Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 15 (Sillustani)

Friday, July 18, 2008
Got up really late today at 8:30 AM! Mayro and a van driver met us to take us on our morning tour. As we left Puno, he pointed out the National University of the Altiplano at the edge of the city of Puno. Apparently Mayro attended the university to study tourism and business. He owns the family ranch with sheep and cattle, and has a couple families working for him. He has a wife and two small children.
At another point we passed a fortified block of buildings that looked like a prison with barbed wire and towers. Mayro said it was the university’s research center, and that during the days of the Shining Path domestic terrorism, such institutes were protected with walls and towers. He talked about how he had to live with the guerrillas and government troops who came through his property. He simply offered them a cow or couple of sheep for meat to appease whoever was at his door. Jan and Kirby asked if he even laughed at that time in his life (a period of 10 years!), and he just laughed!
We came to a small town of Santa Maria (?), where there was a procession for the Fiesta de la Virgen de Carmen. Since the road was blocked, we hopped out to walk ahead to catch the parade, as the van followed behind. A band followed several groups of dancers, each group supposedly represented some facet of history. We had seen a brightly-dressed women get on a bus back at the road turnoff, and here she jumped out of the bus and ran ahead to join others dressed like her!
Village parade
Child on motorcycle
We watched this procession turn up a side street to a church, then hopped in our van to continue on our way.
There were several walled communities, each with many sets of ceramic bulls and crosses on the rooftops.
Walled community
The livelihood here is herding sheep and alpacas. Before we reached Sillustani, we stopped briefly at a lagoon at the foot of the hill. Birding opportunity. Then up to the parking lot filled with tourist vans and buses, and souvenir vendors.
Sillustani on the ridge
Sillustani is a necropolis/cemetery on a peninsula in Lake Umayo 30 km/19 miles from Puno. There are 28 stone funerary towers called chullpas. Some of these chullpas pre-date or coincide with the Inca period, being from the 14th and 15th centuries, and as early as AD 900. The Colla people buried their dead in chullpas, whose stone masonry rivals that of the Incas. Their stones were generally the same size and placed parallel. Chullpas is correctly the shroud to cover the mummies deposited inside, and the proper name of the towers is ayawasi (“home of the dead”). The mummies were buried with their possessions, such as jewelry, food, and seeds. Mayro explained that since the soul would experience a rebirth into the next world, the mummy was placed in a fetal position on a flat stone, and covered with a rounded pile of stones to represent the womb of Mother Earth, or an oven. The tops of the towers were open, to facilitate the spirit going to the higher world, which is in the mountains. Each year on November 2nd (All Souls Day), the families come to the chullpas to bring food offerings to sustain the spirit of their loved ones, and tell them news of the family and request that the spirit look after those family members in need. All of the chullpas had openings which faced the east, which made it easy for grave robbers to find the openings and remove the appropriate stone to get inside. Mayro indicated that the cylindrical chullpas were from the agricultural societies, and the square ones from the cattle-raising societies.
Cylindrical chullpas
The tallest of the chullpas is called the Lizard, because of a relief carving on one of its stones.
Lizard chullpa
This is the largest chullpa with a circumference of 28 feet. The feature of these chullpas is that the bottom circumference is smaller than the top. Mayro also pointed out a chullpa with a relief of a snake.
Snake relief
The snake and lizard represent the lower world (of the earth’s interior or of the sub-conscious) and these animals do not have any negative connotation.
In the lagoon below, there was a curious pattern in the ground at the edge.
Lagoon with planting beds
Mayro explained that in order to grow crops in cold temperatures, the Incas built alternating raised beds with water channels between them. The water in the channels would be warmed by the day’s sun, and provide protection to the plants on the raised beds if a frost occurred.
Next we saw the foundations of two temples, one of the Sun where the shadow of a rock at the entrance would match the edge of another stone in the temple on a certain day (at a solstice? or All Souls Day?).
Temple foundation or circle of stones?
And is this really a foundation or a circle of stones? It goes by the name Intihuatana, which has been translated as the “Hitching Post of the Sun”. And why are there two circles next to each other? Mayro made it sound like the other was a temple to the moon. Some like to say there were two suns to worship. It is all a mystery!
