Peru Trip #8 – The Inka Express from Puno to Cuzco, stopping at

Statue of a Pukara Priest c400BCE - click to see more on FlickrThe Inka Express is an extremely long bus ride – usually a 6hr drive – which takes over 9hrs, due to all the stops along the way. But time goes quickly, and it doesn’t seem to drag, as a journey, at all. Leaving Puno, barely having slept, with an altitude headache only partly dulled by 10minutes attached to the oxygen bottle before getting up, jacked up on matte de coca (coca-leaf tea) I half expected the journey to be awful. But I managed to dose during the first part of the journey, awaking to be delighted by the Pukara museum, sporting a whole collection of statuary from the ‘mother culture’ of southern Peru, who lived here around 400BCE. The catfish and the frog turned out to be particularly important animals for these people, but the puma and the snake made early appearances – they both figure heavily in later cultures – and the quality of the carving is really quite special.

Statue of a Pukara Priest c400BCE - click to see more on Flickr

Returning to the bus, I am exhausted just by this short tour around the
museum. Our next stop, at 4335m (14,200ft) above sea level, is at Abra
La Raya where the two mountain ranges the girt the Altiplano, where Lake
Titicaca rests, meet and join, and the Sacred Valley down to Cusco
begins. There are snow-capped peaks here, although my Puno guide says
they were much whiter in his youth. The smoke clouds from the 25 fires
burning in Bolivia adds a haze to the sky. The Vilcanota River that
beings in this valley eventually joins the Amazon, and flows out to the
Atlantic Ocean. By this point, my head is hurting, the ibuprofen I
took at breakfast has worn off, and I am just glad that the descent has
at last begun. Over the next 40mins we descend more than 1000m to our
buffet lunch, and the Sacred Valley proper.

Here we find our first proper Inca archaeological complex – Raqchi,
which means ‘ceramic.’ Unusually for Inca architecture, the main temple
is built half in stone, their preferred building material, and half in
adobe – the mud brick of older cultures. The entire complex, moreover,
is completely surrounded by a huge wall. The thinking is that the
Tihuanaco people who were being supplanted by the Inca here were
rebellious, and the complex had to be built quickly, and defended. In
the Temple to Wiracocha, the most important Inca god, there are, also
unusual for Inca buildings, circular columns, which used to hold up the

Temple to Wiracocha, Raqchir

By the time we reach Cusco the air is just so much nearer what sea-level
dwelling folks like me are used to, and although a bit thin, (it is
still 11000ft, after all) I can think, I can move around, I have no
headache, and the constant fatigue of the last few days in Puno is
finally wearing off. It’s like getting well again after a massive
hangover. Speaking of which… a glass of wine might now be in order!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.