On the Way Home?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2017 by David Palmer

After stocking up with a full breakfast we finishing packing our bags and then decided to have a wander outside the hotel before check-out at 10am. It was probably a mistake as Cusco is full of markets selling all kinds of goods, principally to the tourists. All very bright and appealing to those who have local currency in pocket and little time left to make use of it. So it was without intention that further items were bought, and on return to the hotel, suitcases had to be opened and repacked!

At 10am exactly we checked out of our room and left our suitcases in the lobby under the watchful eyes of the porters. We headed off to spend the next couple of hours in the Plaza of the night before. On the way we passed the Avianca Cusco office, so we popped in and got them to check us onto our flight, chose our seats and printed out our boarding cards for all three flights. It took less than 10 minutes and would save us a few minutes at  the airport.

Carrying on towards the Plaza we stopped and photographed a worker’s demonstration with patriotic flags waving, flanked on both sides by heavily armed police in riot gear. The Peruvians love a good demonstration and they can occasionally get out of hand. Apparently it is a national pastime.

Moving on we reached our destination to the sound of drums and loudspeakers, but to our surprise it was a completely different affair. The whole square was full of military, fully armed and in best uniform. Whole sections of the military were represented, including the various forces of the police. All lined up and listening to speeches from the main rostrum situated in front of the Cathedral. We took our time doing a complete circle of  the square (thus proving you can circle a square!) photographing the goings on without understanding anything of what we were looking at. It could have been a special day, a regular thing or just a show of strength, we had no idea. However, by the time we had got to the centre of the proceedings, which was where all the speeches were coming from and the dignatories were sat under a small canopy, Sue and I worked our way to just a couple of metres behind the obviously most important person of today’s affair. Recognising the start of the Catholic Mass (the sins of doing supply in a Catholic school) as then, I now switched off and my mind began to wander. Where was the security? True, there was plenty of bodies carrying guns of all shapes and sizes but no one challenged or searched us as we entered the Plaza AND we were both carrying very full rucksacks. Perhaps, the terrorists have changed the way we now think? How tragic and sad.

It was as we left the proceedings down a side street, we learned that the person we had got so close to, was the president of Peru himself. 

We returned to the hotel and had a cup of coca tea each. Some advice for anybody wishing to visit Peru; if offered the tea or the dry leaves to chew, do so. Altitude is not to be ignored, everything becomes difficult for us softies from sea-level, coca goes some way to alleviating its effect.

Our transfer to the airport arrived half an hour early (as has every transfer on this tour), luckily we were all ready and prepared to leave.

Our flight to Lima, left half an hour late as the aircraft had to change a tyre, with the knock-on effect that our connection time to Bogota had been reduced to just an hour. Not a problem, we caught our flight and it left on time. The same was true for our connection to Heathrow, though we had 2 hours 50 minutes to wait before we flew.

Avianca feed you quite regularly on their flights, and by now we were getting quite stuffed and were only participating in this routine gorging session to pass the time. 

In the light of recent events, security at Heathrow had increased significantly, armed police were there in numbers checking passports as we left the aircraft. Unusually for Heathrow, our suitcases beat us to the baggage reclaim belt so it wasn’t long before we were stood at the bus stop to find we had just missed one and had 40 minutes to wait for the next. It was an omen of things to come!

We had parked at the EasyHotel twenty minutes from the airport and unlike other carparks, on leaving your car, you take your keys with you. The last time I saw my car keys was at Cusco airport and they were in a zipped side pocket of my rucksack. Now to my horror, the zip was open and the keys gone. The rucksack had been placed in the overhead locker of each aircraft we had flown on and I guess as it was pushed in or taken out or moved continuously by other passengers accessing their bags inflight, the zip had been dragged open and the keys fallen out. What to do?

