Posted by: Dudley | February 22, 2008

More on our November Bolivia/Peru trip

After a wonderful dinner and overnight at the beautiful Hotel Rosario del Lago in Copacabana, we got an early start the next morning for Lake Titicaca’s Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), the the legendary birthplace of the Inca, or actually, of all humanity, according to Inca mythology. Wonderful 3 hour boat ride on the blue, blue waters of Titicaca to the northern end of Isla del Sol and the enigmatic La Chincana, or Labyrinth, ruins. At this time I left the group for a much-needed hike along a section of original Inca trail to the beautiful community of Challapampa, with wonderful vistas of the lake along the way and a quaint harbor with little cafés and guesthouses on the shore. The boat, with my group, met me at Challapampa for the return journey to Copacabana, where we arranged for an early transfer to the Peruvian border and the meet with our Peruvian guide, Marco Palomino, and our transport to Puno and the Q’elqetani Hotel.

Next day we explored the famed Silustani funerary towers near Puno before continuing on to Juliaca for our flight to Arequipa, site of the 2008 International Alpaca Fiesta, where we met the rest of our group – Keith and Anne Schroder, Richard and Renate Gyuro – and spent the night at the fabulous Hotel Conquistador.

Very early to rise the following morning for our pick-up and transport to the site of the traditional vicuña roundup, or chaccu. I wasn’t sure if all of our group, some of whom were in their seventies  (Suzie turned 80 during the trip!), would be able to participate, as the chaccu could be rather hard hiking over rough terrain and is held at nearly 15,000 feet altitude! But all were game and we all had a glorious time as small groups of 1-5b vicuña tried to break through the human chain fencing them in and moving inexorably toward the corral at the end of the valley. A few escaped, but we were able to corral about 20 of them for shearing. Before the shearing could begin, though, a traditional ceremony thanking the apus (nature spirits) and the vicuña for the gift of vicuña fleece was held, with a ceremonial bloodletting to ensure another year of fertility to man and beast alike. A long ride back to Arequipa and our hotel and time to clean up and attend the fashion show with all the latest in chic alpaca wear. 

The next day, Nov. 16, we joined in a wonderful tour of two alpaca mills, complete with a museum devoted to a history of the alpaca industry in Peru and a great show highlighting traditional Andean music and dance.  That evening we were given a fascinating tour of the beautiful and historical St. ? Monastery and ended the tour with lots of Peruvian music and local food.

 All too soon our Arequipan odyssey was at an end and the next morning we flew to Juliaca, were met by our driver and transferred to Puno, where we left most of our luggage at our now-familiar Q’elqatani Hotel and boarded yet another boat for an excursion on the northern end of Lake Titicaca.  About a 3-hour boat ride later and we arrived at our destination for the day – Taquile Island – where we were introduced to our host families and hiked off in different directions to our houses for the night.  A somewhat intimidating experience for some, for me it was a unique opportunity to get a peek into the daily lives of a people who’s culture has changed very little since the days of their ancestors, the legendary Inca.

stopping at the Uros Islands on the way. The Uros people, during a difficult time in their history when they were being pushed out of their territory surrounding Lake Titicaca, devised the strategy of building islands of totora reed out in the Lake. They built the island of layer upon layer of reeds and then constructed their houses, furniture, etc also of the totora. They subsisted until recently upon fishing the lake and selling their reed mats and furniture on the mainland. They continue to survive on their “reedsmanship,” but now they mostly make models and household ornaments for passing tourists.


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