The Sillustani Tombs

Lunch was somewhat hurried affair that day in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  We had only about an hour between tours.  We had gone to one of the restaurants our tour manager had suggested, the one that we had not selected the night before for dinner.  We were recognized as we approached the place – and welcomed!  Unfortunately, there was a delay in the food getting to the table, and I had to leave half of my quinoa soup behind.   Since Pavel, or tour manager, was also at the restaurant, I was a little less concerned about Broz, our local tour guide, leaving without us.  Anyway, we got back to the hotel in time – but barely.

Sillustani is about 45 minutes away from Puno by road.  You travel on the highway to Juliaca for a while, and then take a turnoff towards Sillustani.  The ride on this second road is short.  The road also ends in Sillustani.  We were dropped off at the parking lot for buses, a fair distance away from the ruins we were visiting.  We had to make our way further on foot.  You could see our destination, the hill with the funerary towers of Sillustani, in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked past a little hamlet.  There was a setup for an open market  on both sides of the street.  Not many of the locals were out selling their stuff at that time. I noticed a few signs for paid restrooms.  Another business opportunity for the locals!

You could see the remains of a hailstorm from the day before beside the road we were walking along.  The funny thing was that we had also been caught in a hailstorm in Chinchero, on our way to the Sacred Valley, a few days earlier. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hill on which the tombs of Sillustani stand lies on a peninsula that juts out into a lake called Lake Umayo.  The lake is much smaller than Titicaca, and it is not that well known.  We climbed past the edge of the lake as we entered into the area of the park.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou could see signs of human activity along the shore of the lake.  We were told that there were reeds that were harvested from this lake, but that these reeds were not used in the same way as the totora of Lake Titicaca.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The picture below was taken after climbing halfway up the hill.  You can see two kinds of funerary towers in the picture.  Both of these kinds of towers are from pre-Inca times.  The one towards the bottom of the picture below is older, from a period of time called the Tiwanaku epoch. The tower at the top was built by the Aymara, an indigenous people who came later. The Aymara were later overtaken by the Inca during their period of ascendancy.  The funerary towers belonging to the Aymara are called chullpasOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Aymara respected the ways of their predecessors, and this is reflected in their adaptation of the use of vertical towers for tombs.  Their designs seem to be even more sophisticated than that of the Incas.  Unlike the Incas, they cut their rocks to specific sizes to fit in regular patterns.  The outside surfaces of the rock were also flattened perfectly, unlike some of the rock used in Inca constructions.  The difference between the two architectures in the picture above is striking.  We saw tombs of both kinds in Sillustani, mostly in a state of disrepair.

We climbed further up the hill to get a closer view of the first of the chullpas.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis particular chullpa was completely broken on one side.  You can see the smaller chamber within the structure at the bottom.  This is the chamber within which people were buried.  Many people (often from a family) could be buried together in a tower. The bodies were placed in a fetal position.  I got the impression that they were placed sitting up. People were buried with some of their belongings. As an aside, the Inca practiced mummification.  They used to bring out the mummies of their ancestors for big occasions, and also “consult” with them for big decisions. I do not know if the Aymara practiced anything similar.

The chambers were apparently quite short.  A height of five feet was mentioned.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are two other chullpas that have survived on the hill at Sillustani.  We next visited the place where they were located.  In the picture below, you can see that we were prepared for rain during the walk.  The weather had been threatening for some time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe two chullpas are at the head of the peninsula on which Sillustani is located.  As we crested a rise in the area of the chullpas, the grand vista of Lake Umayo opened up in front of us.  The view was simply amazing, especially with the threatening storm clouds around us.  This was the kind of grand view that one expected to see on the shores of a well-known lake. This looked better than Lake Titicaca!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though the weather was threatening, we had to take an additional moment or two to celebrate, because, at 12,800 feet, this was highest level to which we had hiked during the entire trip.  It was even higher than Puno!  (It is true that we were at a higher altitude at the Continental Divide, but we did not do any walking of significance when we stopped there.) We had hiked about a little less than a mile at this point, and climbed a couple of 100 feet during this time, and we were feeling fine in spite of the altitude (although I did hear Broz breathing quite heavily in certain sections when we were climbing, when he was trying to get ahead of the rest of us).

