For those of us who live in Asia, travelling to South America cannot happen very often as it’s just too far of a distance to travel. Bearing that in mind, I’ve decided to continue posting about Bolivia while the experiences are still fresh in my memory so I can more accurately, share them with you.
Another legendary place I’ve heard about since taking Spanish classes in Middle School is Lake Titicaca, Birthplace of the God of the Sun and the Incas. I first embarked on our trip to Titicaca thinking that we’d be visiting the famous Floating Reed Islands. Turns out, those Islands are located on the Peruvian side of Titicaca and since we were on the Bolivian side, we did not get to see them. However, “La Isla Del Sol” or Island of the Sun and “La Isla Del Luna”, Island of the Moon were both closer to the Bolivian docks and so, we focused our journey here instead.
Above) A Panaromic View of Lake Titicaca on a Cloudy Day
“La Isla Del Sol” was believed by the Incas to be the birthplace of the God of the Sun. It’s a remarkably large island located in the middle of a remarkably large lake. To get from village to village, a boat is your best and only option besides hiking over the mountain peaks. On either end of the island are Temples built by the Tiahuanaco people, who ruled before the Incas. (Technically, the term “Inca” can only be used to refer to the King, though nowadays, we use “Inca” to refer to the strongest High Plateau civilization, the Quechua) The Temple of the Sunrise was built to greet the Rising Sun in the East, and the Temple of Sunset was built to bid farewell to the Setting Sun in the West. Each temple is built as a mini labyrinth that consists of different passageways and chambers for priests to perform different rites and rituals. Judging from the short openings of the doorways (Some only measure 4.5’ tall), I assume that the Tiahuanaco who built these Temples some 1000 years ago were physically much smaller than we are now today. Around these religious sites are stone towers stacked by visitors for it’s believed that the higher you are able to stack your stone tower, the closer to the Sun God you are in Spirit.
Above) Ruins of The Temple of the Sunset
Despite the number of tourists (mostly young backpackers), most natives still live a very traditional lifestyle where their main income is farming. The entire Isla Del Sol is covered in Terraces for High Altitude Crops that include Quinoa, Lima Beans, Maize, Snow Peas, and Local Sweet Potatoes. These Terraces remind me of the Rice and Tea Terraces of Vietnam and China. Like Santorini and other Greek Islands, the natives who live on Isla Del Sol use Donkeys and Mules to transport all goods to the higher slopes of the island via steep stone pathways, as there isn’t a single car or buggy on the Island.
1&2) Terraced Fields of Crops, 3) I can't figure out what that Door is for, 4) Mother and her1 wk Old Lamb, 5) High Altitude Cows are Fuzzy, 6A) Stone Road to the Temple, 6B) Inca Steps up Isla Del Sol, 7) View of Isla Del Sol 6:15 am, 8) Isla Del Sol Market Place, 9) Island Courier Service
Living in a city like Hong Kong, I almost never see clear blue skies or lush greenery. I don’t know if it’s the high altitude and/or the lack of pollution in Titicaca that makes the waters blue-er and the grass greener, but I was so happy to finally see a thick carpet of grass again! In fact, the hummingbirds in Titicaca are literally FOUR times the size of hummingbirds we see in the United States. They’re bigger than the city sparrows in Hong Kong! The natives say it’s the high altitude and I think I believe them.
1-3) Lake Titicaca 12 Noon, 4) Offerings to Pacha Mama, 5) Moon, the 2 wk old Baby Llama
Standing on the cliffs of La Isla Del Sol and looking out at Lake Titicaca brings an unexplainable type of peace for those of us who come from highly populated cities. You don’t need to close your eyes to concentrate on the sounds of nature that surround you. It’s already so silent. Everywhere, you can hear the wind blowing, birds chirping, perhaps, even the hum of a hummingbird’s fluttering wings. Then as you look out on to the blue waters, the stillness of the lake surface is only occasionally broken by the arrival of a tour boat, which doesn’t happen very often.
Hope you can spot the hummingbird!