After leaving the floating islands of the Urus we rode the boat 1 hour towards the Bolivian boarder. The entire lake Titicaca was spread out in front of us. The waters turned bluer and bluer as well as crystal clear.
Our guide, Miguel, explained to us that the island of Tequile was very unique. The about 2000 inhabitants continue with their unique traditions and customs. The only animals that live there are sheep and cows on Tequile island. We did not see one dog on the island, which stands in contrast to the many, many dogs in the rest of Peru.
The islanders are known for their quality knitting and weaving products. Women are usually the ones weaving, while the men are the knitters.
Wearing a special knitted hat, is part of the tradition for the inhabitants of Tequile. They have special hats for married, unmarried men, as well as for the elected officials on their island.
We got off the boat and starting climbing SLOWLY up the mountain. We were greeted by a native family who invited our group in for lunch. Mrs. P. had a delicious trout, caught fresh from the lake.
After lunch we continued climbing the island to a tower, close to the catholic church. You can see Jose resting on one part of the tower, since the thin air in the high altitude made him tire easily.
The views from the top of the island, made all the climbing worthwhile. Jose looked like a native with his Peruvian “Chulo” hat on.
We pressed on to hike around the island and were met with many Tequileans with their animals passing us.
Miguel, our guide, was so impressed with Jose’s climbing abilities, that he wanted to have his picture taken with our, by now, famous travel bear. Miguel is very much involved with helping the island’s schools through reading programs and book supplies for them. Way to go Miguel. Our teacher hearts were thrilled to hear that.
Our hike continued along the narrow, rocky and ONLY path around the island. While we tourists struggled to breathe and little elderly lady raced by us with a HUGE load on her back twice her size.
The path continued to loop around the island and one stunning view was replaced by the next.
Mrs. P., Mrs. T., and Jose left early in the morning with a boat to visit the famous floating islands of the Urus. The Urus used to live around the shores of Lake Titicaca, but started hiding on floating islands when over 600 years ago they heard the Incas were expanding their empire.
Floating islands are real floating islands. The Urus make them out of reeds that grow wild in the lake. They pack the reed one on top of the other, tie them tightly with rope, and anchor them to the ground of Lake Titacaca. Their island, their homes, and their boats are all made out of reed. It is an amazing thing to see. Once we stepped off the boat onto the island, it was a strange feeling knowing that we were walking not too far from the water.
About five to eight live on one island. When they as a community get together, they rope the islands together for celebrations and fiestas.
Our feet were sinking into the reed with every step we took. It was a very odd feeling, but we did not get wet.
Miguel, our guide, showed us many different things and how the Urus are able to use them in their daily lives. We even were able to taste the white part of the reed. Very refreshing! Mmmhhh
We met a wonderful and friendly Uru woman named Maritza. Maritza showed us her one room house, the cuy (guinea pig) coup, and her crafts she and her husband made.
Maritza especially liked Jose. She found a special hat for him to wear.
Doesn’t this pair look cute together?
Before we left the floating islands, we had a ride in one the reed boats and enjoyed the peace and quiet as we floated around other islands.
We were able to take a peek into the lives of people, that has not changed much in hundreds and hundreds of years.
We have arrived at the shores of Lake Titicaca. What an amazing view of a huge blue lake surrounded by mountains.
Titicaca: In Aymara, a language unrelated to and much older than Quechua, “titi” means “wild cat” or “puma” and “caca” means “eternal city”
Lake Titicaca is nowadays shared by the countries of Peru and Bolivia. Since the weather has been sunny, we have had a clear view of the country of Bolivia from the islands we visited. One of its capitals (yes, Bolivia has two capitals) is also not too far away. Can you name that capital of Bolivia that is closest to Lake Titicaca?
Here are some pretty amazing facts about the lake:
- It is the largest lake in South America
- it is the second largest lake in Central and South America. It is second to lake Nicaragua in the country of Nicaragua
- It is the highest navigable lake in the world
- It is the largest lake above 2000 meters in the world
- It is 1/3 of the size of the Great Lakes in the USA
Lake Titicaca holds a special meaning for the decedents of the Incas. Here is their legend:
The Sun God rose from Lake Titicaca and subsequently. created the first Inca, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. These two set about populating the earth with the Sun’s chosen people, before beginning the long march north in search of their promised land, finally establishing their dynasty in the fertile valley now known as Cusco. They raised out of the water with the divine assignment to establish an empire and unite the different cultures in the name of peace and civilization.
