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Don Moore's
Southern Peru Journal

(Using notes from my travels, in 1986 I put together this account of my travels and radio station visits in Southern Peru as part of a larger body of work on all my South American travels in 1985. I intended to find some method of self-publishing this, but the never got beyond the first draft stage. The text below was scanned from the original document. I went through it to format for HTML and correct scanning errors, or at least those that I found. I made no attempt, however, to do a much needed editing for style, sentence structure, etc. This is a first draft, and I am sure it reads like one. The station information, of course, is at least somewhat outdated.)

How ironic it was that we left Bolivia early to avoid a trans- portation strike. Our bus arrived in Puno about 6pm and the first thing we did was get a room in the Hostal Lima. Not bad at two dollars a night for a private bathroom and hot water that was turned on every evening promptly at eight. Then we went out to find something to eat, met some other travelers and learn that the trains were on strike in Peru.

As in northern Peru, the roads in Southern Peru are all but worthless. Although it is possible to go by bus from Puno to Cuzco or Arequipa, only a masochist would do so. Unlike northern Peru, Southern Peru has an extensive network of trains, and the trains are far more quicker and comfortable.

Learning that the trains were on strike, a group of us including the Englishwoman and the Dane and a pair of sisters from Switzerland went to the train station to learn what was going on. Yes the trains were on strike. There was a rumor that the trains would be running the next morning. What is a Peruvian rumor worth? Other travelers had investigated the buses and learned that the fares had been tripled to take advantage of the lack of competition from the trains. Some travelers who had made the journey from Cuzco to Puno on the bus described the trip as a twenty-four hour horror in a cloud of dust. There wasn't much we could do except go eat supper, hope, and be sure to be at the train station around six the next morning.

We were close to the front of the line the next morning. No one knew if there would be a train or not, but there was a line. After about a half hour some one came and opened up the door to the station, leaving us in. The ticket window was still closed, but being left inside was a good sign. The hour that the train was scheduled to depart came and went. Finally the window opened. There would be a train. In the end we left only an hour after the scheduled departure.

The train from Puno to Cuzco first skirts Lake Titicaca, then continues across the altiplano through towns such as Juliaca, Ayaviri, and Sicuani - like Puno, all the sites of rare DX catches. In every town the train would stop for ten minutes and during that stop the pasengers could shop from the convenience of their seats. It took only an hour to get to Juliaca. There the vendors were not selling much food, but did have sweaters and other woolen items. At other stops such as Sicuani and Ayaviri the vendors were aiming more at the passengers' stomachs. The South American Handbook recommends Ayaviri as an excellant place for leg of lamb. Another passenger bought some and agreed. Theresa and I prefered to stick to our Brazilian corned beef and crackers. Buying food in the open market like that, one can never be sure of the consequences to one's health later.

A Visit to Cuzco

Cuzco, of course, was the ancient capital of the Incas. Unfortunately little remains of what the Incas built in Cuzco itself. The Spanish tore down the Inca temples, leaving only their foundations, then built their churches and houses on the Inca foundations. The foundations, which are all over central Cuzco, show that the city was one of the great pre-Colombian cities of the Americas, and ironically if left as it was, it would today be far more impressive than Macchu Picchu. Yet the Spanish never discovered Macchu Picchu and today people come to Cuzco as the first step in visiting what was just a provincial town of the Incas, yet today represents their memory to the world.

Although we hadn't really expected it to work out this way, we had arived in Cuzco just two days before the Inti Raymi, the reenactment of the ancient Inca festival to the sun god, held every year on June 24. The festival is held in an Incan amphitheatre on a hill top above Cuzco, flanked by the ruins of Sacsahuaman, a huge Inca stone fortress.

As luck would have it, the following morning, while looking in the shops, we met a pair of older tourists, obviously the type that stay in the best hotels. The subject of Inti Raymi came up and we asked if they knew when it was. They told us and said one could buy tickets for it for only fifteen dollars at a particular municipal office. They felt that was quite a deal, as they had met others who had paid as much as fifty dollars through a travel agent.

