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To Puno by Bus, "First Class"   1 | 2 | 3 

28 Dec 2001

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First Class Bussing

PUNO, PERU — In this part of the world, $30 US is a lot of money for a bus ride. Most hotels don't even cost that much for a night. But for the ride from Cusco to Puno, it's quite an investment. The entire trip is only 9 hours — the alternative of taking a train is 11 hours, and the extremely narrow tracks make for a very turbulent ride, as we witnessed on our way to Machu Picchu. Like the train, you get free tea and coffee, lunch, and a bus that doesn't have to wait to be full in order to depart. But unlike the train, you get a bilingual guide, and actually stop and get out at a few interesting places along the way. These are lesser-known sites, and rarely visited too, so it's a great way to ditch the crowds along the Inca Trail or in Sacred Valley. (You also get a toasty blanket, which is really nice when you start getting up to 4000 meters above sea level.)

One downside, which I discovered as the bus set out from the Cusco terminal, was that the already expensive ticket price did not include the entrance fees for the places we'd be visiting. This would have irked me considerably, were it not for the fact that they all added up to a mere 13 soles per person (about $4), and Peru is — reputedly — good at ensuring all that money goes toward preservation and restoration of the sites. Besides, even if just one or two of the places are interesting by themselves, it's a worthwhile contribution.

It wasn't long before we were out of town, and driving by the first notable site, the gate to Pikillaqta, a tollway between Puno and Cusco. Since we had purchased a tourist ticket for our Cusco city tour we actually could've seen this one for free...which is probably why we didn't stop and get out.

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Our first actual stop was about an hour outside Cusco at Andahuaylillas, a church built in 1572 with ornate altars and sculptures, and, most curiously, murals that included psalm verses translated on the walls into multiple languages: Spanish, Latin, Quechua, and another indigenous language, now extinct. Seeing anything ever written in Quechua was pretty rare, given the Spanish desire to keep things simple and just wipe out their culture. Our guide shared many other interesting facts with us, but the carpeted ceilings distracted me too much to hear anything. (Besides, we were both kind of churched-out at this point on our trip.)

As is customary in Peru, we weren't allowed to take any photographs — with or without flash. They do this so we'll basically be forced to buy their own cheesy, mass-produced postcards, but I refuse to give into this rude habit. It might be one thing if the money from the postcards were going to restorations or renovations of the place in question, but I'm sure it doesn't...and there isn't even any work being done here, either. In fact, there aren't even any guides, placards, or services here. Makes you wonder what the three soles even goes to, other than the guard whose sole job seems to be to tell us not to take photos and to then later sell us a postcard.

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Last updated: 15 Jan 2002 11:58:42