In the Inca Museum in Cusco we discovered a little board telling the legend of Lake Titicaca and how the Incas came to be. It was related by Inka Gracilaso de la Vega and it goes like this:
… There was a time when mankind was deplorably primitive, and lived in a savage state. One day, the sun god took pity on mankind and sent two of his children to civilize them. With this end in sight, he sent Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo into Lake Titicaca. The two were given a golden scepter by their father, and were commanded to establish an empire on the land where the scepter sank. Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake TIticaca and began their journey. Their father, the Sun, instructed them to penetrate the ground with the golden scepter whenever they stopped to eat, drink, or rest.
When they arrived to Huanacaure Hill, the scepter sank into the ground. Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo immediately established themselves of said place, and summoned mankind to begin the civilization process. Manco Capaq taught men to cultivate the land, and the arts of war. Mama Ocllo taught women to weave. make clothing, and other domestic responsibilities. Mankind was so grateful that they began to worship Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo as the children of the sun. So Cusco was founded, the city’s name meaning “navel of the world” in Quechua. The children and descendants of the first settlers were recognized as the absolute rulers of all those who joined their territory…
There are many versions of this legend, and there are many more legends regarding the beginnings of the Inca Empire. Regardless, the legends are not mistaken about one thing: the greatness of Lake Titicaca.
To get to Puno, one of the Peruvian cities on the shores of Lake Titicaca and the most touristy, we took a 30 minutes flight from Cusco and we arrived close to the end of the day. The 40 minutes ride from the Juliaca airport was not really adventurous, except the part when we had the opportunity to take a panoramic picture of Puno. From far away, this town seems like a handful of marbles rolling towards the lake. As we got closer to it though, the city started to lose its charm, becoming more and more gloomy as darkness was slowly covering it.
The next day we went on a half day tour to the famous floating islands, the Uros islands. before we head out we took a picture of the city from in the sunlight of the morning. It seemed like the houses were gaining colour again, enjoying the sun, and waving at the sparkling waters of the lake.
The blue richness
The colour of Lake Titicaca is a unique shade of deep and rich blue. As we were leaving the shores on a boat and kept going further and further, the lake darkened but its small waves started sparking like a million diamonds. With the mountains surrounding it, Lake Titicaca does seem like a perfect place from which mankind should start.
The Uros islands are artificial and those who live there have done so for generations. Their ancestors built these floating islands to escape the Incas, which were on a quest for conquering the area. As the lake was sacred for the Inca, they did not directly attack the Uros people, who later became permanent residents of the lake.
As we were approaching the islands, we could see little houses made of dried totora reeds raising from the each island like little mushrooms after the rain. With flooring of dried reeds, the yellow of these islands contrast the blue of the lake, making them seem to be truly kissed by the Sun god.
The Uros people are very simple and they survive mostly from tourism. They seem very proud of their world, their language, and traditions and they try to communicate this to the tourists. However, at some point it became too much of an exposure. Maybe it was just me, but the over-display of tourist targeted material did not impress me.
One thing I did enjoy a lot was getting dressed up by the ladies of the island in their traditional costumes. Those skirts are pretty awesome, and in my humble opinion we looked pretty cool!
Another cool activity that the Uros people provided was a boar ride between their island and the main one. These boats are made of reeds as well and they use the pretty ones only for tourists rides. Although we did not do that, I took a pretty picture of the boat.
Taste of the city
After the Uros tour we returned to Puno and we explored the city a little bit. Like any other South American city, Puno also has a Plaza de Armas with a statue in the middle and a cathedral next to it. We just wondered around it for a few pictures.
Good bye Peru, hello Bolivia!
We left Puno in the afternoon with the attempt to sleep in Copacabana, Bolivia. However, on the way we decided to go straight to La Paz and just sleep there.
We did catch from the bus a gorgeous sunset over Lake Titicaca on our way though, so that left us pretty satisfied with our travel choice.