Hello from Peru! And more specifically Puno; a tiny little town (about 2k square) nestled on the banks of Lake Titicaca. We’ve been here a few days now and are getting used to the slower pace of life which exists in Peru – they seem to have it right if you ask me!!
But I’m getting ahead of myself: after 16 hours, 3 airports, 2 meals, 4 movies and various naps Iain and I arrived into Perus capital city, Lima.
I have to say our first impression wasn’t great as low cloud, thick mist and British temperatures greeted us from the plane. Having been told booking a taxi at the airport was often the cheapest and safest way of getting around in Lima we hopped into a chauffeur driven Merc and were off – what a start to the holiday!!! We were staying in Miraflores and as it was late and Iain doesn’t sleep on planes we pretty much headed straight to bed that first night and were up at 6 to meet with the rest of our group.
This is the first time I have ever done an organised tour and I was a little apprehensive about what to expect. At breakfast we were greeted by a group which had two things in common: age…and gender. Poor Iain is quite outnumbered – again!! There are 3 ladies from the north east; Chris, Lynne and Lindsey who are all hilarious and treat Iain and I very much like their grown up children. Then 2 southerners; Kath and Sophie who are slightly more reserved. Our first team task was a flight, where I set the security alarms off 3 times and Kath and Sophie went through international departures accidentally and got several things confiscated from their hand luggage. Meanwhile, thinking they had gone ahead the rest of us left, oops, what a team! But despite pitt falls and life lessons we made it to the aeroplane, and were awarded by spectacular views of the Andes as we took off. The flight to Juliaca was over in a blink and we were soon on a coach being introduced to our guides Jorge (pronounced hor-hey) and a second who everyone called Royer – took me about 3 days to realise it was Roger!!! Jorge (stop reading it like George) told us a lot about altitude sickness and how to combat it and explained we’d be stopping on our way to Puno for our first attempt at climbing (ie walking up a slight incline) this high up; gulp!!!
Our first stop was Sillustani, an Inca burial chamber. We strolled leisurely up the road to the foot of the burial hill where Roger told us a little about the history of the place. It’s set in the middle of a huge lake, and a landslide created an island on which the burial chamber is built.
Then it was time to ascend. Honestly the hill was tiny, maybe 30-50 steps cut into the rock but all of 10 metres from the bottom and we all had to stop for breath. My heart was pounding like I’d just run a relay race and it was really hard to breathe…not boding well for 4 days of hard core trekking. Luckily 6/7 of the group (including 3 very fit runners) were in the same boat so I felt better and we took it easy. Murphy was of course, completely fine; men! The comforting thing was you recover as quickly as you got out of breath, so as long as you go at your own pace and stop regularly to get your breath back then you’re fine! The place was really beautiful and peaceful. Apparently the engineering there is more complex than anything built by the Incas. The towers are cones, wider at the top then the bottom so that rain water doesn’t erode the shallow foundations.
There are also holes in the bottom, facing East, to allow the suns rays to reach the dead as noone should be left in the dark even in death. We had a few minutes to wonder around and have our official first group photo before it was time to head back to the bus and on to Puno.
The town of Puno is now spreading out from the shores of the lake so when I first saw it I thought it was really tiny. Then we came over the brow of the hill and saw the lake and town properly for the first time. The lake is huge, more like an ocean spreading out into the distance. It’s the highest navigable lake in the world – not that I have any idea what this means. We’re staying in the hotel Sillustani (easy to remember huh!) just off the main road with its main shops, bars and restaurants. Most of the wares on offer are various warm items of alpaca and llama wool, from hats and socks to bags and actual toy llamas! Then the usual wall hangings, masks and paintings – I was so so taken with one picture but with starting prices of £20 for a tiny one decided to wait for the well travelled Cusco and more reasonable prices.
This evening we went for a tour of Puno, learning about the native dress and customs of the town. The woman here dress in such bright colours and all wear their hair in long braids with pompoms on the end. Smaller pompoms denote a married woman while big, bright balls on the end of your braids indicate you’re a single lady – talk about a traffic light system!!! We went for dinner and I had my first taste of chinoa soup and alpaca – both of which are absolutely delicious! I’m looking forward to trying Coy (guinea pig) although Jorge has suggested we wait for Cusco to try it in the traditional way – head, paws and all. It’ll be an experience!!!
Tomorrow we’re taking a boat trip to the floating islands and islands of the lake to meet the Aymara and Quechue people who live there. I’m really excited 🙂