The next few weeks we roamed all over the island. I felt totally
at peace. I was reminded of the time spent with Beatrice in the
house of Lakshmi near the Sikkim border, recovering from my long
fight with hepatitis. I love altitude and space. It lifts my spirit.
I meandered through terraced gardens, admired the exquisite stonework,
the gates and small monuments one encountered unexpectedly, and
sat by singing brooks writing and thinking. Tashi and I went exploring
on day-long excursions. Inventing stories on this island was an
easy task. It was such an inspiring place to be. Each moment we
expected a hobbit or troll to appear but instead we met the women
working in the fields with their red skirts of many layers and delicately
embroidered blouses. Some carried a harvest of grain on their backs
or lifted the young lambs, which were very spoiled, into their arms.
The men folk manned the fishing boats or walked around knitting
the floppy colourful woolen caps they always seemed to wear. They
looked raffish in broad calf-length black pants, homespun white
shirts with puffed shoulders, elegant waistcoats that the women
wove. We always encountered them on our outings, their nut-brown
faces breaking into a wide grin, the knitting needles in motion.
were living in a fairytale land. There was a stillness and tranquility
that was not even interrupted by the constant barking of dogs, the
echo of which one hears almost everywhere on the globe except for
the desert regions. Here, I was told, there were no dogs. In a bean
field next to a tiny waterfall, not far below the hut, I whiled
away the hours. Beneath me the grand lake spotted with agate, silver
and blue, lay motionless and dignified. It was easy to forget that
there existed another world away from here. According to the ancient
Inca legends, the god Viracocha created the sun and the moon out
of the waters of Lake Titicaca and to this day the lake remains
a Huaca, a sacred place for Andean Indians. The sun reflected fiercely
from the lake's surface. I too had taken on the appearance of those
raffish men: the grandmother had woven me a rough shirt and I had
bought a cap from Faustino to protect me from the sun.
I learned to orientate myself quite well on the labyrinth of tracks
criss-crossing the island -even by moonlight. There was no other
lighting. Twice, at daybreak, Tashi and I climbed to the highest
point of the island to admire the expansive view over the lake,
the sky and snowcapped mountain ranges reflected in the gently rippling
waters of glass, metal and stone. The small and larger islands emerged
in the dawn light. Then Viracocha created the sun once again, illuminating
the spectacular sight. "Daddy, from here we can see the whole world!"
the sun sank the temperature dropped rapidly. At this altitude even
the difference between a sunny spot and shadow was extreme. At night
there was little else to do but lie under the blankets and listen
to Faustino's stories about Taquile's history. It was cold and the
one kerosene lantern hardly lit up the hut. Kerosene was saved for
cooking. Faustino explained to me in Quechua-peppered Spanish how
the islanders had managed to buy their island back from a Spanish
colonial landowner. They had since formed a cooperative to market
their woolen products and attract tourists. Tasks were rotated amongst
themselves. They owned the boat that daily travelled the four hours
from Puno and brought in the tourists who would spend a couple of
hours on the island, and hopefully buy the woven shirts and caps
the cooperative store offered, before returning to the mainland.
The islanders had joined forces to make policy decisions on the
prices of their goods, the use of traditional garb, the curbing
of modernity and the future of Taquile.
there was a celebration we wandered over to the village. On these
days all the Indians wore their finest clothes, and flutes, whistles,
panpipes and charangos resounded. One morning in the church I heard
the most enchanting Indian harp and violin music. The door was locked
and I was informed that the musicians were practising. "What for?"
I enquired. "Para la fiesta de Pascua," was the reply. Easter was