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21 April 2024
Alpaca in the Andes.

Today, after a breakfast buffet & lots of Coca Tea, I joined the coach, ready for the journey to Lake Titicaca. We retraced our route out of the Canyon, passing strange-looking moss that can live for 500 years & when touched, it feels more like a rock than moss.

Sillustani.

On our way to Sillustani, we stopped at a shepherd’s corralled alpaca to photograph them. As we arrived, the farmer was letting them out to graze. They all walked in a very organised line towards where they would eat, followed by the shepherd’s dog keeping an eye on where the alpaca went. The shepherd we learnt was 65 years old, but he soon sprinted off after his animals; I was having trouble breathing correctly just walking at this high altitude & he must be very fit & have a good supply of coca leaves with him.

We stopped at a lake in the crater of the volcanoes we travelled through for a picnic lunch. The altitude was still making breathing difficult, but I walked to a nearby viewing mound to look over the beautiful blue lake below before returning to look at the garments the locals had set out on stone tables near where the coach was parked. I bought myself an alpaca cardigan for £15, it is very light & warm, it will be great in the cold back in England.

As we continued to Puno at Lake Titicaca, we stopped to visit a family in their home, made of mud, brick & some dry stone walls. Within the home’s grounds are several buildings, a central living building, a storage hut (where manure is kept for fires) & a kitchen. The man who lived there gave us a demonstration of how he & his wife used tools for digging the land & planting the seeds for the corn. He then showed us how he used his sling to hunt & scare off the foxes that came looking for his chickens.

After his display, he brought home-cooked food for us to try, a selection of beautiful potatoes, bread, cheese & some corn crackers that I had to have more than one of. The man showing us his home was amusing. If he were in the UK or USA, he would probably have his own TV show. As we leave the coach, nobody can remember seeing him wash his hands between showing us his cow dung patties & giving us the food.

A short time after leaving the family home, we arrived at the burial towers at Sillustani. The mound they stood on, was an island, but a cliff collapse joined it to the mainland. We parked at the base of the hill & began our walk to the top. Because of the altitude, we stopped several times on the way to catch our breath & a few of my companions were sick. I chewed some coca leaves & pushed on to the top, where we were told about the burial towers. The leaders of the people of the village nearby would be buried in these when they died & a lot of alcohol & drug-laced concoctions were taken in the ceremonial burial. This, then, also became the last party the favoured servants of the person being buried attended. They were then murdered & buried along with their masters in the tower. The tower we looked at had one side blown away by visiting Spanish grave robbers searching for treasure, but we can see intact towers further along the ridge.

We continued on our way & drove through Puno to our hotel right on the side of Lake Titicaca. When I got to my room on the ground floor, I looked out of the room to see an alpaca grazing outside my bedroom.

At lunch, I ordered a starter & my main meal. My main meal arrived without me having my starter. I thought they must have forgotten my soup. After tasting a few mouthfuls of my alpaca dinner, my soup starter arrived, to quickly be taken away when I told them I didn’t want it at the same time as my meal. After the meal, whilst having a beer, my soup was brought out again & the manager explained that the chef had made it for me. I described that I wanted it as a starter, not an accompaniment to my meal & he begrudgingly took it away again & removed it from my bill.

After another beer & a chat about football with two of my companions, I retired to bed for an early night.