This trip is full of changing adventures. We have sailed the Galapagos and been very good environmentalists, we have sped up and down the Amazon River searching for wildlife in their natural surroundings, we have trekked up steep stairs looking at ancient ruins and learning about how they were built. Today we travelled 380km to Lake Titicaca on the Andean Explorer run by PeruRail. During our journey we travel over the highest mountain pass of our trip in Peru at 4338 meters or 14,232 feet. This is the fourth highest railway in the world with a railway in China topping the list at 5068 meters.
After venturing through the outskirts of Cuzco, the train takes us up the Vilconata River towards Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca. As you can imagine, the landscape 4338 meters is rather barren at that height, but the valley is very fertile with many farms being worked for food crops. The methods of farming are very manual. We see only the one tractor cultivating the dry-looking earth. There are many twin bullock teams and lots of men and women tilling the soil by hand. The valley is roughly about 2 km in width, or less, with mountains towering upwards from either side with a distinct line where farming ends and mountain begins. But some farmers have built terraces up the sides of those mountains for various crops.
There are a few animals being tethered; cows, sheep, llama and horses. As we near the top of our journey, there are mainly herds of llama running freely.
At the summit, the train stops. What for? You ask. A craft market is open. Wow – another opportunity – lol! When the announcement is made a roar of laughter is heard. Obviously, everyone has seen his or her fair share of craft markets in Peru. Lyn bought some llama moccasins for a very low price, I’m told. We were given about 30 minutes to help the local economy.
I found breathing difficult with my lung problems and took oxygen for 10 minutes to help the headache that had been brought on by the effects of the high altitude, but “we will survive”. A couple of others in the group have taken oxygen too.
We were served morning tea, a main mid day meal, and an afternoon tea. All good and well presented. A staff of 4 in the kitchen and 13 waiters have served us well. There is a bar tagging along the back with an outside viewing point. All very nice and well presented. Dancers and Peruvian bands came through the carriage as entertainment. There was a fashion show at 10:00am at the bar. We get looked after very well on trains over here. When will the Victorian Railway (and Queensland for that matter) take note – may be a good draw card to increase patronage.
The scenery remains dry and yellow throughout the journey and the towns look like they need a major clean up and building completion drive. If your house is incomplete, you don’t have to pay taxes on the land. So there are many, many unfinished buildings in Peru.
We travel through the town of Juliaca just on sunset. The town is busy of course. The railway runs through the town’s market and it is evident that stallholders have moved some of their goods off the railway for the train to pass through very slowly. In a way, it is depressing.
We arrive in the town of Puno to be transferred in the best coach we have ever been in on ANY of our travels, to our hotel on the shore of Lake Titicaca.
Tomorrow, we visit a floating island before flying to Lima.