22.07.10 – from Cusco to Puno

It’s a 6-hour bus ride from Cusco to Puno on a normal bus, so I decided to pay a bit more for a tourist bus that includes stops at several sights along the way plus lunch.

As the bus tumbled out of Cusco, we passed by remains of the ancient “gate” to Cusco, somewhat like customs and border control in the old days.

The first stop is at Andahuaylillas, where we see a church that is typical of the Andean region, incorporating both Andean beliefs (the sun symbol sits high above the cross), European renaissance and – you have to see this to believe this – an 8-point star that is symbolic of Islam. Apparently the deisgn of the church also reflects the style that is “popular” at that time in Europe (think the period during which the Moors conquered Spain). The name of the church is Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo.

The next stop was an Incan archaeological site called Raqchi, which was the temple of worship for the Incan “gods of the gods”, Wiracocha. Given the importance of this god, the obvious question then was why is the temple built so far away (about 118km) from Cusco, which was the centre of the Incan empire? Apparently, different people of different social status worshipped different gods, and only the elite class “knew” of the existence of this god, and hence the temple’s isolation from the general population.

After lunch, there is a stop at La Raya which is about 4335 meters above sea level, for a view of the snow-covered mountains.

The final stop was at a rather interesting town called Pukara. Interesting firstly for being the cradle of south Peru’s first civilisation, dating back to 1600 b.c., with an archaeological exacation site nearby, although we were only permitted to visit the museum. Another thing it is famous for today is the ceramic twin bulls found on roof tops, for celebrating the completed construction of a house.

The bus also passed by the very industrial Juliaca. Tuk tuks are are common in this part of the world, although I forgot what it is called locally. Interesting too that – if I heard correctly – the guide introduced the principal activity of Juliaca as smuggling.

Finally, the bus rolled down the hills into Puno, which could be easily mistaken for a seaside town (although a somewhat dry and dusty one), sitting squarely by the vast blueness of Titicaca lake, purportedly the world’s highest navigable lake.

Had a typical Peruvian soup dish – Criolla – (which is angel hair pasta in milk broth with an egg) for dinner and called it a day.

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