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Puno to Cusco – Tourist Highway

Posted by on April 11, 2011

Post for Monday 11 October, 2010.

The following morning we were back at the station for another bus ride. We secured tickets with Cruz Del Sur, and paid the departure tax. This is something we’d seen in a few towns – departure tax to leave their town via bus. It was never much, but it was a little irksome.

Altitude seems to help make great clear landscape photos

Altitude seems to help make great clear landscape photos

We were starting to rack up the kms now, and all this go-go-go at altitude was starting to have an effect – we were both tired. We bought snacks (Andrew got to try his first Inca Kola) and soon the bus to Cusco was on its way north-west into Peru, taking around eight hours. Something I should point out, those noticing these hours that rack up – after a while, eight hour bus trips don’t feel that long. After a bit of reading, a snack, a short nap, maybe some stuff on your netbook, you’re almost there. However I notice that trips of ten or more hours are when it starts to become difficult. They usually require you to try and sleep on a bus as you’re doing them overnight, laptop batteries run out, books get finished, backsides start to hurt. It makes the lengths of airplane flights across Europe feel quite trivial after a while…
Next stop, Cusco!

Next stop, Cusco!

I mention that Peru is the most tourist-oriented country I’ve encountered in South America, and certainly this road was no exception. At what is presumably the highest point along this road and conveniently about half-way, the bus pulls over, as you leave Puno region and enter Cusco region. A roadside sign indicated we were at 4335 metres above sea-level, a number which the GPS on my phone was matching pretty closely. The only visible purpose of this stop, however, seemed to be the rows of stalls of souvenirs being sold. Why this spot, aside from an arbitrary point where the two regions meet, I do not know, but it allowed us our first llama sightings in Peru. Naturally tourists were also paying to have photos taken with it.
Entering Cusco Region, Please Open Wallets

Entering Cusco Region, Please Open Wallets

We rolled into Cusco mid-afternoon and dodged the mad swarm of taxi drivers, bargaining our way down to a semi-reasonable price to get to the old part of town where The Point, Cusco was. One of the largest hostels in South America, we were also in one of the largest dorms – a 12 bed monster. Still, the hostel was impressive, with a giant tv room, a bar with food, pool table, table tennis, and a sizeable garden. It was a great staging point for those needing days to acclimatize before beginning their journey, in whatever form it may be, to Machu Picchu.

It was now that we had to work out what we were going to do about Machu Picchu. It was so close. I’d been planning on how to get here for more than four years, but now only days away and I still didn’t have it sorted. Plans, they’re made to be changed. We’d pretty much decided against a trail because of time, but asked around anyway. There was a tempting one that required a mountain bike ride downhill, but then there would still be two days of walking. We eventually opted for a tour from the hostel after going all around town checking, and booked for departure the following day. Unfortunately a couple of hours later they apologised to say they’d made a mistake and the train was full, so we’d have to hang in town an extra day. We’d be training to Aguas Calientes, the final town below the great Incan site, spending two nights there, with Machu Picchu on the day between, and training back.

More landscape as we get closer

More landscape as we get closer

This extra day of rest actually suited us, as we were exhausted. We had some food at the bar and shot pool with others for the evening, doing surprisingly well – somehow holding the table for a couple of hours against Australian and English backpackers until finally the owners stepped up and beat us. We headed back to the dorm, where it took a while to crash, thanks to some drunken shenanigans on the other side of the dorm. The joys of communal sleeping. In the morning we’d sleep in, glad of the day of rest, and get a chance to explore Cusco…

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2 Responses to Puno to Cusco – Tourist Highway

  1. Steve

    Machu Picchu is a place I really want to go to. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to make it there because of other traveling commitments. That’s cool that you got to see some llamas. I hope you have a good time there.
    Steve recently posted..Does Your Direction in Life Matter

    • Mark Mayo

      Thanks Steve for your comment. Yes, loved Peru, more posts to come with the details of the Machu Picchu visit. Hope you make it there sometime, it’s definitely one of my travel highlights!

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