Sailing the Seas on a Totora Reed Boat

Its amazing to imagine how strong and long lasting reed can be, just think on the adventures of Thor Heyerdahl and its Kon-tiki , this native norwegian, inspired on ancient Inca legends of navigation throught the pacific ocean, long time before it was first seen by the european conquistador in the XVI century , built a vehicle capable to crossing the Pacific in a journey that start in Peru and end in Polynesia (a journey of 101 day, 4,300 nautical miles, and equivalent to 4,948 miles or 7,964 km).

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Little Uros girl on a Totora boat with her mom

The ocean was not the limit, but the path used by ancient civilizacions to trade with distanct societies within the continet and even far away, using what was available and they knew best, our people built vehicles, boats of reed and other kinds of biodegradable materials, the ancient technology used by this ingeniers is gone forever, but a small part of their knowledge stills among us, of far away locations that had preserved their traditions…

There even is a famous peruvian story of an expedition led in Inca times to the seas of (the nowadays) Pacific ocean. Lets imagine the preparations… for such journey on the ocean we not only need lots of food and fresh wáter for the substincence of our crew, as well products to trade with the new cultures descovered and their locals seen during the travesy, but the most important load of all was the adventurous Prince Túpac Inca Yupanqui, son of the great Emperor Atahualpa and his saylors (20,000), curious , fearless, dreamers of world without frontiers. That is true valiant spirit…

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Totora horses from the north coast of Peru

Totora reed grows on shallow waters , from the coast line of the pacific until the high lakes on the andes mountains, fisherman from the zones of Trujillo on the north coast and the Titicaca lake, both in Peru, still practice the tradición of generating their own vehicles in the same way their parents and grand parents did. These boat are dought not bigger thant 3 meters, apprearing now a bigger versión of them like catamarans , a more modern tourist versión for excurtions on Titicaca lake.

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Uros man showing how to build a floating island

But those ancient boats of our story were built on a lost technique, few account have been preserved, and most of the information limits to legends that the spaniards Heard but consider were to fantastic to be truth.

Some resembrance on the Eastern island’s Moai to the face of the Chimu culture main god “Tacainamo” and Lambayeque culture main god “Naylamp” (both northern pre-Inca cultures of Peru and named according to la native languages of each society, and both said to be come from the sea), both have almond-shape eyes , bird-like form, could it be that both gods were in fact a polynesian traveler?. Centuries after an Inca emperor returned to the sea to finally meet Rapa Nui (Easter Islands) and build there a present, an Inca style wall, that has big resemblance to the ones in Cusco….so much mistery.

If you ever get a bit of time to visit Puno’s side of the Titicaca lake to meed the Uros people and learn of the many uses they give to the totora reed (they even build warm floating islands from them ) or the north and hot coast of Trujillo to see “caballitos de Totora” (totora reed horses) do it, you wont regret it!.

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