Lake Titicaca, Peru

My friend from San Francisco, Brian, visited Machu Picchu a few days after we did, so we got to meet up with him in Cusco when he finished. His trip got off to a rocky start—the airline lost his bags so he had to skip a couple days of his intended trek. Despite some major frustration everything worked out pretty well and they had a great time on their trip. Fortunately for their group, the weather was beautiful on the day they visited the ruins. I was very jealous of his photos—it was so clear you could see everything!!

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Murray and I split off from Meghan and Kyle to travel south with Brian, his girlfriend and his buddy to Lake Titicaca. We decided to take a fancy bus tour in order to split up the long day and see some interesting landmarks on the way down.

The first place we stopped was the Andahuaylilas Church. This church is known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas because of its extravagant décor and intricate paintings. Apparently the Spanish colonists built the church over an Inca Temple, which is evident by the seamless stonework on the floors and  base of the walls. The Spanish wanted to make the church especially fancy and beautiful in order to attract the locals and eventually convert them to Christianity.  The Spaniards were tricky—throughout the church, they incorporated Inca symbols like the sun and the Chakana to lure in the locals. The inside of the church was painted by an unnamed Pervuian man who was trained by an Italian artist—the Spanish wanted to decorate the church in true Renaissance style.

IMG_6513Our next stop was a traditional Inca village, which was once the site of a great temple. The only thing left of the massive building today are the ruins of the giant supporting walls. The doors to the temple were built in a trapezoidal shape to signify strength and balance—representative of standing with your legs hip-distance apart rather than with your feet together.

We finally arrived at our destination of Puno, Peru. There isn’t too much going on in the town… Aside from the lively hole in the wall bar we found called The Positive. The place is completely black-lit and plays a variety of random music videos we rocked out to all night long.

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In the morning we got up early for our Lake Titicaca boat trip.  This two-day tour showed us more of the lake than we would have otherwise been able to explore on our own and was super informative.

The guide first took us to a floating island. Seriously: a floating island! This island is man-made by perpetually stacking reeds on top of each other. When we first stepped off the boat the ground felt like a waterbed beneath our feet. There are five families that live on this tiny island and the children get picked up by boat each weekday morning to attend a school located on another floating island! The local women sang us a traditional song right before we left to thank us for our visit.

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Next we went to Isla Amantani, where we had a homestay organized with a local family. There are 4,000 people that live on this island and there are no police or dogs anywhere. The citizens abide by their three laws: Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be lazy. Everyone works to contribute and respects one another. It’s an incredibly peaceful society—there is no violence, crime or theft anywhere.

On Isla Amantani, we hiked the Mount Pachatata and visited the Temple of the Moon. According to local legend, you’re supposed to find four small stones on the hike up and carry them with you to the top. With your rocks in hand you walk around the outside of the temple three times, placing one pebble at each corner. The four rocks are meant to represent work, health, wisdom and love. We performed this ritual and took time to meditate on what we hope for in each category.

IMG_0598We ate a wonderful dinner prepared by our host family, Blanca, Daniel and Jenny. After dinner they dressed us up in all their traditional clothing and we went to a party at the village hall!

The next morning we boarded our boat again and cruised out to Taquile Island. On this island there are no cars, horses or donkeys. Taquile is on a big mountain, so everything the locals build has to be carried up by manpower alone.  There is also no pollution on the island—between the clean air and the altitude it almost hurt to breathe!

The people on Taquile Island never leave, but we noticed several houses had satellite dishes affixed to the roofs. Murray and I speculated on how strange it would be to live such a simple life so far removed from modern society, yet watch cable TV. What must they think of the rest of the world?! Hopefully they aren’t watching Real Housewives or the Jersey Shore… Or even the news for that matter!

IMG_0607Over lunch we got a presentation on local textiles—on Taquile Island they produce two main items: belts and hats, but they aren’t ordinary by any means! The belts are woven out of both human hair and sheep hair. They are designed in white and brown stripes (the brown being human and the white being sheep hair.) The belts are made for the men by their wives and are supposed to be incredibly strong… Strong enough to hold in the mens’ stomachs while they work in the fields! The women are sure to collect any stray hairs that are shed around their homes for this exact purpose… They would have had a field day at my old apartment– or anywhere I go for that matter!

The hats are all for men and have different significances. Typically white means the man is single, red means he is married and black denotes an authority figure. The running joke in town is that white is the color of happiness and red sadness. Single people will meet each other at parties or social events and if a young man finds a girl he is interested in they live together for three years while their parents train them for married life. This is important because sometimes they get along and sometimes they don’t. During this live-in period, the man wears his white hat flipped to the right to show that he is in a relationship. If it works out the couple gets married and the man has to start working (and wearing a red hat.) If it doesn’t work out, the man flips his hat back to the left side and tries again!.

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Peru

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