First I rang my car rescue service, they were extremely sorry but they couldn’t help as the car was not broken or the keys weren’t inside the vehicle. Next I rang Jamie to see if he could get the spare key from home and bring it, and like the treasure he is, that is what happened. However, due to an accident on the M1 (typical!!!) this took quite a long time . Enough time for Sue and I to have a meal at a local pub before Jamie swept into the carpark with a smile on his face and my spare key. So, instead of arriving home at an expected time of 8pm, we eventually got home after 11pm and therefore too late to vote in the General Election. 

Not a satisfying way to finish a wonderful holiday, but looking on the bright side, the cost of replacement keys is covered up to 1000 pounds on my card protection policy. On the dark side, we now have a hung Parliament which will no doubt inflict quite a few years of intensive politicking as self-interest and senseless point scoring will dominate our news and lives. I feel quite a few foreign excursions coming on to escape.

A Day in Cusco

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2017 by David Palmer

Our hotel is situated on the Avenido El Sol, which is a long wide busy road crammed with local and touristy shops all the way to the centre of the city, finishing at the historic Plaza de Armas. We had no plans for today so after breakfast we perused the city map and chose to visit yet another Inca site to the north. The Satnav on my phone plotted the route and indicated around 40 minutes walking time. It didn’t show the elevation along our route, the decrease in oxygen levels and the number of steps we were going to climb!

Yes, my mobile guided us accurately through the narrow winding streets and insanely vertical steps to our destination. We took many rests to pant and suck in vital life sustaining oxygen. I can understand how John Peel had a heart attack here and died!!! The elevation is 3800m.

It was 140 sols for the both of us to enter the site and after paying the fee at the entrance gate, very disappointingly we discovered that the ruins were still higher! Again, after many breathless rests we came across the first of the ancient structures. We are experts now, and can tell the importance and purpose of an Inca building by its construction and this one was built for a king.

First we took the opportunity to take photos from a view point of the city. We sat and panted for quite a while, admiring the sprawling city below. We watched several aircraft land and take-off from the airport we would be taking advantage of tomorrow and used the binoculars to observe dancers in the Plaza De Armas way below. Moving on we meandered around the fairly well preserved archaeological remains, the Spanish had sacked the site and used much of the stone work for their own building in the city. What remains were those stones too big to move.

At the highest point we came across a couple from our tour party and dallied awhile chatting about the tour. We met them again at another point in the site where there was a poor copy of ‘Christ the Redeemer’. Afterwards we walked with them to the Plaza before going our separate ways.

What a lovely place this central Plaza is. As expected, thronged with tourists but also many parties of children practising their dances for a winter solstice celebration (21st June) to be held at the site we had just visited. I hoped they know that there isn’t much oxygen up there. We were hungry, so after finding a tiny restaurant just off the square we ordered food and drinks and checked out the internet while we waited.

Fully satiated we visited the Inca Museum. Deceptively big, we wandered its many rooms looking at the wonderful artifacts on display. The Incas were and still are a clever race, ingenious and artistic. It is shame that the Spanish discovered them.

From the museum we sat awhile and watched the dancers practising their moves to the beat of a drum or the sound of a flute. Absolutely charming to witness. Next visit was to the Cathedral (Templo De La Compania De Jesus) constructed in 1571 and occupying one side of the Plaza. As expected, dripping with gold and famous for having the largest altar in Peru (21m x 12m). Exhaustedly, after climbing many steps we took photos from an upstairs window of the plaza below, before descending into the bowels of the building where we visited the crypt. The building contains one of the most important Peruvian paintings which depicts the marriage of Sir Martin of Loyola and the last Incan Princess, Lady Beatriz Nusta. A bit of early Spanish propaganda , if you ask me!

Following a rather circuitous route we returned to the hotel for coffee and a much needed rest.

We ventured out again at around 7pm to visit the Plaza once again. Even more groups were practising their dances at regular spaces all the way way around the square. We sat and watched for ages, fascinated by their movements. Each group was obviously telling a story with their dancing and some of the choreography was better in some than others. We guessed there would be a competition to decide who was the best on the day, so focussed were the individual dancers, intent on getting it right. Groups of teeneagers practising their dance moves in public view and obviously enjoying every second, we couldn’t see this happening in the UK. Such a shame.

