Okay, it’s been a few days…where was I? Oh, yes, our last day in Peru and our very looooooooong flights home.
So we woke up in the little Puno hotel on our last day eager to get home, but we had one more stop to make—to a pre-Inca burial site that is considered one of the oldest in the world, Sillustani. We saw no need to book a tour to Sillustani, as I’d read on the ‘net that you could basically ask your taxi driver to take you there on the way to the airport, which is 47 miles away in Juliaca (for geographical reasons, there’s no airport in Puno). So that’s what we did. While we were still with our guide, Tito, from the Lake Titicaca excursions, we asked the best way to get to Sillustani on our way to the airport. He had the perfect thing. He’d call his tour company, arrange something for us, and phone us at our Puno hotel the evening before to let us know everything was copasetic. We got the phone call, and were told to meet a “guide in training” at our hotel at 11 a.m. Our flight out of Peru left Lima at 11 p.m. or close to midnight, I can’t remember which. We just had to get from Puno to Lima several hours beforehand, to accommodate the Lima airport’s windows.
No problem! I really wanted to see the ancient funerary towers of Sillustani. You see, a long time ago when the earth was green and there were more—um, a long time ago, 1976 to be exact (I finally phoned my dad and nailed down the correct year), my parents went to Peru. Some of my dad’s photographs still hang on the walls of their house, and their travels partly inspired our trip. One of the stories I remember my dad telling me was about losing his roll of film featuring Sillustani near Puno. Well, he didn’t actually lose his film. It was confiscated. The story goes something like this (with apologies to Dad if I screwed up anything):
My parents traveled Peru during a time of political strife. There was quite a military presence, especially around Puno. My dad’s a history buff. So when he realized he could take pictures out his hotel window of the military presence and machinery, he couldn’t resist. Don’t ask me how, but he was spotted. They received a visit in their room from a military personnel/soldier type. And Dad’s film was confiscated. Luckily for him, they took just one roll of film. My dad was very much into photography at the time, and what a shame it would have been if he’d lost all the photos of his travels. Like us, they were at the end of their stay in Peru. The film was ripped out of his camera, and the camera returned to him. That film contained not only the photos of the military presence, but also of Sillustani. And my parents didn’t have time to return. My dad always bemoaned the loss of those pictures.
Trip Tip! Nowadays, in a similar situation, you’d get your entire digital card confiscated. Consider that when you’re waxing prosaic about the wonders of the digital age! Or maybe DON’T make like James Bond and snap photos of a military presence out your hotel window with your zoom lens attached. It’s especially essential not to do this if you’re like 5’6″ tall, weigh all of 140 pounds, have black hair and a dark skin tone. Because then you might look really suspicious! Especially if you add in that you have piercing blue eyes. You might be considered a sloppy spy masquerading as a tourist with really odd colored contact lenses. (The things you people learn from me!)
Anyway, my father mentioned that if we had a chance to visit Sillustani, he wouldn’t mind if we got some photographs to jog his memory. Of course, I simply had to make his dream come true. Because I’m such a thoughtful daughter. You know how it is.
So, we’re back to Day 21 and that our Lake Titicaca guide, Tito, had arranged a time and price for a “guide in training” to arrive in the morning and drive us to Sillustani on the way to the airport. Now, I can’t remember the name of the guy who was supposed to drive us, I know it began with an R, but that’s it, so let’s just call him Not Tito. The morning of Day 21, Not Tito arrives at our hotel only a little late. The language barrier was great, which confused us because a “guide in training” would have at least a bit of English and desire to learn more—hence the “in training” part. Our fellow insisted he was Not Tito, but he knew nothing about taking us to the pre-Inca burial site on the way to the airport. He thought he was there just to drive us TO the airport. Yet he wanted the price Tito had prearranged.
After help from a very nice employee of the hotel and an older gentleman who was on the street and decided to lend a hand, we learned this fellow WASN’T Not Tito, after all. Not Tito couldn’t make it. So Really Not Tito came in his place. And Really Not Tito was “just” a driver, not a guide. After much discussion, during which we tried to explain, over and over, that we didn’t desire a guide to take us around the ruins, we were more than capable of making up stuff in our heads as we walked the grounds. We just wanted to see them because we’d heard they were really cool, and we had this time before we needed to be at the airport (from what I could tell, aside from people-watching in the plaza de armes, Puno isn’t a town to hang around in, not when you can go explore a pre-Inca burial site. Plus, we’d had our fill of people-watching the night before, when an entertaining political rally rolled through the streets while we ate dinner in a little restaurant with a balcony view of it all). Eventually, Really Not Tito agreed to the arrangements we’d made the night before and for the same amount of cash. I think he was a little ticked that he wasn’t getting extra cash to stop for an hour at a tourist attraction. From our point of view, we’d made the arrangements with Tito and wanted to stick to those arrangements.
So, everyone happy now, we left Lake Titicaca and Puno behind and fed Really Not Tito one of our last few Globbopops, the Peruvian cherry lollipops with gum inside that we’d become addicted to. Really Not Tito decided we weren’t so bad.
We had 45 minutes at Sillustani. It’s really cool. Really Not Tito sat in the van while we walked around. At the last minute, he tried to find us a guide and again we explained that we didn’t need a guide. But he had the Globbopop in his belly by this point and wanted to make us happy. Once he realized, yes, he could really nap in the van for an hour, everything went along smoothly.
Sillustani features several ancient, pre-Inca burial tombs, circular structures called Chulpas.
One of the more well-preserved structures. The Sillustani site isn't as well preserved as other sites in Peru, and it's too bad. It's incredible.
