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Puno to Puerto Maldonado: Three Vertical Miles

I have always been fascinated by the highland region of Puno, situated along Peru’s border with Bolivia (south) and the Amazon Rainforest (east), and home to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world (nearly 13k feet). In mid-April, I flew down that way for the first time in over a year. This trip was unique in that Puno was just a stop-over on my way to visit the Amazonian city of Puerto Maldonado a few hundred miles further east (and a couple miles lower in altitude!).

After a ridiculously early start from Lima to catch a 6am flight, I was able to make it to an “underground” house church service in Puno, where I enjoyed fellowship and a bit of rest before making my way to the bus station, to board my overnight “sleeper bus”. I have always wanted to take the bus from the Andean altiplano in Puno (12,800 ft) down to Puerto Maldonado (about 1,000 ft), but the experience wasn’t really worth the bragging rights it gave me. Let me explain. 

After dozing for a few hours, I noticed that I wasn’t breathing “normally”. Checking my altimeter app, I was surprised to see that we were just shy of 16,000 ft above sea level…on the highway! No wonder I was short of breath. But then we began going down. And down. And down s’more. In just 3-4 hours, we had dropped to 2,000 ft and were at the edge of the sprawling Amazon Rainforest. 

But the worst part was not the altitude change or the curvy roads…It was the heat and humidity. We started the journey dressed for the cooler mountain weather, and the bus even had the heat on. But down in the humid rainforest, the A/C was never turned on and only a couple of tiny vents let in “fresh air”. So I was sweaty, stuffy, and miserable, with my body and stuff all crammed into a space designed for a Peruvian population much shorter and skinnier than I.

I only spent two days in the jungle, but the journey was worth it. Pastor Pacaya and his wife (who were still cleaning up after their home was flooded back in February) were great hosts. We held services on his porch both evenings and at least one couple (see below) gave their hearts to the Lord…

Pray for Abraham and his wife, and their son Isaac, whose health (he was nearly killed in an accident) humbled them and brought them back to church. He is now recovering. Pray that their faith would be proved genuine, and that they would grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!