Fifteen dollars each sounded a little steep to our budget, and in talking to some budget travelers who had been to Cuzco previously for the festival, we learned what actually went on. The municipal government sold fifteen dollar tickets for reserved bleacher seats. The bleachers would be sitting in the bottom of the amphitheatre. These would be occupied by the wealthy tourists. The local people and budget travelers would walk up the hill and sit on the ruins of Sacsahuaman, overlooking the amphitheatre, for free. It sounded like a good deal to us.

The morning of Inti Raymi we made it up the hill to Sacsahuaman along with thousands of others, mainly local people. We had been told to get up early to get good seats on the rocks. We did leave early, but still got some of the last good seats.

I wonder exactly how traditional the Inti Raymi festival has remained. While most of the costumes appeared traditional, some of the ones wore by the young women participating looked like leggy adaptations of bathing suits designed to meet someone's fantasies as to what an Indian maiden would look like. Overall, the costumes were quite good, in fact the best part of the ceremony. Everything was conducted in Quechua. Hmmm... maybe the Indian maiden's costumes were to help non-Quechua speaking males keep their minds occupied.

The entire program lasted about five hours, and mid way through it started to sprinkle and did so for about ten minutes. As soon as the rain began, the bleachers began emptying of their fifteen to fifty dollar customers, who got in their tour buses to return to their hotels. Within ten minutes the bleachers were over half empty. We and other budget travelers (obviously budget travelers have no pride) made our way down to the front and found seats in the bleachers. It never rained again that afternoon. Those people who left missed the best part of the show, too. When the Inti Raymi ceremony itself was finished, they had a special program in which groups of folk dancers from around Peru performed. That would have been worth paying fifteen dollars to see.

Shortwave in Cuzco

There were two stations I really wanted to visit in Cuzco. One was Radio Tawantinsuyo, at 830 Avenida Sol, one of Cuzco's main streets. It is located in a simple two story building with the station name painted in very smail letters across the middle. Still, with the name being so long, it stretches across the building. The name Tawantinsuyo is that which the Incas gave to their empire. The empire was further divided into four quarters, being northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest of Cuzco. Old time DXers will remember Radio Qollasuyo in Juliaca. That name refers to the southeast quadrant of the empire.

The studios of Radio Tawantinsuyo are in the back of the building. Immediately inside is a desk where a secretary takes down comunicados. Everytime I passed by there was a long line - Radio Tawantinsuyo is the place to go for comunicados in Cuzco. Indeed recent editions of The South American Handbook even recommend that if one has something stolen or lost in Cuzco they should go to Radio Tawantinsuyo and put on a comunicado offering a reward.

The line was rather long when I arrived and, having no need to put a comunicado on the air, I decided to wait inside until someone noticed me. It took about fifteen minutes, but it was worth it to stand and watch the rural Indians waiting in line. As Radio Tawantinsuyo plays only folk music, it is very popular with the rural folk. A staff member noticed me and asked what I needed. I explained who I was and he disappeared upstairs for a moment then beckoned me up.

Station director Ing. Raul Montesinos E. is one of Cuzco's prominent citizens. He is an engineer, as the title "Ing." in front of his name attests. In Spanish it is common for engineers to use their title as do doctors. Likewise for lawyers and teachers.

Senor Montesinos' office is a contrast to the downstairs filled with campesinos. It is entirely modern, so even if his station caters to tradition in its programming, his office looks toward the present. Our conversation centered around Inti Raymi. He serves on the board which oversees the festival, and is justifiably proud of it. I assured him that I was very impressed. Along with verifying reports for myself and another DXer, he gave me several pamphlets he had left from the previous year's festival. He had none at the moment from this year's.

Radio Cuzco, like Radio Tawantinsuyo, is a huayno, or folk music station for the ruralpopulation. That the two broadcast powerful signals on shortwave attests to how important the rural audience is to them. Radio Cuzco is only three blocks from the park and would have been easy to find if only their sign hadn't fallen down recently. A shopkeeper on the same block directed me tothe right door, on a corner.

Upstairs in the first office I met Elena Lizarraga P., the administrative secretary. The station was for the most part closed down for lunch, but she was still working hard at her desk. Talking to Elena I got the impression that she is one of those underpaid secretaries who do their bosses' jobs. Elena opens and answers (or tries to answer!) all foreign reports, a job which she finds very interesting. She showed me some of the reports that had just arrived. They get one or two a week, mainly from Europe. The station takes reports seriously enough that it had its own QSL card printed up. So I received one of those, along with my prepared postcard verification which was stamped.

