Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 13 (To Puno)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Up early once again, had breakfast in the hotel, and were picked up at 6:45 AM by van to be taken to the tour bus. Hugo and Norma accompanied us, and Norma presented Kirby with a small Cusco flag. Rob stopped by to give me my ankle x-ray, and for final goodbyes. The tour bus, which would take us to Puno, left at 7:30 AM with about 16 people. We had the driver, a guide, Juan, and the hostess, Jenny.
Tour bus
The hostess sold us a map/brochure and offered us drinks, which I think were complimentary, but we never had any. She also offered hard candies on a couple occasions. The bus had a toilet, which was reached by going down a few steps halfway back in the bus (behind Jenny’s beverage station!). The door slid sideways in a circle around the toilet.
We were to look for a few landmarks on our way out of Cusco. We were following the Avenida de la Cultura, a broad straight road heading southeast. Somehow we totally missed the 6-story monument of a condor made from the aluminum of a plane donated by the army. (We missed it because we were looking for a 6-story tall condor, not a condor on a 6-story tall pedestal!) The beak of the condor is solid gold, in contrast to the humble dwellings below it.
Eucalyptus groves were everywhere. We ended up in a wide fertile valley, with very little habitation. A few cuyerias along the road, small restaurants specializing in serving cuy, roasted guinea pig. Saw a lot of burros. Have they replaced the llama as the beast of burden?
We made a quick stop in Oropesa, the bread-making town.
Juan with Orepesa bread
Juan let us try some of the famous bread, which was slightly sweet. It is baked in large flat loaves - the size of deep-dish pizza. The tops of the loaves are often patterned. It was reported that a team from Oropesa went to the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in France this year, a competition for the best bread bakers in the world. They supposedly did well.
We drove past the Inca gate at Rumicola, which was an aqueduct that served as a border checkpoint and customs post for the southern entrance to the Huari empire, before the Incas enhanced the original construction by fortifying it with andasite stone. The gate is 12 m/39 feet tall.
Rumicola gate (aqueduct missing)
This was where it was useful to have Kirby on the other side of the bus to take photos! Kirby could not find his camera once he arrived in Peru, and either used mine or requested that I take photos for him. He was better at clearing people out of photos and getting close-ups of people.
Later we passed a vast stretch of adobe-brick factories; everything was brown and smoky.
Adobe-brick factories
Our first stop was in the town of Andahuaylillas, where we were the first of several tour buses stopped in the town plaza.
Andahuaylillas town plaza
A few vendors were along one side of the square, with immense thick-trunked pisonay trees. Andahuaylillas means “Copper Prairie” in Quechuan, probably describing the fields of corn, barley, and wheat.
Our guide took us into the Iglesia de San Pedro (Church of Saint Peter), built by the Jesuits in 1572.
Iglesia de San Pedro (Church of Saint Peter)
The adobe towered church was built over the remains of an Inca building. There was a contrast between the simple exterior and the rich colonial baroque art inside. Known as the “Andean Sistine Chapel” because much of the walls were done in al fresco, with the paint applied to wet plaster. Along the tops of the walls were huge framed paintings from the Cuzqueño school. There was a painting of hell to the right of the front door, just inside, and of heaven to the left. Juan pointed out evidence of niches on the walls, where patrons could be buried in return for having something painted over the plaster closing. The coffered ceiling was painted in bright colors with traces of gilt still visible.
The Jesuits needed to convince the indigenous people to come inside the church, and are said to have told the people that their souls were inside. They had side altars decorated with mirrors, so that the local people saw their “souls”. But the locals soon had their say in decorating the church with elaborate statues of the Holy Family in indigenous traditional dress. The altar was an amazing concoction of 24 k. gold leaf, with a silver tabernacle. Juan continued the story of the Jesuits who “forced” the locals to build the church, but later became their champions in their fight for independence. This caused the Jesuits to be expelled by the Spanish from Peru and all of Latin America. The Dominicans came in and painted over the frescos which smacked too much of indigenous themes, and now both sets of wall paintings are in disrepair. Juan, the guide, bonded with me, because he had just sprained his ankle playing soccer, and was limping as well. Jan had left earlier to look for birds, and I went out to see the giant pisonay trees, with blooms in red. The architecture around the square was Spanish colonial.
