Date of Trip: February 2006
We are (mostly) independent travelers and our trip to Peru was no different. All flights to Lima seem to arrive late at night. It took us an hour to get through immigration (59 minutes in line, one minute to get our passports stamped) and another couple of minutes to get through customs. They have kind of an interesting process for luggage clearance. You press a button and either a red or green light comes on…green and you are free to go, red…you get inspected. We were lucky and passed right through. In the crowd of limo drivers we were relieved to see a sign that gave our name. A half-hour drive later we were at our hotel.
We got up around 8 the next morning and enjoyed a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel, San Antonio de Abad. (We always try to pick a hotel that includes breakfast in the room rate.) When we asked the girl at the front desk for directions to the bus station, she got on the phone for us and arranged tickets for our next two legs — Lima to Nasca on Saturday and then Nasca to Arequipa on Monday. They delivered the tickets while we were out sightseeing, so that bit of logistics was all taken care of.
We took a taxi downtown to the Plaza Mayor, which is pretty much the center of town. This square has the cathedral, the Palacio del Gobierno and various office buildings and shops. Lots of people were strolling around (several of whom tried to sell us things), but in all a very casual, relaxed atmosphere. The government is making an attempt to get people to use the crosswalks, so they have young people in yellow T-shirts with mime face paint acting as crossing guards.
We also noted a significant police presence in the plaza. We thought this was routine at first, and then we heard the bull horns. Pam and I can’t resist a demonstration so we wandered off to investigate. It turned out to be a rather mild demonstration of health care workers who want higher wages. Nevertheless, the police were prepared. We got a close up of some of their equipment– an interesting modification of a humvee with a cattle guard of sorts on the front and a water cannon on top. Apparently they are more concerned about civil demonstrations than about invasion from Chile.
Continuing our tour of the downtown, we visited the cathedral. We were provided with an excellent English-speaking guide who gave us quite a bit of the history of the city, the cathedral, and the Spanish conquest. The tour began with a visit to the crypt of Francisco Pizzarro, the conquistador we all read about in high school but never remembered anything much about.
An interesting tidbit: For years the wrong guy was in the tomb. In 1974 a major earthquake destroyed many of the city structures and caused a lot of damage to the cathedral and the underground tombs. In repairing the damage they discovered more than a thousand skeletons. In one grave they found a headless skeleton that, after much investigation and speculation, they decided belonged to Pizarro. It had been pretty severely hacked up (Pizarro was murdered) and they were able to put it together with a skull and decided it was the real Pizarro skeleton. The former resident of the crypt was evicted and Pizarro’s bones put in his place.
Back on the street, we headed to another church, the Convento de San Francisco, which was not a convent at all, but a monastery. As we were walking the few blocks we encountered another tour group, a group of school children. Clearly they know how to keep students in line here. They have them hold on to a rope! Their teacher had them turn around and wave to us. This was not really surprising. The people are really friendly here. We were pleasantly surprised to find the local version of Spanish to be easy to understand. To me it is clearer than Mexican Spanish. Pam says some of the words are different, but it is not at all like Argentina. We are falling in love with the country after only a couple of days here.
Lima is not what we expected, at least in the areas we have visited. We think it is very similar to Madrid in terms of architecture and lifestyle. On to el Convento de San Francisco. This was a major church center dating from the early 1600’s. Lima was the capital of the entire Spanish new world so there was a lot of wealth centered here. It certainly showed in the design of both San Francisco and the Cathedral.
An interesting similarity to Italy. In Milan we visited the painting of the Last Supper by Michelangelo. Here they have another version of the Last Supper with a few similarities and a few differences in composition. The location of the painting is in the monastery dining hall, just as in Milan. The difference is the painting in Lima is at the opposite end from the kitchen, so they did not cut a doorway through it like the Italians did! Other differences, the Lima version has them sitting at a round table, the room has several children (and the devil is lurking behind Judas!) and the centerpiece of the meal is Cuy! This a traditional Peruvian dish, guinea pig. We are determined to try it before we leave the country.
