The Key To The Mysteries Of Lake Titicaca

The city of Puno, on the Peruvian Altiplano, is the usual gateway for travelers to the world’s highest lake.

The history of the Yavarí Vapor is a perfect synthesis of the particularity of these lands. This beautiful boat designed by the James Watt Foundry shipyard in Birmingham in 1861, was built in small pieces. The instructions that reached the offices of the British engineers were clear: none of the parts that composed the ship could weigh more than 200 kilos.

The boat was completed in just a year and resulted in a complicated puzzling of 2,766 pieces and 210 tons of weight that carried old England aboard the Mayola Steam heading south. The journey was long. After crossing Cape Horn and crossing the west coast of the South American continent, the Yavarí arrived at the port of Arica, at that time the southernmost port of Peru, in October, 1862.

From there, the boat began a painful trip that alternated between trains, the backs of mules, and the shoulders of porters. A titanic effort that lead them to climb to the heights of Los Andes (more than 4,000 meters) to reach the shores of Titicaca. The trip lasted seven years!

For years, the small gunboat Yavarí settled the sovereignty of Peru on the west bank of the lake and also served as axis of the communications between the populations riverside. Today it’s the first Museum Ship of Peru (Address: C / Sesquicentenario, 1970 -Puno- Tel: (+51) 51 369329; Hours: LD 9.00 – 17.00 E-mail: yavariguldentops@hotmail.com) and one of the things that any traveler should be sure to check out when they visit the city of Puno when visiting Titicaca.

The city is chaotic. The Cathedral of Puno is one of those examples of cultural mixing between the Hispanic and the indigenous. The Jesuits built it, in the 17th century, a spectacular Baroque period in which traces of the Inca worldview can be traced. The Carlos Dreyer Museum (Address: Jr. Deustua, 289, Tel: (+51) 351 019; Hours: LS 9.30 – 19.30) is located in the heart of the Plaza de Armas, a beautiful colonial style house with a small but Interesting collection of pre-hispanic archeology and pieces from the Spanish period.

Another of the essential stops in the metropolis of the Altiplano is Cerro Huajsapata. From the Condor Viewpoint, you can not only see the entirety of the citywith a bird’s eye view, but you can also see the blue immensity of Titicaca. Another worthwhile visit before entering the mythical Titicaca is the Fundo Chincheros (Access: Puno Juliaca road km 9; Tel: (+51) 351 921; E-mail: fundo@casadelcorregidor.pe) an old hacienda of the Colonial era that today houses a novel center of interpretation of the agricultural and livestock techniques of the place since time immemorial.

A Deep Blue

And then there’s the Lake. The boats that take travelers to the islands that scatter the blue waters of Titicaca leave the Puno river pier, almost constantly. The first stop of the lake excursion is usually the curious Uros Islands that have the particularity of being real rafts of totora built by fishermen who live in these immense floats all year round.

Here, everything revolves around the totora reed; Although the fishermen of today run the waters in modern fiberglass boats or more modest wooden boats, you can still see the authentic rafts of totora reeds. Totora reeds for everything: to build the islands themselves, houses, to construct mats that cover the floors, restaurants etc…The televisions and the solar panels break the uniformity of yellow and green colors.

And beyond the islands. The real ones; Those that arise from the bed of this mythical basin in which, according to the Inca tradition, the first Incas were born through the mediation of the very gods. Taquile is a narrow stone island about 5.5 kilometers long and 1.5 meters wide in which some 2,000 people still live.

 

The platforms climb to heights that exceed 4,000 meters above sea level creating a curious agricultural landscape on stairs from among which stand small piles of houses. Here people still live off the land; fishing for food, and animals that provide the wool with which the famous island textiles are made. And there is also tourism, controlled here by the villagers themselves through an agency that provides accommodation in family houses.

To reach the main population of the island you have to climb more than 350 steps of stone. The famous Arco de Taquile gives access to the small Plaza de Armas, where the forceful figure of the Parochial Church clearly stands out. A couple of restaurants and handicraft stalls welcome the traveler, who can explore the island thoroughly with the tranquility of small crags. It only takes a couple of hours to tour the entire town of Taquile.

The neighboring island of Amantani is a very good option to spend an unforgettable night in the lake under a spectacular starry sky. Traces of an ancestral culture that survives protected by the waters.The simple life. Unplug and get away. This is truly heaven on earth.