Sitting in Spanish class in ninth grade, I would have never imagined I would one day find myself in one of the premier geographic Meccas of juvenile jokes. Yet here I am on Lake Titicaca, taken aback by its size and beauty, smiling down at the jokes of a distant past. At an altitude of 3.8 km (2.36 miles) above sea level, Lake Titicaca covers a vast 8372 square km (3100 sq. mi.), roughly the area of Delaware, with its longest diameter of 168 km (104 miles) from shore to shore.
I’m on a very slow moving, motor powered boat, transgressing the deep, dark blue water between a ‘floating’ and a ‘geological’ island. The people of the area have been living on floating islands for centuries. A floating island is composed of reef that naturally grows in the lake, and every 3 months a new layer of reef is laid down to replace the decomposing reef submerged in the water. As you walk around your feet literally sink half a foot into the ground.
I feel as if I’m in the middle of the ocean, so dark is the water. Yet there are no great whites or sandtiger sharks, no killer whales or bottlenose dolphins to speak of. The low levels of oxygen at this altitude prevent this ecosystem from supporting significant life. The lovely people on the floating islands rely on fish smaller than the size of the pen I’m writing with for food. It’s quite extraordinary, since isolated tradition like this does not exist in many parts of the world. I’m glad to have witnessed it.
As we keep moving, the sun slowly chars away at my skin. A sure call for a sunscreen break. This high up, the sun really torches you. Meanwhile, you would think I was warm, but it’s the exact opposite. I’m wearing just about everything I packed in my backpack except my flip flops. All the while, I fucking love it.
We’ve been out on the boat for about an hour or so, and we haven’t even passed the ‘small’ part of the lake, the bay right outside of Puno, Peru, our launching spot. Time doesn’t matter though. I’m listening to my Black Moth Super Rainbow neo-psychedelia and freezing my balls off, but I’m having a ball taking in my surroundings. The end of the lake is nowhere in sight, and I can only imagine it reaches the horizon and drips off into some faraway place. A 360-degree analysis of the situation reveals the mammoth snow-white tips of the Andes to the south. The sky is as clear as and light blue as I’ve ever seen it. Whatever clouds I spot are at eye level lurking among the mountain tops.
It’s a serene feeling. One of befuddlement. Tranquility. Peace. Child-like wonder. An ultimate relaxation of the mind. A cleansing of the soul. Let go of yourself but observe what you have. Take in as much as you can because there is too much to take in anyway. Experience is finite, but a memory lives on.
But for the time being, I’m just chilling chilled, doing my best to breathe in, feel, sponge up, see, taste, and reflect upon this grandiose display, a true masterpiece of Mother Nature. Fly your Peruvian flag high, captain, because this country is stunning.