The rocks on the ground were probably inside the structure at some point. The Peruvian government filled the structures (the bodies once inside them long gone) with rocks and cement to try and help them retain their shape. Some of them have boards, etc., trying to hold them up:
One of the crumbling chulpas.
My Liege peeking in a hole at the bottom of one of the structures. My dad actually climbed inside when he visited. No wonder they confiscated his film!
The opening at the bottom faces east toward the “reborn” rising sun. Chambers inside the tombs (not there any longer, but at one time), were built to resemble wombs. The dead were placed in the fetal position, like we’d seen at the underground cemetery in Nasca (only there are no mummified dead at Sillustani).
There was a nice path that you could meander around that would take you to every structure. But we only had 45 minutes, so we hightailed it to the ones we most wanted to visit.
Did I mention that while we were on Taquille Island on Lake Titicaca, we bought these nifty little matching bracelets off a girl in the square? We decided they were our real anniversary present, and we wouldn’t take them off until one of them rotted off. In fact, I had the audacity to suggest that whoever’s bracelet didn’t last as long as the other’s clearly wasn’t as invested in the relationship and should suffer a punishment of some sort. My Liege thought this was awful, simply awful of me! (I think he was afeared he would lose the competition). He called me a Nasty Pants (which is his nickname, so I don’t know where he gets off trying to confiscate it!). Aw, well, you don’t reach your 25th anniversary without the need to constantly come up with new nicknames for each other.
Self-portrait of us showing off the bracelets (I have the pink bracelet):
Still at Sillustani. My bracelet came off three times over the next four months, you know, as karmic punishment for having made that Nasty Pants suggestions. Twice it came off while I was turning socks inside out doing laundry, and once it came off while I was doing the dishes. The dh didn't lose his bracelet ONCE! So apparently I wasn't as invested in the relationship. Or maybe I was just doing all the housework. HUH? The last time I lost mine, I couldn't find it, so we cut his off and put it in the souvenirs-that-go-in-the-photo-album pile. At least a week later, he was digging a pair of socks out of his drawer, and he found my bracelet! Phew, I wasn't a loser after all. It hadn't rotted off, you see, the force of me lovingly turning his socks right side out had taken it off my arm.
Back to Sillustani. We knew we didn’t have much time, so we made sure to get back to the van within the 45 minutes Really Not Tito had allotted us. He awoke from his siesta, and we continued on our way to Juliaca. Well, it turned out Really Not Tito had neglected to inform us that he Really Didn’t Have a Clue Where the Juliaca Airport Was. He had to get directions, and those directions took us through Juliaca instead of around it. On the up side, we got to experience our last terrifying experience of crazy Peruvian city driving and see parts of Juliaca. On the down side, it was starting to look like—thanks to me wanting to visit Sillustani for my dad—we might not ever ARRIVE at the airport.
Finally, we did. And with enough time to spare. In fact, when we got to the airport in Juliaca, our flight hadn’t been announced yet. It wasn’t on the monitors. We couldn’t find ANY employees in the airport! And Really Not Tito was long gone. Turned out we were just too early. Why arrive to work when the security gate won’t open for another 20 minutes? I mean, really. Eventually, other tourists arrived, and we began to feel some assurance that we would make it to Lima in time for flight #2.
Our first flight was from Puno to Lima by way of Arequipa, the only city and area of Peru we missed that we’d wanted to visit. It’s known for having the deepest canyon in South America, Colca Canyon, where you can see Condors in flight, and it’s also known for volcanoes. We flew close to a few of them:
The tourist in the row behind us took pictures EVERY FEW SECONDS all the way from Puno to Lima. It was a 3 hour flight, so it was ultra-irritating.
Isn’t that a cool volcano, though? We had a brief respite at the Arequipa airport, but weren’t allowed to get off the plane.
Three hours later, we landed in Lima. We didn’t have much time before we had to catch the Lima-Houston leg of our journey home. We were pretty tired and grouchy by this point. We tried to upgrade to first class in the Lima airport (remembering the offer of upgrading on the way down for only $70 each one way, that we stupidly declined). But we were told it would cost $1700 each, and that was just to get us to Houston. Forget about it!
At this point, all I wanted to do was play Sudoku:
Tired and grouchy, losing at Sudoku.
So of course we were stuck with an obnoxious aisle-mate all the way to Houston (about 6 hours). I was in the middle and had to sit beside him. I wanted him to just shut up already (have I mentioned I’m not very talkative on planes? I don’t want to know your life story, sorry. I want to sleep or read and/or play Sudoku!)
Another layover in Houston, very short this time so we were running, and then we flew to Calgary with an EXTREMELY obnoxious aisle-mate. This time My Liege was in the middle, and reports have it that the Obnoxious One was super reluctant about giving up any elbow room. M.L.’s philosophy is that the middle seat is the worst seat, so the others should accommodate you. I’d have to say I agree.
In Calgary, we had enough time to grab something to eat. It was blissful! We ate at Montana’s. We had ribs, the most delicious ribs I have ever consumed. From Calgary, it was a one-hour flight home. By the time we arrived in small town B.C. and my dad picked us up from the airport, 24 hours had elapsed. We were so glad to be home!
We thoroughly enjoyed the journey, but decided we’re too old to experience another “Cindy holiday” for at least two years. (Cindy holidays are when you do anything except lay on the beach). (Cindy is easily bored and quickly gets overheated in the sun). However, only five months have passed, and I am eagerly looking forward to another trip to South America, this time to the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador. Don’t ask me how we plan to pay for it. For now, I’m dreaming and planning. And will even welcome the snafus. Because every snafu we encountered in Peru became a funny memory. And our wonderful experiences more than made up for the few snafus. The snafus made it interesting.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Over and out!