Coordinates: 15°46′38″S 69°41′03″W
We left behind the totora islands to reach firm ground. The island of Taquile is segmented into terraces for growing quinoa, potatoes and barley. As we approached the island we could see how pronounced the planting levels are. To get to the main villa you have to climb through endless stone steps. We started to rise and we had to stop several times. Not because our legs prevented it, but because the air did not reach our lungs. This island is about four thousand meters above sea level, almost twelve times the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Ascending to Heaven
On our journey, which seemed as if we were ascending to heaven, we saw several men along the way, loaded up on their backs with no apparent effort. We also noticed the sheep, chickens and rams that moved freely around the place, without gates or restrictions. Once we got to the main villa, located almost at the highest point of the island, the taquileans greeted us with a long table where lunch would be served. While we waited for the food to be ready, our guide told us about the customs and way of life of the two thousand inhabitants of Taquile.
"AMA SUA, AMA LLULLA, AMA QUELLA"
We were taken aback by the moral code in which the Taquile society is based. The people of this island primarily follow the duty of collective work and Inca laws: "Ama sua, ama llulla, ama quella" (Thou shalt not steal, lie or be lazy).
One of the coexistence rules in Taquile is called Munai, which means to be in love with people, nature and life. Service is also necessary to live in Taquile, from the age of seventeen all adults are required to help each other. Taquileans understand that age and experience provides wisdom, so respect for elders is paramount.
There are also codes for dressing. Men wear a wool belt representing the calendar year with important dates: August to renew land; June 21 is the new Andean year; February for fishing and new crops; March, the feast of productivity; July and August for weddings because according to their beliefs it is the best time to get married.
Married couples use a long multicolored wool hat and singles use a cap of red and white wool. When the hat is up, it means they are resting. This society promotes living together before marriage. They call it the pre-marital stage and the couple decides when they want to get married. The marriage festivities last three to seven days.
After the guide’s talk, our hosts began arriving with plates of food. We were first served quinoa soup. The main course was grilled trout with rice and vegetables. For proper digestion we were offered coca leaf tea, which they said is also good for stress, anxiety, diarrhea in children, altitude sickness and gray hair… Exactly! Gray hair!
After sharing some time with the taquileans, watching the kids play and the mothers take care of their little ones, we decided to go back down. Obviously, the decline was less impacting than the climb to the mountain. Now back to the port of Puno, the siesta was mandatory.
After an entire day in the floating islands of Uros and later Taquile, we went back to the hotel to rest. The next day we would leave to Cusco in a tour bus, making several stops in several places of interest, like the Raya. This is the highest point of the trip (4.335 meters above sea level) between Puno and Cusco.
(This is the fourth article in a series of stories of Peru.)
Conscious Travel Practices:
1. Get to know people from other cultures and respect them.
2. Be thankfull to the uros people for their hospitality.
3. Learn about the history and way of life of the ufos people.
4. Enjoy their space without doing any harm.