The chullpa in the picture below looked completely intact on the outside.  You can see how tiny the opening to the burial space is.  You would have to crawl to get inside.  I read somewhere that these openings point to the east.  It is the direction of the rising sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain started falling about this time.  We could observe the lightning bolts in the distance. Then came the distant thunder.  The storm was approaching.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe started making our way back to the bus.  It was all downhill from there.  We were able to pick up the pace.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were a little wet by the time we got back to the bus, but it was not too bad.

We asked Broz if we could see some llamas and alpacas on the way back – if it was not raining.  He offered to take us to the home of one of the locals if we wanted.  We accepted the offer under the condition that we were not disturbing the occupants of the home.  Little did we realize that the occupants of the home we were about to visit were used to receiving visitors regularly.

There were some animals tied up in front of the compound.  This is a llama.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an alpaca.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this is a hybrid of the two animals above.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll of the animals pictured above are members of the camelid family.  There are also other types of camelids in South America.

The arch at the entrance for the compound included the usual two Pucará bulls on it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were a couple of storage rooms in the compound including this one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe folks who live here raise the domesticated variety of cuy.  (More about cuy in one of my earlier blogs in this series.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe inside of the living quarters was tiny and crowded with stuff.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey had some food laid out next to their cooking space for the tourists to look at and sample. The lady of the house stuck her hand into one of the still steaming pots in the cooking area and pulled out a few potatoes of different kinds.  Broz cut one of these potatoes and added a paste on top of it. The greenish-grey paste was basically a local clay mixed with water.  He then ate the piece of potato.  A couple of folks from our group also sampled the potato with “mud” on it.  They said the clay was tasteless.  It is supposed to be rich in nutritional value (the picture in the link I have provided may be of the same place that we were at!).

In the picture below, Broz is showing us a bottle of some medicinal concoction that they use that has a snake in it.  It looked somewhat intimidating from closer up.  He is holding the piece of potato that he is eating in his other hand.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a closer look at the cooking space.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe man of the house was working in front of a separate building, creating items from alpaca wool to sell to the tourists.  There was a display of such items.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe returned to the bus after looking at their wares, after unsuccessfully trying to bargain down the price of a shawl that they were selling.

We headed back to Puno and our hotel after this stop.  We were done with trips for the day. Happy hour was happening at 5:00pm. Pavel, our tour manager, was buying us drinks.  Essentially, since this was our last day of touring, this was an opportunity for us to get together casually as a group, and for Pavel to solicit some feedback about our experiences of the trip.  Pavel also gave us initial instructions to prepare us for our impending departure from Lima – to get back to the USA.  Some in the group were actually departing the next day, immediately after dinner.  We ourselves were going to spend the next night in Lima and depart early in the morning the day after.

Since we had already visited the two restaurants in Puno that had been recommended to us, we had to ask around for suggestions for other places for dinner that night.  A restaurant that was right on the Plaza de Armas was recommended by others in our tour group.  That was where we headed.

Night was falling.  We could get a partial view of the cathedral across the plaza from the  the restaurant where we were having our dinner.  We were on the second floor and next to a window.  Dinner was fine, but we had to wait for about an hour for food to be served.  We would have preferred to have crashed out in bed earlier rather than later after another long day of visiting places.

Our trip home began the next morning.

The Uros Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca

It was about this time during the trip that I finally began to consider the fact that it was going to come to an end soon.  After this one day of visiting places, there would be two more days of travel as we headed home.   Then it would be over. It was all happening too quickly.  But that is the nature of tours like this.  One day you are exploring, and then before you even realize it, you are back in the comfort of your home.  Anyway, having been on trips like this in the past, it was a feeling that was less disconcerting than in past times.

