Freezing in Puno

The altiplano
The altiplano

Saturday was a travelling day. I caught the Cruz del Sur bus at 8am (in theory, but we were on Peruvian time) from Arequipa, bound for Puno. This was a 6 1/2 hour trip, firstly heading back towards Chivay, and then over the mountain ranges and onto the altiplano that is the terrain of Southern Peru and Bolivia. There was a large group of Americans and Australians aboard, some of whom needed to recover from the night before. Once they had all gone to sleep, the journey was relatively quiet.

The weather had turned very grey and the landscape looked a bit bleak by the time we reached the altiplano. We had couple of stops, one of which was in Juliaca, which appeared to be an exceedingly poor town. I found out later that is the centre for contraband traffic from Bolivia. Goods are transported by boat across the lake where there are no border guards. It is also a bit rough and unsafe for tourists. As the aforementioned Americans and Australians got off there, I can’t imagine what their destination was.

It was exceedingly cold in Puno when we arrived and, once in my hotel, I donned some warmer clothes and then went for a walk. However, I was much too cold and, after visiting the supermarket, I returned to my room, which was like a fridge. I spent the evening tucked up under the covers fully clothed!

A plaza in Puno
A plaza in Puno
Parade in Plaza de Armas
Parade in Plaza de Armas
A street in Puno
A street in Puno

On Sunday, I pottered in my room for a while, trying to get warm, and then ventured out wearing multiple layers. The sun was shining and I eventually warmed up as long as I stayed out of the shadow.

I strolled towards Plaza de Armas where I discovered a parade in progress. This was absolutely massive and included not only the Armed Services but just about every other organisation in town. I watched for over an hour, as more and more groups paraded past the officials, who were standing on the Cathedral steps.

As it happened, my observation point was right where they were lining up to march past. I therefore had an excellent view of parents trying to position their very small children ready for the march. It was quite hilarious! There were midget cheer leaders, soldiers, nurses, firemen and goodness knows what else. Apparently, this parade happens every Sunday, which I found quite unbelievable. Half the town must have been in it and the other half watching it.

A lake at Sullisani
A lake at Sullisani

Afterwards, I went to a cafe for lunch (very tasty and tender grilled alpaca), and then returned to the hotel to await my pickup for the tour to Sillustani. As usual, the bus did the rounds of the hotels and then we also had to wait for the guide, before we could set off. It was about 30 minutes drive to the small village.

Sillustani is an ancient burial site used not only by the Incas but also 3 different civilisations prior to them. There are therefore 4 different types of burial chamber in evidence. Those of the Incas are the most intact. These comprise (or at least did) towers in which the dead were buried in a foetal position. It is not known how many people would have been buried in one tower or who they were.

Old Inca burial tower
Old Inca burial tower

Some mummies have been recovered as well as some gold and silver, but much had already been stolen by the time the site was discovered. Today, it is difficult to see what it would have been like without a guide’s explanation and there is much information still lacking regarding the tombs.

Remains of tombs at Sillustani
Remains of tombs at Sillustani

Our guide, once he had explained the important points, left us to our own devices. I was somewhat unimpressed by him overall as, apart from being late, he only took us around part of the site whilst I noticed other guides covering a bigger area.

I had a wander around and then headed back to the bus. Inevitably, there were stalls with lots of local goods for sale. I ended up buying an alpaca jersey, which was remarkably cheap, without trying it on. Once back in my room, though, I discovered it to be a perfect fit and much warmer than the polar fleeces I had in my backpack. Who cares if I scream ‘tourist’ whenever I wear it out?! At least I will be warmer.

On the way back to Puno, we stopped at a farmer’s house, where everyone (except me) dutifully took lovely posed pictures with llamas and alpacas. We also had a look at the guinea pigs destined for dinner (all families have them) as well as at the outdoor area of the farmhouse. It was all very basic and must have been extremely cold at night. No wonder the ladies wear so many layers of clothing.

My room was no warmer than last night but when I went downstairs to get a cup of tea, the owner had put a big (what appeared to me) patio heater in the dining room so I could at least get warm whilst drinking my tea. Then it was back to my room and under the blankets again! I do so hate being cold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s