After experiencing the heat and humidity in the Amazon it was off to the Sacred Valley of the Incas where the altitude made things a lot cooler and drier. Here in the Andes there is no shortage of Incan ruins and artefacts. The mountain way of life is fascinating and the people are thoroughly charming. The Incas were a well disciplined race and their agricultural expertise was astonishing – today’s farmers could learn a lot from Incan practices.
We caught the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town) from where we spent an amazing time scrambling over Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is not a lost city, the locals have always known its location. Of course we had the iconic Machu Picchu photo taken of us. If you travel to Machu Picchu make sure you use the services of a guide as the history they impart is most intriguing.
Leaving Machu Picchu we spent a few days in Cusco, high in the Andes. Cusco is an amazing town with a population of about 360,000 and we enjoyed experiencing its culture, history, food, markets and people. I managed to taste the local cuisine such as llama and cuy (guinea pig). An interesting piece of trivia is that there are about 5,000 varieties of potatoes in Peru – understandably potato was served with most meals. We also got to try some of the locally brewed chicha (corn beer).
A highlight of my time in Cusco was spending a day in the mountain village of Pumamarca where a group called Peru’s Challenge is making a difference by improving the health and education of the villagers and helping the community achieve self sufficiency. This was an amazing experience – we met some of the people of the community and visited the school – the children were absolutely delightful.
Leaving Cusco, a drive over the altiplano saw us arrive in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world (3,815masl). The altiplano is the plateau where the Andes are at their widest – it is one of the most extensive areas of high plateau on earth. From Puno we crossed the border into Bolivia – that was an experience! Our bus dropped us on the side of the road in the small village of Yunguyo. Our luggage was taken up the road on a tricycle to the border while we “checked out” of Peru, headed up the hill and walked across the border before “checking into” Bolivia. From there we caught another bus into Copacabana, a picturesque market town on the edge of the lake. Here we saw a parade of the Bolivian navy – a good navy is just what every land locked country needs!