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Published: October 11th 2017
August 28, 2017
There is a distinct advantage being on a semi organized trip to a foreign country – after arriving in Lima at 1am after about 17 hours of travelling, it was awesome to walk out of the baggage claim area and to see our names on a sign – no thinking required, just load our bags into a van (the trunk was subsequently locked so it could not be burgled when we were stopped) and relax during the 40 minute drive to the Dazzler Lima Hotel in Miraflores, a rather upscale district of Lima Province that is tourist central.
A few hours sleep and then downstairs for an awesome breakfast buffet – So much fresh fruit and juice, along with hot food (eggs, sausages), a lot of pastries and some just plain weird food – olives and antipasto for breakfast – really????
We had learnt that the Indian market in Miraflores had everything you might possibly want to buy in Peru so it seemed a sensible idea to check it out for offerings and prices as we would be back here at the end of the trip. Well, there was more than 1 Indian market along
Petit Thouars and we visited them all – alpaca blankets, hats, socks, scarves and sweaters, carpets, bags, wall hangings, artwork, silver articles, jewelry. It was all there for the buying – an alpaca hat went into my bag while 2Bob bought an alpaca hat (with ear flaps) and gloves for the trek.
We have a golden rule of avoiding tourist areas for eating and we stumbled upon small fish restaurant in the little streets east of Av Jose Larco. For 18 sole each ($1 was 2.5 sole) we each had a choice of appetizer as well as a main – whatever I had was not particularly memorable, but the ceviche that Kelly and Vera had was to die for. We each had a different main dish and Kelly definitely won for presentation and taste.
Needing to walk off lunch we headed down to the Malecon or Boardwalk, a six mile stretch of parks and walkways along the cliff top, high above the ocean where we could look down on the little black dots of beginner surfers as well as enjoy the gardens and artworks along the boardwalk. Unfortunately, it was too windy for the paragliders to be in
action as it would have been fun to watch them swooping along the cliff edge high above the rocks and the motorway. Another walking excursion to the “historical center” proved to be a pyramid that had been discovered in the city - but it was closed, so we just walked the perimeter, suspecting that we would be seeing a lot of ruins in the coming days.
Time for a happy hour drink and that was a challenge as most places were still closed (lunch seems to go til at least 3pm and dinner doesn’t start til late - by our standards anyway). Beer had been really cheap at lunch, but quite expensive in bars - so we eventually paid quite a bit, especially for my Pisco Sour which was quite delicious. Pisco is a type of brandy (that tastes a lot like tequila) that was developed by the Spaniards and with the addition of egg white, lemon juice and simple syrup becomes the most well known drink in Peru. Heading back to the hotel it was time to use the welcome drink coupons that we had been given the night before. Unfortunately, I had traded mine in for an
8 sole bottle of water the night before - which was a really bad trade, considering the others got a 22 sole, passion fruit pisco sour with their coupons. Although to be honest, one PS was enough!!!!
Day 2: August 29.
Karikuy representative Enrique picked us up at 8:15am for the drive back to the Jorge Chavez Airport. Our destination - Juliaca - is at an elevation of 3,825 m so it seemed that most of the flight was a straight in approach (no descending needed). We would be spending the next couple of days on the Altiplano - the high plain in West Central South America where the Andes are the widest. Enroute to the town of Puno (our home for the next two nights) we stopped at the burial complex of Sillustani. Our guide Julio was very knowledgeable but it got quite confusing sorting out pre-columbian, Inca civilization and the Incan empire. My understanding (correct or otherwise) is that pre Columbian is defined as the period before the appearance of significant European influences, the Incan civilization began in about the 11th
century with the empire lasting only about 100 years and ending with the Spanish conquest
in the 1500s. There were only 14 Incan rulers (royalty) and the remaining workers were the Quechan people. So it makes sense that pre incan was before the Incan civilization (in other words, before the Incas arrived in the area and dominated in battle). Sillustani started as a pre incan cemetery, where people were buried vertically in the fetal position in tower like structures above the ground. The dry environment created by the closed tombs mummified the bodies for centuries until the tombs were robbed of both bodies and the wealth accumulated for the after life. When the Inca arrived on the scene, they built much tidier burial towers with well fitted stone blocks covering the original structures.
