Tour bus to Cusco, the Inca capital

Our trip to Cusco was by a guided public tour bus with several stops on the way and it didn’t start well. Our six am transportation didn’t show up at the hotel so we were late for the bus and were greeted with annoyed faces of other travellers. Nonetheless, we got our ‘VIP’ tags and moved on.

First stop was in Pukara, about 20 miles from Puno. We didn’t have time to see the archaeological sites but did visit the Museo Litico Pukara to see its collection of pre-Inca sculpture and then wander about the town square. One memorable sculpture shows a warrior holding an enemy’s head in his hands with several more dangling at his back.

Pukara is the country’s ceramic bull capital and these iconic creatures adorn rooftops and bring good fortune to people throughout southern Peru. The idea goes back a long way though they were ceramic llamas before the Spanish introduced cattle. A couple of them preside over our kitchen but have brought no discernable improvement in my cooking skills or facilitated any weight loss. Hope springs eternal…

This was a regimented one-day tour with little time at each stop and we were soon off to lunch at the tour-company-owned Restaurant Turistico Marangani in Sicuani. Similar buffet restaurants are common in Peru and cater to tour groups. This one was in a lovely building with soaring windows, great views, clean washrooms and particularly good food.

Next stop was a large outdoor textile market set up at the 14,271 ft. Abra La Raya pass, overlooking the Andes and the highest point on Carretera 3S. Beautiful stuff — yarn, blankets, scarves, toques, gloves, sweaters, etc. Prices vary depending on the type of wool ranging from sheep/alpaca blends at the low end to quite expensive virgin alpaca or vicuna. I broke my usual rule and paid a woman for her picture as she talked on her cell phone.

We continued on to our first Inca site, the Temple of Wiracocha ruin in Raqchi. It’s on a large, impressive site overlooked by a defensive wall and surrounded by round stone grain storehouses or ‘colcas.’ Peru has an unpredictable climate and the Incas put a lot of effort into securing their food supplies for lean years.

It was followed by a quick stop at The San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas aka the Sistine Chapel of the Andes. The interior is completely covered in gold leaf and stunning but photography is not allowed.

All-in-all a good day and, as bus rides go, a good experience. We pulled in to the Inca capital of Cusco at about 7pm looking forward to a heavy hit of Inca culture and our day at Machu Picchu, the grand culmination of any trip to Peru.

Next post: Discovering Cusco

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