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Thursday 3 November 2016

One place that is well worth a detour - to avoid

Imagine a city that is one big slum. 

Think piles of rubbish piled up to knee deep, some of it smouldering. See piles of used tires at the side of the road.

Consider burnt out and crushed cars left at the roadside, and packs of mangy dogs. 

Throw in roads that are dusty and rutted, and blocked in places by piles of rocks, and shanty town after shanty town.

Hundreds of abandoned half'constructed buildings are layered in graffiti and filth. There is even a street market split by a railway line, where traders pack up their goods and move back when a train approaches.   

This is Juliaca in Peru, a blot on the landscape that you have to traverse on the Interoceanic Highway between Peru and Brazil, and to visit Lake Titicaca. 

I have spent time in Cuidad Neza in Mexico City and Khayelitsha outside in Cape Town, two of the worst slums in the world. 

Both look like St Barts compared to the tragedy that Juliaca, which our guide tells us is a centre for smuggling illicit goods in from Brazil and Bolivia. 

There are several poor towns in Peru, but Juliaca is in a league of its own and definitely a place you would not want to stop. 

The traffic sometimes grinds to a complete halt on the dirt roads - although an alternative route does take you through some slightly less confronting neighbourhoods.

Lonely Planet reports it is a place where "daytime muggings and drunks on the street are not uncommon."

The city of Juliaca is the capital of San Roman Province in the Puno region of south-eastern Peru - and a major transport hub, including an airport. 

There is nothing here for travellers, unless, perhaps, they are looking for drugs. Move on. Quickly. Enjoy Lima, Cusco or any number of other Peruvian wonders. 

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