Lockdown Armchair Travel – Peru – Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno – September 2011

Still stuck in our tier systems (and likely to be for some time) let’s have another lockdown armchair travel trip, and P is for a number of places, but first, Peru. We spent a week there in September 2011 at the start of our South American tour. So, what do you think of, when you think of Peru? Quite possibly this place:

Machu PicchuBut more of that shortly. Our week started off in the capital Lima, a thriving and attractive place, full of striking architecture.

Plaza MayorYou see that yellow and black combination all round the Plaza Mayor and the city centre. The ornate enclosed balconies can be breathtakingly beautiful.

BalconiesAnd the Plaza Mayor is definitely the centre of attention.

Plaza MayorBut there’s also a bustling market

Market

Cheese

OlivesIn the Miraflores district, you can meet dinosaurs at Kennedy Park

DinoWe also visited the charming Casa de Aliaga, the city’s oldest colonial mansion

Casa de AliagaWent here

Bar CordanoFor two of these

Pisco SourThe Pisco Sour. It tastes much nicer than it sounds. We kept out of the way of this lot:

PoliciaAnd also had a very enjoyable stroll around Miraflores, which is upmarket and delightful – and a great coastline. You don’t tend to think of the sea when it comes to Peru, but it’s not to be missed.

Miraflores coastFrom Lima we flew to Cuzco, and, in order to acclimatise to the altitude, immediately headed for the Sacred Valley, which is at a much lower level – then you slowly begin to climb during the next few days. The Sacred Valley is quite touristy, so you see plenty of these:

AlpacasAnd these

LlamaAnd these

SpinningThis gentleman shows us the traditional art of spinning. So much more refined when you do it without an exercise bike. In Pisac, we visited another market

Pisac marketBut the highlight of the Sacred Valley is Ollantaytambo, famous for its Inca ruins, as it was once the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti.

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

The next day we started to make our way towards Machu Picchu. To do this we took the train to Aguas Calientes.

Train to Aguas CalientesA picturesque journey – we reckoned these people were doing the Inca Trail.

Journey

Until it finally reaches Aguas Calientes.Resting place

And once you’re there, you can’t wait to get to Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu

MP

We got up early the next morning to see dawn rise over the site

Dawn at Machu PicchuA misty experience!

A misty affairFrom there we walked up Waynu Picchu, which is the mountain opposite Machu Picchu, to get the great view. Wow, what an experience!

Machu Picchu from Waynu PicchuIt’s high. It’s tiring. But so worth it! And what comes up, must go down….

And it’s quite a challenge! Reaching Machu Picchu again gave us a chance for another walk around.

From there, it was back on the train and heading for Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, and, despite our best efforts, the place where altitude sickness finally got us. Nevertheless we still enjoyed it.

Plaza de ArmasThe Plaza de Armas is the focus of the city centre, an expansive and beautiful town square.

Plaza de Armasand, surprise, surprise….

Plaza de Armas

The police get about on segways – makes it much easier for them!

Police

This is the beautiful Santo Domingo Convent

And a local school

The next day we took a tour to Pikillacta and Sacsayhuaman. At Pikillacta, you see an archaelogical site of the Wari people

PikillactaBut it was Sacsayhuaman that I was really interested to see.

SacsayhuamanThe construction is amazing, as there is no mortar between those stones

From the top you get a great view of Cusco

We also visited the amazing holy site of Qenko.

And I spent the next day in bed with Altitude Sickness! After Cusco, it was time to get on another train

The Andean Explorer, which would take us to the border city of Puno, travelling through beautiful but totally empty scenery.

Puno is a city with many thousands of students, and they were having an evening parade. We were warned not to go into Puno at night, because it wasn’t safe. But we couldn’t resist.

Felt perfectly safe to us! So I’ll leave you with a few typically Peruvian scenes and vibes.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe!

 

South America – Peru – from Cusco to Puno

Andean ExplorerIt was with some trepidation that I faced the prospect of the ten hour train journey to Puno. Having felt really lousy the night before I gingerly crept my way out of the hotel towards the coach for the short trip to the railway station. Fortunately, the Andean Explorer train across the Altiplano is comfort personified. I’ve not been on the Orient Express but this is the nearest thing to it I’ve experienced. Elegant surroundings, comfortable chairs, top quality yet friendly service – it was lovely.

