High in the Andes is Lake Titicaca, 3,200 square miles of beauty on the border of Peru and Bolivia. At 12,500 feet, it is the highest navigable lake on Earth. Considered sacred by local cultures, the lake is said to be in the shape of a Puma chasing a rabbit – the name Titicaca loosely translates to Rock Puma. I remember learning of the lake as a child – well, mostly I remember cartoons that featured the lake. You have to admit, the name is unforgettable – especially to a child.
The lake contains 41 islands on which many Inca ruins remain. These islands and the lake are considered by the Incas to be the birthplace of their people. From the waters Viracocha is believed to have risen to create the world, the sun and the stars and to have created the first humans from stone – Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. On the islands are the birthplaces of Inti, the Incan sun god and Mama Quilla, the moon goddess.
The Incas believe that at death, the spirit returns to its place of origin – the Lake.
The lake is sadly, like so many natural wonders in the world, at risk from development, global warming and pollution.
A unique lifestyle exists here. The Uru people live on 44 floating islands made entirely of reeds. The original purpose of the islands was to provide security – they are completely moveable if threatened by nature or man. Whole communities – from 2 to 10 families -live on these islands. I visited 2 of the islands and met the most wonderful people. Proud of their culture, their islands and their incredible textile work.
Isla Taquile – a traditional, and very hilly, island near Puno is the property of the Taquille people. On this island of about 3.5 square miles, life is kept in the traditional ways. There are no cars and no hotels. Most residents do not have electricity. The community is operated as a collective according to the Inca moral code – ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla - do not lie, do not steal, do not be lazy. Most Taquilenos are Catholic, combining traditional beliefs with the ancient Andean religions.
The Taquilenos are masters of textile arts – the men do the knitting, starting as young boys, and the women make the yarn and do the weaving. Unesco has honored the island as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
From all directions, the views of the lake are stunning.
Thanks for sharing a little bit of Peru with me,