Sunday, July 26, 2009


When we first reviewed the itinerary, a 9-hour bus ride from Cusco to Puno seemed an incredibly long trip. We considered taking the train as we presumed it would be faster but in fact it would have taken a bit longer. Thus, we rode the bus. It turned out to be an enlightening experience.


Our first stop was in Andahuaylillas, home of The Church of Saint Peter Apostle built by Jesuits in the early XVII century. Because of its unpretentious exterior, I was stunned when I stepped inside. The church is filled with art treasures and ornamental woodwork covered in gold leaf. Due to the magnificence of its interior, the church is also known as the Sistine Chapel of the Andes.

This is a photo of the inside of the church from a postcard that I bought in the church.


The Temple of Wiracocha, in Racchi, was built by Inca Wiracocha, the 8th Inca ruler, in honor of the God Wiracocha from whom he adopted his name.

Even now after its destruction by the Spaniards one can still assess, by what's left, the temple's enormity. The design consisted of a central wall (estimated at 54 ft. in height) and 11 circular columns on each side of the wall. These were toppled by a sloped roof that is believed to have been the largest roof ever built by the Incas. Still present, are the living quarters and storage barns.


We made a stop for lunch at a restaurant (whose name escapes me) located right on the side of the road. It was an attractive restaurant with impeccable restroom facilities of which everyone took advantage. Before leaving, I took this picture of the road we had travelled. At the far end is Racchi, the town we had just left.


La Raya, literally translated means "The Line", probably because it is the dividing line between Cusco and Puno regions. At an altitude of 4,338 meters (14,150 ft. above sea level), it was the highest point of the trip. Here we saw the train going by in the opposite direction en route to Cusco.


This is the town where the famous "Toritos de Pucara" (little bulls that represent prosperity) are manufactured. Our guide told us that for good luck one should place two of them plus a cross on top of the roof of the house. As we rode along, he pointed them to us and we saw them on many roofs. At home I have this one. I will have to get another one to make a pair even though I will probably not put them on the roof.


Juliaca is the largest city in the region. Our guide described it as an important commercial capital but also referred to it as a center of contraband and counterfeiting. From the bus, on the way across the city, we could see multitudes of people doing business at open fairs, markets, shops. Everywhere everyone appeared to be engaged in some commercial activity or busy going from one place to another on foot or "taxicholos".

It was evident that taxicholos are a popular mode of transportation. We saw so many of them to attract our curiosity. Don't quote me, but I think our guide said that there were about 25,000 around the city (...or maybe 15,000?) something like that.

There are two types of these taxis. One is the taxicholo operated by pedals and the other is the mototaxi which is the motorized version. I couldn't take a picture of them from the bus but I took a couple in Puno to show you.

After thousands of years in existence, Juliaca was finally named a city in 1908. Today, however, it looks as if the city is still in the the process of being built. As the bus was reaching the outskirts of the city, we could see outgoing construction everywhere and aside from the main road all secondary roads were unpaved or in need of repair.


No soon we checked into our hotelroom, we headed out to the main plaza and the business district few blocks away. It was already dark and the wind was blowing. And the more we walked we got colder and colder. We were freezing!

I remembered that when we were in Lima packing, I had had in my hand two pairs of gloves to take with us. I don't know what happened between my hand and my luggage but I didn't bring them! At the sight of the first street vendor, we each bought a wool hat and gloves. Emily also bought a medium-size knitted duffle bag which proved to be ad hoc for the situtation that was to come up later.

We didn't have much luck with our choice of restaurant that evening. The service was terrible which I thought strange because there were only a couple of tables occupied. I ordered "anticuchos", a popular Peruvian dish made of pieces of marinated meat, skewered and grilled. lt was by far the worst anticuchos I've ever had. Emily, had ordered pasta and she wasn't too pleased with it either. Meanwhile, the restaurant had been filling up with several tourist groups. I guess that was the answer. They had been so preoccupied getting ready for them that we were more of a bother than anything else.

After this fiasco we returned to the hotel and turned in for the night.

Lake Titicaca follows, first thing in the morning.


  1. Iris: I enjoyed reading your travel experiences in Cuzco and other places. I was in Lima in 1971 and I wanted to go to visit El Cuzco, but unfortunately there was a plane leaving only on Fridays. I did take a tour of Lima and it was a beautiful city. I was lucky I had friends in Lima and they guided me around and made me feel at home. I worked with your sister Connie at the World Bank for many years. Also Elva Gonzalez always spoke to me about her dear friend Iris. It is too bad that I never had a chance to meet you. I have shared this blog with my 18-year niece Kimberly. She belongs to a Christian group in Hershey, PA and they are leaving tomorrow the 23rd of July and will visit Lima and eventually work with the natives (Shipobi Indians) in Pucallpa. She enjoyed reading your travel experiences and she is planning to do the same thing. She said she will write and take lots of photographs. We hope she will share everything with us. She is very excited and looking forward to her first trip to Peru. Sincerely, Terri-Gladys Schaeffer

  2. Iris, your description of everything you saw and experienced on this fantastic trip is so vivid. I can't wait to read the rest! I visited the Sistine Chapel in Rome when I was there, but i never knew until now that there was a "Sistine Chapel" of the Andes as well. Thank you for taking the time to share your adventurous journey for us in your blog. Greetings from Bente.