Last stop in Peru - Lake Titicaca

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
Trip End Jan 27, 2009

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This stop was at Puno on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. Itīs a relatively small town but it has a very friendly and relaxed feel to it.

We took a couple of trips from here. The first was to Sillustani, an ancient Inca burial site. The graves are 500-600 years old and marked by a series of stone chullpas (12 metre tall fat chimney-looking round structures). Despite leaving the town in sunshine, it was freezing cold and blowing a dusty gale when we arrived at Sillustani. It felt very wild and remote and there were good views all around as the graves are built up high to be nearer to the gods.

The highlight though was a trip to the Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca. As the name suggests, they are a series of floating islands made entirely of the reeds that grow in the lake. The islands are inhabited by the Uros people and are tied together to stop them floating away from each other! Each island is made up of millions of these bouyant reeds with which they also make their houses and boats.  Every week they add a new top layer of reeds as they  they rot from the bottom. They can also be eaten (we tried them and werenīt too fussed!). The inhabitants wear beautiful traditional clothing which is very brightly coloured.

The trip also included a stop on Taquile Island, itīs inhabited but this one is made of rock and soil! We saw local village life, albeit packaged for tourists, and men and women making their traditional handicrafts. There is a distinct head dress for the islanders depending on their marital status - men wear white and red hats if single, red and blue if married or holding a position of authority within the community. The women darken the colour and decrease the size of the pompoms on their shawls once married.  Also, before marriage, a girl makes a distinctive belt and underbelt for her prospective husband - she includes some of her hair in the belt and weaves in pictures of their future (a house, child etc).

Whilst we were in Puno it was "Puno Week" and the town was decorated with local flags and banners. Puno week is a  few days of celebrations culminating in a massive procession through the town on November 5th, Puno Day, which celebrates the birth of the first inca, Manco Kapac. The procession was very noisy and colourful and involved many of the local children and adults in fancy dress or uniforms and local bands.
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