As the night wore on it got decidedly chilly, so we returned to the hotel, stopping to chat and have drinks with a few of our party before retiring to bed.

Sacred Valley

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2017 by David Palmer

The Incas haven’t disappeared, they are still living as in Peru’s Sacred Valley, principally in the town of Ollantaytambo and that was to be the focus of today’s tour. 

After breakfast our party gathered together in the foye and left for the start of today’s adventure at 8.00am.

First port of call was difficult one. Chinchero is a small picturesque village containing significant Inca ruins dating from the 15th century as well as an unchanged Catholic church. The problem was that it was at an elevation of 3800m and the lack of oxygen again kicked in making moving around the village a rather breathless affair for all but the locals. However, it was worth it. Great views of the snow topped Andes as a back drop to some superbly preserved Inca terracing. The church was interesting, specifically as it was in the same condition as first built, all the tapestries, paintings and icons were untouched originals. There aren’t any photos as it was not allowed. It was a very dark church, which has contributed to its preservation, but does have to my mind a very dark past. It was built on the site of an Inca religious temple, all being destroyed except one small section of wall which can be seen in a side chapel.

After running the gauntlet of eager local retailers through the village, we returned fatigued to the coach. Suie and I sampled along with some others of our party, a very tasty village cheese with sauce on a maize leaf, for the paltry sum of 1 sol.

Next stop was still at height to the tiny village of Urpi. Here we watched some traditional Andean spinning and weaving techniques. Of course we were given the opportunity to purchase some of the wares.

Carrying on, we stopped briefly at Racchi Point on the mountain pass above the Sacred Valley to take photos and admire the views, before descending into the valley down a twisting road passing numerous shelters and buildings clinging to the mountainside. One could imagine that  one good storm, or even a minor shake would send these pathetically constructed little hovels sliding down to the valley floor. 

We arrived at Ollantaytambo via a short detour due to a local ceremony taking place. The site is one of the most representative building complexes of the Inca Empire. It is where the Spanish Conquistadors suffered one of their rare defeats.  It is noted for its terraced fields, unfinished religious buildings and as an effective fortress. It is a marvelous place, not as large as Machu Picchu but none the less spectacular. Superb examples of the Inca ingenuity in building can be clearly seen in the unfinished temple complex.  Many of the stones had been quarried on a mountain across the valley. You could see from the complex itself, the route the stones had taken down the mountain, where they had crossed the river, the road constructed across the valley and the ramp up to the complex. Amazing.

We wandered around the site, before dropping down into the ‘only living Inca town’; it is the best surviving example of Inca urban planning.  We were fortunate that the local celebration entered the square as we were there. Very colourful, masked dancers cavorted among us. They were all men or male children. We saw the women, also dressed in ceremonial dress, at another location as we drove out of the town. We would have loved to stay awhile and watch, but the timetable ruled.

Driving through the valley we stopped at a restuarant for an excellent Peruvian buffet meal. Afterwards, I found two tethered llama and fed them what seemed a meadow full of grass. Llamas do have a huge appetite for the stuff. One of them had large bulging eyes similar to that of Arsenal’s  Mesut Ozil, I couldn’t help but think it may have been him on holiday. Soccer players are known for their love of grass.

We  returned to Cusco just before the sun dipped below the surrounding mountains. It was a very tiring day.

Machu Picchu

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2017 by David Palmer

Today we had yet another early start, but we knew this was going to be well worth it. One of the new seven wonders of the world was going to be visited.

We were in breakfast before 5am and our coach to the train station left on time at 5.40am. However, a couple of miles into our journey we discovered that the youngest member of our party had left her passport in her case which had been placed in storage at the hotel. The passport was needed for the train and Machu Picchu. Much to her embarrassment we retraced our route, collected the rogue document and again set off to the station, with fingers crossed.

