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Amazing 15 day trip in Peru (continuing on from First Stop: Lima

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I began our journey with a topic "First stop: Lima" but decided that didn't create much interest so this continues on from that post.
Cusco:
We really enjoyed Cusco. We stayed at Rumi Punku which turned out to be a great place to stay. I'd upgraded to a Superior room there but when we checked in the reception said "We gave you an upgrade" which I didn't think anything of until we entered our room. We had an apartment like room. It was huge & the first king size bed we'd seen plus a sitting area & a lovely bathroom with a jetted tub. Then we noticed double doors & step into a huge living room with wet bar. What a nice treat. We sent our clothes out to be laundered & they were back the same day & it was very cheap. The hotel sets right behind the cathedral & is safe for walking at night. We walked to the Plaza de Armes & found it lively & beautiful. The moon was full & shining over the cathedral. It's one of my favorite pictures & it was taken with my IPhone. It made for a magical evening.
The next morning Percy picked us up at 9am & gave us a tour of Tambomachoy where there were many fountains. It is believed that the site honored the water diety. We had a nice picture of us & Percy taken by another guide who told us "you know you have the best guide in Peru" We felt so fortunate. We really enjoyed our time with Percy. From there we went to Puca Pucara meaning the red fort in Quechua. Most likely a stopping point for those going on the Inca Trail for food & rest. You can see part of the original Inca Trail from there. Sacsayhuaman was one of the most fascinating site with its zigzag walls which resemble lightening. It had a huge stone that one side looked like a St Bernard & the other resembled a Puma. In designing Cusco the Incas imagined it in the shape of a puma with Sacsayhuaman representing the head & its serrated walls as the beast's teth. cusco ws the ody of the animal while the temple of Koricancha represented the tale. We enjoyed walking through the paths in the rocks. At one point Percy had me take a photo with my flash & then one without. The one without the flash shows the outline of a bird. There was also an altar that it was believed the bodies were laid on for mummification. From the top of the hill you could look out over Cusco & see the Plaza de Armes. It was a very interesting place.
We took Percy to lunch at Don Thomas. I ordered alpaca tenderloins & Big L ordered a pig roast (not cuy). Both were quite good. Musicians came & played right next to us. Not to knock the musicians but reminded me of Mexico when the Mariachi bands blasted in our ears. It made it difficult to talk. The restaurants served everyone in the restaurant Pisco Sours which was nice.

Next day is the Bus to Puno:
Percy picked us up & took us to the bus. He had purchased our tickets & told us we would have a guide on the bus that would take us to numerous stops on the way. We gave Percy big hugs & felt sad to be saying goodbye. He was absolutely marvelous. We felt like we were leaving a dear friend.
We had a full bus & met some new friends. Our first stop was Andahuaylillas, the church of St Peter. It was very ornate with beautiful paintings by the Michelangelo of Peru. We went on to Raqchi, a fascinating ruins of a huge building or what was left of it. It was fun seeing a rendition of what it had once looked like. The buildings surrounding it were round storehouses made from lava. It must have been a very large village. We ate lunch at a restaurant with a waterfall behind it. The food was very good. There were alpacas outside & the cutest little girl playing with them. Next stop was La Raya which is the tallest spot on the trip at 4335m or about 13,000 ft. Quite a view of the snow capped mountains.
Pukara was the last stop where we viewed a very old church & went through a museum. Lots of history there.
Arrived in Puno & was a bit taken back by the hustle & bustle of the town. There were huge markets & lots of crazy drivers. We were taken to our hotel which Percy upgraded us to & was it ever nice. It was called Hotel Qalasaya. Our guide met us & was so excited about our room that she asked if she could go up with us & take a look. Our room was on the 8th floor & had a panoramic view of Lake Titicaca. It was exquisite. Percy came through once again & never disappointed. After some coca tea we headed down to the Plaza de Armes. The streets are lively but we really enjoyed Lima street which had no traffic except foot traffic. The hotel recommended La Casona so we had supper there at a window seat on second floor where we could do some people watching. We ordered alpaca pizza & enjoyed it.
Next morning I woke early to catch a sunrise picture over Lake Titicaca. It was like being in a dream.

