Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monday, Feb 4th, Puno, Peru


I was prepared for altitude sickness, with pills brought from home.  But altitude tiredness?  I was surprised to get tired walking down stairs.  At 13,500 feet, with a perennial chest cold restricting my breathing anyway, it’s really hard not to feel like a very old man.  At Pat’s side meandering down these cobblestone streets, I’m not only not frustrated with her pace due to her sore knee, I pretty glad for it.

 Pretend you’re starting out on a train 2,000 feet above Denver, Colorado.  And you’re winding your way around mountains up to a point 2,000 feet above California’s Mt Whitney, and then down 700 feet to your hotel.  That is a rocky mountain high.

The train is owned by the same company famous for the Oriental Express.  It has six cars: the engine, luggage car, kitchen, our carriage, bar lounge, and the viewing platform.  It has elegant and comfy interiors, and beautifully-dressed and well-choreographed staff. 

 The 18 guests are over-matched by staff, including musicians and dancers.  Fashion shows are also provided, with staff serving as models. 

Standing at the end of the train, on a viewing platform surrounded by large windows and open air, we were able to be seen by everyone we passed.  I used the opportunity to wave to anyone I could see.  Almost everyone waved back, including about 98% of the kids. Even those working in the fields couldn’t avoid watching the sleek train go by, and responded with a grin and a wave.

At the highest point (La Raya, 14,155 feet), we got out to stretch our legs.  We met another train coming from our destination, and the entire crews switched.  There were some vendor stalls, and children tapping on our windows.  I noticed that one of the staff gave a warm jacket to one of the kids.  Good thing, as these summer nights can get cold up in those passes. The ten-hour journey passed more easily than an equivalent plane flight, as the scenery around kept getting more spectacular with every bend of the tracks.

The last stretch of ride was quite interesting, as it rook us through a town which is famous for it's extensive boac market of construction goods.  Along the tracks were vendors and storage sites containing the largest collection of used materials of any kind I have ever seen.  The side streets were packed with those living in some squalor, and our guide had warned that it was not for the weak of heart.  They all looked pretty happy to me, and I thought it would make a great scene in a movie about a post-disaster event.  Again, the juxtoposition of our train and the environment was staggering.

To view all of the photos taken on Monday, click on: Monday, Feb 4th, Puno, Peru

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