After a long, somewhat delayed, bus ride we arrived at Nasca. We really liked our hotel, the Hostal Don Agucho. It is a short walk from the center of town, but far enough away to give us some peace and quiet– at least until the hotel’s parrots start chattering in the morning. We arranged for a flight over the Nasca lines the first morning. We watched a short video (Discovery channel production) about the history of the lines and speculation about their purpose. It was interesting to us that they weren’t discovered until 1927 when the first airplanes flew over the area. They had already constructed the Pan-American Highway through two of the figures. We then took a half-hour ride over the area and tried to take pictures. It is amazing how many lines, rectangles, triangles etc. are visible from the air. The figures of animals are a little difficult to see at first, but we did manage a few photos. Our best photo was one of the most famous figures, the hummingbird. A half-hour ride doesn’t sound long, but the pilot was continually banking 45 to 60 degrees on either side so we could all get a good view of the geoglyphs. We all managed to retain our breakfast.
We loafed the rest of the day, checking out the local restaurants. We found a good one, El Porton, and had a couple of meals there, serenaded by local musicians. At lunch we listened to three young musicians who were so bad we paid them to go away. At dinner there were more proficient entertainers and we decided to buy a CD. The next day we stopped at the Cruz del Sur bus company office and bought our ticket from Arequipa to Puno, staying ahead of the game on logistics. Then we left at 3 PM on the Ormeño bus to Arequipa.
The coastal terrain here is amazingly dry. We are used to the desert in Southern California and Baja where there is at least some vegetation. Here there is nothing at all growing. I guess that is why the geoglyphs at Nasca have survived so long. As we got closer to Arequipa and started climbing away from the coast it was dark, which was fortunate because the road is really scary.
We finally arrived in Arequipa at 1:30 am and got to the hotel at 2 am. The night clerk let us in, handed us a key and said please register tomorrow.
The Casa de Melgar is an 18th century residence. The walls are three feet thick, made of big stone blocks our room has a vaulted brick ceiling and is pretty rustic. We love it. This place really has character. Our first day in Arequipa we found a laundry nearby and dropped off most of our clothing. Then we walked around town and decided to take an afternoon bus tour run by the city tourist bureau. It was a four hour tour of the surrounding area and we got a good idea of what life in the suburbs and nearby towns is like. There are practically no tourists here, the advantage of traveling in the off season. The weather is the big disadvantage. We have had a couple of late afternoon showers which have not been bad but the visibility is pretty poor. We haven’t been able to see any of the surrounding volcanoes yet.
One afternoon we took the opportunity to visit the Museo Santuarios Andinos, home of Juanita, the ice maiden. Unfortunately, Juanita was not on view (she was undergoing the annual conservation process). However, we did see another frozen mummy and learned about the children who were sacrificed. Much of the farming is on hillside terraces which were originally constructed by the pre-Incas. Our bus to Puno was typical for a first class South American bus. Comfortable seats, movies etc., as well as the national favorite, Inca Kola. We bought a bottle of this in Lima just to see what how it tasted. In my opinion it tastes like bubble gum (Fleers Double Bubble).
One difference in this bus ride was that they asked us to fasten our seat belts. We soon learned why. Let’s just say there are a lot of hills and turns between Arequipa and Puno. We climbed from 7,600 feet to nearly 13,000 feet in our five-hour ride.
Puno and Lake Titicaca
As we departed the bus terminal a tour guide latched on to us. He arranged a taxi to our hotel and then sat us down to pitch some local tours. We decided he was just as good and more convenient than going to a travel agency. We arranged a two-day tour to the floating Uros islands, Isla Taquile, with an overnight stay with a family on Isla Amantani. He later arranged for us a tour to some local ruins, seats for the parade on Monday, and our transportation to Cusco on the Inca Express on Tuesday.
