On up Puno


From sealevel back up to 3800 metres. Hope it is quicker this time to adjust. And Cusco will be lower.

Having arrived early afternoon the first priority is to organise a doctor to look at my heel. The antibiotics have not cleared up the infection and it feels worse. The hotel gets someone there in thirty minutes. A diminutive Bolivian doctor and sidekick. She speaks pretty good English. The wound needs draining and antibiotics in the bum, unbelievably painful, the needle reminiscent of the one they used for a lumbar puncture when I was twelve. And more sharp pain anaesthetising the area to put an antibiotic capsule into the site. You can only hope all that trauma, it’s bound to do the trick. No showers for three days. As it happens this is the first place there has been a bath. I have to buy flipflops so no pressure on it. Hobble out with Bartolomeo the bellboy to find  a shoeshop. Fortunately there is a good restaurant on the opposite side of the square so don’t have to flipflop very far.

Sunday is the big folklore dance convention in the stadium. Told to get there by ten o’clock. It’s throbbing with families and an enormous queue. Once again I find myself being gently guided towards a much shorter ” preferencial” because of my age. Not the time to quibble. Inside it’s a football stadium and I’m sitting behind the goal. Binoculars Invaluable. The numbers of each group range from fifty to well over a hundred including the band. And the costumes are varied and colourful.

inAll around me families have come loaded with food and drink, blankets and umbrellas. The latter cause some muttering if they block the view.

This lady had certainly come prepared.

I end up in the shade of the lady next to me after I have let them have a go with the binocs. The enthusiasm on the field and in the crowd is expansive  and it’s clearly a massive annual event. Broadcast on national television. After three hours the concrete bench gets to me and I wander out into the streets. There are troupes of dancers everywhere, lounging around drinking beer laughing, having done their spot. Up close you see how ornate the costumes are, and each individual has variations on the basic colour scheme.

When you look closer you can see they are engrossed in their phones!

As I make my way back to the hotel I find the streets are solid with people camped on the pavements enjoying the free show of groups marching by.

The flipflop is hard work, a rubber band keeping big toe gripping is not brilliant so opt for restaurant not far along main street. It’s great, set menu with good choices and only 25 S, that’s £5.50. Alpaca steak is tender and tasty. Real napkins and a trained waiter are a bit of a novelty.  Four television crew next to me look weary.

Next day I  book a couple of tours for Tuesday and Wednesday but otherwise have a quiet day to rest the foot. Doctor returns on Tuesday and pronounces it is looking good. No more pain and antibiotics kicking in.

It’s a reminder of the generally poor education that there is still a business in writing letters for others

Local museum was created by a German painter and includes mummies taken from a burial site used by pre-incan and Incan  groups. That is where I’m going Tuesday. On the way back we stop at a farm with tethered llamas and Alpaca and also very cute small rodents.

I ask if they are for eating – ” no of course not, they’re too small” ! The highlight is when a German in his fifties approaches a seated male llama from behind to stroke it and gets spat upon. Tries to make out it was on his list of things to do it.

I’ve seen a likely place offering cuy and we agree to meet to try it out. It’s not at all smart but there are several  families in. It has been cooked with a coating of salt hence crostada and with head on. Very gamy flavour  and tricky finding your way round the bones. At least I can say I’ve tried it. Given the way they breed you can understand why they are kept for food.

A trip on Lake Titicaca is both enjoyable and harrowing. The first part is to the floating islands of Uros. They first moved there five hundred years ago to escape marauding tribes- echoes of Venice- and developed a way of life using the floating reeds and building boats out of them. It was hard and isolated but they survived. They had strict rules designed to avoid consanguinity though the population was fewer than three thousand. Sadly, tourism has destroyed their original way of life, and the massive influx of visitors has turned them into pantomime characters attempting to screw every penny out of the boatloads who arrive hourly, sometimes a hundred at a time. The women of all ages are enormously fat presumably from a poor diet. They no longer grow vegetables and apart from a few fish, it’s mostly junk food. I left feeling very uncomfortable. The second island we very different. Its far out in the lake and they speak qechwa rather than aymaru, so more Incan. It’s terraced and has a large agricultural  production.

In the main square overlooked by the hotel groups of people are making music and dancing, not in costume. I get all starry-eyed about people giving expression to their culture for the sheer joy of it, till the receptionist refers to them practicing for next Sunday’s big event!

On the subject of culture, a reference in the local museum housing mummies from the funeral site

makes reference to more paintings being housed in the nearby Club Kuntur. I locate it and get past a dubious gatekeeper to be ushered into a scruffy back office housing the President and a crony. After initial restraint on their part they get quite enthusiastic about telling me about the place and he is keen to show me two snooker tables imported from England.In the course of wandering around various dingy and dusty rooms I get as close to a condor (Kuntur!) as I’m likely to.

Puno has been engaging and varied, and the worst moment was having my pocket picked in town one evening to the tune of about £60. Didn’t feel a thing.

Early start in the morning to get the train to Cusco. Have to be at the station by 7 o’clock

8 thoughts on “On up Puno

  1. Your comment on the Cuy reminded me of the meal the Peruvians cooked for us on our last night. I remember thinking at the time, “So many ribs, so little meat on them”. They were tasty though. Another one of those meats that’s “a bit like chicken.”

  2. Having also had a lumbar puncture, I can sympathise about the pain! The ‘small rodents’ remind me of the ones I used to keep. Not sure I’d fancy eating the larger version, but when in Peru …

    “Sadly, tourism has destroyed their original way of life, and the massive influx of visitors has turned them into pantomime characters attempting to screw every penny out of the boatloads who arrive hourly, sometimes a hundred at a time” — also echoes of Venice!

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