Complete decadence

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July 13th 2008
Published: July 13th 2008
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I´ve just been on the most amazing and utterly decadent train ride. I left Cusco this morning on the Andean Explorer which I think is owned by / linked to Orient Express. It was lovely!

I had my own armchair and table with a lamp and flowers. 3 course lunch, afternoon tea and Pisco Sour (Peruvian-blow-your-head-off drink) included. At the back of the train is the lounge and the observation car which is open to the elements at the back so yet again I´ve taken many hundreds of photos of the changing scenery over the 10 hour journey. Actually I can´t believe it´s been 10 hours, it just flew. I wonder if I can get back to the UK on one of these things?!

OK so it´s not entirely in the spirit of backpacker travel but I have also done the chicken buses, the trekking and the camping so I have a relatively clear conscience.

Leaving Cusco the landscape was still mountainous and lush but as the hours passed it became flatter and sparser. I´ve now arrived at Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at around 14000 plus feet. It´s bloody cold.

The train only runs on this route about 4 times a week I think which means the locals we passed were still quite excited to see us and loads of them stood and waved. It was also really good to see people in the colourful native dress, having suspected that they just put this on for the tourists, which I now know is clearly not the case.

We also had some entertainment on board in the form of musicians and dancers. Not quite as strange as the train I took yesterday back from Aguas Calientes to Cusco, on which the ticket collectors turned models half-way through for a fashion show up and down each carriage, of garments made by locals. Even better, the backing music was as cheesy as possible, including ´Dancing Queen´and the Pet Shop Boys.

I´ve arrived here not entirely sure what my plan is other than getting out on to the lake tomorrow. I either do a day trip over there or go and stay over night on one of the islands. I´m leaning towards the second option although time is getting short. Titicaca looks and sounds amazing. There are floating islands there made from reeds which people still live on, although I think the ones I will get to see are likely to be there for the tourists, while the genuine ones are understandably tucked further away so they don´t get bothered.

In a week from now I´ll be back in the UK and tucked up in my own bed, so time is definitely running out to see and do the things I want. If I stay overnight on Taquile or Amanti island then head straight up to Arequipa (5 hour bus) afterwards that will take me to Monday night / Tuesday morning. I then have probably just 2 days in Arequipa which means Colca Canyon is probably not going to happen as that is usually an overnight trip. My flight is Friday so I need to either fly back to Lima on Thursday or do the overnight bus from Arequipa Thursday night, but can I really face that followed by an overnight flight? I´m used to travelling on the Orient Express! Hmmm decisions, decisions...

I´m also knocking the Nazca lines on the head even though I will pass through there if I get the Arequipa-Lima bus.

I´ve been meeting the nicest people out here, both locals and other travellers. I was discussing this with an American couple on yesterday´s train and we decided that Peru naturally attracts nice outdoorsy type people, whereas some travelling destinations just attract the party seekers who aren´t always that respectful to the locals or interested in integrating. Having said that, my Spanish still hasn´t improved! I will come home accompanying everything I say with hand gestures and exagerrated facial expressions as that´s become second nature over the last couple of weeks!

Alright I need to go and throw on some more layers then head out to find me some food and work out a plan for tomorrow. Oh and see if I can get some photos added here...xx


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