Radio Cuzco seemed to be well maintained, although both building and equipment were old. The studio was on the third floor, entered by climbing a narrow staircase up to a small patio, which the studio opened on to. Like most small station studios, the walls were covered with record posters and calenders. It being lunch time , only the DJ on duty was there.

On to Macchu Picchu

The day before the Inti Raymi festival there had been a train crash on the Macchu Picchu line. The line that goes to Macchu Picchu goes beyond it to Quillabamba. Early in the morning a local train coming from Quillabamba crashed just outside Cuzco, when the engineer attempted to take a sharp turn at sixty miles an hour. It was later alledged that he was drunk at the time. A number of people were injured and some killed. Additionally the track was torn up in the accident. It would be a few days before the trains would be running again.

The trains did not run at all the day of the accident, nor the day after. The third day they were rumored to run, so Theresa and I went to the train station and took turns standing in line all day. We left most of our luggage in our hotel room and were just taking what we needed overnight. It was not until late afternoon that they began selling tickets. The tickets for a local train, which was fine by us.

There are two catergories of trains. First there is the tourist train, which only goes as far as Macchu Picchu, doesn't take as long as it doesn't stop as much, and costs three times more. Then there is the local train which runs all the way to Quillabamba. The tourist train is less crowded as local people don't take it. The cars used by both trains are identical. There is no added comfort for the added price.

It was dark by the time we left Cuzco, and midnight when we reached Aguas Calientes. This little town is about two miles before the Macchu Picchu train station. The main business is running cheap hotels for the budget travelers. The only alternative for staying the night is to go to the expensive government run tourist hotel on top of the mountain by the ruins. It has an excellant view and is very convenient, but was way beyond our budget.

At Aguas Calientes we stayed at Gringo Bill's, a small hotel run by an American who married a local woman and settled down here. He was at the station looking for travelers like us, and his place sounded like a good deal to us. Anyways we would only be staying there a few hours.

We were up at six, ate some fruit, and took off walking along the railroad tracks to the Macchu Picchu station. The ruins are on top of the mountain, the station in the valley below. As there would be no buses for almost two hours, we decided to walk up the mountain to the ruins. Whenever we tell people who have been there that we walked up the mountain, they look at us incredulously and say "You walked UP it!?" The mountain is very steep and the road winds back and forth along the side of the mountain, making hairpin curves at each end. The road is easily five times longer than the old Inca trail that goes straight up the side of the mountain. The walk was supposed to take about an hour, but we stoppped to rest so much that we got there in two hours, about the same time the first bus did. So we gained nothing but some exercise.

I hate to say it, but we found the ruins of Macchu Picchu to be less impressive than we had imagined. They are almost all only one story high and are mainly stone buildings without roofs. For most buildings the stone has been cut into blocks, with admirable precision especially considering the primitive instruments used. But blocks of stone, no matter how well carved, do not compare to the Mayan ruins of Southern Mexico and Central America which consist of huge temples and pyramids with intricate stone carvings. Most people we've talked to who have first visited some Mayan ruins and later visited Macchu Picchu were let down by the latter. If one wants to see excellant pre- Columbian ruins, the Mayan ones are the ones to see.

Macchu Picchu does have one thing that the Mayan ruins don't have. That is location. Macchu Picchu is on top of a very steep mountain, surronded by similar mountains, separated by narrow valleys. The natural beauty is stunning. Truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Even more amazing is to imagine a town on top of one of these mountains. That is impressive.

Although there were a few people from the tourist hotel in the ruins when we arrived, generally we had the ruins to ourselves for the next few hours. The ruins are big enough that we didn't run into others very often.

In the late morning the tourist train from Cuzco arrived. Most people who visit the ruins do it in one day on the tourist train, which returns to Cuzco in the late afternoon. People using the tourist train have about four hours between trains, which doesn't allow much time for sight-seeeing. Most of them got off the bus at the hotel and trooped into the restaurant for lunch first. This left the ruins reasonably empty for another hour. Actually more, as the restaurant was so crowded I believe it took some people two hours to be served. These people could have had more time to see the ruins if they had brought along some sort of box lunch; like tuna, bread and fruit; to eat on the train. Instead once they get to a place they have traveled thousands of miles to see, they spend half of their time eating lunch!

