Left really early today as we had a long drive ahead of us. We had a few stops along the way. One was to look at a hurd of wild alpacas and larmas. The women in the group were oohing and arring but all I could think of was steaks!
The next stop took us to the highest point of the trip, 4910 meters. I could really feel the altitude here: now I know what asthmatics feel like. There was an observation point where I could see most of the main volcanos in the region. Scattered all around were small kerns. Most of them were 3 or 4 stones piled on top of each other. These were built by the local shepherds as good luck charms to give them safe passage over this particularly inhospitable terrain. I had seen 1 or 2 of these structures while on the cycle tour but here there were thousands of them.
A few miles down the road we stopped again at a transport cafe at the intersection of 2 main roads. We took the opportunity to have a coca tea, some nibbles and a comfort break. This whole area was a geologist wet dream, with unusual overhanging rock formations.
After about an hour we stopped again at a watering hole where alpacas and larmas were drinking. There was a woman in traditional dress selling clothing made from alpaca and larma wool. I bought a baby alpaca Peruvian hat and scarf. I'm not sure if they suit me but they are really warm so I don't care!
Now came the highlight of the tour for me: Steve's quiz. A strange mix of questions about the Beatles, Peru and what ever Steve was musing on the last time he was on the toilet. This time was a bit unusual because most of the questions seemed to have a proper answer. Richard was the resident quiz fanatic and he won by a landslide netting himself and Belinda (who was along for the ride) an alpaca hat each.
The increased altitude had not been good to my pen. When I took the top off it exploded red ink all over my hands, shorts and jumper. It looked like I had been stabbed!
Almost at our hotel we stopped in Shivya for lunch. I sat with Steve and the guide and listened to them planning the next leg of the journey while enjoying an all you can eat buffet. A couple of plates of Peruvian food with desserts came to 30/s (about £6).
It wasn't much further to the hotel. Which was a particular arrangement run by 2 French chaps with about 6 Peruvian people working for them. This hotel was also strange because it had a planetarium and telescope.
To stay in the region you had to apply beforehand and pay a special tax which went to restoring the pre-inca civilisation sites that were dotted around.
After checking in we went to one of these sites to look at the ruins. A lot of care had been taken to restore the area and although it was still a work in progress you could see that they were spending the money wisely. The most interesting part was a water system that came from springs in the mountains at the top and was directed down to water terraced fields.
At the base of the ruins were a set of hot spas. The water flowed from an underground spring which was super heated by the volcano above. The water was too hot for one pool so was directed and mixed to form 5 pools for people to sit in. It was easily the same temperature as I would do for a hot bath. I has forgotten my trunks so I just used my undies! The others in the group had started to realise that I'm not backwards about coming forwards and just chalked this up to another of my eccentricities along with the odd socks.
It was started to get dark so we paid our 15/s and made our way back to the van. The guide helped us with torches because it was getting to the point that the moon was the only light source.
After showering back at the hotel we put in our order for dinner and went to watch the planetarium show. It obviously wasn't as good as the Griffith Observatory show I saw in LA last month but given the facilities they did a pretty good job. After the show we went outside where one of the French chaps pointed out the constellations with a green laser pen. The night was so clear that the pen really did look like it was touching the stars. I'd never seen this before so I'm definitely going to try it when I get home! It was getting a quite cold so we headed for the observatory. We looked at the Moon, Mars, Saturn, it's rings and we could also see 4 of it's orbiting moons. Toni was blown away, I don't think she'd looked down a telescope before. She asked him how he knew so much about the stars and he surprised us all by saying Wikipedia.
As we were winding up, the other French man came in to say our dinner was ready so we all headed inside. I had a glass of wine and lamb, mostly because I had seen some sheep at the ruins earlier in the day!
It had been an early morning and I was feeling quite tired so headed to bed. While writing my journal I heard a dog barking and thought "oh no" as my worse fears were realised. The dog carried on for about 20 minutes before all his stray doggy mates joined in. This went on most of the night so I didn't get much sleep.