The tail end of my journey was always focussed towards attending the Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria in Puno. It was difficukt to plan as there is little detail to be found on the internet regarding timing which can fluctuate by a few days each year. Once I had tied down some likely dates, I had to consider how to get there. This is when I discovered the Andean Explorer. However, as it only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays timing became critical as others had told me not to spend too many days in Puno.
So the plan was to arrive in Puno on Saturday evening, visit the stadium on Sunday where the various carnival groups compete, and watch them parade throug the streets. The event lasts two weeks and is the biggest music and dance festival in Peru and one of the biggest in South America.
The Andean Explorer is run by PeruRail and owned by the Belmond group. It was early in the morning when I arrived to check in and then board the train to get a first glimpse of what the next ten hours had in stall.
With only thirty two passengers it was inevitable we would pass some time together. It was an an interesting mix. An Australian couple who were due to be a foursome but whose respective spouses pulled out so they travelled anyway. The General Manager of the Belmond Monasterio Hotel…lots of arse licking going on. A family from Guildford with daughters of 10 and 13 who had taken the kids out of school and were travelling for nine months. Two awful Essex ladies in hiking gear who did nothing but complain about the cost and hog the rear viewing platform. Finally a charming gay couple, one a photographer from NY now living in BA with his partner an Argentine diplomat.