We had intended to sample cuy (guinea pig) during our stay, until we learned how it is prepared. They skin the little critter then put it on the grill whole (head and feet included), then put a heavy rock on it to flatten it as it cooks. It is probably delicious. We haven’t checked for ourselves.
Friday morning we joined 20 other tourists and boarded a boat for our island tour. Just offshore from Puno is a very large bay filled with reeds. The Uros Indians construct large floating islands from these reeds, adding fresh reeds to the surface every so often as the underneath reeds rot away.
They subsist mainly on fish and birds. We spent an hour or so with them, taking refuge in their little museum of native fish and birds during a short rain shower. We don’t see how they manage to stay healthy in such damp surroundings. The surface of the island is squishy and feels a little like walking on a water bed. Fire is a real hazard for them, as they use wood to cook with. They make a little cash from tourism with which to buy staples (rice). We did see that at least one house on each island had a photovoltaic cell on the roof for lighting. Low-voltage florescent lights are very popular here.
The rain stopped for awhile so we took a ride on one of their reed boats. The figurehead represents the Andean Puma. We saw one boat with a double hull and two Puma figureheads. I guess you could call that a Catamaran. We embarked again in our fairly small cruiser and continued our journey to Isla Amantani, where we were to spend the night. Lake Titicaca is quite large and the water was pretty rough. We took some 45 degree rolls for a couple of hours. Nobody got seasick but a lot of the passengers became very, very quiet.
We were met as we arrived by members of the host families with whom we were to stay. The ladies were all wearing their traditional dress, which they would change into whenever we would leave their house. Our hosts were Felix and Secundina. As we walked to their house, we were glad we had limited our luggage to a small day pack with a change of underwear and toiletries. Everything on the island seems to be uphill. It was pretty damp also. Peru has two seasons, rainy and dry. We are here during the rainy season, but it usually rains at night.
Isla Amantani is a fairly large island with a population of about 4,000. It is run as a single community, pretty highly coordinated. It is pretty much an agrarian economy, with each family raising most of its own food. Interestingly, the island is divided into four sectors. Each sector raises the same crop for one year, potatoes, barley, corn or livestock. Then the crop is changed for the next year. This way the crops are continually rotated.
Felix and Secundina live in a fairly typical island home. It is made of plastered adobe, with two stories as well as some semi-attached rooms. These people are generally fairly short. The doorway to our room was shoulder height. The kitchen was an eye-opener. No refrigeration, a small wood stove, dirt floor and thatch roof. We ate one meal in the kitchen and it was pretty smoky. Their diet is mostly starch. Most meals start with a soup of potatoes, a local grain, and a few vegetables (quite tasty). They then have a main dish of potatoes, rice and an omelet. This would really get old after awhile. Their electricity used to be provided by a community generator, but it got to expensive to buy fuel. Now they have solar cells and low voltage lights.
After we all had lunch and got settled in we walked to the top of the island, at 4,200 meters, to see one of the pre-Inca temples. It was about a mile to the top and we stopped a few times to get our breath. We have become pretty well acclimated to the altitude, but it doesn’t take much exertion to make you short of breath. Recovery time is quick though. Our daily 3-mile walks at home have really paid off on this trip!
After dinner they loaned us some traditional clothing and we trudged uphill (again!) to the community center for a fiesta. A local group of musicians played traditional dance music and they dragged us out on the floor to once again test our ability to breath after exercise.
We were not exactly the life of the party, but we lasted a couple of hours. Finally we went back downhill to our lodgings and crashed.
I was up at five the next morning (trying to remember the way to the outhouse) and I saw Felix out in the field with a flashlight digging potatoes. As I passed the kitchen hut I saw Secundina starting the morning fire. These are hard working people.
After a breakfast of pancakes we again boarded our boat for the trip to Isla Taquile. This was a one-hour, very rough trip and a few plastic bags were filled. Pam and I kept our eyes on the horizon and had no problem.
