Monday 28 December 2009


Sillustani was my favorite of the places we visited around Puno.

We signed up for a cheap tour at our hotel. It was a short drive from town, about an hour or so, and we had seats at the very front of the bus, so we had a good view the whole way.

The site is an old burial grounds, spanning thousands of years, the oldest structures from pre-Inca times (2000BC or so) and the most recent built by the Incas themselves.

Our guide explained how the burial techniques developed over the centuries, from underground tombs to the tall towers that make Silliustani so impressive today. According to our guide the changes were motivated by a desire to better preserve and protect the mummies.

As we explored the area, admiring the ancient towers, the weather went from blazing sunshine to windy and overcast, with dark rain-filled clouds looming overhead. Even before the clouds arrived, thunder boomed in the distance, providing an apt soundtrack for our exploration of this peculiar cemetary.

Our guide explained some architectural differences between the Inca and pre-Inca structures: the Inca stone cutting techniques were more advanced and less regular. Based on our experiences in Machu Picchu, Ewelina noticed other differences: the Inca structures had small handholds still protruding from the giant stone blocks, and the Inca towers generally had doorways carved out of a single stone. Not to be completely outdone, I pointed out that the doorways, Inca and older, all faced East, toward the rising sun. We felt very clever.

On the way back to Puno, our tour visited a farm selling local weavings and crafts. But we were more interested in the llamas and puppies, and taking photos in the ever stronger wind. As we left the farm and boarded the bus for the last time, the clouds finally, forcefully, released their burden of rain.

Perfect timing, as usual, and we quite enjoyed our ride back through the lashing downpour.

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The past!