Friday, June 16, 2017

Going to New Heights

Leaving Cusco behind, we set out for Puno, some 380 km or 236 miles away. We knew it would be a long day. There were several stops scheduled, plus the drivers (the bus had to have two given the distance we were going) should not, could not, and would not speed. Buses and other commercial vehicles are equipped with GPS, but not in the way one might think. Those GPS units are wired so as to track the vehicle's speed. Each commercial driver begins a year with 100 points. A driver loses points for speeding among other infractions. If a driver's point total hits 0 during the year, the penalty is losing one's license for one month. Should a driver's point total drop to 0 a second time, the penalty is loss of one's license for one year. A third time? Say adios to one's commercial driver's license.

Our first stop was at a church known as "the Sistene Chapel of the Americas," Andahuaylillas. Since no photography was allowed, you'll have to take my word for that or visit a website such as this. Can you say "ornate"? I particularly liked the 1626 mural The Road to Hell, which can be seen on the website linked above. It's in the montage of photos below the text, in the upper right corner. There appears to be a tyrannosaurus rex on one side. Since one could suppose that in 1626 South America  no one knew about T-rexes, one wonders what sort of creature it was meant to be.

Photography was permitted outside so I can at least offer a view of the front facade.
 I can also offer a close-up of someone napping on the steps out front.
It was not clear if this dog belonged to anyone; there was, after all, a small market going on outside the church.
It's probably more likely that the dog was one of the many street dogs subsisting on handouts (the husband noted that no dog we saw appeared to be starving) and living outside; we were told that there are seven humans for each dog in Peru. 

Our next stop was the archaeological site at Raqch'i. Raqch'i was located on an Incan road system that began in Cusco. Most of the buildings still standing were enclosed by a wall 4 km in length, making it as much a fort as a city.
What is left of the Temple of Wiracocha actually looked different from the other Incan ruins we'd seen.
It is not clear if Raqch'i was a stopping point for travelers on the road, as a fort, or both. There were a number of circular buildings thought to be warehouses or storehouses.
We in no way covered the entire site. To do so would have taken more hours than we had.
There was a market outside of the site. I was getting quite used to seeing at least one weaver at each market.

Occasionally, we would have "surprises," stops or events not included in the written itinerary for the tour. Stopping to see and even feed llamas, alpacas, and vicunas was one such stop. (Danger ahead! The vicuna is just so darn cute.)
A bit after the camelid fun, we hit the high point, altitude-wise, of the trip. The sign I used in opening notes 4,335 meters, which converts to 14,222 feet. What was there? Another market!

 There was another stop on the road to Puno that we actually made two days later, on our way to the airport to fly back to Lima. Since it ties in so well with the path this post is taking...

That final stop was at Sillustani, a pre-Inca cemetery on the shores of Lake Umayo.
The tombs, or chullpas, were all above ground.
The largest one, to the right on the photo above, resembled a coffee cup, and I wondered how they engineered the wider upper body on the structure.
 The back of this chullpa had broken away. The rocks in the foreground once made up the back side.
The bodies put into the chullpas were mummified, though not in Egyptian fashion. For one, the mummies were not wrapped. Also, they were mummified in a fetal position rather than a straight posture.
There were various other chullpas not quite as impressive as the coffee-cup one.
An interesting note about Sillustani: This was the only ruin at which I saw any litter. I picked up a collapsed paper cup and handed it off to our local guide, Manuel. Can you imagine going to as many U.S. tourist sites as we did Peruvian ones and only finding one piece of litter? I wish!

Back to the trip into Puno. We were somewhat nervous about what we might encounter there. This was the iPhone report early in the morning as we were leaving Cusco.
Yes, that says "Mixed Rain and Snow" in between Puno and the temperature. So what did we see when we finally got to Puno at the end of the day?
I somewhat wish I could say that the white spots were snow, but they were actually hail.

While we had left the 14,000 foot altitude behind, we were still at the highest altitude at which we would spend time, 3,827 meters or 12,556 feet. Despite having been reminded of that fact, I had a brief moment of "how out of shape have I gotten" panic after getting out of breath walking up to our room on the fourth floor. Fortunately, that was the worst of it for me, though I know it hit some other people on the tour a bit harder.

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