Soon after breakfast, before the tours for the day started, a few of us decided to make a short visit to the Cathedral in the town square nearby.

Some of the locals were already out and about, setting out their wares for the tourists.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis church is of Spanish origin and was rebuilt in the 1960s after it had burnt down.  It has an interesting facade.  The cross in front is most interesting since it includes both Catholic and Inca symbols on it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe inside of the church was more traditional.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose by, at the center of the central square, or the Plaza de Armas, is a statue of Colonel Francisco Bolognesi, a hero of the war with Chile in the late 19th century.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon after we returned to the hotel, we set out on the trip to lake Titicaca with the rest of our tour group.  We were visiting the Uros Floating Islands on the lake.  We had to first walk from the hotel to main road to catch the bus to the dock.

Lake Titicaca is the largest inland lake in South America.  It is bordered by Peru and Bolivia.  At 12,500 feet, some call it the highest navigable lake because it can support bigger ships.  It used to be that you could travel between Peru and Bolivia by ship.  We were told that it takes about 10 hours.

The lake is quite deep and supports a variety of fresh water fish and birds, some of them unique to the area.  It has a rich ecosystem.  Human beings inhabited the area even before the Inca times.

As a tourist, there is probably a lot to experience in the area related to the lake, but we had time on the tour to do just one thing, and that was to visit the Uros floating islands.

The bus trip to the boat dock did not take much time.  This was a view of Puno from near the dock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a tourist boat approaching the dock area, probably one that takes visitors to the Uros Islands.  The lakeside in that area actually did not look very inviting.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out to the islands in our boat, we passed this luxury hotel that was once a prison.  I hope it was worth it for the people staying there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe islands were not too far from Puno. The boat had to pass through a narrow channel to get to them.  These guys were monitoring entry to the floating islands.P4260237.jpgOnce we got through the channel, we entered an area where there were a large number of floating islands set in an approximately circular configuration.  There were boats going hither and tither, from one island to another. It was immediately obvious that this space was a destination for tourists.   It was not always that way for the Uros people.  They did not always depend on tourism.

The Uros are an indigenous people who have been living on their floating islands since even before the Inca times.  Their traditional way of life was based on fishing and hunting of birds.  There are still some Uros who practice this way of life, living on floating islands that are farther out in the lake.  In general, this seems to be a difficult way of life which is slowly disappearing as the  young people move to the mainland.

The floating islands are constructed from totora reeds that are harvested from the lake itself.  The reeds are used for many purposes, including food and medicine.

We were taken to one of the many islands in that space.  You can see that the islanders in the picture below were expecting us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce on the island, they sat us around in a semicircle for a presentation. They talked about their way of life.  There was demonstration of the process of building an island.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe base of the island is made from the roots of the totora reed.  Bunches of totora roots are bundled together and they are anchored to the bottom of the lake to keep the island in place.  Next, the reed itself is spread out in layers over the base to create the foundation on which life takes place on the island.  You can actually feel the island move when a passing motorized boat creates waves.  It takes a little getting used to.  Our particular island was more than 20 feet above the bottom of the lake.

The totora reed is also used to build the huts in which they live and the boats that they use.  The boats are called balsa even though they are not made of balsa wood.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs time passes, the totora reeds begin to rot and the layers of reeds that form the island need to be replenished. The floating islands also have a limited lifetime.  (It sound like a difficult life.)  The islands are of different sizes, and generally support a small community.  We were told that the one we were visiting had about 20 people.

The demonstration included a show of how the homes were set up on the reeds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomewhere along the line, I began to feel that the demonstration was beginning to take on the appearance of a comedy show that was being put on for the benefit of the tourists.  I felt a little bad about the fact that this was part of what the Uros people felt they had to do to survive.  It felt like they were going through a certain loss of dignity in the process, and we, the “rich” tourists, were playing our own role in this process.

