I am sitting on the open stern of a touristy motorboat navigating the highest lake in the world. Just observing the immense blue sky reflecting in the water with the Andes as a backdrop is an exhilarating experience. This is Lake Titicaca and I am really grateful to be back.
This is my second time on Lake Titicaca. One of the best things about going to the same places more than once is that you can adjust your itinerary or likings based on your past findings. While pre-research always play an important role in travel photography, there is no better way than a previous trip to give you the knowledge of exactly what you’ll need to shoot this time. Last year at Titicaca I did the classic two-day tour that’s normally arranged for visitors who wants to experience a home-stay on the island. The first stop is Uros, then you sleep in Amantani and make a morning visit to Taquile; you can check out my past experiences by clicking here. In that trip I was hooked on Taquile; I knew back then that if I came to Peru again, I’d have to stay at least one night in Taquile. Somehow the island seemed more authentic, with more opportunities to document locals and the way of life.
Although I have not joined any tour this time, the boat is packed with daytrippers and people doing the same itinerary I did last year, so the first stop is the almost obligatory visit to one of the Uros Islands. The stop is not longer than 45 minutes, enough for an explanation of how the floating islands are constructed and an introduction to their costumes. This visit is almost identical to the demonstration aimed at tourists that I heard last year, only this is a different family and with that, I try to take advantage and make some portraits.
The visit to the Uros goes quick, and about two hours later the boat is docking in one of the ports of Taquile. The island is small, just over three miles long and one mile wide. Inhabited by about 2,200 Taquileños, the island is divided into six main sectors. The houses are scattered along the hillsides, but the main center is located almost on the highest point of the island. The only way to reach there is, of course, by climbing a rocky path—an easy task for the locals, but at over 13,000 feet altitude where the air is thin and I’m loaded with gear, it isn’t very appealing to me. Luckily the vistas are wonderful, and with no rush I made it; nevertheless, I got lost a couple of times.
Accommodations on the island are pretty basic, mostly family run home-stays. I am staying in a place that has a few rooms, a restaurant, and shared bathrooms. There is no electricity in the rooms, nor hot water. It’s pretty much the same all around the island, and perhaps the main reason tourists just flock there during the day and only a few stay overnight. But my goal is to capture and experience Taquile beyond that.
I’ve been told that the residents of Taquile are shy, that they don’t want to be photographed, that we should ask first and that they’ll ask you for money in return, especially kids. Honestly, the only time I’ve experienced such behavior from the islanders is during the time the tourists are here. Most tourists come for the day; tourist boats like mine last year arrive and leave in just a few hours. They do a short trek in the late morning, have lunch, and head back to pier at 2 p.m. for a return to Puno. Soon after that happens, the main plaza empties and as I was walking along, the locals were very friendly and I did not have any problem. It’s true that they are shy, but a simple, “Hola, ¿como estas?” and engaging in a conversation can lead to a nice moment and good photos.
Contrary to the other places around the region where the main language is Aymara, in Taquile the main language is Quechua. Taquileños have a strong sense of community, and they are known for their textile art. This tradition was honored by UNESCO, which proclaimed them to be “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2005. These are among the highest quality handicrafts in Peru. Knitting of the traditional floppy nightcaps is done exclusively by men. Bound with social symbolisms, they start learning at the age of eight. Red hats mean they are married, white and red means they are single, and the different colors can denote a man’s social position. Woman of all ages are often seen walking around spinning wool, but they are also the weavers of the colorful wide belts known as “chumpis” that everybody in the community wears.
The opportunity to wander here freely with almost no people in sight other than the Taquileños was great. The place feels peaceful, and truly is. I loved walking around, enjoyed the local market in the early morning and even had the chance to shoot my first star trails under the iconic arches of the island.
Taquile is no doubt a wonderful place, rich in traditions, friendly people, and breathtaking surroundings, with great photo opportunities.
Like in the rest of the photos of the trip to Peru, these where taken with the Fuji X-T1 and the gear you can see in this post.
That’s all for now. Feel free to comment or ask me questions. Stay tuned for more photos from the trip to Peru, coming soon. If you want to order prints or license my work, just click on the photos.