By Kay Manley
We departed Puno on the morning of October 28 to drive through the mesmerizing Altiplano to Cuzco. A visit to Sillustani revealed pre-Incan mysteries and culture as we learned about this burial ground of the nobility of the Colla culture. The Colla people preceded the Inca civilization and spoke the indigenous language of Aymara. Aymara is still spoken today in some areas of Peru and Bolivia.
Sillustani is on Lake Umayo and is one of the best preserved chullpa sites in Peru. Chullpas are cylinder-shaped burial tombs with openings facing east. It was believed that the sun was reborn each morning and the mummified bodies were ready for re-birth through the opening of the “womb-tomb.”
After visiting Sillustani we stopped for a visit to a home where local people were selling their beautifully crafted weavings. In addition to the crafts, we were able to see where the guinea pigs (one of the food sources) were raised; entertainment was provided by an energetic little boy who fed the guinea pigs while we watched. It was also a location where a woman was grinding quinoa into a finer grain.
Topping the entrance to the home were two little bulls, a common sight in the Andes. The clay bulls (Torito de Pucara) are believed to bring good luck, fertility and prosperity to the homes whose roofs they adorn.