Cusco to Puno
There are a couple of options for getting from Cusco to Puno: the ordinary bus and the tourist bus, which has nicer seats and stops along the way for lunch, and to let you see some of the sights that would be hard to get to otherwise.
The church of San Pedro Apóstol in Andahuaylillas, 40 km outside Cusco, was built by Jesuits in the sixteenth century. Of course, it was built on a site that was sacred to the people who lived there, and blinged up to an amazing degree. Everything inside that’s not gold leaf is covered in murals, mostly created by itinerant Andean painters in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These were seen to be the best way to evangelise the local population, especially as they incorporate a lot of indigenous images and symbols. They don’t allow photography, so here’s what it looks like from outside.
The Temple of Wiracocha at Raqch’i, 80 km further on, may have had the largest single gable roof in the Inca empire. Now, all that stands of it is the central wall and the remains of some pillars. Living quarters and storehouses surrounded the temple. Some of the site is being restored, so there’s not a great deal to see apart from walls, but it’s a good leg-stretch to break up the journey.
After lunch, and several hours’ driving up through the altiplano, we reached the pass at La Raya. This is the highest point of the journey, at 4,335 m above sea level. There’s a great view, a rather sad craft market, large piles of rubbish, and yet another opportunity to have your photo taken with a llama. The air pressure was just a shade over 600 millibars, so we moved slowly, took a few pictures, and got back on the bus.
The town of Pucará is built on the archaeological site of Pukara, which dates back to approximately 2000 years ago. The Lithic Museum is small and not terribly spectacular compared to many other Peruvian museums, but it’s good to see that the Incas aren’t completely monopolising the attention of researchers. There's also a Spanish church with a very impressive dome, but it was completely locked up.
60 km further on is the city of Juliaca, a major centre for petrol smuggling and financing informal gold mining. Everybody says to avoid it unless you must, which seems like good advice.
Logistics: USD 40 per person for the bus tickets from Inka Express plus S/50 for entrance fees. There's another company that runs the same route for approximately the same price, but I think they left even earlier in the morning.
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