The highs and the lows of Peru

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In order to get from Cusco to our next port of call, Puno, we were forced, by virtue of a recently cancelled bus service, to get the only other overland option; a VIP tourist special that included lunch, drinks throughout the journey, a guide and 3 stops of "touristic interest". Luckily we had convinced 2 of our new friends from the Inca Trail, James and Allison to join us, so we weren't the only backpackers aboard..

The bus stopped off at a church with the most amazing internal decoration that I had ever seen, especially considering that the church was very run of the mill from the outside. Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed. We also stopped at a provincial museum of questionable "touristic interest" but the cherry on the cake was the Incan ruins of Raqchi which they think included a huge temple and a town.

That we very much enjoyed, including the round stonecarved storage rooms in which you easily would have fit our flat in London. They have found remains of over 100 of these enormous granaries.

We were going to Puno for James' benefit; he wanted to see Lake Titicaca and Puno is the major town on the Peruvian side of the lake. Puno itself is nothing to write home about, although to be fair to Puno it probably didn´t help that this is where James and I developed stinking colds. But anyways, the lake. We arranged to take a tour onto the lake that would bring us to one of the inhabited islands on the lake, Taquile, and to Los Uros las islas flotantes, or the floating islands.

The islands are what they sound like; constructed islands that float on the lake. They are constructed from reeds that live on the lake, and the base of the island is formed from the compacted roots and rotting reeds. Fresh harvested reeds are placed on top, at opposed angles, until it is strong enough to stand and build on. The islands are anchored and need to be constantly replenished, and completely replaced every 25 years or so. The people that live on these islands (the Uros for whom the islands are named) have lived this way for hundreds of years, and there are scores of these islands on the lake.

James and I were hesitant about this part of the tour as sometimes the tours of the islands are exploitative but this one seemed to be quite well done. The inhabitants of the island worked with the guide in explaining the island, and then showed us around their homes and plots etc, and then said that if we wanted to support them further, we could take a look at what the women made, in terms of artisan produce. I'm a sucker for good craftsmenship so I bought a lovely weaving. Next we went to Taquile, an island of 1700 inhabitants, where we walked and wandered, taking in the wonderful views, and then had a great lunch on the roof of someone's house.

James was ultimately underwhelmed by Lake Titicaca. He isn't sure what he was looking for from the highest lake in the world, but whatever it was, it didn't deliver it. 

Next stop on the tour of Peru was Arequipa, where we were to spend 4 days. We stayed at the lovely Casa de los Pinguinos, just outside of town. One of the reasons we had chosen here was to visit Colca Canyon, but it's a 2 day trip and we were still feeling under the weather, and so we decided to treat Arequipa as a bit of a rest stop. It's a nice town, with plenty to keep you occupied for a couple of days. The highlight for us was the Convent Santa Catalina, which was started by a nun in the 16th century by a nun who only allowed the daughters of wealthy families to enter. As they were all very wealthy and accustomed to fine living, their cells followed suit; all were different and customised, some had as many as 3 or 4 rooms along with internal courtyards and balconies. The place was beautiful.

The current nuns live in a different part of the convent, and all the original parts have been restored and are open the public. There is also a religious art gallery as well as a little cafe with one of the funniest menus I have ever read:

We spent several hours in the place in total, as it was huge; we have oodles of pictures of it so as usual just click through if you want to see more.

Once our trip to Arequipa was done we popped back to Lima, spent another 2 lovely days in Casa667 and explored the city further, and then we were back to Chile, to give the south of the country a try.

xR

Posted via email from dreadpiratesarcas

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