A long day of trekking today, but not a lot to report. We started our trek about 20min from the hotel around 8:30am and 32km later we arrived at Sillustani, a well known archeological site outside of Puno, around 4pm. A long day indeed, hiking up and down the undulating hills of the Andes, reaching altitudes of over 4000m, and no shelter or relief from the beating sun. It also tested our acclimation to the altitude in Peru; although our headache/buzz has vanished from the first day, we definitely huffed and puffed a little more than usual climbing up the steeper parts of the trek. Our guide, David, assured us, however, that we were in very good shape, and even extended the trek to 32km to accommodate our pace during the day.
A few pictures of the hills and coutryside outside Puno – we didn’t see a single tourist, which we were both very grateful for, and only saw a couple dozen locals! There were many houses that were no longer inhabitted (apparently if a woodpecker drills a hole in your house it is considered bad luck and the family will move) and the old farmers we did see (no one was under 40 years old since most move to the city for a better life) were friendly but didn’t allow us to take pictures of them (they believe that taking their picture robs them of their soul). Too bad, as they had the most interesting faces and dress.
Two things are characteristic of the region: stone fences are seen everywhere; and every hill and mountain range is layered in terraces. The two are actually linked, and pre-date Inca time (ie. before 1200). The colla people terraced the moutains to create flat (although not always level) plots of land that zig zag down the hilside. Each terrace is surrounded by stone fences (which often had holes in them), to create micro-environments for the land. The altitude is too high for anything other than potatoes and grains (mainly wheat and quinoa) because it’s too cold. The rock fences trap the warmth of the sun and allow for agriculture.
We ended our trek at Sillustani, a well known funerary site of the Colla, who pre-date the Inca. Sitting on rolling hills on the Lake Umayo peninsula (3890m), the funerary towers of Sillustani stand out for miles against the desolate altiplano landscape.
A little history, borrowed from the Lonely Planet:
The ancient Colla people who once dominated the Lake Titicaca area were a warlike, Aymara-speaking tribe, who later became the southeastern group of the Incas. They buried their nobility in chullpas (funerary towers), which can be seen scattered widely around the hilltops of the region.
The most impressive of these towers are at Sillustani, where the tallest reaches a height of 12m. The cylindrical structures housed the remains of complete family groups, along with plenty of food and belongings for their journey into the next world. Their only opening was a small hole facing east, just large enough for a person to crawl through, which would be sealed immediately after a burial. Nowadays, nothing remains of the burials, but the chullpas are well preserved.
The walls of the towers are made from massive coursed blocks reminiscent of Inca stonework, but are considered to be even more complicated. Carved but unplaced blocks and a ramp used to raise them are among the site’s points of interest, and you can also see the makeshift quarry. A few of the blocks are decorated, including a well-known carving of a lizard on one of the chullpas.
The chulpas in the distance were for farmers and lower class citizens.