Some of the people of the island came forward to talk to us about themselves.  The person to the left is the elder on the island, and the the rest of the people were part of his family.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see a couple of solar panels in the picture above.  Electricity was brought to the Uros people in the late 1980s by the then President Fujimori. The metal building in the background is actually some kind of chapel.

We visited some of the living quarters, all of which were made of the totora reed.  Space was really tight in these huts.  After that, they had an open market to sell some of the trinkets they had made.  The lady in the picture is the village elder’s wife.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the picture below, our  local guide, Broz, is showing us that the islanders hunt birds with guns that they make themselves.  (Broz indicated that he had spent a few months living with the Uros people on their islands in order to learn their ways.  This was a part of his training.)  They also make a kind of jerky from the dead birds, and consume the eggs that they lay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe decided to take a ride in a balsa boat belonging to these islanders to get across to another island on the other side of the expanse of water.  As we left the ladies sang some of their traditional songs to wish us adieu.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we were leaving, I took picture of the island that we had just been on.  To the left you can see one of the new composting toilets that is being installed on the islands.  (Things seem to be a little rough today on the floating islands when it comes to attending to the call of nature.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll of the tourist activity in the area was very obvious as we were rowed across to the other side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe yellow boat in the front of the picture below is typical of the area.  We were sailing on a similar boat.  It can carry quite a few people.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe landed on an island which seemed to be the focus of the most tourist activity in that space.  It had a regular restaurant and bathrooms, and the tourist presence was actually obscene.  I could not wait to depart.

Some final notes about the Uros people.  They have health issues, and a short lifetime, partly because the water that they consume is a little brackish.  There is salt in the water because the mountains that form the Andes rose from the sea level at some point in the history of the earth.  They have salt in them. The water for the lake comes primarily from rivers that feed into it.

There is a small medical facility on one of the islands for the care of the people, but they have to go to Puno for anything more serious.  As I mentioned earlier, the population is also in a state of decline as young people leave.  Also, the Uros today use the mainland for some of their activities – like for the burial of their dead.  They do not mind using newer technology.  Some own motorboats.  Although I did not see this with my own eyes, I suspect that they must use mobile phones.

We could get a view of Puno from a distance as we departed the islands.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI did see a few birds in the water as we were returning, but was unable to take any good pictures.  I certainly saw a coot, and also another bird with a blue beak.  My research indicates that there is more than one kind of waterfowl in the lake that has this characteristic.

Here is a picture of the last passenger ship that used to sail across the lake.  The SS Ollanta is still available for charter trips these days. It is berthed at Puno when not in use.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to get back to the hotel quickly after returning to shore at Puno.  We had a short time for a quick lunch before the start of an afternoon trip to our next destination.  It turned out that the only people who had signed up for this optional trip was our small group of seven people.  The trip to Sillustani that afternoon ended up being another great highlight from our visit to Peru.

The Bus Ride to Puno

Our room on the fourth floor of the hotel had views of some of the mountains surrounding Cusco.  This is what daybreak looked like.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was going to be one of the longer travel days of the trip.  We were about to go on a bus ride that was expected to take about 8 hours.  We were going from Cusco to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

The trip started off in a small bus that was to take us to Gate1’s bus depot closer to the edge of town.  It seems that their bigger buses were not allowed into the area of town where the hotel was located.  We were going to transfer to a bigger bus at the bus depot.