Where the island of Amantani has a population of 4,000, Isla Taquile has only about 3,000. They have been in the tourism business for about 30 years, compared to five years for Isla Amantani, and the difference shows. There are several restaurants on the island, some gift shops, and plenty of photo opportunities as the people are in traditional dress all of the time. We met these kids escorting their cows along the path. We debarked on one side of the island, climbed to the top, and had lunch in a nice restaurant. The menu was traditional, soup, fish or an omelet, French fries and rice.
One of the traditions that has survived is the men’s knit hats. Bachelors wear all red hats and married men wear red and white. I’m not sure who this is intended to benefit, the men or the women. Women have pom poms on their shawls, and the colors indicate their marital status as well. All the men on the island knit their own hats, as well as much of their other clothing. We saw men sitting around knitting all over the island.
We also saw women weaving. They must make all of the cloth as we saw no men involved in this activity.
Like Amantani, Taquile is a beautiful island. It is completely terraced (with terraces dating from pre-Incan times) and very green at this time of the year.
After a couple of hours on the island we started down the 400-plus steps to the boat landing. We met several locals on the way up, carrying various loads on their backs.We sawtwo carrying barrels of chickens in preparation for a fiesta the following Sunday. We were pleased that they were stopping to rest frequently and seemed to be breathing heavily. We were still at about 13,000 feet and it doesn’t take much effort to get winded.
We finally reached the lower gate (used as a good perch for another young man intent on his knitting) and embarked again for a three hour ride back to Puno. Luckily the wind had dropped and we had a calm ride all the way.
We returned to Puno on one of the more important days of the two-week Candlemas celebration. On Saturday a dance competition is held in the city stadium, and then on Sunday all of the dance groups have a parade through the city. We were offered the opportunity to sit in the stadium all day, but decided it would be better to visit Sillustani and then see the parade the next day.
The Colla people who once dominated the Lake Titicaca area (and later became the southeastern arm of the Incas) buried their nobility in funerary towers.
These towers often contained an entire family. From the stonework it appears that some Incas followed the tradition after they gained power.
This was our first look at Inca stone work, at the precise way they fit the blocks together. We were impressed, but little did we know what we would see later in the Inca cities!
We enjoyed the ride around the countryside, but we were still a bit tired after our two-day island adventure.
Back in Puno we found the dance competition in the stadium was sell under way. After each group competed they marched through town, and happened to pass our hotel.
It was pretty obvious that they had been working at their dance, and that some of the costumes were pretty hot. They were still enjoying themselves and responding to the crowds of spectators. We reciprocated.
Later we walked around town to watch them setting up bleachers for the parade. The town was full of people, and some were staking our their locations for the next day. The main plaza was to be the focus of the presentation of awards (the opportunity for the politicos to get their time in the spotlight) and there were lots of people hanging around looking as if they had nothing better to do (like us!).
Image of Cathedral is copyright Carlos Sala/www.Peru.info.
The Big Parade!
We had heard varying times for the parade to start, from 7 AM to 10 AM. As it turned out, the official start time was somewhere around nine. At least that is when the music started in the plaza, which was only two or three blocks from our hotel. We had arranged with our tour guide to get us seats along the parade route, so we were in place by ten.
We probably missed the first hour of the parade, but no big deal. There were 66 dance groups, each with its own band and 100 to 200 dancers. The parade went on and on.
It appears there are about 50 traditional categories of costume, ranging from devil dancers to gorillas. Most of the dance groups would have several of the costume categories represented. We lasted until about1 PM, when our butts could no longer tolerate the seats. We decided to head back to the hotel, have some lunch somewhere, and watch some more later. That turned out to be a little more difficult than expected. Crossing the parade route wasn’t particularly difficult as people wandered through the dance groups at will, often providing glasses of beer to the dancers. The hard part was getting through the crowns of spectators. At one point we had to walk down the parade route about a block to exit to the other side. We found a gap between dance groups and followed along. My wife just couldn’t resist the urge to dance (she watches way too much of the Ellen DeGeneres show). Suddenly a large block of spectators started cheering her on!
