To ease our way into high altitude, we decided to skip Moquegua and go up to Puno, to have more time at high altitude before crossing the border to Bolivia. We need out wits about us and I didn’t want to be feeling sick.

1/21/2015
Arequipa to Puno. Weather sunny to slight overcast. Temperatures from 23 down to 14 degrees. Car still overheating, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

Within an hour of leaving Arequipa we found ourselves in the puna, high altitude grassland that stretches for miles up to the Misti volcano that overlooks Arequipa. Part of this area is a reserve for vicuna and guanaco, the wild relatives of llama and alpaca. I thought Jonathan was kidding when he said, “There’s vicuna, pull over!” We watched the six animals graze for a while. Later we saw mixed flocks, mostly alpaca, but also the occasional sheep, cow and perhaps llama or guanaco. We saw a sharply variegated black and white hawk and Chilean flamingos wading in shallow lakes.

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We arrived in Puno around 2:30 pm and were resting by 3. We benefitted from our two days in Arequipa but Puno is 3850 m, about 1500 m higher than Arequipa. You pant going up stairs, sometimes your fingers and toes tingle and you have a slight headache. I hope this will pass overnight. We walked down to the Plaza de Armas and found a pasacalle in full swing. A man carrying a decorative banner announcing the group led men wearing black and white and playing Andean flutes that look like oversized recorders. Beside and behind came two rows of women dancing and whirling in traditional highland multitiered skirts, pollera, singing along with the music. Two women led, marked by wearing many more skirts than the others. The group danced their way around the Plaza, past the cathedral, down the street and away.

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We ate dinner at Mojsas, where I had quinoa soup and Jonathan had alpaca with potatos and a stripe of blueberry (sauco)- chocolate reduction. Very good. The place filled with foreigners as we sat, more languages than we could identify.

Puno spreads up a hillside in sectors that join along the lake. That means that the walk to almost anywhere is uphill, so we huff and puff from place to place. The cathedral is nicely lit at night, and I could see the crescent moon behind it.

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This is high altitude weather, cold in the morning, hot at midday and cold again as soon as the sun sets. Since it’s the rainy season, it has been raining every evening, and for a while in the morning, but much of the day is clear and bright.

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