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LAKE  TITICACA  -  PERU


Lake Titicaca is the world's highest lake navigable to large vessels. At an altitude of about 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) above sea level in the Andes Mountains it forms a border between Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east and covers some 3,200 square miles (8,300 square kilometers) extending in a northwest to southeast direction for a distance of 120 miles (190 kilometers). Lake Titicaca is 50 miles (80 kilometers) across at its widest point. The Tiquina strait separates the lake into two bodies of water.
 

With snow-capped peaks along its far shores, this vast blue lake is one of the Andes' most enchanting scenes. Travelers can visit Lake Titicaca by taking either daytrips from both Puno on the Peruvian side or for from La Paz on the Bolivia side. By far the best way to see this magnificent lake, travelers can take small cruise boats on overnight cruises between both countries.

 

The area has much to offer as ruins on shore and on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas. The chief site is at Tiahuanaco, Bolivia, at the southern end of the lake. On Titicaca Island ruins of a temple mark the spot where, according to the tradition of the Incas (Quechuan people of Peru who established an empire about 1100), the legendary founders of the Inca dynasty were sent down to Earth by the Sun. In Inca mythology, Manco Capac and Mama 0cllo, children of the Sun, emerged from the depths of Lake Titicaca to found their empire. Like famous naturalist Jacques Cousteau, today's visitors to Titicaca will surely feel the same emotion that captivated the symbolic universe of the ancient Peruvians.

 

An indigenous community of some 350 families continues to live within the traditions of the 14th century, according to the principles of Inca life. Here, without noting the passing of time, the three golden rules of the Empire of the Sun have been kept: Ama suwa, Ama quella, Ama llulla (do not steal, don't be idle, and do not lie). The contact with other civilizations has not been able to destroy the profound identity of the Inca way. The Aymara people living in the Titicaca Basin still practice their ancient methods of agriculture on stepped terraces that predate Inca times. They grow barley, quinoa (a type of pigweed that produces a small grain), and the potato, which originated on the Altiplano. The highest cultivated plot in the world was found near Titicaca - a field of barley growing at a height of 15,420 feet (4,700 meters) above sea level. At this height the grain never ripens, but the stalks furnish forage for llamas and alpacas, the American relatives of the camel that serve the Indians as beasts of burden and as a source of meat.

 

Remnants of ancient people, the Uru, still live on floating mats of dried totora (a reed like papyrus that grows in dense brakes in the marshy shallows). From the totora, the Uru and other lake dwellers make their famed balsas - boats fashioned of bundles of dried reeds lashed together that resemble the crescent-shaped papyrus craft pictured on ancient Egyptian monuments. 


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