Puno is gateway to the Peruvian side of lake titikaka. There is not a huge amount in the town itself, it’s more of a connection point. From there I signed up for a 2 day tour of the islands on the lake. I heard previously that it’s very touristy and a little contrived, which turns people off. It was very touristy, but that didn’t get in the way of me being able to appreciate the beauty and culture of these islands. We started off with a visit to the Uros people on the floating islands. These are artificial islands made from reed. Everything is made from reed there; the island itself, the houses, the boats, seats etc. They traditionally live off fish, and exchange it for other products in puño. Now, they make artisanal products and “perform” for tourist visits. The next island we visited was Amantani, I’ve heard from a lady I met in Cusco that it’s georgeous, and it really was. We stayed over ta this lsland with local families, and had a “mama” assigned to us to take care of us while we stayed with them. In the afternoon we did a lovely little hike to panchamama and pachatata temples built by pre Inca people at highest points on the island, where we got to watch the sunset… the next morning, we set off for taquilla island, where we hiked the length of the island, had lunch, and got a talk about the local dress; specifically the hat and the importance of the colours( white and red- single, red pattern-married) as well the side of the bobble on the hat. We were also shown the belt made of human hair ( a present from bride to be to future husband) and woven bag (equivalent of wedding ring). My favourite was a plant that grows on the island, that when mushed up, acts as soap, and it really works! I’m surprised it has not been commercialised yet.
I really liked Cusco. The centre, was really pretty and quaint. The architecture in Cusco was similar to the one in Arequipa, very colonial, but the stone used was pink. The main difference was how Cusco was how it was built on top of an existing Inca city. There are even some buildings that used the foundation of an existing building, featuring the famous giant multi angled stones that fit together like a jigsaw, and just built on top of it in a different architectural style. The city is also surrounded by many ruins. I did not visit them all, instead I tried to recuperate and recharge in Cusco (with a new set of medication following another visit to a doctor) before my 5 day Salkantay trek to matchu pitchu. In Cusco, I’ve visited the Inca museum, temple of the sun, cathedral and my favourite; the observatorium! It was really interesting to learn about the Incas and their relationship with the stars. My favourite fact was how they used the brightness of a particular constellation to predict El Niño in future, so they can prepare for it! A recent study has actually proven how it works. Unfortunately, the Incas didn’t have a written language, so we have limited knowledge about them. The most impressive thing about them is their architecture in Cusco and of course Matchu Pitchu! In matchu pitchu, there are 5 different architectural styles, suggesting different architects working there at different times. The site is really big and very well restored, it has several temples, living quarters, farming levels(supposedly with rich soil brought in from the amazon), a university, a factory and more!
I’ve been debating whether or not to come to Arequipa and coloca canyon, because it was out of the way, but decided to go in the end. Arequipa is a very quaint little town, the main square is very pretty, and with the exception of the bus station, you could walk everywhere. Arequipa is called the white city, because all the buildings are painted white. Towering the city is the volcano Misti, and there are several others nearby. On one of the peaks near Arequipa archaeologists have found many inca artefacts and extremely well preserved mummies. The most famous one was Huannita; she was a young girl, who probably walked from Cusco with a procession of many important people and shamans, to be sacrificed on top of that mountain. Her body as well as the fine textiles and artefacts have been well preserved because of the extreme cold, she was basically frozen! I was able to see her and the artefacts in a museum in Arequipa. Another interesting place to visit here was a convent where the nuns have no contact with the outside world. The “city within a city” was opened a while back after 400 years of complete enclosure.
From Arequipa, I went on to do a two day hike of the coloca canyon. On the first day we got to see condors flying, and were lucky to see them really close up. We hiked down into the canyon and stayed at an oasis, and the second day we hiked back up and then got to see lamas and alpacas as well as trying a local drink made from cactus fruit. It was a much hotter hike than the ones I’ve done in Huaraz, I think I prefer hiking in cooler conditions but it was beautiful nonetheless …
I only stayed in Lima for a couple of days, but I did enjoy it! I heard from their travellers that it’s not worth staying, that there is nothing there. Personally I enjoyed the return to modern world after staying in many small villages and towns, it felt like a distant dream, so it was nice. Also, I think it depends what you like, I enjoyed exploring an art gallery I stumbled across, it’s more of a city break place, modern culture rather than ancient incas type of place, but I liked it. I needed a break after all the hiking, so a very modern city with luxuries and good coffee was a nice place to do that!
Is the town I’ve stayed in to explore collidera blanca. Having developed a serious love for hiking in South America, I was really excited to explore Huaraz and its many possible hikes. I did a couple of day hikes to lagunas, including the famous Laguna 69, and then I’ve done the four day Santa Cruz hike. It was so beautiful. The snow capped peaks, the beautiful, wide valleys, the turquoise lagunas, the starry skies, the falling star, and even a Rainbow! It’s probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.The peaks are snow capped because it’s all pretty high and therefore cold (but sometimes very hot and sunny as well). I found the Santa Cruz hike (second day going up to the pass) quite hard, maybe because I rushed in a little and I’m still ill, it was so so beautiful. I enjoy doing multi day hikes because you get to meet and really get to know a group of people, and it was lovely here. I am so glad I did everything I wanted to do here, it was worth it. Perhaps I can come back some day to do whitewash or another long hike.