Peru - The Steps of the Island of Taquile

Andrys Basten, photos taken 5/20/97

(*Click* on photos for enlarged ones.) (112k)
On the way up to the first level of three What it felt like

To the left, what are said to be the 529 steps up to food and liquids. At the top of this photo is the first level landing, which is about 1/3rd of the way up, as I remember.

To the right, what the stone stairway appeared to be as I went up at that altitude and without great conditioning.

Lonely Planet's Rob Rachowiecki warns unacclimated visitors straight from the coast that "climbing stairs at 4000 meters is a painful, breathless and potentially dangerous experience if you're not used to it."

Taquile is an island of weavers. According to Insight Guides, after Peru won its independence from Spain, it was used as an island prison. Since 1970, the islanders have run their own tourism operations, controlling the number of visitors and determining the activities during the stays.

It's said that the single women wear multicolored dresses and the married ones solid red. Since the little girl at the foot of the steps was wearing solid red, this is not necessarily true. In this photo (and clearer in the large version if you click on the smaller photo) the smiling woman walking down is wearing a purplish skirt with a yellow hem similar to the one on the red dress of the young girl. The black shawl on the head seems to be worn by all the women.

Women of Taquile

View from a lower level of the stairway(126k)
View of docked boats

This is not far from the beginning of the steps and shows the motor boats that do the work between Puno and Taquile Island.

Men of Taquile enjoying the sun on the stone stairway. (128k)
Men of Taquile enjoying the stone stairway

The men of Taquile wear their own distinctive garb, which includes knitted hats. The hats of the single men will have white tufts on top and those of the married ones will have red points on their hats, according to Insight Guide. Lonely Planet's writer, though, has been told that the single men wear red hats and the married men white and red ones. Suspenders seem to be common.

Even the men on this island weave, and you'll see most islanders (if not busy carrying victuals up to the top) either spinning thread or knitting finely spun sheep's wool while walking.

While there are no hotels, Taquile residents invite visitors into their homes for an overnight stay. We didn't have sleeping bags and took the late afternoon boat back, but I received a note from someone who said he enjoyed an evening playing folk tunes with the islanders under the clear night sky which offers a view of the moon rising over Lake Titicaca. Those who take this opportunity should be sure to bring sleeping bags, a flashlight, warm clothes, and food to share with their hosts. The cost for this lodging is still approximately $2.


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