It was a slow walk up a gentle incline to view the chullpas and it became very evident that we were not at sea level any more. When we were skydiving, supplemental oxygen was used if we were longer than 30 minutes at 12,500ft or above. And here we were walking around, getting out of breath surprisingly quickly - and taking a pulse was downright scary as it seemed as fast as if I had done a vigourous workout. And then
there were the occasional bouts of lightheadedness. This was all part of our acclimatization plan before tacking the Incan trail and hiking above 14,000 ft.
Heading back to the van, we paid 5 soles each to take photos of a Peruvian woman with a 2 week old baby alpaca - so cute!!!!!! Then a little further along the road we stopped at a “village” where we took more photos of very docile llamas. Whereas alpacas are used for their wool and meat, llamas are used as “beasts of burden”. We were also shown inside the “village” where we saw preserved potatoes, different quinoa types and got to sample some cheese.
Finally arriving in Puno, we checked in to Conde de Lemos Hotel and enjoyed a welcome coca tea before setting off to explore the town. Chewing coca leaves and drinking a tea brewed from the leaves helps with altitude sickness and became a common activity for us, mostly just as a preventative measure, but occasionally to eliminate headaches. As usual we avoided the main “tourist area” and had dinner at “Uros” - just as we were trying to order drinks, a plate of soup (broth with a little
chicken bone) was placed in front of each of us. We had no idea what the main choices were so all choose something different (it was chicken, chicken or chicken, prepared 5 different ways). It was obviously a popular spot - lots of locals plus us - and CHEAP at 5 soles ($2CAD each). As we were heading back to the hotel we noticed a lot of bands in the church square (right next to the hotel) - seems like there are some sort of religious celebrations all the time in Peru - and they love their fire crackers, especially at the break of dawn. Fortunately, the music didn’t go too late, but the street talking did.
The next day was an early start with breakfast at 6am and we were ready for our days touring at 6:45am. It was darn cold and we were all layered up for our exploration of the reed islands and Taquile island. First it was down to the marina for our boat trip onto Lake Titicaca and to visit the floating reed islands of the Uros people. It is all rather commercial, but very interesting and picturesque all the same. Each boat of
tourists is taken to a different floating island so the wealth is shared. After being given a demonstration of how a reed island is built (The root system of the buoyant totora reeds are used as a base and then layers of reeds are placed on top. Due to the natural breakdown of the lower layers of reeds, they are constantly replenished to provide a dry walkable surface. Each island is anchored in place but can be moved readily if necessary) we were taken into one of the houses and encouraged to buy a handicraft (which we did). The women did beautiful embroidery.
And then it was onto Taquile Island, two hours further out into the lake. This island may be small but it is steep and the walk up the 500 plus steps to the Plaza D’armas was a killer. It really helped when Julio gave us each a few drops of Agua de Florida to rub onto our palms and then inhale to open up the respiratory passages. When googling this liquid, it says that it is a flower water used by shamans for cleansing, healing and ritual feeding. It has myriad uses but no mention of
helping breathing. We were to use this product later on bus trip to Cusco and on the Inca trail. Taquile island is known for its handwoven textiles and clothing - and in particular, the 5 needle knitting done by the men. Some of the knitting is so tight, it results in a waterproof cloth. It is also supposedly the fourth most beautiful island in the world, which is a bit tough to believe - but looking at photos later of the brilliant blue lake and the crimson Cantuta flower (national flower of Peru), you have to agree it was a beautiful place. Walking downwards through the terraces we stopped for lunch of quinoa soup and grilled trout and were also given a demonstration of the local detergent (made from the chukjo cactus).
It was a long rough boat ride back to Puno - although the sun was shining, it was darn cold in the wind. Dinner was at a different chicken restaurant and once again we were the only white people. There were 4 varieties of chicken this time - fried, crumbed, grilled or broiled.
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