We are starting to get used to our early starts, and we were up at 4 today, for a 5am cab. We checked out of El Albergue and despite being kind enough to make us breakfast to go we ended up with ham, not jam, as we had asked for. Probably a language barrier. The OJ was nice nonetheless.
Our driver, the same guy from Cusco Transport that picked us up, was on time and pleasant as ever. We started the taxi journey to Cusco bus station and watched in awe as the sun rose above the mountains.
Our failed attempts at sleeping made us slightly tetchy in Cusco, but lack of sleep was to be the least of our worries. We asked staff and other travellers if this was the bus to Puno. All said yes, and we waited with everyone else. Unfortunately, the problem came when boarding. They had no record of either of us. I tried to ring Edgar, from Edgar Adventures who we booked with, but it was going straight to voicemail.
A very kind man from the bus company (turismo mer) told us not to worry and that there was space. We didn’t need proof or ID, just names. A lesser man would have boarded as Michael Mouse, but I was honest and wrote our names correctly.
Panic over, we settled in to a slightly uncomfortable trip to Puno. We stopped in Andahuaylillas, where we made up for our lack of breakfast with rice, potatoes and veg from a street vendor. 4 soles each, less than a quid. It was nice, and as we ate it a group of young boys started kicking a flat foot ball near us and speaking Spanish to us. Not wanting to seem rude, I gave my best ‘no hablo espanol’ and they started listing countries. We guessed they were asking where we were headed so we said Bolivia. As one boy began to use sign language to tell Gemma he had been there, another pointed to my skinhead and raised his hand as if asking to touch it. I bowed so he could feel and they all started giggling, he looked happy enough.
Then we trundled to Sicuani, where they have an alpaca farm and lunch is included. The noodles and quinoa soup were nice, and as it was a buffet we had seconds. 3 Peruvians played music in the corner while we ate, it was a nice setting.
Our next pit stop was La Raya, 4,800 metres above sea level. Our ears had popped way before here, and the oxygen was so thin people were struggling to light their cigarettes. As we pulled up, Gem got a nose bleed. I had been drinking complimentary coca tea all day, but Gem isn’t keen on it so didn’t. The locals recommend it for altitude sickness, so I got her one immediately. Fortunately we only stopped for 5 minutes and were once again well on our way, descending thank God. Who, incidentally, we were far too close to.
Our next stop was Pukara, and if memory serves it was here where we saw our first live view of a guinea pig being cooked by a street vendor (Gemma was nearly sick), and we also stumbled upon a wedding!
Then we went through Juriaca but didn’t stop. Its on our to do list next time, looks like an interesting town on the rise.
Finally, just after 5pm, after 12 hours of travel, we came to Puno. Resting peacefully on the edge of Lake Titicaca, it is the unofficial gateway between Peru and Bolivia. I had managed to get hold of Edgar Adventures and I was assured they would meet us in Puno after an arduous conversation with a clueless lady.
True to their word, they were waiting for us. We got into a taxi amongst manic traffic and headed to Qelqatani Hotel, where we would be for 1 night. We paid Edgar Adventures who assured us our taxi would be waiting for us at 6.30am for a 7am bus. She also said the tickets would be behind reception at 7pm for us.
We left to grab a bite to eat and were back in bed by 8pm, not before finding that the tickets weren´t behind reception yet. We were assured they would be there tomorrow and went to sleep hopeful.