Navigating the Titicaca is an exciting adventurethat allows not only to furrow the waters of a mythical lake -for the Sons of the Sun- but also, to know its tiny islands loaded with past that store old traditions and important vestiges of the pre-Hispanic cultures that inhabited this Andean place.
What do I buy? What do I sell? Offers, bargains and exchange? hum, depends?, what do you offer?... oh, it could be, I will think about it. Conversations under the belfry of a church: Words in Aymara, jokes, jests. Everybody laughs. Green smiles due to coca leaf chewing. A drink to cheer the morning: beer of foam white as snow. Cheers... and don't forget a toast to the Earth.
To go from one side to the other, to peep, to snoop, to ask about prices. To walk between coppery faces with cracked cheeks and out of place hairs. To greet the neighbours, to feel the contact of the rough hands of a man of the field, to smile back to the women of black tresses and incredibly wide "polleras" (typical Andean skirt) or to the bald grandfather of an ungraceful aspect.
Drinks come, drinks go. The morning starts to get lighter
and tipsy, it becomes a party. "don't forget the toast to Earth", they repeat the recommendation that now sounds like a severe request... and some children appear in the square of dust, they jump, they go up and down, they avoid those "stores" that have been improvised on the ground, they go to meet their parents. They help them to sell their goods.
It is Tuesday: day of fair in an island of conspicuous and proud weavers of Totora rafts. Bales, packages and sacks, of everything and for everyone, people come from different communities of the Lake Titicaca. Dozens of boats and sailing ships berth and weigh anchor. Completely occupied pier, flooded too... 'It is because the rain has made the level of the waters grow'.
Paths of mud. Long and acrobatic steps to avoid the puddles... "And it is always this way when it rains, but the fair is the fair and one way or the other we need to make it". The commands of the tradition are still respected at the Suriqui Island, a piece of earth in the blue waters of the Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world (3810 m.a.s.l.).
The last toast. Nobody forgets to share it with the Earth anymore. Time to go. To turn the back to the fair with its offers, bargains and exchanges? To look at the tiny--covered with mud- streets of the island, adobe or brick houses, the close cultivation fields and the Totora reed raft -upright and invincible- that welcomes the community.
To plait the Totora, an aquatic plant of cylindrical stems native to South America, is another tradition that the residents of Suriqui conserve, they, thanks to their dexterity and ability, were chosen to build the rustic rafts used by the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl and the Spanish Ketín Muñoz, in their expeditions.
The inhabitants of Suriqui remember both investigators that demonstrated
that the Totora rafts can undertake long oceanic voyages, for what it would not be absurd to think that the men of the Andes, in some moment of their historical development, would have dared to navigate toward uncertain horizons or distant continents, especially Oceania.
islands of the lake
To navigate in mythical waters that seems to be endless. To be covered, because the wind gets worse, it blows with force; it takes the words that narrate the legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the sons of the Sun, the founders of the gigantic and fabulous Empire of the Incas, who came out of the Lake Titicaca in a time without dates, hours or days.
Time to contemplate the view: wind blown and stylized clouds, a sky of infinite shades of blue, distant sailing ships of fragile appearance open small furrows in the water, pieces of Totora reed sifted by some nervous ducks... and the silhouette of an island -is it El Sol, La Luna or Kalahuta?- waves on the horizon.
To arrive at the shore. To give a jump and to disembark. To walk in the sands of La Isla del Sol for the first time. To take a deep breathe, to enjoy the view of the greenery, to get scared in front of the excessive quantity of stone steps of the stairway of Yumani, that finishes at the Fuente de los Incas, where the priests of the Tawantinsuyo carried out cults to the water.
To arrive at the shore. To give a jump and to disembarkTo walk in the sands of La Isla del Sol for the first time. To take a deep breathe, to enjoy the view of the greenery, to get scared in front of the excessive quantity of stone steps of the stairway of Yumani, that finishes at the Fuente de los Incas, where the priests of the Tawantinsuyo carried out cults to the water.
Again on firm land. There are no more offers or toasts to the Earth. The night falls. The Titicaca seems to sleep among the shades; then, the cold gets more intense and intolerable; but it does not matter, the memories warm the soul, they warm the heart.