Archive for March 3, 2013


Sunday Travel Tales

Chapter 9 – Sillustani & Puno

 

The flight from Arequipa was short and we were soon landing in Juliaca. Leaving the airport was uncomplicated. We were met at the arrivals gate by a representative of the receiving travel agency, welcomed to Juliaca, and  soon on the main road towards Puno.

 

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Looking down on some of the older tombs – image: AV

The driver explained that he would first take me to Sillustani where I would meet the rest of my group for the trip to famous Lake Titicaca. Sillustani is one of the most famous sites of the Inca, it is a peninsula where the Inca buried their important, probably royal, dead.

 

As we neared the place, I could see the massive tombs rising from the ground. As we got nearer, the immensity of the stone crypts became apparent. Great markers of peoples past. We arrived at the site at the same a time as a small bus, these were to be my companions for the next stage of the trip. It was here I met Edgar, a slight man with an affable manner. He spoke quietly and gave us the history of the site before we started our climb up to the “chullpas” as they were called. Here at the top we found two distinctive types, one shorter and more primitive from a period earlier than the giants that could be seen from a way off. The actual burial place was small compared with the giant edifices, a small cavity facing the rising sun where the deceased was placed in a feotal position. The Inca believed you came into this world in a feotal position, so you should leave it. The rest of the monument was solid, simply a marker of the person’s passing.

 

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The large “Largata” tomb – image: AV

We were herded like sheep to one of the “chullpas”, here it was explained that some years earlier lightning had struck, and demolished half of the structure. We could see here, the construction. This was known as the “Largata” because of the lizard symbol on the side. No one knows why, or who was buried here, only those who passed, and they’re not telling. Photos were taken and we were lead to other aspects of the ceremonial site, temple of the sun and the smaller ring of stones, temple of the moon. Then even more primitive “chullpas”, white, an even earlier epoch of the Inca. Three ages of the empire were represented here, an indication of the importance these once great people placed on the area.

 

An interesting facet was pointed out, some of the stones involved were enormous. How did the Inca, who had no knowledge of the wheel, managed to transport, carve and manipulate the massive rocks into position? A question that until today remains unanswered.

 

After wandering the site and taking many photos, it was time to go. We retraced our steps back to the small bus. My van had gone, but I was relieved to see they had the goodness to put my baggage on the bus. Yes, on the bus, for it was roped, I observed thankfully, securely on top.

 

We didn’t immediately board the bus, but surrounded by the local kids selling everything from hats to Inka Kola and souvenirs we went to a small restaurant come museum. Here we drank coca tea, and wandered among the informal exhibits scattered about on trestle tables. Morbidly grinning skulls, bones, rocks that had obviously become and been tools in a past age, pottery and remnants of ancient fabrics that had withstood the test of time.

 

The bus at Sillustani - image: AV

The bus at Sillustani – image: AV

Coca tea finished, we faced the throng of kids again, some of us bargained for the offered goods and after winning small concessions from the expert negotiators we boarded the bus and were soon bouncing along the dirt track back to the potholed tar-seal. Eventually we came to the main road and turned right to Puno.

 

Our first sight of Puno was reaching the top of a hill and the road veered to the right and began its descent giving us a panoramic view of Puno, the bay, and the fabled Lake Titicaca as a backdrop. It was quite spectacular and several of took advantage when the van driver stopped. We piled out and took some photos.

 

Puno is an unremarkable city, plain, nothing to consume the interest of the visitor. Its popularity lay directly with it being the gateway to the famous lake. In fact Puno is a major hub for tourism in Peru; whether you came from Bolivia travelling to Cusco, you passed through Puno, or, if you came from Arequipa by plane, bus, or train, you passed through Puno, or, if you were doing the reverse, you passed through Puno. And, of course, while you were in Puno, there was the famous Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and it’s equally famous islands, the Uros floating islands and Taquile. Taquile is not the only attraction, fast gaining popularity is another of the Titicaca communities, the island of Amantani. Also, surrounding Puno, there were things to see and do like Sillustani, where we had just come from, and Chucuito, which was on our itinerary.

 

The railway station in front of our hotel - image: AV

The railway station in front of our hotel – image: AV

We arrived at an unremarkable hotel, totally non-descript, called the Railway Hotel, and as one would have guessed, it was in front of the railway station, which was slightly more picturesque.

 

Collectively we looked warily at our lodgings, and once we were settled in our quarters, decided that the hotel restaurant didn’t endear us to the festive mood that was around, for we had arrived during carnival. In the failing light we wandered as a troop to the tourist street. Jirón Lima had been turned into a pedestrian-only street and was home to the many travel agencies, banks and restaurants that catered to the needs and tours of the visitors. We found Edgar’s agency and were directed to a suitable restaurant, A London Pub, right here in Peru.