All of the groups were from the Puno area, so the crowds contained a lot of relatives and friends. The dancers were of all ages, from small children to people considerable older than we are. The dance groups represent schools, clubs and even an extremely large group (250 or more) called the “Friends of the PNP” (Policia Nacional de Peru).
Sixty-six dance groups, with as many bands, and they all played the same music. The dance steps were pretty much the same also, except when a group would cut loose with something fancy. It was truly one of those memorable experiences.
The parade continued until midnight!
On to Cusco
The bus trip from Puno to Cusco is about five hours by regular bus line. We elected to take a tourist bus, the Inka Express, which takes eight hours. The extra three hours includes stops at several small towns enroute for visits to a church, a museum, a couple of sets of ruins, and lunch. It was worth the $30 ticket cost.
We arrived at Cusco and were surprised to be met by someone from our hotel, the Hotel and Mirador Los Apus. When we arrived we learned that our reservation through hostel world was messed up so we had to negotiate a rate for our stay. Since we were there off-peak, we were able to agree to $35 a night. Excellent hotel, good location. We arranged our trip to Machu Picchu through the hotel, at what we learned later was an inflated price. I guess it all evens out.
Our plans were to stay two nights in Cusco, then go to Aguas Calientes (at Machu Picchu) for two nights, then to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley for a night, then back to Cusco for three more nights. We were able to do some re-packing to get down to a single suitcase and leave the rest of our gear at the hotel.
We decided to make our first day in Cusco a day to loaf. We spent the day taking care of errands– turned in some laundry, stopped by Gringo Bill’s office in Cusco to confirm our reservations at Aguas Calientes, bought our Cusco Pass (a ticket for multiple entries at the museums and ruins), and visited a museum or two. Cusco was (before the arrival of the Spanish) the Inca capital, and it was quite a large city. The first Spaniards to arrive recorded that there were more than 90,000 residences in the city. There is still a lot of Inca stonework, which is very distinctive because the stones are fitted without mortar. We located an ATM and replenished our cash, as we learned there are no ATMs in Aguas Calientes.
We were still in the Plaza de Armas (the city square) when it began to get dark. The street lights came on and all the second floor restaurants were lit up. It really made the square attractive. This is really a nice town. We decided to stay in the plaza for dinner, at one of the upstairs, balcony restaurants. We decided to splurge, with Alpaca steaks and a bottle of wine. It was well worth the $30 for the meal!
Early Thursday morning we caught the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes. This is about a four-hour train ride over the mountain to the Sacred Valley. It takes four switchbacks just to get out of Cusco. It is a very comfortable trip, with good service (including a snack) and wonderful views of the mountains and countryside.
We arrived at Aguas Calientes at 11, and were met by a representative from our hotel, Gringo Bill’s Hostal. Most of the tourists arriving on the train from Cusco immediately hop on a bus for the 20-minute ride to the ruins. Since we had included two nights at Gringo Bill’s, we decided to wait until the next day to visit Machu Picchu. We had a leisurely lunch and wandered around town looking at all the souvenirs for sale. Aguas Calientes is at the end of the rail line, and is full of tourists, so prices were fairly high. We didn’t buy anything but food.
Two rivers join in the town, and the larger river (the Urubamba) was pretty exciting to watch. There are so many boulders in the river bed that the rapids are tremendous. The town itself is in a little valley with the railroad in the center of the main street. While we were there, one of the presidential candidates visited, which resulted in most of the locals congregating downtown, to be entertained by a speech and music. Later there was an impromptu parade through the streets.
Friday morning, anticipating the crowds that would arrive from Cusco at eleven, we picked up a bag lunch from our hotel and caught the first bus to Machu Picchu, 6:30 am. There is a footpath up to the ruins that takes about an hour to get there. Much as we like walking, we decided to skip it. We saw hikers on their way up as the path crossed the road– uphill all the way.