Boarding the train went without a hitch and we all found our seats and settled down for the three and a half hour journey. Drinks and snacks were served at intervals throughout. For the first half hour, little could be seen of the surrounding countryside due to thick mist, but eventually the sun burned through and revealed that we were following the course of a river through towering canyons and steep sided valleys. We were cheating by taking the most comfortable method of following the Inca Trail, which I believe takes around four days to complete. We occasionally saw hardy trekkers plodding on narrow tracks, often at a giddy height way above our snaking train. It was another lovely day and the temperature was rising into the 30’s. I did not envy them their task today.

We were making our way to Aguas Calientas, the location for the final jump to Machu Picchu by bus. Our little train was full to bursting, all agog at the sights passing our windows. We stopped briefly to observe and take photos of one of the more stranger sights you could possibly hope to see. A settlement, seemingly strapped to the side of a vertical mountain, with the only method of reaching them I guess is by rope? 

For the last two hours of our expedition we somehow, found our way through gap after gap between monstrous, towering lumps of rock often fringed with little more than grass clinging on with strong roots, no chance of trees getting a foothold here. Confusing side valleys and canyons sprang randomly along our route and these we could see also divided into what must be the largest maze on Earth. How did the Incas find their way, let alone the Spanish and later the American explorer who discovered this iconic site?  Amazing!!!!

We pulled into our destination, a bustling little town of around 5000 local inhabitants. There is no road into this place, just the train line and everything has to come along it, including the tourist buses that we were later to take us up to the archaeologhical site. We were met by our guide at the exit of the station and he led us to our hotel El Mapi. We were not here to check in, just to drop off our overnight bags (if we wished too). We then followed crocodile fashion through the maze of narrow streets thronged with other eager Inca fans to our waiting bus just off the tiny central square.

The bus takes around 30 minutes to wind its precarious way up through thick rainforest track to Machu Picchu. Upon disembarking we had a necessary loo stop. The heat was fearsome, so I took the opportunity to change into shorts and T-shirt.

Following our guide we entered the complex. Words for once will not suffice, you have to experience Machu Picchu, I shall leave my description to the photographs that will appear in the blog when I return home. We were priveleged to have wandered the same paths and buildings that the ancient Incas with their marvellous ingenuity and skills created. 

Returning to Aguas Calientes we had a buffet lunch before checking into the hotel. The heat of the day had got to Sue, so I left her sleeping in our room while I explored part of this small town. I returned in time for our evening meal. Joining the rest of our party in the restuarant we had a fine meal before returning to the room and discovering the atrocity that our radical Muslim friends were creating in London. Small minds, small people, no loss to the world. Their legacy won’t last the 500 years, filling the future inhabitants of the planet with awe as do the Inca.

The following morning we breakfasted at 8.00am (we were spoiled!). The day was ours, or at least until 3.20pm when we had to catch the train back to Cusco. We spent the morning visiting a museum of photos, cleverly paired photos of Machu Picchui had been paced around the walls, one photo taken in 1912 (when first discovered) next to one taken in 2014. Fascinating, we studied and discussed each and everyone, lost in fresh memories of the place.

Next, we scoured the various markets and shops for presents, often coming across other members of our party doing likewise and stopping to chat and idle away a few moments in the sun in this glorious place. 

Shopping completed we returned to the hotel and checked out before spending some time in the bar for thirst quenching refreshments. We went shopping again, not for items to take home, but to hunt down guinea pig. Locating our prey we sat down ready to do battle in a nearby restuarant. Sue opted for a rear guard action and settled for corn soup, I was left alone to tackle this Peruvian delicacy. Its appearance on the plate is not for the faint hearted, the upturned snout and protruding teeth are a big indication that it was not enjoying the encounter. However, spread-eagled on my plate with two large balls of saffron potato and a mixture of onion and peppers as backup, it did exude a certain amount of Inca authenticity and I was up for that.

