Saturday was our final day in Peru, by the end of the day we would be in the air and well on our way back home. This last day I woke up to a mild earthquake at around 8am, it didn’t last very long and did no damage whatsoever but because of how rare they are in England it was a strange experience. To help pass the morning we went and visited the Gold Museum in the mall after breakfast. The exhibitions they have there cover a huge period of Peru’s history with artifacts made from gold that archaeologists have uncovered. It is this abundance of gold in Inca culture and the way one tribe would coat a priest in gold during a religious ceremony which lead to the legend of El Dorado (Spanish for “The Golden One”) and the eventual story of the Mysterious Cities of Gold. A lot of the exhibits were from the Sicán era of Peru’s history and we weren’t allowed to take photographs in there. At dinner we tried one of the restaurants on “Pizza Street”, a street filled with restaurants aimed at tourists. I think it was here we had the worst meal of the entire holiday with the chicken swimming in grease. Back at the Sonesta Miraflores we hastily finished off our packing and headed to the airport. The flight was again a long one, and by the time we were back in England is was mid-afternoon on Sunday.
Sixteen days after we first set off to Peru we had seen many of the sights that Peru had to offer, and experienced their culture and we came back with an understanding of the country and the people in it. We had flown over amazing pictograms carved into the Nasca desert and seen so much wildlife that we couldn’t have seen in England without them being in a zoo. It truly was an amazing Peru.
The fourteenth day was the first of our long journey home. This first leg of our journey consisted of a drive from Puno to a nearby town where we could take an aeroplane to Lima – yet another 6:30am start for the 9:25am flight. By 12 noon we’d checked back into the Sonesta Miraflores hotel and were ready for food. This day we had quite a different meal, we went to Peru’s only mall and ate at one of the restaurants there – which was actually an American style diner with everything in English instead of Spanish. I think this one was probably the biggest meal I’d had over the fortnight getting a rather generous helping of fries and 1/4 of a BBQ chicken. That afternoon we also found a cheaper Internet cafe where we were able to check-in with KLM for the following day’s flight back to England (via Schiphol). That afternoon we also watched “Prince Caspian” in the mall’s cinema which was fun – it was in English and subtitled in Spanish but it wasn’t going to be out for a few more weeks in England.
Next morning we arrived at the port for 8am after having had a small breakfast at the hotel. There were an American couple, one of whom was a fighter pilot who we sat and talked to for a while whilst we waited for boat to be ready. Once we set off it was only a short sail round Lake Titicaca to the Islas de Uros where we made landfall on one of the floating islands. Whilst there the locals taught us about their culture and way of life and demonstrated how they used the tall totora reeds to maintain the island and to craft everything they need.
It was quite a strange feeling to be walking around on an island that was dry, yet still allowed your feet to sink into it – the reason for this is that the totora reeds compact as you stand on them of course. Each of the many floating islands in this region are actually anchored in place to make sure that they don’t float away. Some of the islands don’t like tourists, but those that do use the money from tourists to pay for medicine and anything they need from the mainland. The reason they don’t get this through the government is that they are not considered to be part of community – they’re on their own so they don’t pay tax either. On this island I bought a hand made tapestry for $30.
We then took a totora reed boat to one of the other islands which is hand powered so we had time to admire the other floating islands as we passed them. After making landfall on the next island we didn’t hang around long and we got back onto our tour boat which then took about 2 hours to get to a “proper” island named Isla Taquile.
This island was quite picturesque with it’s clear blue water around it, palm trees and very few natives. Whilst we were on this island the natives cooked us food which consisted of potatoes and fish, followed by a demonstration of their dancing and an explanation of how their culture works and how it differs to elsewhere in Peru.
The return journey somehow only took 2 hours, and I spent some of it relaxing on the roof of the boat but after awhile it does get a little too cold. The reason for this is because Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3820 metres (12530 feet) above sea level; so obviously the air would be a little cooler.
As the twelfth day started at 6am our adventure was drawing closer to it’s end. This day was one of those travelling days where we’d be on the road pretty much all day, but getting to see sights along the way. The first place we stopped was a small village just outside Cusco called Andahuaylillas where we looked around an old church. Whilst there was also looked around a sort of museum of the local area, but it didn’t last long and we were soon back on the road again.
Between Andahuaylillas and our next stop the bus did stop briefly to pick up some local bread which tasted quite sweet. When we finally did stop it was at a pre-Inca settlement called Raqchi which was later improved upon by the Incas. The settlement at Raqchi was once a temple of Viracocha (also spelt as Wiracocha in some places), the creator of civilisation in Inca mythology. At this site there is a high wall, and various smaller walls and granaries surviving.
After leaving we drove to the highest point on the road to Puno, Abras la Raya which was approximately 4,335 metres (1,321 feet) above sea level. The view from this stop was equally as amazing as the many views we’d already seen on this trip. In the distance there were glacial mountains, and between us and them was the railway that ran to Machu Picchu.
After this we made on further stop before Puno at a place called Puca Pucara. It was here where there was the only church we had permission to take photographs inside of though it was a bit rundown.
Eventually we reached Puno and it didn’t look a very nice place even though it had a good view of Lake Titicaca. We probably thought this because of how long we’d been travelling for. The hotel, Casona Plaza looked very nice inside although it had no view of the lake and was noisy; at least it was somewhere to stay until we were ready to go out onto the lake the next day.
The eleventh day went pretty much the same though we did find a nice Italian restaurant to have dinner in. For the afternoon we had to resort to watching movies on HBO in the form of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”.
The following day we actually ventured outside the hotel to have another look around Cusco and we did find a few places to visit that we hadn’t already seen. There was a museum underneath Coricancha and an art gallery further up the road – but we’d run out of places to see too quickly. There were plenty of small markets in Peru hidden away down alleyways and from one of them I bought a really nice hand carved, wooden mask for S/. 20 (which equates to about £4.00). The afternoon soon went by after relaxing in the Plaza de Armas for a couple of hours. There were two problems with that though: firstly the heat, and secondly, the number of times we’d be bothered by street traders.
Day 9 was something new – it was the first of three days where we had nothing to do. Unfortunately the friend I’d gone with to Peru had started suffering from the altitude sickness again after coming back up to Cusco’s height after having spent two days slightly lower at Machu Picchu. I took this opportunity to spend the morning reading a book as I’d been reading “The Andromeda Strain” for a while on the plane to Cusco but had not had chance to read any more since. By the evening I’d finished reading it and the day had pretty much passed by without leaving the hotel room so I thought I’d go down to the restaurant and try some more Alpaca steaks. When I returned to the room I heard a lot of noise coming from outside, and after looking out the window I realised it was a marching band that was throwing fire crackers as it went down the main road. I think this may have been something to do with Corpus Christii.