Across the Andean Plateau
We are on the road at 7am this morning, in preparation for a wonderful drive over the Altiplano from Puno to Cusco. Leaving the shores of Lake Titicaca, we passed by small farmsteads before reaching the busy town of Juliaca and continuing to Pukara. This was our first comfort stop, at a coffee and souvenir shop on the edge of town. As we arrived it seemed the owners and staff were only just getting their act together, and there was a mad panic opening doors and shutters, and turning the lights on. Apart from using toilets, some of our clients fancied a coffee, but the coffee machine was being temperamental so this proved a challenge.
Our next was La Raya, the highest point of our trip at 14100ft (4300m). The views from here to the mountains are incredible and we took quite a few photos and enjoyed the clean fresh air for a few minutes. Then time to continue, with a visit to the Raqchi ruins. This small village, situated on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, was once the site of the Temple of Viracocha, one of the most important shrines in the Inca Empire. As well as being a temple, it was also one of the leading textile schools at the time.
Our final stop o n route to Cusco was a visit to an ornate Catholic Church at Andahuaylillas. From outside the church is a simple stone structure, but indoors the hand painted ceiling, intricate gold leaf, and numerous statues create a breathtaking scene. When the Spanish first came to South America they tried to spread the Catholic religion. They believed they would have most success by making this relatable to the local people and their deities, so many of the statues show people with Peruvian faces, clothing and animals. Due to the intricacy of the frescoes and decoration inside this church it is often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of South America”.
We arrived in Cusco late afternoon and the Furlongs Team had choreographed a special hotel transfer. Due to local regulations (and the narrow city centre roads), big coaches are not allowed in the centre of the city, so as we arrived at the bus depot, four minibuses are lined up ready. We leave our big bus, join our small buses, and we’re soon at our city centre hotel, the deluxe Palacio del Inka. Our main luggage is transferred by luggage van separately, but soon arrived at the hotel and is delivered promptly to bedrooms. All very slick!
To top off a spectacular day, a tasty and well-served dinner is enjoyed in the hotel’s private banquet room.