Sillustani, Peru – The burial towers of Sillustani

They were belligerent people that admired their nobility so much that they built towers for their last journey. The Colla once dominated Lake Titicaca, after their “integration” they became the south-easternmost group of the Inca and continued the tradition of the burial towers on a higher construction level. Such round towers are found everywhere in the area. The largest and best preserved so-called chullpas are located in Sillustani on a hilly peninsula in Umayo Lake. The higher the position of an aristocrat has been the higher the tower was. Whole families with all their belongings and even food found their final resting place there.

The older burial towers are lower and roughly made from unhewn stones. The Inca artists instead used accurately fitting blocks that they built up to 12 m hight and partially decorated with animal reliefs like lizards or snakes. The burial objects were lost to grave robbers long before science or tourism arrived. Admission to the burial towers of Sillustani was recently raised to 10 PEN. But it’s allowed to camp complimentary on the parking lot behind the barrier (S 15°43’26.2’’ W 70°09’03.4’’) as long as the admission ticket in paid in advance, as we did yesterday evening.

On the way back to the main road we visit one of the Indian houses in the so-called Pukara style. The locals open their houses to foreign visitors. A wall encloses a square courtyard with two or three small buildings in adobe style in the corners that are used as residential or warehouse. In a corner that would be vegetable garden we learn the use of traditional agricultural tools. Here the guinea pigs are kept as well. The fireplace is outside and the most common crops are shown: Quinoa, different kinds of potato, oca, another starchy tuber, and chuño, a bitter potato that grows up to 4,500 m and is preserved with the Indigene chest freezer process. So they are non-perishable for years and easy to transport. Arcilla is another curiosity, edible clay, served as sauce with boiled potatoes. There is no entrance fee levied, but a donation or purchase of a souvenir is expected. Our nightly camp will be at Laguna Saralocha close to Lucia (S 15°48’47.8’’ W 70°37’18.7’’).

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