This is Part 3 of our trip. Part 1 appeared Oct. 9 on the Sacred Valley forum, Part 2 appeared Oct. 12 on the Cusco. As I explained earlier, our budget was $100 per day. I've given costs in dollars when I paid in dollars, in soles when I paid in soles. I hope you find the info helpful when planning your trip.
Part 3: Puno to Arequipa
October 2, 2013
This morning we set our for Puno on the Wonder Peru Expedition. Again Saby’s taxi driver was right on time (13 soles) to take us from our hotel to the bus station. The bus was full. Half the passengers were tourists from Indonesia. This is a 10 hour bus trip but on a very comfortable bus, and very interesting with stops at several ruins and a buffet lunch included. ($51) We were a bit shocked by the appearance of Juliaca, a city of half finished buildings and unpaved streets, piles of construction materials in the streets making them impassible. It looked like a movie set for a film called After Armageden.
Our hotel in Puno was the Hotel Conde de Lemos, conveniently located next to the Cathedral and a block from the pedestrian only street. No one met our bus to take us to the hotel as promised, but again the bus was late and there were plenty of taxis willing to do the job. Taxi cost from bus station to hotel, 5 soles.
October 3, 2013
Today I’m feeling the effects of the altitude, Puno being about 1500 feet higher than Cusco. On top of the cold caught in Agua Calientes it‘s hard to breath. At one point I requested the hotel’s oxygen tank be brought in. My headache immediately went away. There was no charge for the oxygen for the first time used. I was glad we’d chosen a hotel with this service. I also got stomach problems from eating an empanada at a trip advisor recommend restaurant.. The others ate at a recommended restaurant the following day and got sick. Warning: just because a trip advisor reviewer recommends it doesn’t guarantee it forever. This is why I prefer hostals with kitchens where you can cook for yourself.
October 4, 2013
After reading all I could on Puno tours, I chose Edgar Adventures 1 day Titicaca Express Boat Tour for $69 pp. It turned out to be a good choice. We were picked up by taxi at our hotel at 7:00 and taken to the harbor. There were only 9 of us, I don’t know how they made a profit, but the boat was new and clean and really was fast and our guide was excellent. We first stopped on Taquille Island to hike to a weavers home, next to the Llachon Peninsula for a pachamanca lunch (potatoes, fish, chicken, and bananas cooked in the ground by hot rocks) proceeded by a bowl of delicious quinoa soup. The father of the family offered blessings to pachamama before uncovering the mound of burried but now cooked ingredients. This is not their daily dinner, but a meal reserved for special occasions. Our final stop was a visit to one of the Uros floating islands and see how they live. I recommend this tour if you want more than the usual tourist experience.
October 5, 2013
We took a taxi from our hotel to the location of the restored 1860 steamship Yavari (taxi 7 soles), passing the colorful Saturday barter market as we went. I personally would have rather seen the colorful market where costumed ladies bring their produce in from the surrounding villages and islands, but I was outnumbered. The Yavari has an interesting history, having been built in England and packaged in sections just heavy enough for a mule to carry, sailing round Cape Horn, unloaded on the Pacific coast of Peru, then carried up to 12,000 high Lake Titicaca. A lot of mules died. A lot of mulateers too. But it finally got their and did it’s job of transporting cargo for many years. As a steamship it ran on llama dung. Later diesel engines replaced steam. It even had sails if needed. The people who are restoring it want a suggested donation of $10 for their tour, but they don’t tell you until the tour is over so be forewarned..
That evening we went to the restaurant Los Balcones de Peru for dessert and to enjoy the live music and folkloric dance show. Just for tourists, and the prices reflect as much, but being a big folkloric dance enthusiast I was glad to get anyone to go with me. Again, bring your earplugs.
October 6, 2013
The M4 Company tourist bus arrived at our hotel almost on time, made a few stops to pick up others, and by 7:00 we were back on the road the way we had come 4 days earlier as far as Juliaca, then headed mostly to the town of Chivay at the start of the Colca Canyon. Ours was a combined bus of tourists going to the Canyon and those going straight to Arequipa. The bus was comfortable, and our guide and hostess promptly passed out blankets for our legs, and we settled in for our Altiplano adventure. If you book 4M yourself the cost is
$45 Puno to Chivay, $25 Chivay to Arequipa or Puno to Arequipa direct for $30. We booked the package offered by Killawasi Lodge in Yanque (Colca Canyon) for
$155 per person including hotel, breakfast, transfers, trip to Condor Crossing, guided tour. I felt the package was well worth it to save all the hassles and uncertainty of doing it all yourself.