It tastes like chicken, though to eat it, a knife and fork are useless, you have to pull it apart and that was no mean task. These Peruvian guinea pigs are built to last. Thankfully the mocking head had been sliced off, and I placed this strategically at the far end of my plate facing Sue while I dismembered and savoured my lunch. I enjoyed it, but it is going to be a once only. We kept some of the body parts and placed them in a plastic bag to feed some lucky dog later in the day.

After scurrying to the station we did indeed catch our train that afternoon. The return journey was much the same as before but it ended in darkness at 7.05pm. The coach was waiting and transported us back to the Jose Antonio hotel in Cusco. After check-in and unpacking (we are here for a few days and can afford the luxury of putting clothes in drawers) I took a short walk and a lucky golden Labrador received the remains of my lunch. I wonder if he knew what he was eating?

The Road to Cusco

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2017 by David Palmer

The alarm was set for 4.45am, but like the rest of our party we were awake for 3am. Sleeping at alitude is not easy, breathing is laboured and the air is so much drier that you are in need of regular drinks. We have partially acclimatised, the headaches and the random nauseous feelings have gone, but sleep remains a problem.

We were second into breakfast at 5.05am and were soon joined by others from our party. Returning to our room we finshed getting ready, took the suitacses down to reception and waited with the others for our transport to arrive. At 5.30am precisely we boarded our coach and headed for the bus station in Puno where we were to catch another bus that would take us to Cusco. It was a modern coach with toilets, WiFi, and a hot drinks facility, necessary as we were not due to reach our destination until 5.30pm that afternoon.

We said goodbye to Puno and Titicaca from the road high above the town along with a few other tourists that had joined this daily bus to Cusco. We were going to break our journey five times to visit a variety of locations, one being a restaurant for lunch.

The scenery that passed by was straight out of a David Attenborough natural history programme. How the Peruvians manage to survive and prosper in such a difficult environment is beyond me. Whether they notice the beauty and grandeur of their country as they go about their mainly agricultural tasks is open to debate by we none Spanish speaking foreigners. I would love to ask them the question. Our journey seemed to run through the full gamut of mountaineous terrain under blue skies and warm sunshine. At the very height of our route along the Cuscos South Valley our guide informed us that only 10 years ago at this time of year it would have been impassable due to snow. The snow was now limited to the very tops of the mountains on either side. Global warming was the wistful reason given. Ironically, it was today that Donald Trump pulled America away from such initiatives to curb its effect on the planet. Well done Donald, like your Disney namesake you really are quackers!

Despite this being winter, Peruvian families could be seen working together in the fields, gathering in the corn, tending to their flocks of sheep or Alpacas. They do work hard. If a bit of land is flat, it doesn’t matter how precarious its location is, they will put it into production of some sort. Just reaching some of their fields at this altitude is truly mind-boggling. I can see why they are not a tall race, a low centre of gravity is certainly going to be an advantage on the thin near vertical ribbons of tracks they use.

Our first stop was at an archeological site to see an Inca step pyramid. We spent around 40 minutes there being given an explanation of the Inca civilisation before climbing to the top of a tall building to photograph the site from a distance. Not very satisfactory, I  found the goings on in the village more interesting. They were having a festival and it entailed all the children (boys and girls) having their hair done by an army of hairdressers all in a line at the same time. Very novel.

We stopped at the highest point at La Raya for just 8 minutes to take photos. At 4500m, the air is so thin that within minutes of stopping headaches and nausea kicked in, hence such a brief visit. We managed photos and some even bought items made from Alpaca from the stalls positioned there for such a purpose.

An acceptable buffet lunch was taken at a roadside restuarant next to a picturesque waterfall. The guide predicted we would sleep the next hour or so before we visited the next location, but he was wrong, the scenery was far too interesting for sleep. But then he was a Peruvian, and I guess they don’t appreciate where they live after all.

