We rode the bus a lot in Peru. From Cuzco to Puno. From Puno to Arequipa. From Arequipa through Chivay to the Cañon de Colca and back again. All of these bus rides took us over high mountain ranges through the alto plano above tree line. There was not much there. The mountain lakes when not wind blown reflected the snow covered peaks that tower above. Llamas were everywhere, sometimes with their llamaherd, sometimes on their own. Vicuñas also grazed on the short grass that grows. On the highest mountain pass (4850 meters) between Cañon de Colca even the grass was scarce, and bright green vegetation (moss? lichen?) covered an occasional boulder. On this pass we saw hundreds, maybe thousands of balanced rocks piled on top of each other. As we’re from California, we assumed hippies had stopped along the highway to build the cairns. When we asked a history student back Arequipa she laughed at our assumption. No, she said, these were made by Peruvians as an offering to the apus, the mountain spirits. They would protect travelers as they passed through the alto plano, the apus more powerful than their Catholic god. Most of the pictures below were taken from the bus as we rode from Puno to Arequipa. The town in the pictures is Puno. The colors of the traditional Peruvian weaving brightened the background of the dusty brown mud bricks of the homes. Higher up the road heads through a national park where only the vicuña share the land with llamas and their rare caretakers.
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