Puno to Cusco (March 25, 2008)

This morning was another one where we didnĀ“t really get to sleep in. Our bus from Puno to Cusco left at 7:30 am so we were up by 6:15. We decided to take a bus/tour from Inka Express to go between Puno to Cusco rather than just a straight bus. If we went with just the bus, it would have been 6 hours. Adding the tour portion made the trip 9.5 hours instead. But the good part was that we had a chance to visit things along the way and the visits broke up the trip a bit.

The first stop along the way was the Pukar Museum. This is a pre-Inca ceremonial site. It is characterized by a series of staired plateforms. The ruins also reveal some litosculptures and tombstones, all witnesses of a pre-Inca civilization, possibly one at the origin of the Andean culture of the Altiplano. The Altiplano is where the Andes are at their widest and is the most extensive area of high plateau on earth outside of Tibet. Puno and its area is considered the Altiplano.

The next stop along the way was La Raya which is the highest pass on the route between Cusco and Puno. La Raya is 4335 meters above sea level. This is a region situated between two cultures – the Quechua and the Aymara, as well as a composite of two terrains: the dry and arid altiplano and the more verdant Quechua valleys and rivers. From that point, we started descending and immediately started noticing the difference in the landscape. As we moved along, the mountains became more and more green and lush. We are at the end of the rainy season so we were able to see the mountains at the height of their lushness. Seeing I am from Alberta, we have seen the Rocky Mountains. However, the Andes are completely different. Because we are already so high up, the mountain surrounding us didn’t seem as tall as the Rockies. However, as we mentioned above, they were at first rocky and then became green. The scenery along the way between Puno and Cusco was simply breathtaking.

Our next stop was for lunch. We stopped at a town called Sicuani. The lunch was buffet style and was excellent. In the buffet amongst other things was grilled alpaca. It was really tasty. Roger hadn’t been very hungry for the last few days because of the effects of the altitude but was hungry and really enjoyed the lunch. We were at the same table with a couple from Quebec City so we were able to talk hockey :-). We also met a very nice lady from Germany who is spending a few weeks in Peru taking Spanish courses (sounds like a good idea…).
Our next stop was at Raqchi which was 121 kilometers from Cusco. This is an Inca temple that was 100 meters in length, 26 meters in width and 14 meters in height. Divided in two naves, each of these still retains the base of eleven giant columns. The base of the walls consists of Imperial Inca stonework. Adjacent to the temple, we saw many storehouses, used for various purposes: military and religious items. The stonework the Incas did was simply amazing. They built walls with stones without any mortar or cement in between. The construction is amazing in that it has survived two major earthquakes – one in 1650 and one in 1950.

Our last stop before Cusco was Andahuaylillas which is referred to as the Andean Sistine Chapel because of its magnificent frescoes. The church is an example of the mestizo baroque architecture typical of the Cusco School of Art which was prominent in the 17th century. The ceiling is of carved panels covered with gold leaf. While it wasn’t as elaborate as the Sistine Chapel, it certainly did remind us of it.

We arrived in Cusco right on time at 5:00 pm. We shared a cab into town with 3 other Germans (yes, there was 5 of us in the cab). We didn’t share it to save money (as cabs are very cheap here in Peru) but more so because there weren’t any others around.

We met up with Kevin and Melissa at our hotel (Hospedaje Familiar LLipimpac). It is a great little hotel with a courtyard in the middle. After checking in, we went for supper and for a walk around the city. Cusco is a beautiful city. The architecture is great and is a very lively city. It is known as the “Gringo Capital” as it is so close to Machu Picchu. We really notice the number of Gringos that we see as compared to the other cities we visited.

After walking around and catching up with Kevin and Melissa, we hit the sack. Another busy day planned for tomorrow as we want to visit a bunch of the sites in Cusco.

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