14 Dec 2015

It's a Long Way to Titicaca

I have been saving this title!But I came up with it before I realised just how far it was! Not so much in miles but in time! The distance from Huanuco (where the good road starts) to Puno on Lake Titicaca is 1,240 miles, so in terms of the mileage done to date is a drop in the ocean. And unlike the road from Chavin to Huanuco before it (187 of the worst pot holed miles I have driven) this was all tarmac, but constantly up to over 4000m, down to under 2000m and then back up again, and of course on very windy and often single track roads, taking 9 very tiring days (excluding rest days). We took time out at Ayacucho, which had very bad reports, but we loved it and ended up staying 2 nights. Both nights we ate on a balcony overlooking the Plaza de Armas (main town square), with good food and an excellent view.

After Ayacucho we pushed on again, up and down, round and round, often climbing an descending over 7,000 metres per day, until finally we stopped at a small site on IOverlander called Casa Lena, supposedly for one night but stayed for 3 Casa Lena is in fact a school for deprived and special needs children from the local area, the camp site (and B & B) is to help support the school. Run by a young Belgian lady with amazing energy, her Peruvian husband and 2 small children. Stephanie (I won't go into why it is called Casa Lena) was a special needs teacher in Belgium, came to Peru to do some voluntary work, met her husband and here they are 5 years later, having built the house and the school from scratch. She now takes volunteers from Belgium training to be special needs teachers so helps both them and the local children. The views from the site are spectacular and there is a walk from the town (Curahuasi) up to a 3,200m peak with look-out points to an amazing Canyon below (arguably one of the deepest in the world). In fact it was very hard to only spend 3 nights there. From there we drove to Olantaytambo, taking a short cut over a dirt road round the most amazing lake, with snow capped peaks in the distance.

Olantaytambo for me has to be one of the main highlights of the trip. Part of the inspiration for this whole trip was our visit to Peru for Chris’s 50th birthday. This was an organised trip where everything was scheduled and whilst very good you can’t vary from the plan or stay somewhere a bit longer. Olantaytambo was definitely one of those places I wanted to stay longer and happened to be the place where this trip intercepted the one we did 11 years ago and I finally got to walk up to the Inca Granary way up on the cliff face I remembered from our first visit. The town itself is quite amazing as it has been inhabited continuously for 700 years, since Inca times and the bases of all of the houses, including the majority of doorways and windows, are original Inca stone work.

Chris was not feeling too good on our first day at Olantaytambo and elected to stay back at camp and rest, whilst I hiked up to the Granary, walked every corner of the village and then round the main archaeological site. After which I spent most of the night trying to work out how to get my head and my backside over the toilet at the same time, so next day I was laid up for the whole day!

Next was another Inca site called Pisac, with fortifications on various parts of the mountain guarding 3 different valleys. Chris decided against doing the whole circuit and I wished I hadn’t about ¾ round! After which we drove to Cusco. Cusco is a major city, again with lots of Inca walls and buildings based on Inca foundations, but for me not as good as Olantaytambo, in fact the most impressive place in Cusco was the Irish pub ‘Paddy’s Bar’, we initially went there for the full Irish breakfast, but ended up spending most of our time there as it started raining about midday and just got heavier and heavier and although the Guinness brewery will no longer deliver draft Guinness they have a local stout which is almost as good.

From Cusco we followed the train tracks over the Andes to Puno on Lake Titicaca, remembering the train that we had taken 11 years ago. On the itinerary this just looked like another mode of transport but in fact turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip and unlike many of the other roads we have driven this is a very gradual rise up to 4,350m at the top and gradually back down to Puno at 3,800m, covering a distance of over 200 miles.

We are now at the far end of Lake Titicaca at Copacabana, having crossed into Bolivia this morning, achieving another goal from 11 years ago, where from Puno we could see Bolivia and now we are here!
A Lake high in the mountains

Pisco Sours on the Terrace in Ayacucho

The Plaza de Armas in Ayacucho
The town in centre picture is over a mile below.
Our camp spot at Casa Lena
Ther view from our camp spot
A tough walk up in altitude but an amazing view of arguably the deepest canyon in the world
Stephanyie and the latest addition to the familly

Amazing skies

We take a short cut on a dirt road
Round another beautiful lake
Then back onto a good road to Olantaytambo
The original Inca Foundations

and doorways

A couple of locals on their way to sell thier wares to the tourists

The photo I took 11 years ago

And after 11 years I am almost at the Inc Granary

Taken from the Granary with a view of the ruins in the background

Pisac, another Inca Site

Unfortunatley they no longer have Guiness
But they did do a good Irish Breakfast
I'll save this for later
Cusco, the rain has just eased off a bit

Another Inca site
Following the reilway over the Andes
After a few days of rain we had blue skies for the drive over.
I could not decide which pictures to take out
So left them all in

After Puno we take a dirt road detour round a peninsular on the way to Bolivia
and find a really clear bay
Then continue round the peninsular, no tourists (other) here.

Then back on the road to Bolivia
Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian end
Copacabana, Bolivia

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