After the border crossing with Bolivia we spent a quiet night in the plaza of Yunguyo, right on the Peruvian border, and wake up excitedly, ready to start a new phase of our Landcruising Adventure. Coen’s diarrhea that bugged him yesterday (border crossing stress) is gone and he is feeling better. Breakfast with our first Peruvian bread, still lukewarm rolls – 7 for 1 sole (about 30 eurocents) and a cup of tea.
We leave town and drive along Lake Titikaka. The cobalt-blue lake with the sun glistening on the smooth water surface is almost ethereal. Between the road and the lake stretch fields with sheaves of oat drying in the sun. A farmer tells me it is mostly used as fodder.
We not only have a maximum speed (80 kms/hour) but also a minimum speed! (55 kms/hour). A first in South America? I can’t remember. In accordance with South American tradition, minivans stop wherever they want, preferably in the middle of the road, so passengers can get on or off. Sheep are tied on the roof rack. We see lots of sheep and cows chomping stubbles and only an occasional llama or alpaca.
Pumas in Pomata’s Dominican Church
In Pomata we drive to the plaza which has, like in the villages to come, meticulously trimmed trees in the form of animals, with the most remarkable one being an elephant. But what really gets our attention is the red sandstone construction with translucent alabaster windows. According to Segundo
According to Segundo Quispo Quispo, as the caretaker introduces himself, the Dominican church was built from 1580 to 1675. Pomata means ‘Place of Puma’ in Aymara, and SQQ confirms that pumas still roam the countryside
So you learn Spanish and think you will be able to speak the language in most South American countries, right? Not exactly. We now fill up at grifos (in Bolivia: estacion de servicio; petrol station). We no longer ask for diesel, like in Bolivia, but need petrolero. Fuel, by the way, is a major smuggle product from Bolivia and we see all kinds of informal grifos next to the road where fuel is sold from jerrycans.
Little Rome in Peru?
According to the Lonely Planet the town of Juli is Peru’s “Little Rome” because it has four churches. Well, that idea is so ridiculous that I believe the author made that up. There are four churches, yep, that much is true (although two of them are museums and one of them is in ruins), but although I have never been to Rome I can’t believe there’s any similarity in one way or another. Besides, four churches in a Peruvian town is not that many, let alone unique, I think – Catholicism definitely rules the world of religion in this country – but we’ll check that in the months to come.
The plaza is closed off as there is going to be a procession as well as a marathon. In the plaza kids are making carpets of colored zaagsel while adults are cleaning the plaza, fixing street lights and doing all kinds of maintenance only hours before the procession is to start.
There is a white circle in the plaza with an S written in it (for Sismos – earthquakes). We have seen more of those today. A police officer explains it is a place where locals gather in case of an earthquake as their adobe houses easily collapse. He says it’s a custom to have those circles even though here are never earthquakes.
From Churches to the Temple of Fertility
So you’d think we’d have had our share of churches for the day, right? Well, normally we would have but there was an intriguing one left, in Chuquito to be exact: The remains of Inca Uyu, which was a Temple of Fertility.
Some claim it dates from Inca times (1440-1532), other dispute this by arguing that the colonizers destroyed everything pagan and this temple couldn’t have survived. So then what, is it a fake? Who knows. The temple has numerous phalluses inside a two-meter high-walled structure and a couple of them outside. According to the story women used to sit on them for hours to increase their fertility. Odd indeed.
Well, by then we really are saturated. A short drive down a dirt path takes us to an agricultural field alongside Lake Titicaca and we set up camp for the night. It feels good to have started a new Landcruising Adventure!