Altiplano Puno to La Paz

A half day + bus trip from Puno to La Paz took us further through the Altiplano, a high plateau which extends from just west of Qosqo in Peru south through Bolivia to northern parts of  Chile.     

   

      

   

   

The bus ride from Puno to La Paz brought the end of our time in Peru.  Sadly at this time we also farewelled Diana,  our Peruvian tour guide at this border. 

Diana Jarandilla,  you were simply awesome,  and thank you.  

   

Our tour guide changed at the border and we embraced VIV into our Group, Viv a Bolivian citizen. HI Viv.

   

Part of this longish bus trip was caused by the over 2 hours taken to pass through Bolivian immigration, queuing outside under the hot hot Bolivian sun.  Viv from La Paz described the queue as a lesson in patience to visitors from the Bolivian government. I did wonder if the number of roadside stalls and shops close the queue might have been our first introduction to the Bolivian way of clipping the tourist ticket.  Many ice creams were eaten (or dropped accidentally). 

   

   

   

Arriving in La Paz, we transferred to the Osira Hotel on San Pedro Square. 

   

Then we all trotted up to the gondolas (termed cable car in La Paz) which took us up to the heights of La Paz..  We were rewarded with amazing panoramas over La Paz and a glimpse of the third highest mountain in Bolivia.  

   

Some continued on for a walking tour of the city and those who were staying on in La Paz opted to take the walking tour the next morning.   That evening we enjoyed a meal at Chez Moustache strolling along some lovely parts of La Paz.

   

  

The walking tour of La Paz CBD was really interesting.   Viv took us on a very passionately described history of  Bolivia and caught a view of the President.  The tour took us into a number of squares one of which featured a backwards clock.  This clock symbolises the major change in thinking underlying the current constitution of Bolivia.  We also saw the scars on buildings of the use of the military to quell protests against a previous president and visited a market area.

   

   

      

      

 And a very large protest street march, marching on the main square.

   

   

   

Yes they are bullet holes.

  

       

 

    

 

      
  

An interesting aspect of traditional clothing was the bowler hat worn by older women.   This ia apparently a residual element from the time of the English. 

   

  

  

And a humorous note spotted in a Café. 

   

All too  soon, the tour ended  and for many of the Party that night was to be cut short to catch flights out of El Alto. night or next morning.  So we got together for a final meal at Chez Moustache (again),  and enjoyed everybody’s company for the final time.

Puno, Homestay and Lake Titicaca

A day’s bus trip from Qosqo to Puno trip lifted us to the Altiplano, a high plateau which extends from just west of Qosqo in Peru to Chile.

   

The following pics show some of the nature of the landscape of the Altiplano between Qosqo and Puno.

 

 

   

Puno is located on the western edge of Lake Titicaca.  On arrival, Intrepid tour guide Diana led us on a shopping tour to buy daily essentials as gifts for our homestay on the Capacchian peninsula jutting into Lake Titicaca. Dinner at a restaurant in Lima Street was enjoyed by many in the tour party.

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The next morning,  we were up bright and early and had the most amazing ride from the hotel to the wharf in tricycles.

 

We boarded our launch to explore Lake Titicaca,  and the first stop was the reed islands.  Constructed by weaving reeds, these islands are anchored to their spot.  To shift the island,  these anchor restraints  are released and the island ia able to be moved to a new location.

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The reeds have to be continually renewed to keep the island habitable.  Fishing and trips to markets in Puno  to sell handicrafts ensured that incomes are won and used to ensure nutrition was balanced..  The Island dwellers spoke a native language Aymara.  The islands were originally created by the Uru people

    

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From the reed islands we travelled to the Capachica peninsula where we were to have a homestay experience including some engagement with their daily routine before gathering for a game of volleyball.

 

 

Click here to see a video clip from the great volleyball challenge.

 

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Dressing in traditional clothing we headed off to the dining room where we were asked to peel potatoes.   Surprisingly,  some of the younger members of the tour party did not know what this involved.

 

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That night a thunderous rainstorm swept in and we were. All so glad to be tucked up warmly.

 

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Another earlyish start the next morning to go to Taquila Island, a place famous for the men’s knitting.  Our boat driver demonstratedthe men’s knitting skills.  Taquila Island had some nice outlooks onto Lake Titicaca.

 

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We returned to Puno after our homestay evening, and had a final dinner, including a cultural dancing floor show,to thank Diana for her contribution to our tour.

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A truly amazing person.  Thank you Diana Jarandilla.

 

Aguas Calientes and Macchu Picchu 

The day was a typical rainy season day in the Andes…  It was wet, but no wind.  This day was the start of the “bucket list” event…  Today was the day to travel to Aguas Calientes,  the town of hot springs at the foot of Macchu Picchu. 

The journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes comprised a bus trip from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then a magical train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.  Our small group of 4 had a very nice lunch at this amazing Cafe at Ollantaytambo station.  We all had to get some our lunch put into bags to finish off the meal on the train.

   

   

The train wended it’s way through a truly beautiful river valley (the Sacred River).  The sheer steepness of the valley sides was quite breathtaking. 