Here are some street scenes along the way.  Billboards like the ones below are a characteristic of cities all over the world.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Inca Kola, advertised on the delivery truck below, is the national soft drink of Peru. For some reason or other, the significance of Inca Kola to the Peruvians had not been noted by the tour manager or any of the guides.   Some folks from our tour group did try the drink during this visit.  The general consensus was there was nothing noteworthy about it.  Maybe the management had a good reason not to talk about it!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could not help but notice the mess of cables on the lampposts lining the city streets.  This is fairly typical, not just in Peru, but in many developing countries.  I have no idea how people keep track of where particular cables go, and for what purpose.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was surprised by the size of Gate1’s bus depot when we arrived there. There were many vehicles in the facility, pointing to the existence of a very big operation out of Cusco.  The bus that we got on for our onward trip to Puno was big and comfortable.  It even had a restroom that we could use while the bus was moving – so that we could minimize bathroom stops.

We got out of the city of Cusco, and on to the highway to Puno, shortly after we left the depot.  In a little while, we entered a big and wide valley with mountains on both sides.  The valley was quite lush, but it was also better visible from the other side of the bus from where I was seated.  The others who had the view seemed to be enthralled by it.  I was enjoying the view of the green mountainside beside the bus.  There were plants and trees, and flowers of the fall season, and even little streams.

The first stop was at the village of Raqchi.  We first visited a school that Gate1 supports financially (for equipment and buildings) .  Gate1 supports 28 schools in all in Peru.  We met with the kids and interacted with them.  This was an elementary school setting.  There were children in a range of ages.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a fun time.  They sang for us and we sang to them (try singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”).

We visited the ruins of the Temple of Wiracocha in Raqchi.  This huge structure used to once have a roof over it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt looked very different from the other temples we had seen thus far in Peru, which were usually open structures on tops of hills.  This is what remains today of the temple.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther structures have also survived from the time of the Incas in Raqchi, including warehousesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand some living quarters.

We passed by the small village plaza and the open air market area. There were shops lining the pathways, manned by locals selling small trinkets and souvenirs to the tourists. I also went to the small church that bordered the plaza.  It was an addition to the town from the 20th century.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a wall in the church was a picture of the Last Supper at which cuy was being eaten.  If the reader has been following my blogs about Peru, he or she will remember that we were not able to see the more famous version of this picture in the cathedral in Cusco.  So, it was a very nice surprise to see this particular picture here, in a humbler setting that seemed more appropriate.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn old caretaker silently appeared from the back of the church as I was walking around.  He started talking to me in Spanish.  I did not understand a word he was saying.  He might have also indicated that I could give some money to light a candle, but I was not trying to follow carefully.  I regret that I did not do that.

All of us got boxed lunches as we boarded the bus once again to continue our trip.

The railroad track from Cusco to Puno, and the Urubamba river, also ran through the valley, and beside the highway, we were traveling on.  The Urubamba looked like a modest stream at this point. It was hard to imagine that it grows in volume over distance to become a significant tributary of the great Amazon river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA short while after that, we passed the place where the Urubamba river begins.  There was smoke from a fire that somebody had set in the vicinity of that location.  The place that was pointed out to us had the look of the remains of an old crater. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon after that, we reached the Continental Divide and the highest point of the bus ride.  We were at an altitude of 14200 feet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing a railroad fan, it was a great thrill for me to see the train from Puno to Cusco stopped at that location.  It looked like a regular stop for the train, and it also looked like the train was going to be stopped for a while.  Passengers had gotten out of their carriages and were walking around.  This train is meant for the tourists.  It is considered one of the highest railroads in the world.  Considering that the train does not operate every day of the week, I was very fortunate to see it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPano - Peru Rail.jpgWe continued our bus ride on the Altiplano, the high plains of the Andes.  Dramatic and wide open landscapes lay before our eyes.  The place looked lightly populated.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did pass by a few small villages and towns.  Here are some random pictures.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP4250170.jpgI am quite sure that the people who live in these parts, at these altitudes, are very hardy. I wonder how tough life is for them.  I wonder if they are a happy people?

