Day 6: November 15, 2015 – Sillustani to Lima
After our day on the water yesterday, we returned to the hotel with mixed ability to make it up the grade from the water to the hotel. I might still be dragging my body up the incline if our van had not magically appeared. I am not sure how long it takes the body to acclimatize but clearly longer than we gave ourselves when we moved from Lima at sea level to the Lake at 12,500. Supper was a subdued affair with some folks fading off into the sunset some time between the first and second course.
For reasons I am not sure of, a massage was included in our package at this hotel and some of us had been pulverized into relaxation prior to dinner. It was, to say the least, an interesting experience to try to relate in broken Spanish to a lovely lady when you cannot see her or hear her properly. The acutrements that make these things possible were somewhere in the room but don’t ask me to find them without them, if you get my drift.
Despite these issues the group assembled in the lobby at 8 sharp this morning with luggage in tow. On the way to the Juliaca airport we are going to Sillustani, an Inca burial site.
The van swooped up the hills through Puno. The higher you go, the fewer the services. The good news is, the lower the taxes. As in other areas of the country, many homes are incomplete. Saving takes precedence over mortgages and besides if it’s incomplete the taxes are lower.
On the outskirts of Puno, the land flattens out into farmland with old style homesteads, fenced yards with arched entrances. Most do not have hydro or water. Ownership of land here does not involve paperwork. Parents just divide their assets prior to their deaths in order to avoid conflicts.
Before reaching Umayo, the site of Sillustani, there is an obligatory stop for the birders as a pond is pink with flamingoes. The birds were amazing and as I inadvertently startled them they took off with an amazing display.
At Sillustani the burial practices of pre-Inca and Incan cultures are clearly visible. Some of the tombs at the site have been restored and some remain in a state of decay that allows insights into the actual burial practices. The stonework on the outside of the mortuary columns is finely done. Inside the deceased rest, having been disemboweled, placed in a fetal position, wrapped in fine cloths and entombed within a hut-like structure of stones. It didn’t pay to be a concubine to the leader as you went too when your master died. Wives and children lived on.
The tombs are marked with hieroglyphs and a small back door allowed entrance into the burial chamber.
From the top of the plateau, we look out at Umayo Lagoon, which is even higher than Lake Titicaca. Today the water is still and the reflections perfect. The red roof of an alpaca farm stands out on an island that is just off shore.
Going down is always easier than going up and I carefully descend a set of ancient, roughly hewn steps to the plaza where local women have craft items for sale. It is already very hot so I am glad to have made the climb in the morning.
It’s Sunday and as we make our way back to the Pan Am Highway we pass families at play. The men and boys have a soccer game going. On the other side of the highway, a mixed group plays volley ball. But a few folks are still working and the van slows to allow sheep herders and their charges to pass.
As we head into Juliaca, a city of 250,000 we pass a private university. Apparently strikes in the public system are frequent so parents pay for private schooling to prevent delays in graduation. This is in a country where 36% of the population live below the poverty line.
Juliaca is a regional distribution center and crafts produced here are taken to markets in the country.
We move through a warren of clean streets where most of the shops and garages are closed. Coca Cola signs are everywhere. In Peru, this company even sells water!
The number of cars in the community is apparently growing. There are lots of motorcycles. Dress is a mix of traditional and modern styling. Backpacks are contrived from colourful blankets. Orange gold, green, red, and brown flash by. Despite this, the overall impression that I am left with is drabness. It must be the heat and the dust.
Reuben leaves us at the Juliaca Airport about 11:30 and it’s just a short wait until we are boarding a LAN flight for Lima. If there had been any more steps leading to the airplane door I would have had to ditch the 22 pounds of camera equipment that I was huffing and puffing up the stairs. An hour and a half and we will be at sea level again. It never looked so good.
I settle back and wait for the crackers and orange juice to arrive. This is LAN flight # 3. I know the menu.
By 3:30 Raoul, our new guide, is whisking us away to the Hilton in the Miraflores district. I can’t help but wonder what I will learn about Peru from this vantage point. The malecon and its traffic have become familiar. This time I will get the view from the top of the cliffs that I have only observed from the oceanside Costa Verde Highway.
After check–in, a rest is in order even though I know I should probably walk the streets and try to get the feel of the place. I should also go in search of a hair dryer to replace Carol’s. (I killed it!). But I do the fateful thing. I lay down.
Supper is in the hotel restaurant. As it is Sunday, not much else is open. It is “my night to cook” – our rotating system of paying for meals is easier than trying to figure out individual bills each time. Dean takes one for the team and orders the “Peruvian Surprise” for dessert. One thousand Nuevo Sols for dinner for 6 at the Hilton. Probably, a not-to-be repeated, deal!
References: Aracari Guide, Eyewitness Travel Peru, Wikipedia, Peru’s Mining and Metals Investment Guide 2010/2011