One interesting point about Macchu Picchu is that it is one of the few places in Peru where the water is safe to drink. That is because it is located on top of a mountain and there is nothing above it to contaminate the water.

About the time the tourist train arrived, we left the main ruins and wandered back on the hill overlooking them. From there one has the view of Macchu Picchu that is usually shown in travel folders. We wandered around a bit and walked back an old Inca trail. Finally in mid afternoon we walked down the mountain to the train station. We figured if we could walk up it, we could certainly walk down it. It only took half an hour going down. We bought return tickets to Cuzco on the tourist train, arriving about nine p.m.

Back to Puno

Early the next morning we were up and at the other train station, from where trains leave for Puno. The following day was June 29, Day of St. Peter and Paul. The South American Handbook said there was to be a festival in Puno. Once again we rode through the towns of Ayaviri, Sicuani, and Juliaca, arriving in Puno in late afternoon. We went back to the Hostal Lima, and were able to get instructions on how to get tothe festival which is actually held in a small village a few miles outside Puno.

The festival turned out to be better than we imagined. Probably becuase it was a traditional, untainted, festival. The Indians did it for themselves, not for the tourists. There could not have been more than a dozen foreigners there, amoung thousands of Indians. Much of the action centered around the town square, where groups of local men danced in elaborate, colorful sequined costumes. Each group had its own little musical band and vied for attention. The leader of one group, dressed with a sheep head mask, pulled Theresa in to dance with him. At the time we were the only foreigners there, and we were welcome to participate and enjoy ourselves.

Also in the town center, men were setting off some unusual fire- works towers. These were literally towers, about eight feet high, constructed of sticks, with fireworks tied all over them. A group of of men sat on top of the church steeple with a cable, the other end being attached to one of the towers. They then slid something (I was never brave enough to get close enough to look) with a flame down the cable. When it hit the tower the fireworks began exploding, sending woodchips flying. Once it was through exploding, a new tower was brought out and the cable hooked up again. They must of had at least fifty of these towers. They were setting them off all day.

Outside the central plaza was a shopping center. Hundreds of Indian vendors had set up shop. There was nothing for tourists, this not being a tourist event. Just basic household supplies, clothing, and food for the campesinos. Some Indian women had set up little kitchens; a fire, a pot, and a few plates and spoons; to sell lunch. Some men had set up a few chairs and were cutting hair, traveling barbers. The market itself was worth an hour of wandering.

After lunch there was a bullfight in a fenced off plaza. The bull had probably been pulled from somebody's field, as it didn't seem to know what was going on. Nor did the fighters, who seemed to have more bravery than experience. Not that much bravery either, considering how many jumped over the fence! After the bull fight we went back to town, wanting to get ahead of the crowds.

The most often heard station from Puno, and probably southern Peru, is Ondas del Titicaca, or "Waves of Titicaca" on 4922 khz. It is heard many mornings in North America if Radio Quito isn't on 4920 to provide interferance. Ondas del Titicaca was founded with a different name on September 25, 1961 by APRA, which is the most important liberal political party in Peru. A few years later the station was sold to commercial interests and the name was changed. Today it is located on the first floor of a run down building at Arequipa 835. By the door there is a homemade sign withthe station name pasted on in gold sequined letters. It looks somewhat gaudy. Inside there is one huge room. The half by the door is empty and the other half has been partitioned off into a small office in the front and a studio in the rear. The door to the studio was open and on it was an "Ondas del Titicaca" sign done in crayons on white posterboard. Despite the rundown surrondings, the equipment in the studio is modern, with professional turntables, cassette decks, and console. It is the quality of the signal that counts, not the room that it is produced in. The man behind the ,mic was Felipe Paquita, the station administrador. He runs the station for the owner, a local businessman.