During the bus ride we were shown some videos to keep us occupied.  They were all related to Peru.  We saw a movie about Thor Heyerdhal and the Kon-Tiki expedition.  In the 1940s, Thor Heyerdhal sailed the Pacific Ocean for the first time in a raft that had been designed to the specifications of the ancients of Peru, i.e, their indigenous people.  He managed to sail from Peru to the Polynesian Islands, depending primarily on the ocean current for movement.  Thor was attempting to show what the people of South America (and more specifically, Peru) could have populated the Pacific islands, and might have even brought elements of their culture with them.  Apparently, there is even some suggestion of ancient South American building practices inherent in the design of the statues on Easter Island.

A second video that we saw was about the practice of child sacrifice among the ancient religions of South America.  The indigenous people believed that the mountains are gods. In those days they used to sacrifice children to them and bury them on mountaintops.  The bodies of these children are being uncovered in recent times by archeologists. It was difficult to watch this video.  While many of the practices of the old religions seem to invoke the human connection with the forces of nature and the earth in a somewhat harmless way, this particular aspect of their practices was in my mind extremely cruel, and, in the end, hard to even understand.   I had a hard time just swallowing the fact that the child who was about to be sacrificed sometimes knew what was going to happen to it, and reacted in a way you would expect scared children to do.  There is evidence in this regard in some of the remains that have been found.

Our next landmark during the bus ride was Juliaca, a commercial town. Juliaca was also the location for the airport that we were going to fly out of to get back to Lima.  The town was not very impressive, and we were told that the local government was not very functional.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn ice-cream seller on the street in Juliaca.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Bajaj autorickshaw service location in Juliaca.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrowded street in Juliaca.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring this trip, I began to notice little structures like the one below all along the highway.  I confirmed that these were memorials to people who had died in accidents.  These look a little more permanent than the roadside memorials we see in the US.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got to Puno descending one of the hills that surrounds it.  We got our first view of Lake Titicaca.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe city looked big.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause of the city’s narrow streets, we were dropped off a few blocks away from our hotel.  We had to do the walk between the hotel and the spot we had been dropped off every time we needed to catch the bus or return to the hotel.   Walking the streets gave us a little better feel of the town.  It certainly looked commercial.

Our hotel was next to the main square of the town.  For dinner, we walked from the hotel across the square to one of the two restaurants that had been recommended to us by our tour manager.  The two restaurants were next to each other, and it was an amusing situation, with folks from both restaurants trying to entice us in.  We selected one, telling the other person that we would go there for lunch the next day (and he did remember us the next time were on that street!).   The dinner was OK, but the loud, live, music, was disruptive.

It started to rain heavily as we were having dinner.  We had to wait for any small break we could get in the rain to make a dash back to the hotel.  It was an adventure crossing the streets that had now turned into swiftly flowing steams with a large volume of water.  We had to do this while dodging traffic that did not want to slow down either for the rain or for the people walking across the street.  But we made it back to the hotel in one piece in spite of the challenges presented.

Puno is a big city.  Like I mentioned earlier, it is also very commercial, similar to Juliaca.  We were told that this is so because of the closeness of this area to Bolivia.  There is a lot of trade across the border. There is also a lot of smuggling that goes on, and an “illegal” contraband open market exists in Puno that the authorities turn a blind eye to. In fact, the authorities apparently shop at these places themselves.

Puno is supposedly not that well developed for tourists. We were warned a few times to be cautious about the nature of the food that we consumed, and the water that we drank.   We got a daily quota of bottled water from Gate1 to keep us safe and hydrated at the high altitudes.  We did have a few people in our group get relatively minor upset stomachs at some point or the other during the travels.  One person in our bigger tour group had severe stomach problems (that actually seemed a little scary) towards the end of the trip.

Puno is at an elevation of 12,500 feet, which makes altitude sickness more of an issue for visitors than in some of the other places that we had been to.  The hotels have oxygen tanks to help visitors with their breathing if needed.  We saw the tank in our hotel being used in the lobby.  We had folks in our group who were feeling the effects a little bit.

More adventures await us tomorrow.