For those of you tracking our coordinates, Puno, Peru is located at 15.8 S and 70 W.
After the exciting discovery of the crystal skull and finally finding out who and what Pachamama was, we were back on the road again. This time we took the Inka Express bus from Cusco to Puno, which is located at the shores of Lake Titicaca. What an amazing journey back in time.
We saw so many hard working Peruvians on the side of the road, attending their sheep, cows, llamas, alpacas and other animals or crops.
We stopped at a few small villages to visit the local church, museum or ancient ruins.
Everywhere we were looked, we were touched by these beautiful people, their hard work, their strong family bond and pride in their cultural heritage.
As the bus traveled higher and higher, we felt the air get thinner and thinner. It was getting harder to breathe and every movement was becoming more and more difficult. The landscape started changing too. The mountain tops were sprinkled with snow. Trees and other vegetation started to disappear.
At La Raya, we took a short break to step outside the bus and take in the breathtaking panorama.
Local vendors had set up stands to sell beautiful backpacks, scarfs, hats, gloves and shawls.
Here is Jose, the Travel Bear, at 4335 meters m.s.n.m. Do you know what these letters mean? Hint: Ask your Spanish teacher or maybe the Goethe school from Argentina. They will be able to help you figure it out.
Machu Picchu is divided into specific areas: agricultural, residential, the sacred plaza, the quarry, and the main plaza (town square).
The agricultural district is visible by the terraces. The Incas used terraces at Machu Picchu for several reasons. One is to keep the ground from falling down the mountain. The other is for planting the food. They planted corn (maiz) and potatoes. They have over 1,000 different varieties of potatoes here in Peru and 400 are used on a daily basis.
The residential area is where everyone lived that stayed here in Machu Picchu. Archeologists think 700 people lived in the city. All the houses had three windows that faced east to the rising sun.
The sacred plaza was where they worshiped the sun, the moon, and the water, and it housed all the temples.
The quarry is how Machu Picchu originally looked before the Incas started building the city using the many stones that were already in place. Machu Picchu was still unfinished and still had a quarry of rocks native to the site.
The main plaza (town square) is where the festivals were celebrated. Our guide told us he played futbol as a child in the main square.
Pachamama is above me, below me, to the right of me, to the left of me. Pachamama is everywhere. What does that mean? The llama said to go to the Sacred Plaza.
I was getting frustrated and did not realize I was talking out loud. Ceilo, our guide, overheard me and looked at us in disbelieve. “Well that is easy to explain”, he said.
To the Incas, Pachamama represented the whole world, the sky, the earth, the ground below. Pachamama was and is celebrated in Peru as Mother Earth. It is our responsibility to take care of Pachamama. Pachamama is every animal, every human being, every ocean, every mountain, the clouds, the rain, the sand, the trees, and the plants.
Ceilo continued explaining that we need to have a healthy respect and live in harmony with Pachamama.
Mrs. P and Mrs. T immediately thought of the hurricanes that we experience in Florida, and how important it is to have respect for Mother Nature. We have also learned on this trip to respect Mother Nature in visiting such high altitudes that our body is not used to. Pachamama was trying to tell us to take it easy since there was less oxygen in the air.
Jose said, “I am starting to understand. Taking care and respecting Pachamama also means conserving water, not polluting our rivers and oceans, and recycling”.
What do you think we can do to honor and respect Pachamama?
I spotted a llama grazing on the terraces. The llamas are very important animals here in Peru as I learned in Awana Kancha. I yelled up the mountain, “Are you Pachamama?”
Another llama, who was standing on top of the terraces, looked down at me and with a laugh in his voice said, “of course we are Pachamama. Aren’t you Pachamama?” Now what did he mean by that?, Jose wondered. Was he kidding or playing tricks with me, Jose thought.
“Check out the Sacred Plaza, Jose”, shouted the llama back at me. “Gracias”, I said, thankful for another clue.
The crystal skull told us that Pachamama is here in this sacred place of Machu Picchu, but where???? Could it not have been a little bit more specific. Thank goodness I spotted a Chinchilla. Could it be Pachamama? It does look very cute.
Chinchilla, are you Pachamama?
No, Jose, just look around you. You will see Pachamama!