Diary/Photo Journal

Week of April 25, 2004

We made it into Arequipa (Air-a-keep-a) with no problems and found a terrific hostal with a secure cochera right across the street.  Cindy was very serene in her cozy spot between two big-brothers and guarded by Arequipa's Cathedral.

Views of terrain along the Peruvian
coast of massive sand dunes and
river-cut valleys that empty into the ocean.
Cindy was well

Other than walk around the Plaza de Armas and through many of the surrounding streets, we did not do much around town.  Our highlight was meeting up with Carlos and Rosa for a couple of meals and a brief trip to a view point over Arequipa and of the city's sentinels, Volcan El Misti and Volcan Chanchani (5822m -18,000 ft. and 6075m - 19,000 ft respectively). 

School children
representing their
various schools
during the


Carlos, Rosa and us at a fantastic restaurant.  Check out the typical dishes of roasted pork, chile relleno, pastel de queso, chicharron de pollo, ensalada and chica morado.  Delicioso!
Volcan El Misti
Cathedral rebuilt in 1868 from earthquake damage.  Volcan Chanchani is in the background

During our wanderings, we were fortunate to witness a couple of "parades" or rather "processions" in celebration of their patron Saint.  Many school children marched as well as a very impressive collection of representatives from the Peruvian military. 

Arequipa streets with
Volcan Chanchani in the

Arequipa is famous for its
white buildings made from
the volcanic dust

Iglesia de la Compania
and its glorious gold

Our next stop and our final stay in Peru was Puno.  The city of Puno hugs the shore of that lake with the famous funny name, Lake Titicaca (yeah, you know how to pronounce it).  Lake Titicaca is a lake shared by both Peru and Bolivia and at 3820m (12,540 ft), it is one of the world's highest navigable lakes.  The lake can also boast that it is the largest lake in South America with a length of more than 176m (109 miles), a width of over 50km (31 miles) and coverage of an area of 8,500 square km (5300 square miles).  Just a little bit of trivia: the sun is so intense at this altitude that 600 cubic meters (21,000 cubic feet) of water per second evaporates from the lake.

Before we ventured out onto Lake Titicaca (isn't that a great name!), Gerson just happened to sniff out some pre-Inca ruins located just outside of Puno.  The mysterious Sillustani ruins are compiled of "chullpas" (funeral towers) and were created by the Colla peoples.  In these giant cylindrical tombs, they buried their dead and encased them in towers that reached upwards of 12 meters (40 feet) tall. 

A couple of fantastic sky
and landscape views along
the road. 
View to Sillustani ruins and
vicuna (llama cousin) herd.
View to Cindy at Sillustani


Example of chullpa towers
built by the Colla peoples.
See the niches in
which they interlocked
the blocks?

Gerson overlooking the Lake
Umayo at Sillustani ruins.
Typical homesteads on the
Puno plains.
View of Puno and Lake

Lake Titicaca has long been considered a sacred place among indigenous Andean peoples.  According to Andean legend, Lake Titicaca was the birthplace of civilization.  Viracocha, the creator deity, lightened a dark world by having the sun, moon and stars rise from the lake and occupy their places in the sky.  The people who live in and around the lake consider themselves descendents of Mama Qota (Sacred Mother), and they believe that powerful spirits live in the lake's depths.

Lake Titicaca has been inhabited since before 2500 B.C. and the totora reed boats were used even then.  Many of the inhabitants of the lake itself live on what are called "floating islands" and are referred to as the Uros Indians.  The floating islands are made by hand from totora reeds that abundantly grow in the shallows of Lake Titicaca.  This unique construction technique has been practiced since before the Incas and today, there are approximately 30 floating islands.  The islands have schools, a post office, churches etc. as well as the communal homes for the families of the 1000 or so inhabitants.

View of Lake Titicaca
and its azure blue water
View of various floating

Our ride on the totora boat
Example of the homes and
buildings made from totora
And the totora boats - some
with fanciful reed bows.

The islands and most of the buildings constructed on top of the islands are all built out of the totora reeds.  They maintain the islands by placing new reeds on the top layer of the island, all the while the bottom "layers" are rotting away.  The island's base/floor is anywhere from 3-6 meters thick (9-18 feet) and when walked upon, has a somewhat "springy" sensation as though you are walking on a firm mattress. 

School transportation
(School building is
on the right)
Look closely and you
can see the depth of
the totora reed base
under the water

We were given a lesson on the local plant and fish culture and there was one very interested party who decided to try the local fare.
Gerson with a woman making the flour for bread.  She rocks the stone back and forth over the grain, creating the fine flour.

Our visit to three islands was sensational.  Even though the islands resemble floating souvenir stands, there is something to be said about walking on a floating mass that is built completely of reeds.  We also took the opportunity to ride from one island to another in the totora reed boat and what a pleasant ride that was.  All in all, to see these famed islands and to actually walk upon the reed mat (and not fall through) was quite exciting for us. 

We left Peru with bittersweet emotions.  Bitter because we really enjoyed Peru and sweet, because we were looking forward to Bolivia.  Fortunately, our border crossing was very easy and we landed in Copacabana, Bolivia, which is on another shore of Lake Titicaca.

Amazing views to Lake
The first picture has a large
boat in the middle - just to
give you an idea of how
enormous this lake is - and
how pristine!

View of Copacabana with
Cindy parked 1" up from the
Sunset view of the Cathedral
and of Lake Titicaca
Gerson and Cindy enjoying
our lakefront camp sunset

We jumped at the first opportunity to take the two hour boat ride to Isla del Sol.  There are two important islands in Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna.   Isla del Sol is considered the creation site of the Inca peoples.  It was on this island that the bearded god Viracocha and the first Incas, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Mama Huaca, made their mystical appearances.  Isla del Sol today continues to be reverred as sacred to the Aymara and to the Quechua Indians.

Picture perfect
sail boats

Challabamba bay
on Isla del Sol

Laberinto Chinkana ruins and Gerson in the Inca doorway
Great views of Lake Titicaca
and from the Inca trail on Isla del

Of course, we found some Inca ruins and had to take a look.  We trekked the island from end-to-end in about four hours and found ourselves surrounded by green terraced hills, sky-blue water and friendly locals.  Quite breathtaking and wonderfully tranquil.

A local Aymara Indian herding
her sheep and mules and the
view from her picturesque home
View to Isla de la Luna from
Isla del Sol.  Look closely at the upper left quadrant and you can see this island's namesake.


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