What a fab way to spend a day - 10 hours on the Andean Explorer, serviced by Orient Express. We boarded at 0800 Monday morning and arrived into Puno just on 1800 that night. It was a slow but extremely comfortable ride, with entertainment on board and terrific dining.
Along the way we stopped at the highest point of our journey - La Raya, at 4313m. We stretched our legs, chatted with a few locals in a mix of several languages, and gazed at the beauty of the Andean altiplano, or high plateau. When we recommenced our journey back onboard, we realised the Urumbamba River, which we had been following since Cusco and was by now the Vilcanota River (north-flowing), was now flowing in the opposite direction - south. Quite a surprise but perfectly logic!
We saw corn stacks in the early part of the journey, but by mid-morning as we reached the higher altitude these were replaced by haystacks. Herds of alpacas and merinos were frequently seen, and of course the beautiful high country cattle which were kept firmly in place with individual nose-ties in the absence of any noticeable fencing. There's always a renegade, however and we did see a cow making a run for it with her rope trailing in the wind behind her complete with the clod of earth she'd earlier been anchored to.
Women outnumbered men in looking after their herds, working solo and easily spotted in the distance with a very brightly coloured (and big) skirt and top hat. Sometimes sitting quietly near the livestock dozing in the sun, other times walking along with their favourite cow leading the rest of the herd to a different grazing area.
Just short of Puno we ambled slowly through a growing city known as Juliaca. Gustavo explained it is a very dangerous city built on crime, being a popular and easily accessed trade point for drug smugglers working the Peruvian, Bolivian and Chilean borders. The place did look and feel very dark, and as we neared the city centre both sides of the railway were absolutely packed to the hilt with stalls selling anything in the world you could want from nuts and bolts to furniture, car parts and engines of all descriptions. All second hand of course, and from undoubtedly illegal sources.
Arrived in Puno to a fairyland of lights over Lake Titicaca - looking forward to tomorrow's adventures in a new city.