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Published: April 7th 2018
The posh train was indeed posh. Not as posh as the Andean Explorer, which replaced this train and costs £1000s (and is a sleeper), but still. It was nearly 11 hours from Cusco to Puno, a city which sits on the edge of the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca (which is shared between Peru and Bolivia). I had been very close to going to the Bolivian side, which I have heard is nicer, but decided to just do an easy tour from Puno of various sites over two days, rather than even more traveling. Interestingly, if you’re from the UK you get into Bolivia for free, but US citizens pay over $150. Odd. So, next time…
The 11 hours passed surprisingly quickly. They provide some entertainment in the form of local dancing and music for an hour in the morning, and in the afternoon (which I missed because of the effects of the gigantic lunch). But of course the main way to pass the time is by taking in the views, and eating.
The guards do everything they can to make sure you’re comfortable and have everything you need. I’m sorry but I photographed lunch so you can see
for yourselves how yummy it was. The train had around 70 passengers, but I realised the post-lunch slot would be the perfect time to go to the open end and take some photos – I had it almost completely to myself. Well worth the trip. Although I spoke with a tour guide the next day who mentioned the train used to cost c£5 and he and his mother used to go to Cusco on it to sell textiles, along with the other locals. Needless to say he now needs to save up (and wants to) to take his mother once again.
Puno itself wasn’t all that pretty, despite being right on the lake. But it has an old square that I guess is typical of Peruvian cities, which is pleasant enough. It’s really just a base for the tours of the lake, I think. On Thursday, I was picked up along with a couple of Germans to go for our tour on the lake. A boat trip to the Uros island (Uros is the name of the indigenous people who live there). It was a little weird, like most tours which have a fine line between exploiting local people
and giving them a way to make money. We were shown onto a selected island, with the head of the island (a lady, incidentally) showing us how they made the island (it’s created from floating reeds, and has to be anchored so it doesn’t float into Bolivia…) and what they produce. We were somewhat forced to take a boat ride on one of their reed boats, and then carted round all the products they were trying to sell. It was interesting to see, but a little uncomfortable at times – for example, tourists trying to take photos of the small child of the island (who was, admittedly, very cute).
Next stop was a larger (non-reed) island called Taquile Island. Which was beautiful. Our lunch (of fresh trout) spot overlooked the lake, and we wandered round the town, finishing with a 2km walk back along the coast to the dock.
Friday’s tour guide was late. Eventually a guy turned up and apologised profusely (I hadn’t been added to the right list), and said he would be giving me a private tour instead. Despite my initially worrying about what exactly this might mean, he took me to a great spot
just outside Puno to take photos. I wasn’t sure where I was going anyway, because I had really just booked a tour from Cusco in the hope that I didn’t need to think about anything – they would just take to me the interesting places. So, after the views we drove on to a place called Sillustani, which was such a pleasant surprise. This was a hill, right beside another huge lake, with pre-Incan tombs constructed on the top. In fact, it contains the tombs of four different eras (including Inca), which is apparently the only place this has been discovered (so far). This is where mummies have been discovered and recovered (some are in a museum in Lima, for example). There is also an Incan temple which is located exactly where the sun shines through the front entrance on the summer solstice (in December – so, our winter solstice), and stone slabs all the way around to show them time passing. How they did this without the instruments we have today was impressive. This is the same method as used for the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu.
The views from that place were as incredible as those over
Titicaca, a perfect spot for a burial site.
I’ve found myself pretty exhausted at that altitude – the lake and Puno are just under 4000m. No headaches this time, but everything does seem like hard work.
This morning I took the bus from Puno back to Cusco. This was with an annoyingly loud family. Well, actually the mother was louder than all the children (3) put together. I had to just put my headphones on and turn the volume up. The VIP seats were fantastic though – for $5 more than a normal coach seat, you get 160 degree recline, blanket and cushion. And lunch. Which was amusing for me because the annoying lady was incredibly arrogant about getting out at our one stop and buying her whole family about 20 burgers and eating them all at 10:30am. Only for us to be given a perfectly adequate lunch by the bus company at 12 and for her to look a bit sheepish.
Tomorrow (and most of Monday) I have free time in Cusco, so I will have to finally check out the Cathedral and perhaps the Inca Museum, which I have heard good things about from the
guys on our Inca Trail trek. As an aside, I’m very sad I missed Man City not winning the title this weekend!
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