After about an hour we came to a large lake with waterfowl, Lagunillas, but you would need a private car to get to stop at the shore to see the birds. Our stop was high above the lake where the tourist ladies were displaying their wares along with an alpaca pair with baby. It‘s photo time again. And bano time--a bucket flush for 1 sol.
Hot coca tea and 2 other varieties of mint tea were waiting for us at a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere, along with a free bottle of water (believe me, a rarity) albeit a small one, and a free sandwich. Cheers for the M4 Company for the thoughtful extras. Here the Arequipa travelers got off to take a different bus while we proceeded onward toward Chivay.
Now we began to see more herds of llamas and alpacas, and at last, a close up view of a vicuna herd. A lone male stood guard over the herd, but didn’t have much control as the herd proceeded to cross the highway leaving him alone on the other side. This highway gets a lot of truck traffic and I was concerned that we had upset them and put them in danger.
Another stop at the highest point of the journey, 4000 meters, more tourist ladies, and hundreds of little rock cairns left by travelers to ask for protection on the continued journey or just to say I was there. Very scenic, lots of snow capped volcanoes, but noticeably hard to breathe.
Another stop to hand over 70 soles each for a 10-day pass to visit the Colca Canyon Reserved Area. Then we arrive in Chivay, and happily find a driver waiting to take us to our destination, Killawasi Lodge in the town of Yanque. The lodge offers a restaurant, and good thing too as we found none open in Yanque. In fact there was not much open in Yanque that Sunday afternoon except a few tiny grocery stores and a shop where two ladies were creating and selling their handicrafts. How can you resist the genuine article, so we thought of a few more friends who would probably accept one of our souvenirs. A nice moment when the little daughter presented me with a gift herself, a knit llama finger puppet.
October 7, 2013
The Killawasi Lodge was new and pretty, every room had a balcony or patio where you could enjoy the flower filled yard. It included a nice breakfast with eggs, and the restaurant on site offered lunch and dinner. If you wanted to keep meal costs down you could eat at the one restaurant in town on the plaza. The package included a 3 hour guided hike to an impressive ruin site and ending up at the hot springs on the river below the town. Those who went on the hike found the guide to be very informative.
October 8, 2013
Wishing we could have stayed longer at the peaceful Killawasi Lodge, we nevertheless got up early, ate a hasty breakfast, then off to the Condor Crossing viewpoint. The road was bumpy and under repair from recent landslides. The little villages we passed along the way were looking needy. More souvenirs to buy, or how about a picture of you with a falcon sitting on top of your head. We made it to the Condor Crossing at exactly 8:30 along with approximately 50 other buses and minibuses of tourists, to await the performance of the mighty birds. After about a half hour a sigh from the crowd indicated the first bird had been sighted, far below the viewpoint level. Another hour of waiting and no more birds. Busses began to leave. We were just ready to pull out ourselves when alas, one of the mighty appeared from out of the canyon and soared overhead for a few minutes. At last the 70 soles we paid for admission to the canyon was justified. Or was it? It’s almost mating season now (October) and they say there will be even fewer birds. So if seeing condors is your only reason for going to the Colca Canyon, think again.
After a lunch buffet in Chivay (not included in the tour) we finished the trip to Arequipa in a 21 passenger minibus. Saw lots of herds of llamas, alpacas and vicunas, and the scenery beautiful in a desolate way. Finally the gigantic cement factory tower was visible in the distance and we arrived in Arequipa around 5:00 pm. My only complaint was that our tour guide played rap music and 90’s American pop from Chivay on. Hey, how about a rousing pan flute rendition of El Condor Pasa. Doesn’t he know this is Peru?
October 9, 2013
We were very happy in our chosen hostal which again included a communal kitchen, La Casa de Ana, for only $35/night for 2 persons. Ana was especially helpful in calling taxis and giving recommendations. It’s a 15 minute walk across the river to the pretty Plaza and all the action, or 5 soles taxi ride, but we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. You can enjoy a view of Mt. Misti from the mirador.
The next day we took the free walking tour which leaves daily at noon from Plaza San Francisco Stopped at several restaurants for free samples and free coupons if we returned. .Well, it’s almost time to return to Lima where we started a month ago. It’s been a great trip. As Saby wrote in one of her emails: “Come to Peru will be fun.” And so it was!