Day 6: From Arequipa to Puno
Puno Travel Blog› entry 9 of 17 › view all entries
August 1st, 2009 – by: davdstraat
The reason for our early rise and departure, is that we are taking the early flight out of Arequipa, to go to Juliaca by plane. Checking in and passing the police control are much easier than in Schiphol, as the metaldetector does not start bleeping as I go through (nearly a first time for me to get through first try), and I am even allowed to take my bottle of water with me.
In the plane (an Airbus A319, which we board climbing stairs after a walk across the tarmac - with beautiful view of the sun starting to rise over El Misti), to my great horror I find myself sitting at the isle instead of the the window - the seats between me and a view of the Andes are taken by two Peruvians, who are asleep almost all of the time (what a waste, sleeping at a windowseat!).
In spite of the disadvantage of the location of my seat, I still manage to take a few pictures of the landscape below during the flight, which takes just over half an hour. On the facade of the airport building we are greeted by a number that seems to be there as a warning: "altitude: 3825 m".
There is a further welcome at the bagage reclaim: a group of Inca-musicians, to comfortise the waiting for our suitcases - which doesn't take all that long, as for the moment, our plane is the only one to have arrived recently. So half an hour after touchdown, we are in the bus, all our luggage returned to us, packed in the cargohold of the bus and on the road again.
The first thing we notice here, is the completely different landscape and a completely different weather. The landscape, although almost four kilometers above sealevel, is as flat as a pancake, nearly all the way to the horizon, where the Andes mountains sharply raise skywards: we are on the altiplano. The weather is sunny but chill, almost cold - the chillness is treachorous: because of the height, the radiation of the sun is so much more intense, that you get sunburned before you know it, without feeling the heat of the sun.
Our first stop on the altiplano, or just on the edge of the Andes, to be more precisely, is in Sillustani, a graveyard of the Aymara people, a pre-Inca civilization. Although most of the tombs are in ruins, the site still makes quite an impression. If you didn't know any better, you wouldn't recognise the tombs as such, even if they had been still in tact. They are like windowless towers (were, I should say), with a very small door at the bottom. Each of these doors is facing east, so the sun passes through at the sunrise of the 21nd of June (midsummer).
From the parkingplace to the tomes, we have climb a hill. We climb that hill at a snale's pace, again to avoid altitude sickness.
That not the only animal life we meet on the hill: on the way down, there's also a young boy with a baby vicuña - and of course, there again all cameras are drawn to take as many pictures as possible of that supercute animal.
At our return from the top of the hill to the visitor centre, I have a little run in with a local boy who tends to the toilets. The price for using the toilets is one sol, but I only have a coin of five. Suddenly he has some kind of attack of acute amnesia, for he insists that I gave him one sol. A few minutes of dicussion follow, but the threat of intervention from more of our group presuade him to give me te correct change for the use of the not-so-clean-after-all smallest room (so if you ever come there, beware of the money changing trick - one sol is a very small amount of money, but still it's quite enough for this kind of service not to be cheated out of more).
After that, I still have a little time left to wander along the stalls with hand made souvenirs, all the locals behind them begging me to look at their merchandise, trying desperately to convince me that theirs is the one that I should buy - apart from two, none of them succeed (one sells very nice chains with worked stones, the other one bottles of drink, one more thing very much required at this height).
It takes us just six minutes by bus to reach our second destination: a typical local farm. We are greeted by a llama, two alpacas, a dog, four little children and the lady of the house. Our tour guide and our local guide together give us a tour around the farm, which consists of four buildings: the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen and the lavatory (yes, each room a seperate building). You can't get from one room to another without going outside. Looking at the size of the rooms, it's almost unimaginable for us westeners that a whole family of six (at least that's the count I got to) can live in such a small place.
In the yard, we are presented a local dish: boiled potatoes and cheese. Peru could well potato-country number one: they grow no less than 4000 varieties in Peru, of which more than 1000 grow on the altiplano.
There's also some kind sauce we are invited to try on our potato. Then we must guess what sauce we have eaten. It looks like a bit of very dark mustard, more olivegreen than yellow, but has a very similar texture. It tastes very different though: it's mostly tasteless, but the little taste you do get from it, is a little sandy... not surprsingly, considering the answer we get a little later: it's clay! Clay mixed with water... The saying goes that we Dutch created our own country... Peruvians are litterally eating theirs!
And of course, our visit finishes with the lady of the house, together with her sister and eldest daugther, showing us their handcrafted object, which, of course, are for sale.
From there on, we go non stop to our hotel. We arrive there shortly before noon, so we can have a quiet afternoon to get acclimatised to the height. I have to wait a little while before I can go to my room: mine's not yet finished (I was the last to book for this trip, so I am always bottom of the list, even when it comes to hotels preparing rooms). But in the end I can go to my room with a view, a view over the Titicaca lake.
I do spend the afternoon very relaxed, phoning home, have lunch, writing postcards and drinking coca-tea. At lunch it becomes clear the the height is making victims in our group: three of us require some time at the oxygen, two more are very sick (too sick to appear at lunch of dinner), but can go without extra oxygen, half of the group feels at least a little sick, and we all feel a bit off-colour.
But it subsides after a while (at the moment it seemed like ages, but it wasn't really all that long), and the dinner buffet helps even further, after which I even have enough energy to play a few card games with two of the group to end this first day in the Andes.
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