Sadly our brief trip to Cusco is coming to an end, a relaxing day spent nursing the body from yesterday’s climb, bartering with vendors for trademark souvenirs for the kids, and culminating in a slight over-indulgence of Cusquena- the local ‘cerveza’ (evidently not the smartest idea before departing on an overnight bus). The discovery of the day was waffle battered hotdogs and beef empanadas, both dishes New Zealand would do well to embrace. An unfortunate lack of leg room resulted in an almost sleepless night en-route to Puno, redeemed by coffee and an early boat ride to the islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca, at 3800m the highest navigable lake. Made up woven reeds the 2000 odd inhabitants live on approximately 120 islands. Although seeing how the islands were constructed was great, the overall feel was tourist trap. Flat screen TVs in the huts, sweet shop and overpriced “island made” goods (available everywhere in Puno) followed by an under-enthused farewell song, inclined towards a façade for the travellers. That said the sculptures and doubled- hulled boats the islanders craft from the reeds is worth the cost of the trip out.
Stopping in Puno was a last minute addition to our itinerary, added in for a trip to Aramu Muru. 65kms towards the town of Juli, our wonderful taxi driver from earlier offered to take us out and show us around the site. 500m from the main highway is an out of place collection of red boulders, mysteriously carved into the face of one is a giant square, with vertical channels and a recessed ‘doorway’. Said to be the spot the priest Aramu Muru disappeared with Golden Sun Disc, and possibly pre-dating the Incans, there are no known remains of civilisation nearby. Reminiscent of Castle Hill in New Zealand, a climb to the top offered a stunning 360 degree view of the area, across the Andes and Lake Titicaca.
Divine intervention to keep us at the site came in the form of a dead car battery in the taxi, through the international sign for “I have a flat battery, do you have jumper leads and can I have a start?”, I was able to communicate with a French couple (thank you charades, those well-honed skills from dinner party evenings win again). Our return to Puno signified our first ever drug checkpoint!!!-Picture 20 national cops, all packing heat, spread across the road as a fairly intimidating traffic stop. Fortunately our passports had no Bolivian stamp and after a quick sweep we were pronounced clean. – I forget we’re in the land of cocaine, which incidentally, we got offered on our last night in Cusco …“What’s he talking about? Who the hell is Charlie?” “He’s talking about coke.”
San Antonio Suites was one of the best places we’ve stayed, and I base that statement entirely on the breakfast they offered, an endless spread of scrambled eggs, ham and cheese toasties, cereal, coffee, fresh juice and mango smoothies, and in season fruit salad. I would stay in Puno again just for this place.
Back on the Bolivia Hop bus (and this one was first class, double decked, footrests and movies) travelling in style towards our first border crossing, ending our short but colourful visit to Peru.
Aramu Muru / View From The Top / Stone Gateway