From Cusco, we were headed to Puno, to see the Lake Titicaca. I would have liked to go by train, as the Perurail Andean Explorer sounded like a lot of fun. Until I discovered the tourist buses, following the Route of the Sun, similar to the train at a fraction of the cost (think 70-80% cheaper).
The hotel at Cusco recommended Turismo Mer, and we complied, opting for the fully loaded tour, with 5 stops, taking 10 hours for under 400 km.
We started off in the butt-freezing cold of the early morning on Monday, half asleep from the exertions of the Machu Picchu trip the day before, and promptly dozed off as the bus started.
About an hour into the journey, we had the first stop at a colonial church of Andahuaylillas. It was too cold to stick around inside the church, so Souvik and I stayed outdoors, trying to thaw out in the sun.
I dozed off some more, until the next stop at Raqch’i, to see the ruins of an Inka built Temple of Wiracocha. There were some interesting handicrafts for sale at the plaza before the temple ruins, where I would have loved to linger.
Our guide, Mareta, had a soothing voice but dramatic flair, and brought to life the structure, and what it may have been used for. One of the rare instances where I found a guide adding value to the sightseeing!
After Raqch’i, and the exertion of getting on and off the bus, it was soon time for lunch at Sicuani. My hopes for a good lunch were rock bottom, coz how can the food be great, when cooked in such large quantities (4-5 busloads)? And how wrong I was. It was a traditional Peruvian spread, complete with Alpaca meat and quinoa soup, and the most divine dishes I’ve had in a while. Toasted corn, chips, Peruvian lentils, peas and potato, salad – I was back in my veggie heaven.
The lentils were a delight for me, and I had to go for dal chawal (rice and lentils) seconds. There was an incentive for rushing through lunch – photo ops:
After a good meal, and more shopping for Souvik – sweater and rug – we weren’t allowed to rest in the bus for another 30 minutes. That’s because we were nearing the highest point on the tour, at 14000 ft, at La Raya, where we stopped for more photos.
All along the way, I tried valiantly to get a good picture of alpacas grazing, and wasn’t successful at all. This was the best I could manage.
Our last stop on the bus route, before arriving at Puno, was Pukara, to see the museum, and the famous toritos del Pukara (the bulls of Pukara). The bulls are the cutest little fellows that you see on rooftops, they are supposed to bring good fortune.
Naturally we were tempted to stop and admire and shop. They come in multitudes of colours, but the natural ones look the best.
The plaza itself had the most awesome colours going for it.
After this stop, I had more dozing opportunities until we got near Puno, and had our first sighting of Lake Titicaca, with the abundance of totora reeds.
We were booked in the delightful Mirador del Titicaca, where we checked in to more beautiful views of the lake while Souvik recovered from a short, bad case of soroche (altitude sickness).