Arriving at Aguas Calientes,  we settled into our hotel before heading out with Diana on an orientation walk of the town.  One of the unique features of the town is the absence of vehicular traffic.  The streets are largely narrow walking lanes, and all goods and services are manually moved around the town.   Towards the end of this walk, the rain came down in torrents and continued for some time.  

   

   

   

   

   

We enjoyed a coffee overlooking the Sacred River, looking at the high water mark of a devastating flood in 2011.  Later we had a very nice dinner before heading back to our hotel and the more than 600 TV channels (at least 15 different sport channels gave lots of options for catching up on football, and Steven Adams in the NBA (Oklahoma City Thunder).

   

   
The next morning started very early to get in the queue to board the bus to Macchu Picchu and to meet our guide Juan.  At least 40 mind in the queue.   With rain poring down and low mist-like cloud, the journey up the mountain did not offer many viewpoints of note.

   

   

   

And then…   There it is, the entrance to Macchu Picchu. The rain stopped and the mist-like clouds came and went as we began our walk around Macchu Picchu. Despite the sun not appearing during our visit, the structure of this amazing place and the surrounding hills could all be viewed.  Macchu Picchu is a Quecha phrase (language of the Inca) means “Old mountain”.

   

   

   

Macchu Picchu looms out of the mist:

We learned that Macchu Picchu

  • had a spring which gave a constant flow of water;
  • Was divided between the farming area, the temple areas and the living (including) schooling areas;
  • That the temples and their “windows” were designed to align with sunrise at the summer and winter solstice, and with different phases of the moon;
  • The farming areas were terraced and organised to make use of the channelled spring water.

All of this information convey a story that the Inca had considerable scientific and farming knowledge.

The following images attempt to convey some of the story of Macchu Picchu. 
After completing the tour of Macchu Picchu we returned to Aguas Calientes to meet up with the 11 trekkers who all completed the Inca trail.  I cannot express in words my admiration for what they all achieved, particularly as they had to cope with 2 very rainy days.  

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

The classic image

   


  

We (the entire tour party including the Inca trail trekkers)  all met in Aguas Calientes for lunch before returning to Ollantaytambo by train and then to Cusco by bus.  Needless to say the trekkers were very tired that evening and were looking forward to a relaxing next day and the following evening in Cusco, before the tour moved onto the Altiplano,  Puno, and Lake Titicaca. 

Qosqo (Cusco) 

Qosqo (Cusco) proved to be a key place for the INTREPID tour, with the city being our base for several nights as we moved in and out of the Sacred Valley. 

   

   

  

      
The City was once the capital of the Inca Empire.  Many archaeological sites remain near Qosqo, and evidence abounds in the city of how the Spaniards strove to remove the Inca customs and worship by using stones from Inca buildings to construct churches or by building on top of existing sites, such as the Santo Domingo Convent, which is built on top of the  Incan Temple of the Sun  (Qoricancha).

  

   

  

Plaza de Armas is the main square of the city, and is surrounded by beautiful arcades, balconies and Inca wall ruins.  Artists abound in the square, from painters to musicians to stone sculpturers. 

   

   

      

    

  

Overlooking the square can be seen the first church built by the Spanish (San Cristobel) , in front of the walls of the Palace of the first Inca (Qollqampata), Manco Cápac.  

 

     

   
The history of the Inca shows that in the 100 years after Pachacuti became Sapa Inca, the Inca Empire expanded from a few thousand people in  the region of Qosqo to embrace a region from Chile to Ecuador, with millions of people under the control of the Inca.  Elements of this phase of Empire can be seen in the archaeological sites above Qosqo, Tambomachay, Puku pukara, Q’enko, and Saksaywaman.  Macchu Picchu is also thought to be built during this expansionary period of the Inca.

  

Tambomachay 

   

 Puku pukara

   

  

Q’enko 

   

   

Saksaywaman 

   

   

   

Qosqo is well known for its jewellery and a visit to a Silversmith was well received.  He explained the stones he used in his settings and why silver and gold need to be combined with other metals to produce enduring settings.

   

   

The Coca leaf museum was also interesting as it explained why the Coca leaf is important for cultures living at altitude.  The Museum also highlighted the more sinister uses of an extract from the leaf (cocaine). 

   


The Sacred Valley

Chincherra region: Umasbamba 

After leaving  the Amazon Region, a short flight saw the tour group settle into Cusco (3,400 metres above sea level) for the penultimate night before the energetic ones departed on the trek on the Inn Trail. 

The hotel Antawasi Cusco was really nice, had good breakfasts and staff were very friendly and helpful. The first thing offered as we settled in was Coca tea with mûno (mint).  Very nice in helping address the breathlessness at altitude.  

  

   

Our Intrepid tour leader, Diana, gave a great walking tour of some key  aspects of Cusco, and an overview of the Inca history in Cusco, finishing with a fabulous meal in a restaurant that supports the ideals of Intrepid. 

      

   

     

   

The next morning we hopped on a  bus and travelled  into the Chincherra region and visited a farming community at Umasbamba.  I was later to meet Thomas on a guided walk around The Archaeological sites of Cusco who came from this community.

