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Published: April 1st 2007
Roll up, roll up, get your Jesus palm weavings here.
So here we are in the very cold but pretty town of Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The day didn't get off to the best of starts for me as once again I managed to fall in the shower and bash myself up a bit. I was concentrating so hard on not slipping on the wet floor of the bathroom (the shower curtain doesn't do its job properly) that I forgot about the mat just outside the bathroom. The moment I stepped on it, my feet came sailing out from under me and I landed with a heavy thud on the bathroom step. Needless to say I now have a bruise the size of Alaska on my behind and a very dented ego.
I wasn't in the best of moods from then on as you can imagine but we went ahead and booked ourselves on to the afternoon tour to Sillustani, one of the main attractions in the Puno area. With the morning to kill, we went for a wander around town just in time to catch the masses leaving church all carrying a variety of religious weavings made out of palm fronds. At first we couldn't
Out With the Masses
The congregation spills out onto the pavement.
figure out what the significance of all the greenery was, especially as the pavements were lined with men, women and children weaving and selling these oddments. Then it occured to us that today is Palm Sunday (cue: lightbulb!) and suddenly everything made sense.
Except for the military parade that is. As we made our way over to Puno's small Plaza de Armas, we noticed a hive of activity taking place all around. Men and women in uniform were grouped around, many carrying guns and weapons we didn't recognise. At first it was a bit unnerving but then we realised that some kind of procession was about to begin. We took a seat amongst some local spectators on the steps by the main church and waited.....and waited. Finally we heard a marching band strike up a tune and along came hundreds of military officials from army, navy and what looked a bit like the Peruvian SAS, resplendant with grenade launchers! They all lined up dutifully before the church but then nothing happened for ages. Glynn and I waited for a good 30 minutes but with no speeches or music or anything interesting looking likely to happen soon, we reluctantly took
Check out those grenade launchers!
our leave. Very odd.
Our trip to Sillustani with Kollosuyo Tours (20 Soles each, about Â£3.30) kicked off at 2pm with a ride in a very posh and packed minibus.
There was a biting cold wind blowing at the site and we were very glad to have brought our fleeces and windproof raincoats with us. Sillustani is located in a very beautiful part of the country, nestled on an exposed peninsular between two halves of the same deep blue lake. There must be a good 15 of the famous Inca funerary towers dotted around the landscape, the most impressive of which stands about 12 metres tall. Our guide spoke both Spanish and English but although he was very knowledgable, he was pretty boring to listen to and we soon found ourselves wishing we had simply taken a taxi there instead. On the way round the site, we stopped at some ancient solar and lunar worship areas that apparently connect to one of the Earth's ley lines. It amused us to watch many of our tour group turn into hippies by standing in the centre of the circles and attempting to tap in to the natural energy field. When it
I think we´re surrounded!
was Glynn's turn to have a go, he pulled out one of our rechargeable batteries to see if he could put the energy to more practical use!
Our favourite moment at Sillustani though had to be on the way back down to the minibus when we came across an elderly Peruvian lady all tucked up amongst her skirts and blanket-like shawl. Curled up next to her was a gorgeous baby vicuna, similar to a llama only much smaller and with more highly prized wool. We asked if we could stroke it and couldn't believe just how soft the little creature was. I so want one to take home with me! The nicest thing about the experience was that the lady never asked us for any money and the vicuna was cleary well cared for - something you can't say for the llamas that get dragged around town by ethnic folks for tourist photo opportunities. We made a small donation anyhow and Glynn prised me away before I could wind myself up on vicuna kidnapping charges.
Although Sillustani was intersting to explore, it was the unexpected visit to a traditional Peruvian country home that really made the trip worthwhile.
Can I Be In Your Photo?
As you can see, we stand out a mile amongst the locals!
Our guide took us into a courtyard enclosed by mud brick walls with llamas and alpacas trotting around outside like they owned the place. Inside the courtyard were a number of round and square mud and thatch houses (including some tiny ones for the guinea pigs) plus an outdoor kitchen area where we were treated to hot purple potatoes with home-made cheese. There were some cute, brightly clothed kids running around and smiling for all the cameras while their parents demonstrated how to spin alapaca wool and turn it into the most incredible weavings. It was a wonderful insight into this primitive yet fully functional way of life that has remained almost unchanged for centuries. A selection of their crafts were for sale but at no time did we feel pressured into buying anything. In fact, we were made to feel so welcome that we were more than happy to leave a donation for these immensely fun and friendly people.
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