The end of a great trip
03 December 2017
30 November 2017
Back to Lima then, and a long walk on our first morning to find the Parque Salazar, which is the location of the Paddington Bear statue we have heard so much about. Our attempts to find Paddington bears in tourist shops have all ended in failure, so the statue is the best bet. We soon found it, right on the coastal walkway that stretches along Lima's western edge, on top of high crumbly cliffs which separate the city and Miraflores from the coastal highway and beach. There is a great view from here, only the persistent high mist makes visibility out to sea difficult. It is rarely possible to see the sea horizon. One of our guides told us it is all to do with the Humboldt current, a cold current from the south that keeps the water cold and the mist up there. Not to say we don't have sunny days in Lima, just not all the time.
We took Bagshaw and posed her with her hero, and that was fun. Then we wanderred further along the walkway and discovered the paragliding centre of Lima, where would-be paragliders were receiving instruction. Nobody actually took off. I think the instructors were just teaching the learners how to control their rig while on the ground, so that if they did run forward and jump off the cliff the rig would not just fold up and collapse!
A long walk brought us back to our quarter, where we found a small restaurant which became our local for the few days we are here.
Another quiet day, just walking around, relaxing, and taking in all that we have seen. Saddened to hear of the death of a lifelong friend back home.
Ju had booked us on a half-day trip to a fishing village south of here, and we discovered when we turned up at 8am for the tour that we were the only two people involved. Our guide was our taxi driver, a past master at the inch-perfect driving required here, where lane discipline is non-existent, and each driver dodges from lane to lane to make the fastest progress possible. Vehicles overtake, undertake, tailgate all the time, use indicators occasionally, and pass within a few centimetres of each other in tight corners. I couldn't look, a lot of the time. There is no way I could have hired a car in Peru, the skills involved are way beyond my reaction times!
We drove south for about 60km, along this desert coastline where rain is very rare, and arrived at last in a thriving fishing village, Pucusana. The harbour was alive with small to medium sized fishing boats, all full of lively people, talking animatedly all the time. Our boat had not quite arrived yet, so Reuben, our guide and driver, took us to see the fishmarket, where people were sorting the catch, comprised of giant squid, flying fish eggs, and other seafood. There was a thriving market for ice, which some of the fishing boats were loading into their holds. Eventually our boat appeared, a large wooden boat with an outboard engine, and a flat platform at the bow. To our surprise we were to jump on to the boat from the pier, while someone pulled the painter tight against the dock. If I had stopped to think about this, I might not have done it, but I didn't, and landed just fine, holding on to the guide's hand. Ju only told me later that the age limit for doing this trip was 65. Ha ha!
Armed with a bucket of guts from the fish market, our boat raced over the rather bumpy waters at the entrance to the harbour, and we were off. The vigorous Pacific swell pushed us towards the rocks of the large island we were circumnavigating, but our skilled boatman kept us clear, but still close enough for Ju to recognise the many birds on there. To our delight there were a lot of Humboldt penguins, as well as terns, rare gulls, pink crabs, and hundreds of sealions. We took lots of photos. There were a lot of dive boats around too, which we sailed round. The boatman started throwing the fish guts into the water, and suddenly we were surrounded by pelicans, huge birds, so close.
Back to Lima for a quiet afternoon.
Our last day here, so we packed up and checked out of the hotel at noon, and got them to keep our luggage safely in their luggage room until the afternoon, when we would be picked up for our evening flight. What an amazing holiday, what an amazing country, of great contrasts, riches and poverty, ancient and modern civilisations, city people and country people.
We booked the trip with Llama Travel, who in turn used Condor Travel to facilitate our journeys, provide guides, smooth the way into hotels and airports, ferry us from place to place, and keep us informed with great English language narratives, of travel details and on site visits to chuches, catacombs, Inca and pre Inca sites. We cannot recommend this company enough. Granted this is the end of the tourist season here, but even if there were only the two of us we still got a guide, a driver and a minibus! Viva Perú! I hope you have enjoyed this blog, please feel free to comment!
Back to Lima
30 November 2017
Up nice and late this morning, as the other eight members of our group are off much earlier, heading for Arequipa and other wonders, while we were picked up by our guide and minibus at 8.30. In splendid isolation for the first time, the two of us settled into our seats and off we went. It was another lovely morning in Puno, although it had obviously poured with rain overnight, as our driver's first task was to negotiate a considerable flood on the rough track connecting the hotel to the city. Our hotel was right on the very edge of Puno, with a railway track running just outside the perimeter fence. As we sat at breakfast a Perurail diesel engine roared past. We had had to cross the track on foot when we headed down to the boat yesterday morning.
The road climbed out of Puno, a very large city with the characteristic unfinished buildings all over its steep hills. The view of the Puno Bay part of Lake Titicaca faded behind us, as we topped the hill and headed towards Juliaca. The road is just a two-lane, but a new road is nearly complete in parallel to it, so soon this will be a dual carriageway, and not before time. The traffic between these two cities is very heavy and very fast. The road is as straight as a Roman road, across this vast plain of the altiplano, so drivers regularly take risks they shouldn't. I was sitting behind Hugo, our driver, and averted my eyes to the passing countryside to avoid heart attacks!
Part way along this road we turned off to the left, towards an archaeological site called Sillustani. All we knew about that was that there were funerary towers there. We were in for a treat. First of all, as we got out of the minibus in a car park and headed up the village street who should we see but our eight companions, for whom this visit was the first part of their continuing tour. We hailed each other and there were lots of farewell hugs and mutual well-wishings before they departed in their minibus.
