Lake Titicaca and Halloween in Puno

I am in Puno right now and you would NOT BELIEVE how much they are celebrating. It is like marde gras (sp?) — amazing and cool with everyone (mostly kids) in costume; it´s amazing. There was a huge parade and I watched it in the main plaza near the beautiful old catherdral after having a very nice dinner at a totally EMPTY restaurant. Not sure why it was empty — the food was great and for about $8, I got a three course meal. Drink (Pisco Sour of course), soup (vegetable), main course (vegetable and cheese omelette since vegetarians don´t have too many options around here), desert (chocolate cake which did not really taste like chocolate, but was still good), and tea (coca tea of course!). It was all quite good. I could not eat everything, however — it was really too much in spite of the fact that I have been hiking up a storm while visiting the islands in Lake Titicaca for the past two days. 

Last I wrote, I was in Arequipa, having just returned from Colca Canyon where we saw 4 condors. After that, the next morning, I took a bus to Puno (which is right on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at well over 12,000 ft.). Titicaca derives its name from “Titi” which means puma, and “caca” which means long life.

 

The regular tourist class bus from Arequipa that was supposed to stop at three sites along the way was cancelled. However, Saul, my travel agent in Arequipa, being the conscientious person he seems to be, sent his girlfriend, Mirabelle, along with me to Puno and then on to Copacabana (Bolivia) to organize an alternative plan for exploring the Lake and Isla del Sol which is located entirely in the Bolivian side of the Lake. The plan pretty much went off without a hitch and before I knew it, I was on Isla del Sol ! My mission was accomplished. My Aymara guide, Vicente, and I spent the whole day there in fact, exploring both the north and south ends of the island. We hiked all over… and lemme tell ya that if you think you are going to be acclimatized to well over 12,000 ft. in just one day, you would be WRONG. My breathing was way off. However, I managed to keep up the pace because we stopped periodically for photos and to learn about the history, legends, rock formations, ruins, and medicinal plants of the island (which I won´t go into in any detail right now). Sun Island is 12 km long and about 6 km wide and the views from either end of the island are spectacular. Isla del Sol may be the most important island in the Lake. It is where, according to legend, the Inca people began. They say that the cotamacha (mother earth) and cotapacha (father earth) came together and created the Inca people. Sun Island is also the island of the King of the Incas, whereas Moon Island (Isla de
la Luna) is the island of the king´s wife.  

 

Today, I got up quite early (5:30 am) and went to two more islands — the nearby Uros islands which are entirely man-made of nothing more than REEDS that grow in the Lake — and Taquile Island which is about 2 hours farther out on the Lake and is home to the Quechua people since about 4,000 yrs. before Christ (according to our tour guide). We also saw another well-known island which travellers often visit, Amantani Island, at a distance en route to Taquile. Taquile is thought of as the Sun Virgin´s island and Amantani as the priests´ island because those are the folks who used to live there. Although I had seen many ruins on Sun Island, we saw almost none on Taquile as it is a somewhat more modern island today. There are only a couple of smaller ruin sites there. The people who live on this island are totally self-sufficient and do not pay any taxes to the government of Peru (Taquile is in the Peru side of the Lake). There are about 2,000 people living on Taquile and their primary means of subsistence is agricultural — they grow their own food and use hardly any meat in their food (which was fine for me, a vegetarian, when I ate lunch there today). However, they do fish quite a bit and there is fresh trout and other smaller fish and catfish in the Lake. Taquile is 7 km long and only 1 km wide. 

I have to say, however, that the highlight of the day was our very first stop at the Uros Islands made of reeds. When you walk upon them, your feet sink into the reeds (which are layered on top of each other several meters thick) and you can, at times, actually feel the ground gently swaying over the water under your feet if you sit or stand very still and fix your eyes straight ahead. It was truly amazing. It is still incredible to me that the islands do not move/drift across the Lake. The Uros people were very welcoming and kind and I took many photos of the islands, their reed huts, and the Uros´ traditional dress. I also got to ride in one of their traditional boats, a tortura, completely made of reeds. At the head of each boat there is always a scary face which is supposed to be the face of a puma. We took the tortura to another nearby Uros reed island. I got my photo standing on the reeds of the island right next to the boat and I was holding the Pasadena Star News (for publication purposes when I return to Pasadena).  

Well, I met lots of nice folks on the tour today. There were about 20 of us from all different parts of the world. I met just one American from New York, although even he was from the Phillipines. So, I don´t know if that counts. So, really, I guess I´ve only met one American on this trip so far — Gary, the guy I already wrote about and whom I met in Lima on Day 1 of my journey.  

Early tomorrow I´ll go to see the Sillustani funerary towers (ruins) near Puno which I was supposed to see on my way from Arequipa but could not because the tourist bus was cancelled as I said. I will be going on my own with a guide and I hope he will be the same guide, Zachariah, who toured us around the Uros and Taquile islands today because he was really great. Then, from Sillustani, I will catch the first class tourist bus on to… drum roll, please! CUZCO !!! Yep, I will actually be in Cuzco tomorrow evening and I am looking forward to it. Gary wrote me to say that he is heading there today. So, I may meet up with him there at some point. Also, Emily, the New Zealander I travelled with in Arequipa, will be there with two of her friends (whom I also met) and we are going to try to meet also. I´ll be in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu area for about 5 days before heading back to Lima on Nov. 6.  It´s great because I will be in this key Sacred Valley area for All Soul´s Day and the Day of the Dead! Needless to say, there should be some interesting celebrations/festivals to witness.

 

Anyway, Happy Halloween to you all from Peru where everyone is celebrating and the kids are dressed up and there is music and dancing and parading through the streets. I even saw a little dog (like a Lhasa Apsa) dressed up as a witch. Her name was Daisy and I took a photo of her with her attending children. Very cute (muy lindo).

 

So, I am doing well — getting around well, seeing lots, and meeting nice folks from all over the world. Until my next update… from Cuzco/Machu Picchu!

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Explore posts in the same categories: My Travels, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador (incl. Galapagos Islands)

One Comment on “Lake Titicaca and Halloween in Puno”

  1. bob cain Says:

    Hi Laurel,
    You keep a great journal. I see the beginnings of a documentary
    on National Geographic. Keep up the good work
    Bob Cain


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