Racchi archeological site was fascinating. It is known as the ‘Temple of God Wiracocha’ (you hear a lot about him) and was where the Inca royalty lived. It was destroyed by the Spanish but what remains is very impressive, particularly when we learn that it was covered in gold. Well worth a visit, Sue and I could easily have spent a day there.

Our last stop was in a small town called Andahuaylillas. Yes, it is a mouthfull! We visted the Catholic church there. It is magnificent, dripping with gold artifacts and icons. The artwork and murals are superb. The Spanish around 1500 when the church was built used it as a vehicle to convert the locals. The story it tells is that if you become a Catholic you go to Heaven and if you remain an Aztec you go to hell. We think it is probably the most elaborate and outrageously decadent church we have ever seen. Glad we visited, but hate the message behind it.

We did indeed arrive in Cusco at 5.30pm. We changed buses again, this time to take us to our hotel, the Jose Antonio. Hard to forget now.

After checking in Sue and I had coffee in the room and then packed in readiness for yet another early start. Tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu and get up at 4.30am.

 

Titicaca and Floating Village

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2017 by David Palmer

The altitude (4000m) has had an effect on us both and to our fellow travellers. At best it is a continual dull to throbbing headache, lack of appetite and random feelings of sickness. Any activity causes breathlessness and waves of exhaustion. We both have had headaches but these have been alleviated with tablets, but nobody has escaped the fatigue and gasping for breath. Yesterday’s trip into Puno and the archaeological site was too much for some of our party and they remained sitting in the minibus. On return to the hotel they retired early to their beds without an evening meal.

It was another early start. After breakfast we boarded a small cruiser from the hotel’s little pier from which I took photos when we arrived. It was another glorious day, flat calm lake and horizon to horizon sunshine. We were to visit the Uros floating islands around 30 minutes away. They are man made floating islands where the descendants of the the Altiplano still live on tortora reed platforms. It is a busy little place with many little boats visiting the myriad of little platforms and it is such an experience to slowly motor between them, photographing and waving to the colourful natives, keen to shout greetings and gesture their pleasure at our visit by singing, dancing and waving in return.

We found our berth alongside one of these reedy islands, dotted with little huts and a tower, apparently obligatory to keep an eye on your neighbours. If there is a dispute between them, they just move the island to somewhere else. Peruvian Brexit, Perexit?

We were greeted with song and handshaking as we disembarked. First we sat on reed seats in a semi-circle and we were given a description of the way of life on the island, followed by a demonstration on how the island was made. It was made 15 years ago and should last 30yrs. The platform is 2m thick with 1m of crisscrossed reeds pile up on a 1m bed of reed roots that are tied together with pegs and rope. Underneath is 300m of very cold water. Lastly we were entertained by the traditionally dressed women who performed a little play around market day, very amusing and caused raucous laughter.

We were then invited to explore the rest of the village. There are 21 inhabitants and they have a chief who oversees  them. We were invited into one of the huts and then given the opportunity to purchase some of the trinkets etc. that they had made. Most of us did. Itwas a wonderful experience and an insight into a way of life that is slowly disappearing. Many of their children (a common story) leave for a more modern way of life on dry land.

Lastly, we were treated to an enchanting ride on a reed boat (similar to kontiki). Very relaxing and I had a chance to practise my limited school Spanish with Juan on of the the two oarsman. We were soothed by a youngster playing the panpipes and entertained by an enchanting little girl who couldn’t have been more than two years old. No health and safety here, as she moved around the cramp little boat I caught her from falling into the lake when she slipped. No one seemed perturbed.

Returning to our new second island home, we bioarded our cruiser and headed south into the lake proper. Our destination was Taquile Island, around 35 km away and took an hour and a half to reach it. I spent the time on the roof of our boat, laying on a mat of tarpaulin and watched this unique scenery slip by, bleak but even more stunning for the reflections of the mountains, clouds and beaches in the lake. For off to the south you could see the white topped Andes on the Bolivian side of the lake. I was occasionally joined by a few others of our party but they didn’t stay long as it was very chilly. I wasn’t going to glimpse this through a glass window, it was too good for that.

