Journey to Lake Titicaca

Whenever I hear “Lake Titicaca” I can’t help but run through the Animaniacs song about it in my head. So, I’ve included it for your viewing pleasure:

Now we can get down to business.

After Sharon and Bernie’s solo trip to Macchu Picchu and our near-miss Ollantaytambo meet-up, the four of us headed back to Cusco. We only stayed one more night, though, because we caught a tourist bus heading to Puno the next morning.

This would probably be the best place for me to deliver some bad news: due to computer problems we lost several days’ worth of photos. Although there’s still a slim chance we may someday recover them, the pictures from our trip to Puno and our tour of Lake Titicaca are unavailable for now. Alas, we must carry on. I will do my best to supplement the next couple of posts with visuals from other Internet sources so that you can still get a sense of our travels. The pictures will appear again once our story brings us to Arequipa.

So, our tourist bus to Puno was a trip. Most of the buses Mike and I took up to this point we merely point A to point B buses, but this one was different. We figured we’d get the most out of our limited time with Sharon and Bernie if we hopped a bus that would take us to the neat touristy places on the way to Lake Titicaca. It was good to see some of the ruins and sights we saw, but I don’t really recommend this mode of travel unless you’re really strapped for time. We (Sharon and Bernie included) kind of felt like we’d fallen in with the geriatric crowd. These weren’t your young, energetic, adventurous tourists. These were the type of tourists who wear fanny packs and worry out loud about dangerous locals. These were the type who move in huddled masses like sheep being herded from destination to destination. Generally we like to think of ourselves as a bit more free-wheeling. We just didn’t feel like we had enough time to explore the sights and enjoy the fresh air before being pushed back on the bus. Nevertheless, we did get the opportunity to see the “Sistine Chapel of South America.”

Which, by the way, is nowhere near as impressive as the actual Sistine Chapel. I know, I know, I sound like a total travel snob, but trust me — the comparison was an extreme stretch. If you have to choose between visiting the Sistine Chapel in Italy and the “Sistine Chapel of South America,” go with the former. I don’t think this “Sistine Chapel” even makes my “Top 5” of churches we saw in South America. I’m sure it was gorgeous at one point, since apparently it used to be covered in gold leaf, but after many many robberies it just looks a little tacky. Tackiness isn’t necessarily a unique feature of this church, though — I find the wooden Jesus dolls with purple velvet robes and curly doll hair a bit tacky and creepy in any church setting.

The outside of the church at Andahuaylillas.

The inside of the “Sistine Chapel of South America.” The ceiling is painted not with images of God and Adam but with a uniformly hideous “wallpaper effect” that looks like something more appropriate for a 70’s shirt. Oh, and the remaining gold leaf that hasn’t been stolen is almost blinding.

Our second stop of the trip was at an impressive Inca ruin, and therefore much more interesting. The site is known as Raqchi and was used as a stopover for pilgrimages to Cusco. It has impressively tall ruins of a temple and several smaller buildings that were likely used for grain storage and as hostels for pilgrims to Cusco.

The temple at Raqchi.

We also stopped at a touristy display of sorts just down the road from Raqchi. The place had several vendors selling jewelry, clothing, etc. It also showcased a “typical kitchen” complete with guinnea pigs, and a grassy area where we could get up close and personal with a few llamas and alpacas. A few people even bottle fed the babies. Awww…

They’re even softer than they look!

Another stop lasted only a few minutes, but we were escorted off the bus at the highest point of our journey between the two cities. The point is known as La Raya, and is 4335 meters above sea level. Pretty darn high!

At one more stop before our arrival in Puno we went to a museum in Pukara. I don’t really remember much about it other than the fact that there were a lot of stones and carved images. Don’t ask me what they were depicting, though — I can’t remember what they looked like, but I do remember thinking the interpretation seemed a bit far-fetched.

After this interesting but exhausting day we finally arrived in Puno just as it was getting dark. We ended up being delayed by a rather vocal and mildly violent altercation between the bus driver and a police officer, but we were eventually allowed off the bus. Sharon, Bernie, Mike, and I made our way to a hotel to recover from our journey. Over the next few days we explored the city of Puno, Lake Titicaca, and some nearby ruins, but I’ll be saving that for the next post. Ciao!

P.S. I forgot I even posted a trivia question… Here’s the answer: I don’t have any students from Japan this semester. The majority of my students are from China, and the rest are from South Korea, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and the UAE. So far the semester is going well.

3 Responses to “Journey to Lake Titicaca”
  1. Love the Animaniacs reference! It takes me back 🙂

  2. Dr_Omega says:

    I always liked the name “Lake Titicaca”, but I didn’t know there was a song! Thanks.

  3. Dr_Omega says:

    I liked the name “Lake Titicaca” since we studied in in 8th Grade. Now I was there! Thanks

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