Harry and I enjoyed our time on Quinta Lala campground just outside of Cusco — he got to run around a lot and I was happy to meet fellow overlanders. From left to right: Julie’s and Russ’ El Jeepo (only its front is visible) from New Jersey, Wolfgang’s Mercedes off-road camper from Germany, Amanda’s and Guilherme’s 8-cylinder, 5.7L Jeep Cherokee from Brazil, a parked Land Rover Defender from France, a parked motorhome from the U.S., la bestia blanda, and the Chevy pick-up of a young American couple traveling with their dog Lucia.
Lots of overlander talk at night — and alcohol in all its forms to keep us warm amid near-constant rain and freezing temperatures.
Since I had already seen quite a bit of Cusco during the my first visit in late 2008, I felt that I should focus on exploring the Sacred Valley instead, which together with the city and Machu Picchu were the heart of the Inca Empire.
Moray is an archaeological site located at 3,500m located approximately 50km northwest of Cusco. Researchers suspect that its circular depressions formed part of an agricultural experiment by the Inca to study variation in climatic conditions on crops, as the temperature differs markedly between upper and lower levels.
The fact that the different arrangements of concentric circles vary considerably in both depth and width add credibility to this archaeological interpretation.
At first Amanda, Guilherme and I were reluctant to do a full walk-around given the unpredictable mix of drizzle and fierce showers, but we were encouraged by their two-year old son Frederico’s obvious determination to give it a try.
Afterwards we continued toward the salt pan near the village of Maras…
… passing some beautifully well-preserved remnants of Spanish colonial rule on our way.
We reached the Maras salt pans during a massive downpour and had to wait for twenty minutes inside our cars before making it to one of the lookouts.
Our next stop was the town of Ollantaytambo, known for its Inca and pre-Inca ruins and its unusual dewlling pattern: current residents have integrated Inca architecture into their homes, and the latter are often merely extensions of what was left by the Inca.
Unfortunately, just as we had pulled onto the visitor parking lot Amanda’s and Guilherme’s Jeep had a flat tire. A stone had cut right through several layers of rubber. We changed the tire right there, and I did my best to convince them to switch to BFGoodrich‘s A/T tires — the brand that most overlanders (including la bestia) are using.
Although I had already visited Ollantaytambo in 2008 before hiking the Inca Trail with my friends Alejandro (Bay Area, CA) and Andreas (Evanston, IL), the place had lost nothing of its magic.
Right there I realized that I wouldn’t have to return to Machu Picchu, and I still feel it was the right decision.
On February 4 we continued our journey and arrived in Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca.
After several bitterly cold nights in Cusco, we treated ourselves to a hotel room in the EcoInn where we were allowed to park right in front the main entrance.
Next, we headed downtown to obtain the necessary paperwork for Harry’s border crossing into Bolivia. But what I had assumed would take less than an hour turned into yet another memorable experience with South American bureaucracy.
We arrived at the SENASA office–the national agency for animal health–around 1:30PM and were told that everyone was out for lunch and would only return at 2PM. When the office was eventually reopened at 2:20PM, it became clear that the SENASA veterinarian and his assistant did not know how to complete the certificate I was asking for. Following 45 minutes of Internet searches, I was informed that I would first have to obtain a regular veterinarian’s confirmation of good health before SENASA could proceed with its certification. However, the first vet we saw did not know how to complete the required form. Fortunately the second clinic we went to was more professional and agreed to provide a written record of Harry’s examination results (which, I am happy to report, are positive throughout). Record in hand, we returned to SENASA.
Had Harry been vaccinated against leptospirosis during the past year? Well, I honestly did not know. His vaccination records suggested that the answer was ‘no’ — but giving him the vaccine in Puno would not have solved the problem since Bolivia does not allow any vaccinations to be more recent than 14 days. The SENASA officers seemed baffled. After another 45 minutes of friendly discussion and constructive silence, they agreed to issue a certificate specifying that Harry would not be “imported” into Bolivia but rather was “in transit” to Argentina (which does not require vaccinations against leptospirosis).
The fee for issuing the SENASA certificate, I learned, was 97.20 Soles (approximately US$30), and I was told to go to the nearest branch of the Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP) and deposit this amount into SENASA’s account. Half an hour later I was back at the SENASA office. The official veterinarian inspected my deposit slip and then searched for the appropriate certificate form. After 15 minutes he returned with two forms. Both had to be completed in handwriting. First, though, I was asked to submit a handwritten statement swearing under oath that Harry was in good health. I am still not sure what exactly such a statement from the dog’s owner–rather than from a adequately trained professional–is worth, but of course I obliged. My statement was then read carefully. Now, I was told, a case number had to be generated in SENASA’s computer system. The official vet’s assistant began to fill in a lengthy online form while the official vet started to complete the two certificates — in handwriting, of course. Ten minutes later the assistant was able to report a case number, which the official vet added to the two forms. Was that it?
No, of course not: a receipt! The official vet searched for the receipt form and–after another ten minutes–issued a handwritten receipt that he asked me to countersign. And so I left the SENASA office at 4:50PM with two complementary handwritten certificates, a handwritten receipt, a photocopy of an account deposit slip, a Peruvian vet’s confirmation of good animal health, and the conviction that public sector reform in Peru still has to come a long way.
When I unlocked la bestia‘s doors, Harry was fast asleep.
On my way to the BCP branch I had noticed that Puno’s main square was only blocks away from the SENASA office, and since Harry was sleeping I went on a quick tour of the city.
As I walked out of one of the many alpaca wool stores, I spotted Elizabeth from Toronto with whom Harry and I had crossed the border from Ecuador to Peru! We agreed to team up again, but on Feb. 6 la bestia did not want to start her engine. Although the repair fortunately ended up being an easy one, I first spent several hours touring the city on foot to find a mechanic willing to accompany me to the hotel where la bestia was waiting for us. The gentleman I eventually managed to convince was busy working on a 1983 Brazilian Volkswagen Beetle, and so it was past 4PM when we finally arrived at the EcoInn. He replaced a cable, and within fifteen minutes everything was good again. Our trip to Bolivia, however, had to be postponed by one day.