 

The Lake Pub, Puno - image: AV

The Lake Pub, Puno – image: AV

Once inside “The Lakeside Pub,” we were welcomed with, yes, if you guessed a complementary Pisco Sour? You’d be right. We drank them and ordered beers, not British, but certainly acceptable and well chilled. Even though the air outside was already chilling. Puno is 3,800m a.s.l. so at night, with no intense sunlight, the air chilled considerably. We were surprised we could get fish ‘n’ chips and enormous American style open hamburgers, even cottage pie was on the menu. Some of us opted for recognisable dishes, others experimented with lake trout and more ceviche.

 

Dancing in the streets - image: AV

Dancing in the streets – image: AV

After our meal, we discovered that the festive climate was heating up outside, so we went to explore. The streets, including Jirón Lima were crowded, gaily costumed dancers wriggled their bottoms in a quaint Peruvian fashion and we stopped to watch them. I don’t know the name of the dance, nor did I recognise it, although there were overtones of the “twist” from the early Beatles years, although there was more swivel than the “twist.”

 

We wended our way amongst the revellers and found our way back through the market to the austerity of our hotel. We were pretty shagged, but we did stop in the hotel restaurant for a whisky nightcap and an early bed.

 

The market near our hotel - image: AV

The market near our hotel – image: AV

In the morning we were awakened by our wake up calls. We had been given a list of things that we would need for our trip to the islands. So it was off to the market to search for such things as torches and batteries, because Taquile Island had no power; sunscreen was a must as well to combat the intense sunlight to which we would be exposed during our five hour boat ride on Lake Titcaca; and also some basic necessities such as the humble toilet roll, which wasn’t supplied in our next accommodations. Despite the early hour, the market was alive with throngs of people already going about their daily business. We joined the throngs and searched for our treasures. We found stall selling hot sweet fruit juice mixed with porridge, but not like the porridge that we know. Apple and porridge, heavily tinged with cinnamon in the crisp morning air, made a change from bread rolls and strawberry jam.

 

Back to the hotel, packed our bags for the trip. We were leaving most of our baggage at the hotel, only taking the travelling necessities for two nights and assembled in the “lobby” which was actually the wide corridor between reception and the restaurant, to await our transport.

I need one of these on my keyboard

I need one of these on my keyboard

I woke at six, I prepared to blog.

The laundry lady came and she laundried, and left.

I had intended to go to the supermarket when she left, but I had her wash the shorts I wanted to use.

Deep procrastination set in despite the four cups of coffee I had had since I woke. Normally this would be enough to fortify through the most strenuous of days. I did the only sensible thing, I napped.

Having napped and still suffering from procrastination, I have decided that the supermarket can wait until tomorrow.

Bacon & mushroom, yum yum

Bacon & mushroom, yum yum

Last night, due to an empty  fridge, I ordered pizza. Bacon and mushroom with olives. I tried a new pizzaria (pizza parlour, for those who can’t figure out such complexities on a Sunday, and Americans), Della Massa, their leaflet came in the mail box. They had a web site, I chose my pizza and filled out the on-line purchase form and waited; and waited, and waited…. Finally, I was sick of waiting; I rang them… Oh we didn’t get your email order. I repeated it over the phone and I waited, and waited, and waited some more.

Nearly an hour passed, and on hearing a motorbike in the street (all these places use a motorbike for deliveries) I wandered to the gate despite him not tooting. There was the delivery guy outside the botequim lost; I had used the botequim as a reference point. One of the locals pointed at my gate. I got my pizza while complaining about the service, or at least the lack of it. The guy told me that someone had taken the computer home… Typically Brazilian, how do you expect to take email orders when you haven’t got a computer?

I ate half the pizza. There was a time when I would have demolished the lot and looked around for more, but age has taken its toll. Gluttony is not something that I would go to purgatory for, I just don’t have the capacity anymore. I could still get to purgatory for a bit of coveting, age hasn’t affected some things. Tatiana, my first Brazilian partner, nearly sent me there for a bit of coveting… she caught me ogling the girls as we walked downtown; I simply responded that she had nothing to worry about until I started ogling the guys. That settled the matter, it was never mentioned again.

So lunch today is leftover pizza. I was wondering if it would be considered debauchery if I had a nice wine with that.

Blogging right along….

There should be a Sunday Travel Tales later, that would depend on the toll taken by consuming a full bottle of wine. It is Sunday, after all.

No whirling dervishes were injured in this post.

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