Next we headed over to the other side of the peninsula for a gorgeous view of Lake Umayo and a flat-topped island.
Kirby & Jan, Tamiko and Brynne
The island is a national reserve and protects a herd of vicuñas. Even as isolated as it is, there are still poachers who try to boat across the lake to capture a vicuña. Some say the island is a landing place for alien spaceships…
As we headed back to the bus, Mayro showed us a stone with a puma profile.
Mayro with uma stone
The stone also had the symbol for Mother Earth, a spiral, this one with two short lines from the end. Mayro explained that the two lines represented the two directions one could go, to the heavens or below. He also seemed to indicate that one could feel energy in the center of the spiral. I have read that the center of the spiral has magnetic energy, and that a compass placed on the spiral will have its needle spin in the direction of the spiral. The spiral is said to also represent the gateway to the next dimension. The two lines are also described as a comet.
Mayro then helped me down the steep steps back to the van and we started off. But we backed up the van to see an Andean Goose that Mayro had spotted. Mayro had given Kirby a red and white rosette, which was being worn by Peruvians to celebrate their National Day coming up on July 28th.
Then off to the city of Juliaca and the Aeropuerto Internacional Inca Manco Cápac (Inca Manco Capac was the first Inca). Although it is designated as an international airport, it has only domestic flights. At 4,200 m/13,779 feet in length, it has the longest runway in Latin America. (Brazil has a longer runway in Sao Paolo, but it is at a private airport.) First we got in line to check in with LAN Peru Airlines. We checked our two suitcases, and went to the airport tax line. There we paid something like 9.35 Soles each, the last of our Soles, and got a sticker on our boarding passes.
Next we went to have lunch in the airport restaurant. We ordered soups and a ham and cheese sandwich, which came out one by one. Brynne got her cream of mushroom soup as other people were being served before we were. Then Jan got her chicken soup which had a quarter chicken in it. Kirby got his ham and cheese sandwich along with two other people who had arrived later. By the time I got my soup, we wanted the checks, but the waitress was hard to locate. When it seemed we should be boarding the plane, Kirby got up and tracked down the waitress and stood at her side behind the counter until she had the checks all figured out.
I had left money for lunch and started my slow way through the line to security, only to be sent back because I could not take my hiking stick through. So I had to return to the check-in desk, where I did cut in line, to check my stick. Then it was back through security, and now my watch set off the alarm. I also had to hand over my x-ray to circumvent it being x-rayed! I finally got through and joined the others, only to learn that our plane was late.
Got to stand in the full waiting area, until Kirby found a seat for me. Then it was time to board. Walked out to the plane and our rows boarded from the rear. This flight made a stop in Arequipa at their Aeropuerto Internacional Rodríguez Ballón. Here a young man boarded and he put a couple items in the overhead bin, but was left with a carry-on suitcase that was not going to fit under the seat. He was in the window seat beyond Brynne and was holding the suitcase in his lap. I was in the aisle seat and could see that there was room just one row forward, so I moved a suitcase to make room, and motioned to the young man to let me put his carry-on up in the overhead bin. My leg may be casted, but my arms still work! On the way from Arequipa to Lima, we were given a snack of a piece of pound cake and a chocolate stick.
Arrived in Lima at 6:20 PM. Got the young man’s carry-on suitcase down for him, so he wouldn’t have to go against traffic to get it. Had a long wait for our bags, and Kirby was able to grab our bags off the carousel for us. We thought we would try to check in for our flight the next morning, but we were not able to do so. Then it was a short walk across the street from the airport to the hotel, Ramada Inn Costa Del Sol. When we checked in there, we were part of the "Jan B. group of 4." Now, this place had everything, even a chocolate on the downturned bed, but we weren’t going to be there long enough to take advantage of the spa, fitness room, pool, gift shop, business center, etc. Met for dinner in the hotel restaurant and completed our bird list. Brynne used our free-drinks coupons to get bottles of water and Coca Cola from the bar (rather than the offered Pisco Sours or beers). Returned to our room to re-pack the USA-way, and go to bed.
Next: Day 15 Heading Home.

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