Arriving at the island we moored alongside another cruiser that had already docked. Collecting together on the shore we  started to slowly climb up the hill following a well used path. After a 100m or so we met two locals dressed in traditional island garb of black and white. They were there to collect the fee to visit the island from our guide. The 2000 population of this island is indigenous, not sullied by the Spanish. As such they independent of the Peruvian government and make their own laws by consent. Agaian, they are also suffering from depopulation. 

We slowly continued to the top of the island with many stops to catch our breath and take photos. Descending down the other side we reached a small homestead situated above a lovely beach. Here we were treated to a meal, and it was a treat! Quinoa soup (delicious) followed by lake trout and vegetables (amazing flavours). Well satisfied, wer had around half an hour to amuse ourselves. Sue and I chose to visit the beach and paddle in the lake, and it WAS cold.

I don’t really remember the return journey as I fell asleep up against the window on the sunny side of the boat. I woke when the guide gave us instruction for the following days journey to Cusco, to find that Sue had spent the time at the back of the boat enjoying the views.

We chose again to eat in the hotel rather than catch a taxi into Puno and find a restaurant there, as some of our party were planning, Al Paca was on the hotel menu and it had to be tried. Both our meals were fabulous, Al Paca is a lean meat, slices like butter on the knife, has the texture of chicken and tastes like a delicate pork.  As a bonus we were serenaded by a Peruvian band, they were so good I bought their CD and DVD. 

Yes it is another early start tomorrow, 6.20am!!!

Puno

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2017 by David Palmer

We were woken at 2.30am by an early morning call and were greeted by a rainy day. Dressed and packed we took the lift to the lobby where the rest of the party were already gathered. Picking up our breakfast box we boarded our coach to the airport.

Check-in procedure went like clockwork and we were soon sat in departures with around six other flights waiting for the gate to open, it was cramped but we had seats and WiFi to play on.

The flight to Juliaca took one hour and seventeen minutes and with plenty of leg room I managed to catch a few minutes of sleep. The view through the window as we flew down the length of the Andes was rugged and bleak. It is winter here so there was plenty of snow on the mountains and volcanoes. We aborted the first attempt at landing and had to go around again. It was a beautiful sunny day and not a cloud in the sky and on the second approach we touched wheels down.

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Juliaca is a small airport with a very long runway set on a flat plain, surrounded by mountains which did not have snow on them and seemed quite green from a distance. The town itself is not large and you could see from the air, not very well-developed. Quite uninteresting from a tourists point of view. We were met by our Rep. after collecting our cases and escorted to a quite modern coach.   The journey to our hotel in Puno took around an hour and a half, with two stops. First for bananas, essential for energy at altitude (?) and second to exchange cash.

The hotel Jose Antonio Puno, is situated alone on the opposite shore of the town of Puno some 6km away. You can see it from the town itself as it is an imposing white building easily visible against the mountainous backdrop. A lovely hotel with fabulous views of the lake, mountains and town. We had a balcony room facing the lake.

We chilled out on the balcony for a while, before I ventured down to the private jetty and took some photos.

We met our guide again at 1.45pm and as a party we drove into Puno for a city tour, First visiting the local vegetable market and then the illicit market that sells goods cheaply, smuggled in from Bolivia, just over the mountains. We moved on to an ancient archaeological site, situated in the oldest village in the area. Very interesting to see the intricate stonework set ¬†together with no gap at all. How did they do it? we saw our first Peruvian LLamas, what sweet faces, very stand-offish though and apparently don’t care for tourists.

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We returned to the hotel just before sunset and I managed to grab some fine shots of the sun going down over the mountains and reflecting in Lake Titicaca. A sight well worth travelling for.

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We ate well in the hotel restaurant and retired early as there is another wake up call coming tomorrow, 6.30am!