After going all the way down and up the Colca Canyon, all my body was sore and my legs hurt at each movement, so the only thing I had in mind when arriving to Puno – set on the shores of lake Titicaca -was a good night of sleep. The next day we woke up to a beautiful sunny blue sky. It was June 24th, so the whole city was commemorating the ‘dia de campesino’ with impromptu picnics all over the place.
Puno, situated 3.800 m above sea level, is not a cosmopolitan city like Arequipa or Cusco. It is small and modest and the main attraction is the Titicaca lake, its main source of income. Puno’s altitude was challenging for both of us: for the first time in this trip, we felt the typical dizziness and shortness of breath. Verne got used to it pretty quickly, but I was saying goodbye to the city the day after and still feeling my head light. Luckily everyone had coca tea to offer!
We were staying in Puno only for one day, so we had to decide between a visit to the floating (and very touristic) Uros islands in the lake and the spiritual Sillustani. We opted for the latter, acnowledging the irony that we were on the shores of the Titicaca lake, and taking a tour inland.
Actually, and to be fair, we walked all the way from the city centre to the lake’s shores, and we can in all honesty say that we saw it (and we have pictures to prove it)! We just didn’t navigate it 🙂
The Uros are a pre-Incan community, living in man made floating islands in the Titicaca lake. In the past, their main occupation was fishing, hunting, crafting and taking care of the islands, as these need constant maintenance. Nowadays, however, the islands became the most visited place in the Titicaca lake region, and their habits have changed drastically, to focus more in tourism. Some of the Uros habitants no longer live in the islands, and go there only for “work” purposes, i.e., play a role for tourists. As we were looking for a more “true Peruvian, less tourist trap” experience, we followed our guide’s suggestion and headed to Sillustani.
Sillustani is a pre-Incan cemetery, right on shores of lake Umayo. Some historians believe that this peninsula has once been an island in the middle of the lake, making it thus a perfect sacred spot according to Colla (pre-Incan tribes, conquered by the Incas) and Inca traditions.
All the tombs (‘chullpas’) are built in a cylindrical shape, with a small door at the bottom, facing east, through which the sun light would go in and people could leave goods (food or gold) for the dead’s afterlife. In some of these ‘chullpas’ several mummified bodies were found around the “master”, suggesting that some servants had a tragic fate, and died to accompany and serve their master in the afterlife.
Nowadays, Sillustani is a top destiny for spiritual people and it is said to have a “special kind of energy”. To be honest, we couldn’t feel any kind of energy, but one thing that we were both fascinated by is the beauty and peacefulness of this place. Surrounded by incredible landscapes it is definitely a place worth a visit.
Taking off now to one of my most anticipated places in this trip: Machu Picchu! Talk to you soon from the top of the world 😉