Joined braids
We were herded back on the bus. After all, we had a schedule to maintain.
Our next stop was Raqchi, one of the most important archeological sites in Peru. Legend says that a temple was built in homage to the creator god, Viracocha, to ask intercession in keeping the Quimsachata volcano in check. Early in time, Viracocha traveled through the area to see how his creations were faring. The people of Cacha came out with weapons and not recognizing Viracocha, they meant to kill him. So the god called for fire and the power of the volcano, which made the people realize who he was. They kneeled before him, and Viracocha tapped the volcano to stop the eruption. Later, Inca Pachacutec ordered the tallest of all the Inca monuments to be built to Viracocha for helping him overcome the Chancas warriors who had attacked Cusco. Viracocha is a pan-Andean god, creator of all living things. Quimsachata has been dormant since about 4450 BC.
Raqchi is the only example of a two-story tall building of Inca architecture.
Raqchi 2-story wall
Raqchi west wall
It was the largest roofed building built by the Incas, being 92 m/302 feet long, 25 m/83 feet wide, and 15 m/49 feet high. The walls have since eroded due to weather and are only 12 m/40 feet tall. They are now covered with protective tile roofs. (A pair of young kestrels were sitting on these roofs.)
Originally there were eleven walls with a golden ichu grass thatched roof. Here also was the only example of round columns (there were 22) being used to support the roof.
The walls were finely dressed for the base 3-4 m/10-13 feet, and on top of that was an adobe wall strengthened by llama fibers and grasses. The upper portion appeared to be adobe brick with a plaster overlay.
Upper portion of wall
Juan pointed out where Andean crosses may have been painted on the central wall.
Juan points out Andean cross
Window in the thick wall
Apparently the doors were double-hinged and could be locked from the inside. We saw the cylindrical door-hold like that in Machu Picchu. There were four doors, two at each end to represent the four cardinal points. The doors were double-jambed, and Jan and Kirby realized what Edward meant when he talked about “double-jumped” doors in Ollantaytambo.
Double-jambed doorway
Juan showed us drawings of Inca surveying equipment which helped them keep things straight. Behind the temple was a shallow lagoon, which was part of the temple complex, as it was built to represent Lake Titicaca. There were several birds to be seen; Common Gallinules, Andean Goose.
We moved on to an area of kancha-style housing, arranged around a courtyard.
We could see tall gable walls of twelve pairs of houses along a straight avenue. Priests lived here. Acllahuasi were houses of the acilas, the chosen women who were the most beautiful and hardest working women from Inca nobility, who lived here and were responsible for spinning and weaving the finest cloth for use by the Inca, or for religious ceremonies.
We then climbed over a wall to the ccolcas, circular storehouses, each 8 m/26 feet in diameter. There were 156 of these buildings to house the offerings of foods and other goods. In hard times, these foods were distributed to those in need.
View towards ccolcas
Circular ccolca wall
On a ridge behind the temple, you could see the remains of a 7 km/4.3 mile-wall that once circled the entire complex. The wall was only 3 m/10 feet high, because the people were short.
Wall on the ridge
The roughly built walls with stones piled together with mud mortar are called pirka walls. Juan also tried to point out the volcano, barely seen peaks beyond the closer mountains.
As we left the complex, a herd of sheep passed through.
Sheep herd
Out in the square, a costumed man greeted us as I headed to the restrooms requiring a 1 Sol admission fee. By the time I was finished, we had to get back on the bus.We didn’t have far to go for our lunch stop - a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Brynne was smart and used the restroom here for free. It was another buffet in a new establishment with the wall painted to look like an Inca wall, with plastic plants.
Restaurant interior
When we arrived they turned on the waterfall behind the buffet tables. There were a couple men outside who were putting in a fence post, and for some reason a pair wires came in through an open window, and the ends were stuck into the two holes of an electric outlet! The soup was very popular with our group. The aji de gallina was not the best we’ve had, and nothing was hot except the soup.
We came to think of our guide as “Billy Bob” because of his habit of saying “umm-hmm” after nearly every sentence!