We met our guide at the entrance and walked into the fog! We had heard that the sun doesn’t burn through the fog until 10 or so. It didn’t detract from the awe of this site in the least.
As we walked around the city the fog appeared and disappeared, so we couldn’t see the entire site, only small sections at a time.
After a couple of hours our tour guide departed to pick up another group. We decided to take a walk on the Inca Trail to see the Inca Bridge. We couldn’t get close to the bridge as it is closed to the public. We were close enough to get a good view of it. The bridge was made for a section of trail along a vertical cliff.
As we wandered around the ruins our appreciation of the work that went into these structures grew and grew. There were three types of construction. The closely fitted boulders were used for temples and the royal quarters. Lesser structures, storage buildings and middle class residences were made with stone, but not cut and precisely fitted as in the temples. Lastly were the adobe buildings, presumably for the workers’ homes. These buildings still exist because the Spanish didn’t know the city existed. It was abandoned before they found it.
Gradually the fog lifted and we were able to see the entire city. We were finally able to take the classic photograph– the picture that is on all the postcards. We felt we were really there.
The next morning we caught the train back towards Cusco, but got off an hour later at Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley.
Ollantaytambo is one of the towns in the Sacred Valley and site of another major Inca ruin. It is a small town, but has the distinction of having been continuously occupied since before the arrival of the Spanish (i.e., since 1300). The town was laid out by the Inca planners, has narrow streets and Inca walls, and still has an operating water system built by the Incas. We stayed in the Hostal Sauce, a very nice hotel near the center of town. We had a corner room on the second floor, with a view of the ruins in two directions.
As elsewhere, we enjoyed seeing the colorful costumes, which are the everyday clothing for the local populace, not something worn for the tourists. In the celebrations we observed, the tourists seemed to be welcome to join the festivities, but only because they happened to be there anyway.
We could also look down the main street to the town square, which was the center of festivities during our evening visit. Just below our hotel window was a water channel, which was put to use by a group of young boys. It is a common practice to throw water-filled balloons in Peru. These kids took it a step farther and used plastic buckets to drench passers by. They left the tourists alone (mostly), although Peruvian tourists seemed to be fair game. Everyone seemed to take it with good humor, though we saw more than a few people take a detour around the block to avoid the threat of an impromptu shower.
We had arrived early in the day, so we walked up to the ruins in the afternoon. We hired a young guide (from the many who offered their services) and for a few dollars received an excellent tour of this amazing site. The Inca stonework is incredible. We saw one granite block weighing probably 30 tons or more, which was moved from the quarries we could see half-way up the mountain across the valley. This was just one of many such stones that were moved more than seven kilometers: down the mountain, across a river, and half-way up another mountain to the site of the temple.
That evening we joined the party in the town square. They had erected a 30-foot tree in the center of the square, all decorated with odds and ends of colorful plastic and paper. The band played (the same music we had listened to for hours in Puno) and everyone danced in a circle around the tree. Every few minutes someone would hack at the tree a couple of times with an axe, and then pass the axe on to another dancer who would do the same. This went on for an hour or so until the tree finally fell. The tradition is that whoever finally cuts the tree down is responsible for the next year’s party.
We headed for a little restaurant (to beat the crowd) and had a nice dinner, and then as we were having coffee the rains started. Although we were visiting Peru during the rainy season, we had never been caught yet, as it seems to rain mostly at night. After carrying ponchos and umbrellas everywhere for the past two weeks, we were finally caught unprepared. We were pretty well soaked when we made it back to the hotel. We were pleasantly surprised. When we entered the hotel lobby a group from Argentina whom we had met earlier was sitting in front of the fireplace and a roaring fire. They made room for us; we had hot coca tea, and were soon snug and warm.
Sunday is market day in Pisac, and it is a big tourist event. We decided to stop there for the day on our way back to Cusco.
