Peru - "niu countri"

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
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Trip End Nov 04, 2008


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Where I stayed
Don Julio - 70 Sol double, bath, break, sat tv. Good

Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, March 28, 2008

So we were all expecting to be blocked at the frontier Bolivia - Peru due to strikes, etc. Well we were blocked for 1 hour, but it had nothing to do with strikes...it was the hundreds of vans and push trolleys with boxes that covered the streets of Desaguadero.

Apparently the transport union has decided to reduce a bit of tension until next Monday so some road blocks were removed, but they could return next week. It seems that jumping Copacabana was a good decision.

We did have to run to the bus when we arrived in Peru as we were under sniper fire...or was that Hillary Clinton?

Anyway: PERU! "Niu Countri" (as Luis Mambo says) and thats the 7th since we started last 14th of December.

First impressions:
- Its much better organised than Bolivia
- The roads are paved but could do with a bit more tar!
- The scenery is just beautiful
- The oxygen is still thin
- Everything is more expensive than Bolivia but the quality is much, much better

Sadly our camera battery decided to die out this morning (its now loaded again). Strangely the current in most places in Bolivia seems not to work exactly like it is supposed to do. We loaded the camera for several hours, the charger got hot, but no charge!

Without pictures it is difficult to explain the chaos that reigned at Desaguadero. The town is split between Bolivia and Peru, with a small bridge in the middle crossing putrid waters (the side of Titicaca you will never want to see again!). The place just looks like a huge long market, selling everything and changing all currencies.

We travelled with "Transportes Litoral" buying the ticket directly at Antofagasta Bus Station for 50 Bolivianos each (about 5 euros each). The bus was in good shape and the best part is that you use the same bus all the way to Puno (or Cusco as some people continued). Some companies make you change bus at the frontier and carry your luggage around the market which is probably full of pick-pockets, etc.

The passport stamping is similar to the Paraguay - Brasil cross or others. One gets off the bus at Bolivia, joins a chaotic line, gets stamps, then walks 100 metres along no mans land (just sales land) and gets a stamp on the other side.

We changed all the remaining Bolivianos at Peru also as their exchange rate was exactly what internet stated. Quite good.

After 5-6 hours (cant exactly remember as we changed our watch one hour back when we entered Peru and I lost track...) we arrived at Puno.

We had read the place was a "dump", but canīt agree with that definition. It has everything needed to spend a couple of days and visit the Titicaca Islands. We think that people that were disappointed with Puno had probably not been to Bolivia previously (and to certain smaller towns of other countries around here) so they had a culture clash.

We have found plenty of restaurants to try, a nice Plaza de Armas and cathedral, all the internet one needs (with top speeds compared to Bolivia...what a relief!!) and the streets are paved! Also the town is full of "tri-taxis" (bicycle and motobike taxis similar to the ones in Thailand, etc). It has a special atmosphere, and lots of ATM machines.

The hotel was also a bit of a culture clash after Bolivia (and the rest of South America to be sincere!). We didnīt know what to expect for the 70 Soles (16 euros) that we booked it for. It was certainly 5-8 euros more than our usual price, but that was one of the cheapest... However, the standard is European 2-3 stars so we are very chuffed given we are going to spend 3 days here. Its clean, carpeted, lots of light, sofas in the corridors (important detail!), closed shower that is not on top of the toilet seat...and listen to this, hot water in the sink...!

Anyway, we have used the afternoon to organise our visits to the Titicaca Islands and to book our trip to Cusco next week. Initially we wanted to travel on the "Andean Express" which is a train that starts at Puno, passes Juliaca and arrived at Cusco. Reports stated the trip is magnificent, but the Peruvian rail company must of caught on as they have eliminated the "tourist" rate and only allow "first class" now.

It used to be USD 30 for the tourist class, but now you need to pay USD 143 to get on. Its just out of our budget and it no longer seems worth it. That money is now saved for Galapagos!

As  a result we booked bus tickets to Cusco for Monday morning at 30 Sols a head (7 euros).

We also booked our day tour to the Islands for tomorrow for 50 Sols a head (including guide, boat, pick up at hotel, entry fees and lunch). It will be an early start (6.45 am) so we will enjoy the hotel satellite TV to see how Hillary and Obama keep bashing the tamales out of each other, and then some film or something.

Cherioooo
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