14 Jul

How To Just Let Things Happen In Puno

I’d heard that Puno was the asshole of the earth. People said ‘don’t stay there, just head to the islands’. I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

We took a tourist tour bus from Cusco to Puno. On board was a guide who explained all the sights along the way. We stopped at four historical/cultural sights plus had lunch at a local buffet restaurant. It was a good deal and I would recommend the newer, and cheaper, Tourismo Mer over it’s more expensive counterpart.

The views from Cusco to Puno were amazing. We were, again, in the altiplano with the valleys alternately widening and narrowing as we weaved our way through the mountain tops. We could see the terrain change as we reached higher and higher altitudes where farming is no longer possible and only the high plains grass can grow – suitable only for ranching. Cattle and llamas are king here.

Puno, Peru

Puno, Peru

We thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Taking the bus during the day makes all the difference in the world!!

We arrived at the Puno bus terminal with no plans,  no reservations and no clue. We hadn’t been able to find anything suitable (read…cheap) on line, and talking to people in Cusco had also provided no clues as to where to stay.

Our plan was to taxi to the main square and start circling until we found a place to stay. Then, Micaela found us. She started showing us pamphlets of hostels and hotels and listing all their amenities. Once she learned our price point, she pulled out a listing and convinced us to take a look. We went with her to the hotel and found that it more than met our needs and decided to stay…at much less than the posted rate.

Once we were settled on a place to stay, Micaela pulled out her Lake Titicaca tour pamphlets. We told her what we were looking for and she easily found us a tour in our price range for the next day. Easy, shmeasy.

When were we leaving Puno, she asked us, and would we need bus tickets to Arequipa? Why yes, we would need bus tickets, we said telling her when we wanted to leave and, again, our price range. She immediately hooked us up with bus tickets for the day following our Lake Titicaca tour. (What’s more, on the day, she came and picked us up and helped us negotiate the bus terminal).  She was a veritable one stop shop for Puno, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa!

It was getting into the evening now and we decided to go find somewhere to eat. On our way out of the hotel we inquired at the front desk if there was anywhere nearby. He pulled out a card for a restaurant on a side street and said it was good. Having had such a good day of taking whatever came our way we decided to try it out. Again, another good recommendation and we had wonderful meal of soup and alpaca.

Although we didn’t see much of Puno beyond the lake, I’m learning that sometimes it pays to just go with it…let people help. If we know what our parameters are for an item or experience and the person is offering something within those parameters then why would I not give it a shot? I can always say no once I see what is offered and, it just might make it easier on me…I don’t always have to do it the hard way.

26 Jun

Getting High in Cusco

Cusco Flag, Cusco, Peru

The plan was to take our time getting to Cusco from Lima. We were going to spend a few days, stopping along the way at Nasca and Arequipa to split up the journey.

Then we learned that the Inti Raymi festival was happening in Cusco on June 24th so we thought we would head straight to Cusco instead and visit Nasca and Arequipa after that.

We checked into flights and buses and decided that, at 1/3 the cost, the bus it would be. Sure it was going to be a 22 hour bus ride but I had heard that South American buses were ‘da bomb’ and so thought that 22 hours wouldn’t be so bad.

Boy, was I wrong. After the first few hours of the trip (in the dark because it gets dark here early) we turned inland and started heading over the Andes. We spent the next 9 hours swerving and swaying as we switchbacked our way cresting and descending mountain after mountain…in the pitch black. I didn’t sleep one wink.

It was worth it once dawn broke. As the sun rose and light filtered onto the landscape, it revealed that were high in the Andes on the altiplano. It was stunning. I peered out the window to see nothing but miles and miles of scrubland punctuated with huts and stone fences penning in llama herds. The smoke from the villagers hearths filled the crisp cold air and the sun glinted off the frost and frozen waterways. It was amazing.

Dawn broke at around 6AM. That still meant that we had about 9 hours ahead of us. We descended a long way from the plateau, swithbacking the whole way. This was not tolerated well by more than a few on the bus as they awoke and soon a well worn path was created to the bathroom that, unfortunately, was right by our seats. This did not add to the experience for me.

We spent the rest of the trip cresting and descending various mountains and following river valleys before we dropped into a large, flat valley right before Cusco. One more intense climb and descent saw us entering into the city finally.

The scenery was amazing and it was an adventure but I think, in the future, we will break our bus trips up a bit.

Sitting at 3300 meters, we have certainly noticed the altitude here in Cusco. At first I wasn’t sure if our headaches and nausea were from the bus ride or the altitude, but by the next morning we knew it was the altitude for sure. I seemed okay, a little winded for sure but not too badly, but J was feeling nauseous and took a little more time to adjust. I went and got some sorojchi pills from the pharmacy and they were like a miracle – within about 30 minutes he was feeling much better and could come out to play. We’re both still taking them to keep the headaches at bay, and we both feel winded at times, but overall I think we have it licked.