We climbed a fairly low hill and saw a considerable number of towers, some in the characteristic stone wall building design of the pre-Incas, ie differently sized stones, rather randomly put together, and the remains of two or three Inca towers, with precise rectangular stone blocks fitted together tightly with no mortar required.
Our guide told us anout the ritual burials inside the towers, bodies in foetal positions, surrounded by their precious goods, to help them in the next world, buried deep below the tower floors, to be part of Pachamama, the earth goddess. Each tower has a small door, which it might be possible to crawl inside, all pointing east, towards the rising sun.
The view from the top of the hill was lovely, another big freshwater lake, with the occasional fishing boat out from the village we had walked through to access the site. We descended a huge flight of steps, built in Inca times and still perfectly usable, and set off again in our minibus, trying in vain to photograph the pink flamingoes feeding at the edge of a small lake.
Our route took us straight back to the same turnoff, so we rejoined the toll road to Juliaca, and were soon in the outskirts of that totally chaotic city. It is only 90 years old, and seems to have been flung together without the benefit of a planning department of any kind. Abby's friend Colin would be amazed if he saw it, through the eyes of a city planning officer, it would score 'null points'.
Struggling through the traffic in its labyrynthine street system, avoiding tuctucs, locally called Toritos, ie motorbikes with small taxi housing added, small but deadly, we finally found ourselves on something called the Avenida del Aeropuerto. The airport here has a long imposing name, and thinks it is an international airport, despite the fact that the only flights we could see scheduled were either to Lima or to Cusco.
Our guide came with us into the airport to check in our baggage on an automatic baggage machine. Hilarity followed, when we had to input not only our passport details but also our nationality. That was when, as Gerard Hoffnung would have put it, we lost our presence of mind.
Where the hell were we from? We tried Gran Bretagna. Nope. Inglaterra, nope. Unido something, nope. Finally it dawned on the three of us. We are from Reino Unido! Hurrah!
The machine obligingly spat out the long paper stickers for our hold baggage, and our boarding passes, and we said goodbye to our long suffering guide, and went through security. For the second time this trip I had to remove my boots.
The sun came out as the two midday flights to Lima lined up on the tarmac, and it wasn't long before we were walking out to the plane.
One and a half hour flight, with some turbulence over the high mountains, of sufficient severity to stop the crew wheeling the trolley along the aisle until over half way into the journey.
Then back to Lima airport, where the next guide and minibus were waiting to transfer us to the hotel we were in when we first arrived.
We will be here for the next four days, getting to know Lima a bit more.
28 November 2017
Well, it was an early start at 7.45, when our guide Abel turned up and walked us down the long boardwalk from the hotel directly to our small cruising boat, waiting by the reed-covered jetty. We climbed aboard and set off, at first through hugh plantations of reeds, then suddenly among some of the ninety floating islands used by the Uros people, who all speak Quechua as well as Spanish. Our boat moored up beside one of them, and we were made welcome by the people. It turned out there were three families on this island. Each family had a house made of reeds, and cooking was done communally on a stove perched on a stone, to avoid setting fire to the reeds. The top man of the island gave us a demonstration in miniature of how an island is built, from scratch. It was amazing. As we sat on the comfortable sausage of reeds in a semicircle listening to the two men, tour boats would go by quite rapidly and the island simply rippled under our feet with the wash passing by. Basically the reed beds nearby in the lake grow in a depth of about 1,5metres of compost or earth into the bottom of the lake. Eventually the very bottom part of their roots rot, and the watchful people can go in and separate sections of the now floating reeds, tow them to a selected spot, add a few more similar sized pieces, lash them all together with rope in stakes on each piece, then put cut reeds in layers, each one at right angles to the last, until you have a floor. Then you can anchor them by weighted ropes to the bottom, and bingo, home sweet home. They build, weave, cook, eat, burn and grow reeds. The island we were on was in 15 metres of water, measured by a plumb line down a hole in the floor.
A bit of a song and dance session followed, then the people all sang one of their traditional songs. We had to reply, so somebody suggested ring a ring a roses, which we all managed, complete with falling down at the end. Much hilarity!
The people make money from tourists by offering craft and knitwear, embroidery and reed carvings for sale, and for giving their visitors a short cruise in their reed boats. Normally they take their goods to a market in Puno entirely operated on the barter principle. We noted that the tourist money had bought them solar panels, so they now have some electricity.
We were encouraged to put on some of their traditional clothes and hats, with hilarious results.
Eventually we disembarked on another island and rejoined our cruiser.
Lake Titicaca is huge, so big you can see a sea horizon in places. It is shared with Bolivia, and it can be seen from certain places in the far distance.
Our next stop was a real island called Taquile, where some 2500 souls live and work. We landed and crawled slowly up a hill to the restaurant, at 4000 metres. Bit short of breath with the effort of walking uphill, but with the help of coca leaves, coca tea and aromatic plants provided by our guide we made it fairly easily.
Lunch was trout caught in the lake. They are not native, but have been introduced from Canada and Argentina, apparently, and do really well. We wondered what the effect on the smaller bonier fish we had seen swimming about in a bowl on the floating island.
After lunch a long amble round the island led us to another jetty where our cruiser awaited. Then a couple of hours in a slight swell and we were back at the hotel. What a day, what an insight into these people's lives, and how welcomed we were by them all. They addressed us through our interpreter as brothers and sisters!
Tomorrow one more archaeological visit then off to the plane to fly back to Lima.