We were both rested and looking forward to the luxury train that takes 10 hours to get to Puno from Cuzco. The Andes Explorer was expensive – really really expensive at US$220 per person. Hubs and I justified it by saying 10 hours on a luxury train would be one hundred times better than nine hours on a bus.
The train was nice – we sat in old fashioned arm chairs, our little table had a table cloth and a lamp on it, the bathrooms were lined with polished wood, and there was a nice carriage out the back that had a bar and was open. We thought breakfast was included, so I only ate a very small breakfast at the hotel. It wasn’t until we were on board that we were told that breakfast was not included and lunch would be served at 1pm. In fact, lunch wasn’t served until 2pm and by that stage I was ready to eat my arm off!! And Hubs’ arm was looking pretty good too. So starving!
The crew tried to entertain us with Peruvian folk band, an alpaca fashion parade, some really average below par folk dancing, and one free pisco sour cocktail served at 9.45am. Hubs and I were onto them – they gave everyone a taste of alcohol in the hope they would make more money by getting people to drink early. It worked for some, not for us.
We met some nice older Australians on board – a couple from the Blue Mountains, about the same age as mum and dad. A really lively lady from Melbourne, Maureen, who works for Penguin publishing in the children’s department. Besides marketing and new business, she plays with toys all day and each year takes her best sales people on a holiday – this year they went to Machu Picchu! What a job!
The scenery was quite nice – rolling hills, farmland, and little grotty towns – all with their preference for a political party painted on the outside of their homes like graffiti. We did pass through this one spin out of a town not too far from Puno called Juliaca. There were third-world style markets for hundreds and hundreds of metres lining the railway tracks – firstly only selling all manner of car spare parts – so many stalls with huge piles of metal bits and pieces. Then they changed to other random things – like stationary, clothes, pots and pans, shoes, kitchen ware, household cleaners, chickens dead and alive, and skinned dead animals drying in the sun. We weren’t sure what they were – some guess they were guinea pigs, other guessed they were a rodent that they eat there… GROSS. It was gross. This went on for ages – all passengers were glued to the windows of the train staring in astonishment, including myself. That made one thing clear, Hubs and I were not going to visit Juliaca while we were in Puno. It was a crap hole!
The train journey left a bad taste in our mouths – when our tickets were sold to us were told unlimited soft drinks on board – this was not the case. Hubs double checked her coke was included with lunch when she ordered a coke, and was old yes. At the end of the journey they tried to charge her for it. The cheek! She challenged them and asked to see the manager – a challenge that was never accepted and they let it slide – and rightly bloody so. We had paid a small fortune to be on that train and the service and lack of inclusions was outrageous.
Our hotel in Puno was nice enough. Hubs and I indulged and got our own room each for two nights. How nice!! I’m not sure who was more excited, her or I! Puno was pumping on a Wednesday night – people out everywhere in the streets. We found a restaurant on the main pedestrian street, a street Hubs named Gringo Street, and I tried alpaca – it was nice, a lot like lamb.
We woke up in Puno and booked our bus to take us into Bolivia – to Copacobana (3 hours) and headed to the port in Puno to take a boat to the floating islands.
The floating islands are amazing – the indigenous people cut chunks of reeds that are growing in Lake Titikaka and using stakes wedged into each chunk of dirt, they tie them together. They then cut reeds and lay them in a criss-cross over the floating chunks of dirt for make a kind of flooring. The reeds breakdown into compost over time, so they must keep topping up the floating island with freshly cut reeds. They make little huts from reeds, and every so often, they pick the huts up and put them in a fresh place because the ground underneath becomes compost. These islands are tiny – maybe 25m x 10m and will have three families living on there. They drink water from Lake Titikaka and cook using fire on a slate slab with a pot over the top. There is no electricity, running water, sewerage, or anything. Some have a solar panel for some power, but that is it.
They make boats from weaved reeds and a normal canoe style boat will take two months to make and the boat will last 18 months before the reeds disintegrate. We didn’t need much time there – an hour was almost too much – but long enough to enable me to have a ride on a reed canoe boat.
Hubs and I found an awesome cheap as chips place for lunch that was full of locals and gave only one choice on what to eat. Soup and then a meat dish, or soup and then a chicken dish. The soup was so unbelievably tasty –a thick vegetable soup that was hearty. I would have been happy with just that. The chicken was cooked in a sauce that had a slight satay flavour about it, served with rice and salad. The chicken was not as good as the soup. We went to pay and the bill was 6 soles – I thought it was 6 soles each, but it was 6 soles in total – for both of us. That is about $2.20 for both of us!! We had a two course lunch for just over a dollar each!! Everything else I came across that day seemed so expensive after that!!
After a siesta in our own rooms, ah bliss, we headed out for a wander. We found this rock-music bar that seemed ok – it had games and I beat Hubs in dominoes. We did a bit of shopping and of course I had to buy something – a nice wrap thing made of 100% baby alpaca. Then we went to the restaurant next to our legendary cheap lunch place and had roast chicken and salad for dinner, and that was expensive at 8 soles each, or about A$3 each!
The local university was having their equivalent of “O” week and all the students were doing Peruvian style line dancing in the street to the music of brass bands. It was hilarious to watch the guys and girls dance in unison with bells on their boots. I joined the back of them starting following the dancing – Hubs thought that was hilarious!
Early night in our own rooms before getting up to head into a new country, Bolivia, tomorrow!