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Archive for September, 2009

(February 2009)

I catch my first glimpse of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest commercially navigable lake, and my senses awake to its beauty. The feeling of awe sinks as the bus makes its way down into Puno. The city looks drab and dreary and as my impressions are taking shape I’m startled by the sight of a woman in a brightly-coloured, flamboyant dress and matching bowler hat. Her presence seems so at odds with the mid-morning hour and the blandness of the streetscape. By the time we reach the bus terminal at the foot of the port I can see and feel Puno’s bustle and energy.

Puno is the folklore capital of Peru and the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, which takes place during the first two weeks of February, is in full swing. It combines religious processions where conservatively dressed people parade solemnly up and down the streets carrying statues of the Virgin with the more vibrant and larger processions of beautifully costumed dancers and marching bands. This starts small in the mornings and continues, gaining momentum and people, well into the nights!

I booked a half-day tour to nearby Sillustani. The funerary towers – chullpas – date from the Incas but are remnants of the Aymara-speaking Colla tribe. The location on a peninsula in Lago Umayo is starkly beautiful. After exploring the site we made a stop at a nearby village and were invited into a family’s homestead. The adobe buildings and outdoor cooking area speak of a very simple existence yet the welcoming cows statuette at the entrance, ginuea pig pen, llamas, flower garden and friendliness of the family conveyed a sense of well-being and comfort.

The following day I was off on another tour. This time to the Uros Islands. There are about 50 islands, which are home to approximately 2,000 inhabitants. The islands are constructed out of reeds, as are the houses and boats. The reeds rot and need to be continually replenished. The islanders’ ancestors wanted to avoid war and conflict with the Collas and Incas and thought the Sacred Lake, Titicaca, would make an ideal home. It is fascinating that they still choose to live on the lake, which houses a hospital and a couple of elementary schools.

 

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