Titicaca is not a Spanish word. Peru - 7

We traveled to Puno to experience the lesser toured area of Lake Titicaca. The Incan Empire did, at one time, conquer and command this area; however, they were less influential, as well the Spanish had limited influence. To this day, several other tribes still live by a more traditional heritage.  

The people of the area still follow some of the old religion; what the Christians would call the lore of Titicaca: 

In the language of the Aymara, the name Titi-caca means either “Grey Puma” or “Stone Puma”. Some say it refers to the sacred Rock of the Puma on the Isla del Sol, the island of the Sun, legendary birthplace of the Incas....
Viracocha, the God Creator, the Maker of the World, the Designer of Life and Mover of Earth, created a man and a woman in the depths of the Sea of Stone Puma....He told Mama Killarney, the moon, and Tata Inti, the Sun, to rise into the heavens, and he sent man and woman out into the world, along the rivers and streams and canals, to find a place under the sun to populate the Earth. When a descendant of the Incan dies, his or her soul always returns to Lake Titicaca where it once came from. ~Legend for the Incas as retold by Tales from South America:

One can begin to see how the conquered Incan’s easily adapted their legends and religions to fit the European Creationist stories and accepted their new rulers, especially after being overpowered by guns, steel and disease. The pre-history for the west coast of South America was rife with warring tribes, military coups, and blood sacrifices to the ruling human "gods", long before the Spanish arrived. Conversion was an accepted practice. 

Curiously, if you look at a map of Lake TtCc, it's shape is suggestive of a puma catching a rabbit and the colors of the shallow waters appear more gray than blue. Along these shores grow masses of deeply rooted reeds, it is from the totora reeds that the Uros create their floating homes. 

By boat we were ferried from our lakeshore hotel through the reed-lined channels to a large community of grassy flotillas. The elder of this Uros island then demonstrated how they make their homes.

First, they muck through the native grasses and cut blocks of root balls, several feet deep and drift them back to their floating community. Then they jam long poles of eucalyptus into the center and bind each block together with rope, allowing the roots to naturally grow the balls back together. Once the island is blocked, they secure the floating mass to the shoreline with multiple moorings. They joked this was important, so they don’t wake-up in Bolivia. Then week after week they layer cut reeds upon reeds in cross patterned to create a grassy flooring. The reed platform is squishy under foot and smells like rotting green onions. This whole process takes 9-12 months. The islands themselves will last at least a decade. A large island could house a few families.

Fish Pond
The families live in woven grass houses with thatched roofs, have indoor/outdoor kitchens, and keep shallow fish ponds on the islands, as a living super market. The reeds are also an important staple in their diet, digestively harsh for an untrained stomach, it serves as a way to keep their teeth clean. The bathrooms once were dug latrines deep beyond the moorings but now the government, recognizing the tourist dollars, provide septics systems and solar electric. Many teens leave the island for University and only come back if they feel they can improve the living conditions and capitalize on the tourism.

We disembark from these man-made islands and travel to the Taquile island in TtCc. The  indigenous people have a deep heritage of self-sustaining agriculture. They primarily eat fish but also harvest wool for weaving and knitting. The men are expected to knit and the women weave. The men must knit their own hats, specific designs for single or married. They use very fine bicycle spokes to knit with. If the knit is not tight enough for the prospective father-in-law, the young man may not court the daughter. Alternatively, the new wife also must weave a tight, intricate waist belt with symbolic animals, legends or solstice calendars. The knitting is considered some the the best in the world by UNESCO. 

A couple will live together for nearly three years before marriage to make sure they are compatible, marriage is forever in this community. There is also a very detailed 7-day wedding ritual, where the couple cannot smile...it is a form of mourning because they are dying as individuals, and towards the end of the week, they are reborn as one new entity. While the knitting is impressive, the wool is of adult sheep or alpaca and seemed itchy to my senses. These people are also capitalizing on tourism, now hosting home-stays and restaurants. They are keeping the experience authentic, at least for now. The Taquile have less problems with keeping the young population on the island. It is a very beautiful niche of the world. 
The next day we travel back to the airport but detoured to the Sillustani archaeology site. We did not visit the homes of the high desert dwellers, but they too live in very primitive homes. Mud brick and mortar, thatched roofs and self-sustaining farming and ranching. It is here we learned about pre-history Incan stone builders. Apparently, Incans were kind of assholes. They actually only ruled from the 1300s until the Spanish conquest around 1520. Nonetheless, what they accomplished during that time is highly impressive, but they stole most of their ideas from other tribes; albeit, they improved upon much of what they stole. 

In this area exists stone tombs similar to Incan. They are more silo in shape but instead of tight LEGO-like joinery without mortar, these people used smaller stones and mortar to “glue” the dry-stack together. From the outside the buildings appear dry-stack but inside were brick tombs for mummies. These towers are weathered because the stones are volcanic, thus more porous and magnetic; basically, huge lightening rods that exploded when charged.

All entrances to the tombs were facing east and a massive puma head boulder was found on site with a large snake engraving. Finally, I was able to visit a version of the Temple of the Snake (I missed at MP). Also in-situ were smaller silos built for the sacrificed first wife and top servant. As well, there was also a sun and moon rock circle, believed to be Incan, our tour guide felt it was too spiritual to enter and asked us to skirt it instead. So mote it be. 

We were a little disappointed at the pandering of tourism especially from the indigenous homes. However, I cannot blame them for their capitalism. There is still a heritage of elders that continue to wear authentic clothing, not just as costuming. I wonder why they continue to wear this clothing, this expression of their culture? Surely layers of wool skirts cannot be comfortable. What in our culture is an expression of our belief system? Jewelry, Make-up, Social Media, Tattoos? Maybe there is some pureness to ancestral dedication.

We flew to Lima for our final experiences, history lessons that tied it all together and the best food in the world, according to the Oscars of food critics.