Lake Titicaca:
Got picked up the next morning & taken to the harbor to catch our boat. We were told to pick up some sugar or rice to take to our homestay. We had a bag of coffee to take as well. I have to comment that Peru has the worlds worst coffee. It's instant & terrible. I love my coffee but for 15 days I stuck with coca tea. I know they grow coffee beans so why they have that awful instant is beyond me.
Our guide Leo gave us history of the area we were heading to. As we neared Uros, there were lots of reeds in the water. We past some pigs on their own mini island. It was a funny site. No fears of those porkies going anywhere. We got out at Uros & had a very soft landing as we stepped on the ground. It was exciting to be there & learn how they made their islands. The women are so colorfully dressed. There was a young man with a baby & little boy which fascinated me to think about what it would be like as a parent making sure your child didn't fall off the edge. They also had a trout pond in the center. We boarded a reed boat for 10 sol & crossed to the other side. It was just fun being in one. As we left, the women sang us a song. What an intriguing way to live.
Lake Titicaca is huge. It looks like an ocean with small islands here & there. We headed to Amantani for our homestay. It was quite a climb once again. My lungs were burning at 13,000 + ft & then an older woman & young gal pass us up with a big bag of bricks on their backs. We felt like wimps. We had a Canadian gent who stayed in the same homestay & loved his company. He kept us laughing. He didn't know any Spanish so pantomimed what he wanted to say. Our homestay was very basic. The doors were just 4 ft plus wires dangling down so wasn't easy entering or exiting our room. Big L seemed to continue to beat his head up. Our room was on the second floor. There was a bathroom with sink, toilet & shower but no water. There was a bucket for flushing--no frills. I'm thinking how fun this is going to be in the night when we have to visit the bano. When Big L takes out his contacts he's pretty much blind but glad to report he didn't fall down the stairs. For supper we had quinoa soup with veggies. The dining/kitchen was kind of a cave where "Momma" sat on the floor stoking a small fire to cook on. It was pretty smokey (not easy on my shot lungs) but they were sweet people & very hospitable. After supper we had to dress up in native garb & go to dance. Poppa picked me to dance with. He had to be 80 at least & near killed me. We swirled & twirled & I gasped & about hurled from a lack of breathing. But it was worth it to watch Big L getting twirled all over the floor as well. He hates to dance. So glad to have those photos (if only I could attach them).
We slept well. It really wasn't cold. There must have been 3 horse blankets on the bed which we had to remove. I live with a polar bear who sleeps with our door open all winter & it gets below 0 here. In the morning we had pancakes. Jill had woken early & picked a bouquet of flowers & picked up garbage. He liked to leave a place better than when he arrived. After saying our goodbyes to our homestay we headed for Taquile Island. We know another treat is ahead of us when Leo says we are going in on the north side so the climb will be more gradual. I take my Ibuprofen & head up the trail. It is quite a hike. At the top we are at 13,000+ ft & feel every beat of it. We visit the knitting men's shop & buy a couple more items. Quite a view from the top. We eat lunch which is trout & quite good while they demonstrate weaving & island life. Meanwhile our new Canadian friend is making us laugh. His travel agent had him fly direct to Puno & then on to Cusco & to hike the Inca Trail. He defied all the rules the guides tell you to avoid & drank beer like it was water, arrived in the highest altitude & somehow survived just fine. Heading down to the boat was a 540 step descent. What an adventure & what a workout.
We spent the night in Puno & so appreciative & so thankful for all of the nice amenities. One of the biggest things we take away from this trip is the fact that we are so blessed with things we call basics. There hasn't been a day since we've returned that we are not reminded how good life is.
We end our journey by catching our flight out of Juliaca for Lima. That is one frightening town. Definitely not a place one would want to stay.
To summarize our trip I would say this has been the most awesome adventure we've ever taken. The people were wonderful, the scenery unbelievable, food good, everything was a bargain & Percy was the best. Our favorite part of the trip was Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley. It's a will leave a lasting glow.
My best tips would be pack light. If I went back I would take 2 prs of pants, 4 shirts, a fleece & very light jacket & plan to buy anything else. Our Canadian buddy packed clothes he never wanted to see again so after wearing them a couple of times, he left them along the trail hoping at the end of his trip he would have an empty suitcase for souvenirs. I like that. You can buy sweaters, pants, tshirts, sweatshirts, etc. I had a good pair of Teva hiking shoes which were great & Keen sandals. A Steripen was our best packed item. We used regular tap water & sterilized it so were never without water.
We also took along Zipfizz (Costco) to add to water. We never got sore & I think it was contributed to that. It was designed for mountain climbers. Take school supplies or small toys for the kids. They don't have good dental hygiene so were told not to bring candy. Toothbrushes & toothpaste would be good. I love having something to give the kids. I also had lots of calculators from my real estate business that I gave as gifts left over after selling my office so I handed them out. People are so delighted to get a gift.
Peru will stay in our hearts.

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