The Eco Lodge on Lake Titicaca, Peru: A Paradise on Earth

By William Haseltine

I had long wished to visit Lake Titicaca, the largest lake, by volume, in South America that lies on the boarder of Peru and Bolivia. The beauty of the lake, the natural setting, the clear water, the surrounding snow capped Andes, the people who maintain many of their traditions combined to create a visit that far exceeded expectations.

The visit was made more pleasant still by staying at an Eco Lodge, Casa Andina on Sausi Island. Casa Andina operates two types of boutique hotels; the Private Collection located in beautiful natural surroundings and the Classic Hotels the historic centers of Peru's most historic cities. The first night I stayed at the lake shore Casa Andina just outside the city of Puno, then onto the Eco Lodge on the Island of Sausi, a 2 ½ fast boat trip away.

Sausi is a private Island owned by Martha Hidalgo from a prominent Peruvian family. She originally built a small eco lodge on the Island and later leased the space to Casa Andina. The expanded the hotel to the current 24 rooms and one suite.

The entire Island is managed ecologically. Electricity and hot water are solar. Heating is from wood burning stoves. No hunting is permitted on or around the Island. Waste is carefully and ecologically managed. Casa Andina has agreed to these terms as part of the lease.

The Eco nature of the lodge enhances the experience. The rooms are comfortable, warm at night with ample hot water. The food, often grilled outside is delicious. There is a rare serenity to the experience of Sausi. You feel at once remote and relaxed in the midst of harmonious and beautiful nature. At Sausi you really are at the end of the world. There was only one other family there during my stay (French of course).

This Picasa slide presentation takes you through the arrival at the airport at Juliac, Casa Andina Puno, a visit to Puno, the trip to Sausi by boat with stops at: the Floating Islands of Uros, Isla Taquile, the Eco Lodge Isla Sausi, and the Small Museum of the Island that gives an impression of the Pre-Inca period and how people live today.

The Wikipedia description of Lake Titicaca provides detailed facts and figures.

Some impressions:
The entire region around Lake Titicaca is comprised of former lake beds. The Lake was much bigger in the recent past. It is now 200 meters lower than its maximum extent and is fell 81 centimeters over the past ten years due do less rain and less glacial melt. On the Bolivian side this has produced great salt beds which are now being mined for lithium, a key component of the new and green economy (think lithium batteries). See photos from the museum at the end of the slide presentation.

Puno:
Puno is a relatively poor city. It is mostly Indian. Many of the people wear traditional clothing, especially the women. Each style reflects the village of origin. There are two man ethnic groups those that speak Quechua (the language of the Inca) and those that speak Ayamra. The town has Central Square occupied by unusual topiary spruces of indistinct form. The Cathedral and municipal offices face the square.  Downtown is touristic.
 
The hills around the Lake and the Island are terraced to the top. This reflects the traditional agriculture of the past. The fields were used primarily for potatoes and secondarily of quinoa and vegetables. Only 10% of the terraces are in use today. The local people engage in the more profitable and less labor intensive aqua culture, raising mostly lake trout.
 
Uros:
Uros is a unique floating city. It is said to have been from the land as refuge from attack. The entire village floats and can be relocated. It is no sited 3-4 kilometers from Puno at the edge of an extensive field of totora reeds.

The floating platforms are made by cutting 10 meter square block of  totora root bed. These are lashed together to form a platform 11/2-2 meters deep. These are overlaid by cross hatched cutting of fresh reeds. New cuttings are added as needed. (The departure dock at Casa Andina Puno is similarly constructed). All Island construction is reed, the houses, the boats, the sculptures. These assume beautiful and fanciful shapes. The people are warm and friendly and used to dealing with the heavy tourist traffic.

Isla Taquile:
About 20 kilometers away lies the Island of Taquile (named for Don Taquile not the drink-Pisco is the drink of Peru not Tequila!).  The guide arranged a presentation of local workmanship and culture. The weaving on hand looms is very fine. A group demonstrated the process from washing the alpaca wool in a natural detergent, carding, spinning, and weaving. They also described local marriage customs and performed two traditional dances. A delightful stop.

I recommend a trip to Sausi and Lake Titicaca as one of the most exotic and restful getaways that I know. It has the additional advantage of being in Peru, a country rich in natural, cultural and culinary treasures. The Eco Lodge at Sausi and makes a great final two day rest stop before returning home.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2010/08/the-eco-lodge-on-lake-titicaca-peru-a-paradise-on-earth/61274/