After a night of heavy rains, Bob and I departed Puno aboard PeruRail’s Andean Explorer headed through the Andes Mountains for Cusco. Our early-morning departure soon left behind the very wet world of the village of Puno.
On the outskirts of Puno, we began to see thatched adobe buildings and also the use of stones in building fences.
Our final view of Puno was a landscape of water, hills and wetlands, all in pastoral shades of blue, green, and brown.
Alongside the train tracks, entrepreneurs were busy selling everything imaginable.
One of the two reasons Bob and I wanted to ride on the PeruRail – Andean Explorer is that it is the second highest railway in the world. The only other railway at a higher elevation, and one that we hope to travel on someday, is the Qinghai – Tibet Railway in Tibet.
Our second reason for wanting to travel aboard the Andean Explorer is that the operators of the famous Orient Express have 50-percent ownership of it. Although only a ten-hour ride, the Andean Explorer lived up to the reputation of that famous connection.
Comfy armchairs next to the train windows gave us both a chance to take in the beautiful scenery as the Andean Explorer chugged across the altiplano (high plain). We decided to foot the bill for First Class seats on our run from Puno to Cuzco; it was very much worth the layout of cash. The interior of the First Class coaches provided us with comfortable seating, and we had a lovely 3-course meal in the dining car.
The open-air observation car at the end of the train afforded the perfect location from which to film and take pictures.
During the early part of our train trip, a local shaman on board the train presided over a traditional Andean ceremony called Pago a la Tierra (payment to Mother Earth). The shaman carried out his traditional rites, which included the placement of coca leaves over a fire to generate wafts of smoke, and then ‘blessing’ our train for a safe passage through the Andes Mountains. This blessing is no small deal. In 1988, both the wife of the Mayor of Jersey City, USA, and the wife of the Mayor of Cuzco were killed together when their PeruRail train derailed and fell off an embankment near the city of Cuzco. Having a local shaman take his time at the beginning of our train trip, to hopefully give us an extra chance at a safe passage, was greatly appreciated.
The altiplano (high plain) is home to both alpacas and vicunas.
As we climbed ever higher into the Andes Mountains, we observed that the whole plateau area has abundant water as was evidenced by the lush vegetation thriving on the mountain slopes as well as in the fields.
In rare instances, farms were grouped within sight of one another. All the farms appeared prosperous with thriving crops, and as we passed by, the local children would run out to give us a quick wave. In many instances, we could see that the locals continue to employ time-tested practices such as building new structures out of adobe bricks.
The PeruRail Andean Explorer train reached its highest point, 4,313 meters or 14,150 feet, at the La Raya Pass that marks the boundary between Cuzco and Puno.
A 10-minute stop was provided to enable us to get off the train,
do some quick shopping, take a few pictures,
and also to meet a few of the locals.
As the Andean Explorer climbed higher into the hillside, we were treated to lunch and a fashion show.
Along with a terrific meal and other services, the PeruRail Andean Explorer did a marvelous job of providing live entertainment aboard the train at different times throughout the day.
I found this lady in a traditional orange dress marvelous to watch as she completed intricate footwork during her dance.
Aboard the Andean Explorer, some of the entertainment included music played by a Peruvian band. The instruments they played are as follows: on the left, the musician is playing a Bamboo Zampona Pan;
on the far right, the musician is playing a Bamboo Zampona Zanga along with a drum;
and this musician is playing a wooden charango guitar.
The nearer the train drew to Cuzco, the mountain slopes became peppered with trees, the predominant ones being eucalyptus, and dwellings became more frequent.
After a wonderful day of traveling aboard the Andean Explorer, it was a thrill to find ourselves in the ancient Inca city of Cuzco.