About midway between Cusco and Puno, the Titicaca train makes a stop at La Raya, the highest point on the route at 4 313 m.a.s.l.
The scenery was beautiful. It was now as Peruvian as scenery could be. It was Peru, as it is sold by travel magazines. The conifers from the lower altitudes had given way to an open, treeless moor bordered by high mountains on either side.
The train stop consisted of a small, open-air market where low-quality things could be had at high-quality prices. Next to the market stood a small, white chapel with a red tile roof. In front of it all, the blue and yellow train-carriages extended into the distance. It was irresistibly photogenic. I just needed to get a bit further away to frame it.
My fellow passengers believed in souvenirs over photos. If you returned from a journey without souvenirs, who could say where you had been? Souvenirs were reliable evidence. That much of the ‘evidence’ was manufactured in the People’s Republic of China did not matter.
What little energy I consumed this day, I spent when I heard the whistle indicating the imminent departure of my train. I was at this time about half a kilometre away, busy with my tripod and lenses.
Having been deprived of shopping for most of the day, the other passengers were much refreshed by the souvenir-shopping-therapy. Heavily laden but happy, they had returned to the train unbeknownst to me.
A mixed cocktail of unwelcome questions ran through my mind as I tried to assemble my gear and scramble to catch the train:
- First, who else could I blame for this?
- Second, would it still be worth catching my train, if doing so would break my photo-gear?
- Third, was there any accommodation at La Raya?
- Fourth, would it be possible to get a ticket on the next train?
- Fifth, was there any other transport available?
- Sixth, what would happen to my luggage arriving in Puno without me? Lonely Planet had stated, in no uncertain terms, that things not adequately looked after, quickly found new owners in Puno.
As it happened, none of the questions needed to be answered. I was, however, the last passenger to board.