Lines, a group of huge abstract designs, including representations of birds and animals, clearly visible from the air but almost indecipherable from ground level. They were made by exposing the underlying sand which has then solidified, they were created by a pre-Inca culture anywhere between 500BC – 500AD. Their purpose is still uncertain; some believe that the designs represent a vast calendar or astronomical information. But for whom??

After breakfast we took a walk five blocks to the Inca market. This is one of the largest indoor souvenir market complexes in Peru. The location may have been different but the goods were pretty much the same as everywhere else we had been!! One of the non-alcoholic drinks we had been introduced to and had since familiarised ourselves with is called Inca Kola. This is a soda, yellow in colour with a unique flavour similar to something in between Irn Bru and cream Soda. When we first saw this drink on the supermarket shelves, I misread the label, thinking it said Inca Koala.

‘Why would it be Koala?’ asked Roisin.

‘Well, with all the other cute animals you can find on a Peruvian menu, I just thought it made sense!!!’ I replied.

On the way back to the hotel, we took a short detour via John F Kennedy Park. Named after the U.S President for the relationship he’d forged with Peru and specifically for the aid he provided, the park is home to painters, artisans, sellers of balloons and more bizarrely, has become home for about fifty stray cats. No one is certain why the cats began congregating at the park, but one story says that a pregnant cat might have been abandoned in the park and the population boomed from her. This, however, in an unconfirmed story, probably by someone who watches a lot of the British TV show Red Dwarf and wants to own a farm on Fiji!!

We arrived back at the hotel shortly before mid-day, just time enough to fetch our luggage down from the room and check out by the required time of noon. We took lunch in the hotel and had planned on popping down to the Miraflores boardwalk on the upper coast road of Lima to check out the statue of Paddington Bear, donated by the British Embassy in 2015 but we took the executive decision that on this trip we had done plenty of walking and climbing. This afternoon we were happy to chat to the people with whom we had shared our breath-taking (literally and metaphorically!!) experiences and pain for the past two weeks.

The bus picked us up on time for the fourteen-mile journey to the airport. This is a journey that should have taken twenty-five minutes. Traffic in Lima is bad enough at any time of the day but with the midweek peak time traffic, the transfer took just over one and a half hours. En route, we passed an Airport Express Bus, somewhat of a misleading statement for this time of the day, I thought!!

My heart sank when I saw the line for the airport security. It was huge. The queue snaked through the public food court and shopping area. Many who work in Lima go home for the weekend after work on a Friday and the airport is always extremely business at this time. Luckily this was the line for domestic departures. Despite joining the security line for International flights half way to the scanners and despite the security officers working flat out, it still took an hour to pass though as both lines merged to join one of the many x-ray conveyor belts in operation. This was by far the longest time we have ever taken to pass through security. We were now in the departure lounge and finally well and truly on our way home and I can safety say no guinea pigs were harmed in the writing of this blog (but one or two alpacas may have been!!)

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


9th August 2019

simply stunning, very jealous
10th August 2019

Simply Stunnong
Jim pictures don't actually do it justice. It was worth every laboured breath I took!!

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