   

Tour leader Diana


Farming at Umasbamba 

We were asked to carry out some of the farming tasks to provide an experience and insight into the farming life of this community.  The community gave us a fantastic lunch, and then provided an insight into the handicraft skills.  A little bit of dressing up also occurred to show us how the clothes were used in daily life.

        

      

     

     

     

   

     

   

A 3 course traditional meal is served

   

Handicrafts at Umasbamba 

     

  

Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo 

Then the bus travelled down to the Sacred Valley, following the path of the Sacred River through a number of towns before we arrived at Ollantaytambo, to stay the night before the Inca trail segment began.  

  

A walking tour identified parts of the town including archaeological sites, natural formations giving a face in the mountain, and the continued use of terraced farming, with some of the terraces dating back to the Inca.

     

     

  

Pet alpaca at Tupuna hotel, a  beautiful moon, a farewell to the trekkers and a fantastic return journey to Cusco which travelled through Pisac,  where ancient terracing was very visible.  We also had  a brief stop to see a Cuy restaurant in action.  

   

     

    

 

      
  

Awana Kancha

We also stopped at Awana Kancha where we learned about the history of the camelids of South America (the vicuna, guanaco,  alpaca, and llama in particular).  The website of Awana Kancha is very informative about the objectives of this initiative :

click here to open website for Awana Kancha

Some key things learned about the camelids of South America include:

  • High red blood cell count in the vicuna;
  • the camelids have soft hooves and this minimises soil damage;
  • The vicuna has a very fine fleece, making it very useful for high quality weaving.

       

         

    Amazon rain forest

    From Lima, the INTREPID tour took us to Puerto Maldonado, via Cusco.

    Puerto Maldonado is the largest city in the Madre de Dies Region of Peru.  We transferred to Intrepid’s office in Puerto Maldonado, where we met our tour guides Christian and Josleen for this Amazon adventure.  We repacked clothes for two nights into duffel bags provided by Intrepid. Nice burnt orange coloured duffel bags.

        

     

    Christian 

      

    Josleen 

      
        

    Tambopata Nature Reserve

    The Tambopata National Reserve was created on 26 January 1990 to protect the tropical rain forests which had been exploited by illegal logging activity. The Reserve has two ecosystems which are notable for their biodiversity,  containing 165 species and 41 families of trees, 103 species of mammals, multitudes of insects species including 1300 species of butterflies alone.  There are reported to be 90 species of amphibians, not to forget the extremely diverse and very audible birds of the Amazon.

    A bus and boat ride up the Tambopata River took us to the Explorer’s Inn in the Tambobata Nature Reserve, our base for the next two nights. The boat ride was about 1.5 hours along the River, providing a first insight into the nature of tropical rain forest regions and the way in which local people adapt to their environment. 

      

    On the river boat 

       

    Along the Tambopata River 

       

      

      

    Accommodation 

    The Explorer’s Inn is approximately 58 km up the Tambopata River from Puerto Maldonado.   Very pleasant stay, great meals, comfortable bedding.

    We arrived at the Explorer’s Inn and had lunch time to settle in and enjoy the peacefulness and calls of the birds.  A very nice jungle lodge, which challenged the hardiness of some with fantastic COLD showers.  
    Coming from Aotearoa /New Zealand tramping experience, cold showers were nothing new to me but they certainly helped conserve water during our stay due to the short showers most chose to have..  

      

    Explorer’s Inn 

      

       

    Intrepid activities

    The first activity we had was a night walk after dinner on first evening.  Lots of insect and arachnid life, and toads, with a few examples of what we came across (guided bybshown in the following images.  One walking group faced up to a snake.

       

    Fire Ant

       

    Toad

      

    Tarantula 

       
      

    On the second day of our Amazon adventure,  a jungle walk to Lagos Cocacocha was an amazing experience.  Piranha, birds, turtle, lessons on uses of different plants, including a taste of fresh Brazil nuts, a 45 metre high viewing tower which the unfit old man (me) did not see and surprise, surprise torrential rain in a rain forest.  Some of the following images suffered from wet lens syndrome but they still give a cute reminder of some of the fun.  I learned how easy it is for a heavy person to sink into mud on the trail after waterways formed into hiking track.

      

    The hide at Lagos Cocacocha (rainy lens syndrome affects some pics)

       

    Setting off on the boats

      

    Torrential rain arrives

          

      

    And back at the hide. …. Getting ready to trek back to the Explorer’s Inn… 

       

    On the track learning about plant use (rainy lens syndrome affects some pics) and other customs… 


       

       

    And we made it back in the rain, poured water out of our gumboots, and after lunch a rest period 

       

    New Year’s Eve

    Off we went in the dark to spot the caimen.  High water conditions made it difficult but we saw a couple on the bank and one midstream before it dived.

    Back at the Inn, a quiet new year’s eve drink and some saw in the new year.

       

    Some of the birds and animals seen (names not remembered)

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

    On New year’s day, it was over, and we left the Amazon region to travel to Cusco for the next part of the tour  …  the high altitudes of the Southern Sierra region of Peru.