Seeing me, Felipe put on a LP side to play, asked for my reception report, then went into his office to type up a veri letter. I didn't even have to ask! I learned that he has had previous DX visitors and knows what they want! Just because he got the veri letter done quickly, didn't mean he wasn't willing to talk however. That's why he put on the LP side to play, and later flipped it over with just a brief time check and ID. He told me about the station background and showed me some reports. They receive about two a week, mainly from Europe. Felipe answer all of them, he says, and I believe he at least tries, as Ondas del Titicaca verifications are regularly seen in DX bulletins, and not one of my DX friends had asked me to verify it for them.

Radio La Voz de Altiplano is Puno's other shortwave station. It makes occasional appearances around 5816 khz, but was not on the air at the time of my visit. The station occupies the second and third floors of the Banco de la Nacion building. Unfortunately in two visits to the station the receptionist said that noone else was there except the announcer, and she wouldn't let me visit the rest of the station. The only consolation was that she did verify the two reports I had brought.

The following morning Theresa and I were back on the train to Cuzco. This time we only went as far as Juliaca, an hour away. Juliaca is said to be the cheapest place in southern Peru to buy wool sweaters. If that wasn't reason enough to visit the town, it is also home to Radio El Sol de los Andes. The most immediate visual treat was neither radio stations, nor wool sweaters, but rather Juliaca's unique taxis. Simply a bicycle with a huge front basket which can carry either goods or passengers, dozens of these are to be seen in the streets of Juliaca. Conventional auto taxis are also numerous, as in any Latin American city. The bicycle taxis are cheaper though, cheap enough that even campesinos use them. Radio El Sol de los Andes (3230 khz) is in a spacious one story building immediately behind a large church which faces a treeless park. The street is narrow and the sidewalks are filled with vendors, especially the sweater ladies who sit in groups with their merchandise piled up around them. Entering El Sol de Los Andes, there is a huge room with offices to the right and studios to the left. The studios can be seen through the almost customary plate glass windows. They are typical with new equipment, old records, and girly and music posters on the walls. The secretary was busy with a line of people waiting to give communicados. The administradora, Adela Martinez Arce had a few people waiting to see her, but I was able to squeeze in for a few minutes and get the verifications for myeslf and several friends signed and stamped. She didn't have the time to talk, but insisted that I look around all I wanted. Nothing out of the ordinary was there, but to be polite I hung around outside the studio for a few minutes pretending to be interested in watching the DJ change records. Then I went out to met Theresa, as prearranged.

In finding El Sol de Los Andes, I had found the main sweater market, so it was back there we went. We were disappointed we hadn't bought some in Cuzco. Although the prices were a little higher there, the quality, selections, and designs were much better than in Juliaca. Still, Juliaca is the place to buy for cheap sweaters just to wear around the house and keep warm in. I picked up a thick wool cardigan for only three dollars. The buttons were carved wood - that being cheaper than being plastic ones. Also we bought three pullover sweater vests at prices ranging from 75 cents to $1.40, one for me, and one each for two of Theresa's brothers. For 100% wool, it was hard to complain.

To get back to Puno we took a colectivo. These are very common in Peru, but not so much elsewhere in the Andes. This is simply a car that runs between two fixed points, in this case Juliaca and Puno, taking paid passengers. It will only run with a full load. The first person there must wait until it is full, be it a few minutes, or two hours. More expensive than buses, colectivos are more comfortable and quicker.

La Ciudad Blanca

The following morning we were on the train for Arequipa. Seated across from us was a young Canadian couple and their three year old daughter. They were both teachers from British Columbia and had left Canada over two years before to go to Surinam to teach. After finishing in Surinam they decided to travel through South America for several months before returning home. They were now near the end of their travels and had to be in Quito in two weeks to make their flight back.

After teaching two years in tropical Surinam, they were now going to go to the other extreme. They already had made arrangements, via family at home, to take teaching positions in a remote town in northern British Columbia. They were especially interested in teaching there as it was a hardship post and qualified them for extra pay. They wondered, however, how their daughter would respond to the cold. They had left Canada when she was less than a year old, and she had grown accustomed to the tropical heat of Surinam. She had been complaining a lot about the cold of the Andean highlands, and that certainly does not compare to the Northern Canadian winter! I do admire this couple for traveling six months with a young child. It was encouraging to see that it can be done.

