Driving from Puno to Cusco, Peru

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This is a very common site at almost ever hotel I stayed in. There’s a pot with hot water, instant coffee, various bags of tea and a bowl of leaves. Cocoa leaves, actually. And everyone drinks cocoa tea, chews the leaves–grandmothers, children….but especially tourists who are feeling the effects of seroche–altitude sickness. It’s only mildly stimulating and seems to have a lot of minerals and micro-nutrients. It’s not cocaine. It’s just cocoa.
This woman turned out to be from Atlanta! We knew many of the same areas of the city. I enjoyed talking and lunching with her and her husband. She said something very interesting about finding balance in relationships. Imagine that there are 10 people in your life that you’re close to–family, friends. At any one time, four of them won’t be happy with something you’ve done. Four is normal. You can’t please them all. Try not to piss off more than 6 at a time, though.

This will just be photographs. I spent a lot of time on buses during this “Grand Tour” of Peru, but it’s a great way to see the countryside. The drive between the cities of Puno and Cusco is roundly 390km (240 miles), but the road is good and the bus was comfortable. We even had hot drinks and a bathroom on board. Unfortunately, there were no cold drinks, as I found out when I asked for a soda. Room temperature is considered “cold” in these parts. No ice.

And here we have one of many statues of someone holding a head.
Some of the many pre-Inca civilizations in the area.
Pueblo of Pucará Or Pukara, depending upon who you talk to. There is a museum and archaeological ruins at Pukara. Pukara is famous for the sale of toritos or bulls made of ceramic which adorn the roof of homes in Peru. The word for bull is toro, but these are small, so they are called toritos–little bulls. Most homes have tile roofs with two bulls and a small cross between them on the top of center of the roof. It’s to bring good luck.
This is the center of town, and by far the largest building.
Leaving town, it was flat with mountains in the distance. This is the altiplano.

There are some small gardens, but it’s mostly a grazing area for cattle, sheep, lamas and alpacas.

The towns are very small, just a few buildings along the highway. I rarely saw a person.
The small towns don’t have a lot to offer.

It was a relief to finally go over a river. Water is scare here.

This is very similar to the road side altars in the USA. Usually the spot marks where someone has died.
Traditionally dressed women. Often their hats seem too small. I don’t know how they stay on. And everyone carries things–even children–just like this, wrapped in a colorful blanket.
It’s dry and there are few people, but I’m impressed that the entire area has a sidewalk. I couldn’t get a sidewalk in my Atlanta neighborhood!

At what is presumably the highest point along this road and conveniently about half-way, the bus pulls over, as you leave Puno region and enter Cusco region. A roadside sign indicated we were at 4335 metres above sea-level! The only visible purpose of this stop, however, seemed to be the rows of stalls of souvenirs being sold. Why this spot, aside from an arbitrary point where the two regions meet, I do not know.
According to the website DangerousRoads:
“Abra la Raya is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.350m above the sea level located in Peru. The pass marks the divide between the Puno and Cusco regions.
The road to the summit, also known as Apu Chimboya, is called Carretera 3S. It’s asphalted. With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. The climb is simply terrible, with a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. Most people feel altitude sickness at around 2,500-2,800 meters.” Whoa! Glad I didn’t know all that at the time!

This is possibly the highest point in Peru–the boarder of Cusco and Puno “states” (called divisions, here).
This woman sold me a sweater. I’ve been using a ratty old one for quite some time, but now have a new red, patterned sweater of baby alpaca.
Almost as soon as we enter the division of Cusco, it got greener. We started descending too, so breathing was easier.
It’s spring planting time here. And some of these fields were cultivated by tractors. Up to this point, the fields were small and worked almost entirely by hand.
Look how clean those fields are. they probably are already planted in potatoes. There are over 3,000 varieties of potato–most for Peru and surrounding Andean countries.

There were many more people, too. And nicer houses…..
…though they weren’t all occupied.
This is a school and it’s very large compared to the ones we’ve passed the last few days.

But there’s always the mountains……
….and always churches.
Side roads are dirt, even in town, but the highway the bus was traveling on was quite good.

Virtually every small town had “signs” like these in the side of the mountain. A guide told me that they are usually businesses, churches or schools.

This shepherd is bringing his flock of sheep up the side of the mountain on a narrow footpath.
Another Seventh Day Adventist church. Hummmmm.

I saw at least three fires this day–probably cleaning land. One was very out of control. In an area with little water, a fire that gets out of control is a huge issue.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

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