We had left Ollantaytambo early in the morning, and we arrived at Pisac before the market got underway. That worked out fine for us, as it gave us a chance to visit the ruins. Every set of ruins we visited impressed us, and we found each to be a little different in some way. In Pisac we found the Inca roadway to be narrow and running along the cliff edge as we moved from one watchtower or gate to the next. I’m not particularly bothered by heights, but I still stayed close to the wall at the edge of the road.
After a couple of hours of sightseeing, it was time to head for the market.
We were not disappointed. Although we had read that the prices in Pisac were higher than the markets in Cusco, we found it to be the opposite. Prices were very reasonable, and for some things quite inexpensive. Maybe it helped that the weather was on the rainy side, with the occasional shower chasing tourists back to their busses. About three-fourths of the market is devoted to fabrics, woolen products and the usual craftwork produced for the tourists. The remainder is filled with produce and other products for everyday use by the locals. We bought an ear of the local boiled corn just to see how it tasted. It was probably as good as or better than any roasting ear I have had here. It wasn’t particularly sweet, but it was full of juice and quite tasty.
We saw the women spinning wool with spindles that looked like tops. They used them something like a combination of a top and a yo-yo. They would wind and unwind the yarn, bouncing the spindle on the ground occasionally as they gradually made the yarn tighter. The women we met on Isla Amantani would be doing this as they walked around, multi-tasking all day long.
In the middle of the market place is a small church which has mass in Quechua (language of the Incas) and in Spanish. The Quechua mass was over as we walked by. The attendees were dressed in colorful traditional attire. Many of the tourists were busy taking their pictures. We didn’t want to disturb their religious sanctuary so we left them alone and we have no pictures.
The market in Pisac was one of the high points of our trip, and we recommend anyone planning to travel to Peru include a visit in their itinerary.
We had scheduled a couple more days in Cusco before returning to Lima, just to be sure we had time to see everything before our return home. High on the list was the local fortress or temple Sacsayhuaman, (pronounced “Sexy Woman” by tourists). Another wonderful example of the stonework of the Incas, it took thousands of workers more than 50 years to construct. As impressive as the structure is now, about 80 percent of the stones were removed by the Spanish for use in construction elsewhere.
Although there isn’t much in the way of train service in Peru, there are two train stations in Cusco. One is for the trains to Aguas Calientes and the other for the daily train to Puno. Adjacent to each train station is a large market, so we had to visit both. One market was about half full of things for tourists to buy, and we did our part for the local economy! We had to buy an extra bag just to carry all our souvenirs.
After a few more wonderful meals it was time to leave our hotel and head for the airport. We had originally planned to take a bus from Cusco to Lima, but after comparing the time on the bus (25 hours) with the flight time (1 ½ hours), we opted to spend an extra $100 and fly.
The airport is only a 10 or 15 minute ride from downtown, or so we thought. The first thing the taxi driver informed us was that the bus drivers were on strike and that the strikers were throwing rocks at the taxis. This resulted in several detours for us. Whenever we saw a crowd of people in the street ahead, our driver would stop and try a different route. We eventually arrive at the airport without rock damage, and the rest of the trip went without incident.
Back in Lima we had about twelve hours to kill before our midnight flight home. We had arranged a room for the day at the same hotel, so we dumped our bags and headed back to the market. We had not bought anything here when we first arrived in Lima as we didn’t want to carry things around for three weeks. As it turned out, we didn’t have much left that we wanted to buy as the markets in other cities we had visited satisfied our needs more than adequately. We did manage to spend a few of our remaining Soles, just saving enough for dinner. Walking back we passed a fabulous ice cream parlor and restaurant. We had a light dinner and a heavy dessert! (Banana splits)
We spent a few enjoyable hours walking around town and looking at the offerings in the park, then returned to the hotel in time to check out and get our ride to the airport. From there it was home without incident. Another wonderful trip.
You can see our photos at our web site, http://fennfamily.net/
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