At the Arequipa train station we went different ways. They were going to stay at the house of some people they had met in Cuzco. Probably the advantage of traveling with child - it encourages friendliness. We, meanwhile, took a taxi to a hotel that had been reaommended to us in La Paz. Finding it full, I left Theresa there and spent an hour looking for another one that was within our budget and looked safe and comfortable. After that I was sort of glad that Arequipa was the last "new" stop on our trip. From here on we would be traveling in familiar territory from the beginning of the trip. Arequipa is Peru's second or third largest city, either ahead or behind Trujillo, depending on the source. Either way, the population of each is only about ten percent of that of Lima, so there is little chance of Lima losing number one to either.

We only spent two days in Arequipa. Had we not been starting to get anxious to get home we would probably have stayed longer. Arequipa is a beautiful clean city, much a better'place to visit than either Lima or Trujillo. Many of the older buildings of Arequipa are built of an off-white volcanic stone locally quarried. For that it is known as the white city. One of the most interesting places visited the entire trip was the Santa Catalina convent. This was literally a town within the city, covering about five acres. Built in the 1500s, it was completely walled off and once a girl entered to become a nun she never left for the rest of her life. Except for a priest who was allowed to enter a connecting chapel only to serve mass, no one else entered the convent until 1970 when it was finally opened to the public. A small corner is still closed off for the approximately thirty nuns who still live there in seclusion. At one point nearly five hundred nuns, plus numerous servant girls under the same life committment, lived there. The convent is very beautiful and well restored and a must to see if visiting southern Peru.

I did drop in on one shortwave station, Radio Continental, on the edge of town. The company also runs a TV station from the same large modern building and the radio station seems to be the forgotten step child of the whole operation. They did present me with one of the best pennants of the entire trip though.

The bus ride from Arequipa to Lima, at eighteen hours, was one of the longest of the trip. As we left in late afternoon most of the trip was in darkness, but it was made more interesting by talking to a local medical student who was doing research in unusual tropical diseases. After that discussion I was glad we wouldn't be doing any more excursions into jungle areas!

In Lima we stayed with our friends there. By now the upstairs bedrooms and kitchen of their house were finished. They took us around to see much of Lima, including the famous gold museum, with its accompanying museum of armaments. Expensive, with a five dollar entrance fee, but worth the money.

Theresa and I spent one day on our own in Lima and I took the opportunity to drop in on Radio El Sol, 5970 khz,in central Lima. It is on the seventh floor of one of Lima's many high rises. Radio El Sol is a modern radio station, equal of any in the US, and probably with a little more class. Besides the commercial MW/SW station, they also run a noncommercial classical music FM station on 88.9 MHz called Sol Armonia. I wonder if there are any privately owned stations in the US that altruistic.

Radio El Sol is owned by several local businessmen and run by director Gabriel Miro Quesada, who was educated in an English language school in Lima and spent two years studying in England. Consequently, he speaks excellant English. We spent much of our time discussing the differance between British and American English. DX wise, he is interested in reception reports, and the station even has its own QSL card.

I also briefly stopped by Radio Victoria, 6020 khz. The station is located in a very run down building. I talked to a woman who was one of the subdirectors. The MW/SW station had been closed down for over a year, but would be back onthe air "soon" she assured me. Meanwhile only the FM station was broadcasting.

Theresa and I took a long distance TEPSA bus for the trip from Lima to Tumbes, on the Ecuadorian border. Said to be a 20-22 hour ride, it turned into a 28 hour one, primarily thanks to the driver who took over in Piura and made the two hundred kilometers left drag out into nearly ten hours by stopping in every little town he went through to talk to a friend or have a beer. The result was that we arrived in Tumbes too late to cross the border into Ecuador and had to spend the night there. With the added expense of a hotel bill, we had hardly any Peruvian money left and the only thing we could afford for supper was bananas. We could have tried to change a small bill, but by that point we were too tired to care. The next morning we crossed into Ecuador. Now the trip seemed almost over.

This article is copyright 1986 by Don Moore. It may not be printed in any publication without written permission. Permission is granted for all interested readers to share and pass on the ASCII text file of this article or to print it out for personal use. In such case, your comments on the article would be appreciated.


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DXer of the Year for 1995

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