Tuesday, February 02, 2016


On Monday we went to the train station to catch a bus to Puno. It was only 6 hours or so and a better price than flying (and you can't fly into Puno anyway) and we thought it would be a nice way to see some of the scenery. I had the impression, before the trip, that we'd be going through or by jungles or greenery of some sort since we were passing by a big reserve. But the landscape was much the same. 

Arequipa's elevation is about 7,700 feet and Puno is at about 12,500 feet. Somewhere in the midst of our bus ride we started feeling it - difficulty breathing properly, a little funny in the head. We both ended up watching movies on the bus to help take our minds off how crummy we felt. 

We arrived in Puno almost on time and went to find a cab. There was some confusion with the cab driver that we couldn't understand. We were going to the Hostal San Antonio and there were some other tourists with us who were going to a different hotel. None of us could tell what was going on. Finally we were all whisked off in taxis, into streets every bit as crazy and wild as Cusco. 

The taxi stopped near our hotel and the other tourist couple was right ahead of us. Wacky!  There was our hotel, with San Antonio in big letters. But then on a smaller sign under it was a different name, the name of the hotel where the other couple were going. Weird. 

We all went into the hotel. The other couple checked in and were led off to their rooms. Then the woman at the desk gave us the bad news: they had no record of our reservation! Apparently the hotel had changed management and names about five months ago, and somehow Hotels.com hadn't gotten the memo. So now we were stuck in Puno with no place to stay, and the women at the desk said it might be hard to find a place because it was the start of the Festival of Candelaria and lots of people were coming into town. Yikes! We begged her for help. She said she had a friend at another hotel and she called them, found out they had a room available, and asked for a cheaper price for us. Then she hailed a cab, got in with us, and went to the new hotel and made sure we got the good price. Wow!  We were pretty happy for that help. 

The Hotel Margarita was not as nice as the places we had been staying - but nicer than the damp hostel in Aguas Calientes! =) We dropped our stuff off and went exploring. Our new hotel was one block up from Lima Street, which is one of the main streets in town. It's for pedestrians only and crosses by the cathedral to Candelaria and it's square and also the Plaza de Armas and main cathedral of the town. All along Lima, and off on side streets, there were loads of shops and restaurants. We found a market in what appeared to be a school (closed for holidays) and went a little crazy shopping. 

The inside of the cathedral to Candelaria
Susan had been told not to get pizza in Peru. They try to make it, but it's just not good. However, my friend Ken recommended a place called Buho so we went off to find it. Since the menu was only in Spanish I couldn't tell what most of the pizzas were. I went for the personal size "American," basically ham and cheese. It was so yummy! 

Made in a wood-fired oven right inside the door of the restaurant. 

We meant to eat quickly and get back to our hotel before dark. There happened to be a bright blue sign outside the window of our restaurant which made us think it was lighter out than it was. We were surprised to discover upon leaving that it was quite dark! But there were a ton of people out and in fact we could tell something was going on at Lima Street. We got up there in time to catch an amazing parade as the Virgin Candelaria was carried down the street accompanied by a big, mostly brass, band. 

We both climbed up on planter boxes so we could see over the crowd. It was incredibly packed! We went back to the hotel pretty happy that we'd run into the procession. We could still hear a band playing somewhere and there were a lot of firecrackers going off. Some were smaller, but others were explosions like bottle rockets. When those went off it cause car alarms all over the place to go off. Susan and I were laughing about this hysterical situation of how loud it was and the party atmosphere, and how we would ever get to sleep with fireworks and car alarms and dogs and music going on all night. Somehow we managed! 

Here's a picture of our hotel in the reflection from the place across the street. We're the brick building on the right, second window down. You can see the hotel next to us is being renovated or built. There was a lot of racket going on during the day. 

This is the outside of the Candelaria church. Susan thought it looked like a version of the Disney castle. 

Out on our walk we saw this building going up. It sort of looks like a church, with the towers, but I'm not sure what it is. 

It seems part of the Festival is these incredible street designs. It looked like they were made with colored sand or woodchips or mud - or some combo of those. It was hard to tell what the stuff was even up close. There were dozens and dozens of these with different groups of people working on them. I'm not sure if they were being done by different school groups or community groups, or random groups of people that signed up. I'm not sure if they were going to be judged and there would be a winner. I wondered if a parade would come down this street and walk through all the amazing art. 
What did happen is that it rained a few hours after this and I think all this art was washed away!

mother and daughter hard at work.

This one had a ton of gold glitter in it. 

This one had flower petals in the virgin's dress.

Looking down the street at street art drawn out and in process.
We were looking for a place to eat and stumbled on the Mojra Restaurant right on the plaza. The menu looked good so we headed up the stairs. I saw this sign on the front door and it made me smile. I couldn't get an answer from our waiter though about where it came from. 

We had another fabulous lunch as you can see. This was a series of "sliders" with pureed potatoes, avocado, grilled trout, onions, kalamatas, and I think a few peppers. It was amazingly tasty. 

Afterwards they suggested their own version of coca tea. It was powered coca leaves, lime, and honey. It was hot, sweet, and tangy; very tasty. 

We left that restaurant and ran into another parade/marching band going around the main plaza. 
This is a detail of some of the incredible carving on the cathedral. 

See the dog? He's up on the third floor of the building across the street from us and boy did he bark! We had a long day of wandering around, catching some parade or marching band every 30 minutes, and eating tasty food. Tomorrow we go off for an adventure on Lake Titicaca!

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