Part of our Peruvian adventure included heading to the jungle near Puerto Maldonado. Puerto Maldonado is located northeast of Cusco and is 34 miles west of the Bolivian border. It is either a 10-hour trip by bus (or car) from Cusco over the high Andes mountains or a 45-minute flight. Most people opt for the flight to save time but I wanted to see the landscape between so we chose to take the bus to Puerto Maldonado and fly back on our return.
The trip by road from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado used to take several days to complete on an unpaved road and could be totally impassable in the rainy season. However, the Interoceanic Highway between the Peruvian coast and the Brazilian Amazon was completed in July 2011 and now provides a paved road over the 300 miles between Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. The journey now takes only 10 hours. The highway crosses three different ecosystems: highlands, cloud forest, and rainforest. The Interoceanic Highway has been dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as South America’s Route 66.
We took the trip with the bus company Movil Tours. We arrived at the Cusco bus station at 9:15am and boarded our bus for our 10:00am departure. As 10:00am drew near, an employee of Movil Tours boarded the bus and made an announcement. Fortunately our daughter speaks Spanish and told us they were bringing a different bus (a double-decker bus) shortly and we would be switching over to the other bus. We weren’t sure why, but I was happy that we were going to get to make the journey on a double-decker bus rather than a normal bus as we would have better views. Our daughter made reservations in advance for us for this trip and had booked the front row of seats on the 2nd level of the bus – the seats with the best panoramic view for the long journey.
We waited for an hour before they finally brought the second bus and all passengers transferred to the new bus. A Peruvian woman waiting at the bus station.
We finally headed out from the Cusco bus station around 11:00am.
It was raining as we headed out of the bus station. I was hoping the weather would clear up for our journey over the Andes mountains to Puerto Maldonado.
A short way into the journey, they handed out snack boxes which included a ham sandwich and a piece of cake.
We passed through several small towns after leaving Cusco.
It was interesting to see the women out and about dressed in their traditional Peruvian clothing.
We passed a funeral procession coming down the highway in one town.
And so our journey continued as we started to climb up from Cusco into the higher mountains.
We came to a section of the road where a rockslide had occurred. Fortunately one lane of the road was still open.
We continued to climb higher and into the snow.
The snow on the highway got worse and soon the bus came to a stop. Even though it was not snowing now, the snow had been pretty recent and semi-trucks were having difficulty on the road and road crews were making an attempt to clear the highway.
We sat for quite a while and I was hoping we wouldn’t get stranded as we still had many hours ahead of us to get to Puerto Maldonado.
We continued on very slowly with a lot of stop and go.
We continued up through the Willkanuta (house of the sun) mountain range high up in the Andes. This range is made up of 469 glaciers with peaks ranging from 16,404’ – 20, 945’. Nearing the top of one of the passes.
We soon reached the summit of Abra Pirhuayani Pass at an elevation of 4725m (15,501’)above the sea level. The views were amazing!
We started down the east side of the pass and more spectacular views.
A few alpacas getting a drink in the cold and snowy weather.
Looking down the other side of the pass. The moving was still slow with lots of snow on the road.
A shot of some old stone huts used by alpaca herders.
We continued on down the highway to more spectacular views and more alpaca.
A bench along the roadside. Not sure of its use, but wouldn’t want to be sitting there on a day like today!
We continued on down, getting more out of the snow.
Now fully out of the snow, some waterfalls came into view.
Continuing further down into the lush green valley.
This looks like some type of water diversion for run off from the mountains.
We stopped for a lunch break at a small local restaurant in a village along the highway around 3:00pm. After lunch it was back on the bus to continue our journey. A few more shots as the sun began to set.
Unfortunately, it began to get dark and our picture taking had to come to an end which was disappointing as we still had quite a few hours to go and I would have liked to have seen more of the scenery ahead. With our hour delay leaving Cusco and another hour or more delay over the high mountain passes because of the snow, we lost a lot of precious daylight hours. I wish the bus would have been scheduled to leave Cusco even earlier in the morning. We arrived in Puerto Maldonado around 10:00pm after a long day on the bus but I was glad we did take the overland route to see as much as we could (and as daylight would allow) of the high Andes peaks.