Snow covered peaks of the AndesI was also very appreciative of the two Diamox tablets one of our intrepid co-travellers gave me. Our GP hadn’t said anything about the possibility of taking tablets, but several of our group had been given them before leaving home. I took half a tablet that morning, the other half in the evening, and then the same dose the next day, and it relieved me of all my symptoms apart from the breathlessness, which is easily coped with. So I would definitely recommend investigating these little beauties if you’re susceptible to the old altitude sickness. Not that I’m used to accepting drugs off strangers; don’t do this at home.

Inside the Andean ExplorerI feared the journey might be boring, but instead it was exhilarating. Fantastic views of Peru’s Canyon Country pass before your eyes as the train inexorably chugs its way towards Lake Titicaca. Big picture windows in the carriages help you to enjoy the view, but there is also a delightful observation carriage at the back of the train with more glass and an open air section which really allows you to become at one with your environment.

La RayaAt La Raya, the highest point of the journey (4313 metres above sea level) the train makes a brief stop so you can get some air and visit the little market which sets up alongside the railway line. Unsurprisingly the stallholders are pretty desperate to sell you something and occasionally the interaction between traders and customers got a bit aerated. Nevertheless it’s a pleasant little stop.

Peruvian musicianBeing a Peruvian train, naturally there was a fashion show – which we missed – and a folk music and dance troupe, which we saw. They were very good, but no match for the CDs of Andean music I already possess. They were also asking a ridiculously expensive price for their CDs – can’t remember exactly but it was way out of proportion – and unsurprisingly I don’t think anyone bought one.

Across the AltiplanoAnd then there are the Pisco Sours, which were well worth the imbibing, the splendid lunch, and the afternoon tea (which was perhaps a trifle underwhelming.) Mrs Chrisparkle and I sat opposite intrepid co-travellers John and Vicky and spent most of the day putting the world to rights, drinking, laughing, eating and drinking again, to the extent that when we got out of the train at the end, people were walking past us saying things like “you enjoyed that, didn’t you” and “we’ll forgive you”. Oops. Were we noisy?

Approaching PunoAs you approach Puno, for the last half an hour or so the track follows alongside local roads which intersect a few small towns, so it’s almost like being on a luxury bus; it’s a good opportunity to see how the locals live and go about their daily business. When we finally arrived in Puno, on the banks of Lake Titicaca, it was 6pm and already nearly dark. But we were not prepared for the welcome. Plaza de Armas It was the anniversary (50th I believe) of the local university and the students were using it as an excuse for a folkloric party and parade. It seemed as though hundreds and thousands of people were on the streets. Our guide who met us said it had started earlier in the day and would finish shortly. Shame, we thought.

Puno crowdsOur hotel for the night was the Casa Andina Private Collection, which was very comfortable and had large bedrooms; good breakfasts and a cosy bar. It did however also contain a rather grumpy receptionist. It has a most picturesque location nestling alongside the lake. With just a couple of hours to spend, we decided to skip an evening meal (again) and take a taxi into the centre of town to see what could be seen.

Puno paradesThe parades were still in very full swing. We found the Plaza de Armas, (every town in Peru seems to have one), and it was packed with locals watching the parade – and indeed with all the parading students too. There seemed no end to the extravagance of the costumes – a mixture of folklore, fantasy, tradition and glamour. An incredible carnival atmosphere everywhere, all captured by TV Lima.Colourful costumes The side streets were equally busy, as this is where paraders were gathering before joining the procession. Although I think we were almost the only tourists in evidence, I have to say the whole place felt very safe and very welcoming. However, it was difficult to gauge how attractive or otherwise Puno is, as all the spectacle detracted from the town itself.

Side streetsAfter a couple of hours, and with no sign of the celebrations coming to a halt, we followed the advice of the hotel and made our way to another Casa Andina hotel in the town centre and got them to ring us a taxi to get back. They were more than happy to do so, which I thought was excellent service. Safely ensconced back in our hotel we set about packing our cases as the next day we would be leaving Peru for Bolivia.