The secrets of Amantani, the fantastic island more than 4,000 meters above sea level

The largest island on the Peruvian side of Titicaca is a haven of tranquility and bucolic landscapes still unknown to most travelers. In her millenarian traditions are conserved and the possibility of knowing an authentic life in the community. A tour of this oasis on the heights

When it is about to rain in Amantaní, as in almost all parts of the world, its inhabitants run to take refuge in their homes. The difference is that, on an island at 4,000 meters above sea level, clouds charged with thunder are not a distant threat in the sky but one at eye level.

Along the cobbled paths that go up and down the mountain, they return with short, quick steps, men carrying bags on their backs with tools to till the field and women who do the same with the harvest. Some have the column as a bandoneon rickety weight and over the years, but their blouses, white and flowers embroidered by themselves, remain pristine.

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To get here you need to navigate Lake Titicaca from the port of Puno, in Peru, for about three and a half hours. The other option is to go by land from Juliaca to the Chifrón dock, in Capachica, and there take a boat that takes about 40 minutes on its way to the island.

In the rainy season (from November to April) and with a storm on the door, the boats that usually move locals and travelers around the island decide not to leave. The swell of the highest navigable lake in the world became angry. Walking in the open field to the opposite coast is the only way, with this climate, to return from Pueblo to Occosuyo. The other option is on the back of a donkey.

In the Plaza de Armas, a paved rectangle in the middle of the town where the municipality, the school, the church and some wineries coexist, night falls and the first drops also fall. Everything, except the La Plaza Bar, where a pile lantern provides some light, is dark. Those who still remain in the street illuminate their steps with a lantern tied to the head. They look like fireflies flying over the vegetation. In Amantani, loading one is almost as important as wearing shoes. On the island, there is practically no electricity.

It is in these minutes of waiting where one feels the rhythm and dynamics among the inhabitants of the Town: time seems eternal, the few who are sheltered in the bar, talk, and smile, look with kindness.

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On the island, there is only one hotel and it is luxury; Exclusive for those willing to spend more than 400 USD per person per night. The most affordable and popular option is to stay in the houses of the commoners, made of adobe and quincha, and in which, in general, offer full board based on Andean products. Some of them receive passengers directly or by agencies, and others by rotation established by local tourism associations.

Becoming a guide is essential. Between the rays, a fearsome but fascinating landscape is glimpsed. Witnessing this manifestation of nature closely allows us to get a little closer to the animistic beliefs of the Incas.

According to Andean mythology, from Lake Titicaca emerged the sons of the Sun God, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, who founded the Sun Empire. In the same Amantaní, there are several landmarks that celebrate the Andean cosmovision. One is the Pachamama ceremonial center, at the highest point of the island and on top of the Llaquistiti hill, dedicated to the feminine gender. The other is the Pachatata, representative of the masculine, and is in front of him, on the hill of Coanos.

Since pre-Inca times, every third Thursday of January, both are opened -on the only time in the year- to carry out the oldest and most original festival of the lake, a ritual of adoration to Mother Earth and Father Sky, the fruitful duality Andean. An offering so that the harvest of the year is good. Outside of that date, however, travelers are invited to climb to contemplate the sunset. The Coanos is a natural viewpoint from where you get to see the Cordillera Real and Copacabana, in Bolivia.

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On this closed night the view only reaches to the tip of the feet, but with each new lightning, the horizon is lit. The terraces with crops of potatoes, corn, geese, quinoa, peas, and beans light up behind them, bathed in a violet hue. Many of these terraces were built during the pre-Hispanic era. The animals – sheep and cattle – are hidden; kept in their pens, almost always close to the houses.

That is what the ten communities that inhabit Amantaní are dedicated to agriculture, livestock and artisanal fishing. There are about 4 thousand people who work cooperatively and provide mutual assistance. When staying with local families, the traveler witnesses it: he shares his activities, rituals and participates in folkloric clubs. With some effort, he also learns Quechua, the first language of the Amantaneños.

In the 9 kilometers of the surface that the island has, there is no police presence. The communal justice is the one that watches over the tranquility of its inhabitants.

When crossing the openings one does not feel more fear than that of exposure to nature. While outside the storm is unleashed, inside, the cold and altitude sickness is cured by taking a tea of muña, that plant that recommends the ancestral knowledge of Amantani.

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