In the Sacred Valley we had noticed large numbers etched on the mountain sides, and were told that usually these were school numbers. On special occasions, students burn clearings in the shapes of their school number. We saw more of these numbers on the way to Puno.
School numbers on the hillsides
Noticed people were doing their laundry in the stream along the road, and laying things out to dry on the banks. Every once in a while there was a cross up on a ridge, especially above a town. Saw some areas on the mountains that looked like glacial moraine, and other areas looked like landslides. The mountains were looking craggier, and began to show some leftover snow.
We made a stop at Abra La Raya, the highest point of our bus tour, at 4,313 m/14,150 feet above sea level.
Abra La Raya
Now this was the highest we had been in our lives (except in airplanes). The Rio Vilcanota, which becomes the Rio Urubamba, begins here. We could see the snow-capped mountain of Chimboya, at 5,489 m/18,008 feet in elevation.
Chimboya mountain with snow
Jan walked forward along the road to observe birds on a lagoon, I took photos, Kirby shopped, and Brynne rested.
Puno-Cusco train
Vendor at Abra La Raya
As the bus tour continued, there were patches of burned areas, where the locals burn off the dried grass in order to stimulate growth of new grass. At this elevation, the locals are cattle and sheep “ranchers,” or keepers of alpacas and llamas.
There are also vicuñas and guanacos. Here in the high plateau or altiplano, there is no source of firewood, so they use ichu grass, or dried llama dung. Young shoots of ichu grass is for grazing, the old for fuel, although Juan made it sound like they burned iru grass... There are no tiles on the roofs, because it is too windy.
The road was generally straight and there was not much traffic.
Straight road
The bus driver drove on the left side of the road if needed to avoid potholes and rough stretches. We were on the Pan-American Highway, which apparently has two branches in Peru, one here in the mountains and one along the coast. We passed through at least 4 toll booths. The railroad tracks also followed our route and we saw several trains. The rail route from Cusco to Puno is 351 km/218 miles and the road route is 380 km/236 miles. The train takes 10 hours with a scenic stop at La Raya. The bus takes 9½ hours with four tour stops and a lunch stop.
Our next stop was to be Pucara, the town famous for its ceramics, especially the little bulls that are found on rooftops. Kirby was interested in purchasing a couple toritos de Pucara, and the Pucara museum sounded interesting. But on this particular day, the town was celebrating the festival of Virgen de Carmen, by having a huge market. We would see why we could not make a stop in this small town. As it was, we did not go straight through town, but took a road half-circling it. But even that road was jammed with people, carts, moto-taxis, buses, vans, trucks, animals, children, bikes, and more people. There were all sorts of taxi-chollos, a bicycle rickshaw, except that often cargo is carried on an extension in front of the bicycler.
Bicycle cargo rcikshaw
Close to the sides of the road were all the wares, animal skins, whole skinned animals, textiles, rugs, fruits and vegetables, corrugated tin for roofing, eucalyptus poles and lumber, etc. Many people were resting up on a ridge of a hill at the edge of town. Some bicycle carts had a speaker attached to a tall pole. Our bus had to stop many times, back up some times, and move forward slowly, although we passengers feared for the pedestrians in our way. Side mirrors of trucks and buses passed mere inches from our windows.
Resting with their wares
Corrugated metal
Locals with bundles
Weighing an animal carcass
Later we passed through the city of Juliaca, on a wide road of concrete that had huge excavations at many points along the way. We had our first glimpse of Lake Titicaca, which is shrinking away from the railroad tracks that once ran along its edge.
First glimpse of Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is situated at 3,812 m/12,507 feet above sea level. It once was at sea level, but was pushed up between the Andes Mountains when tectonic plates collided. Because it was once the sea, it is partly a salt lake. But now it is fed by five rivers created by rainfall and meltwater from mountain glaciers. It is the largest commercially navigable lake in the world, and South America’s biggest lake by volume. It is roughly 176 x 50 km/109 x 31 miles in area, and covers about 58,000 sq. km/22,400 sq. miles. Maximum depth is 284 m/932 feet. The intense sun at this altitude causes 21,000 cubic feet of water to evaporate per second! As we got closer to the water, we could see the masses of totora reeds growing in the shallower parts of the lake, especially along the shore.
Yellowed totora reeds in the lake
Because of the legend that Manco Capac and his sister consort, Mama Occlo, emerged from the icy depths of Lake Titicaca, the lake is considered the birthplace of the world, or at least of civilization. We rounded some mountains and saw the city of Puno below on the shores of the lake.
City of Puno
Puno was founded in the late 17th century to work the silver mines of Laykakota. Now it appears geared for tourists.
The tour bus backed into a parking lot, and it seemed everyone was met by someone with a tourist van. Lo and behold, we were met by Hugo! That man is everywhere, and this time he was accompanied by Maricela. We were driven to our hotel, Sonesta Posada del Inca, which was on the outskirts of town. Filled out the forms and handed over our passports. We were offered drinks of tea or juice. We discussed the schedule for the next day and settled on a 7:30 AM departure time.
We also discussed dinner plans. It seemed the best idea would be to let the driver take us to town. Maricela and Hugo could point out a bank and recommend places to eat. We took our bags to the room and came back to the lobby to meet the others. We drove into Puno, and were let off in a small square, Parque Pino. We were surprised to then learn that because this was an extra trip, we would have to pay the driver 15 Soles. We decided we did not need for him to pick us up later; we would take a taxi!
The main shopping street, Jr. Lima, is a pedestrian-only street, and Maricela and Hugo accompanied us, but we could have done it on our own.
Kirby used an ATM, and then we went to the Pizzeria de la Buhe. Brynne had the olive pizza and water, and I had a vegetarian pizza and Coca Cola Light. A large group of musicians came to play, and Kirby bought a CD from them. After dinner we walked farther along the Avenida de Lima until we came to the main plaza with the cathedral off to the right.
Avenida de Lima
Main plaza
A line of taxis waited along the curb, and Jan picked one. Only 5 Soles to return to our hotel! At the desk we retrieved our keys and passports, and I was given a message! It was a copy of an e-mail from Kent. I asked about the internet, and I could get the first 15 minutes free. So I responded to Kent with our decision to go ahead home if he could get the seats on an earlier flight.
The Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel is right on the shore of Lake Titicaca, and has 62 rooms with private bath and cable TV.
Our hotel room
The bathroom had a glass bowl sink.
Hotel room bathroom
The walls were decorated with ceramic bowls, and a huge ceramic pot sat in a niche. They have a private dock and a private train stop (the train tracks ran in front of the hotel). Jan and Kirby took advantage of the laundry service and had to leave a deposit to get a hair dryer. This hotel also had both 110 and 220 volt electrical outlets. Peru uses the 200 volt system. We had been able to use our camera battery chargers (which accepted voltage up to 220) with their outlets.
While Brynne showered, I went out behind the hotel, to see a sign for the Yavari Museum. That little ship docked behind the hotel must be the Yavari.
El Yavari is a Victorian-era iron-hulled ship built in Birmingham, England in 1862. It made a seven-year journey to Puno, having been sent in 1383 pieces, along with its sister ship, the Yapura, which also came in 1383 pieces. It had to be hauled up to the altiplano in pieces on the backs of mules. With several varying setbacks, it took six years for this section of the trip. British engineers and laborers assembled the pieces over nearly a year, and launched the Yavari on December 25, 1870. The Yapura was launched in 1873 and became a Peru Navy Medical Ship. The 100-foot Yavari was initially propelled by a two-cylinder 60 HP steam engine. When they ran out of coal, they used dried llama dung. In 1914, the ship was fitted with a Swedish Bolinder four-cylinder hot bulb semi-diesel engine. After 100 years of service, the ship was beached. In 1962, an Englishwoman, Meriel Larken, saw the rusting ship and started "Project Yavari" to restore the ship, with the support of Prince Philip. In 1987 it was afloat again, and in 1999 it actually made a trip out across the lake. The Yavari is the oldest single propeller-driven ship still in working order. Now it only needs modifications to comply with safety standards, and some renovations to allow it to accommodate passengers and crew for a day’s cruise.
Next: Day 14 Lake Titicaca.

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