After encountering a double whammy of mild altitude sickness and kitsch overload during our visit to Lake Titicaca’s floating Uros Islands, we returned to our hotel with greatly tempered expectations. We should have realized that this was the perfect set up for being delightfully surprised for the remainder of our trip.
The first indication that things were looking up came in the form of our new tour guide for the Sillustani excursion, Sylvia, a petite middle-aged woman with long black hair and a warm, friendly smile. She inquired about our short visit to Lake Titicaca and upon hearing about the trip to the Uros, nodded sympathetically and confirmed that it was the most touristy of the day trip excursions and would only allow us to merely scratch the surface of the beauty of the lake region. When we asked her about Sillustani, a pre Inca burial ground situated on the shores of Lake Umayo, her face broke into a broad, eager smile and said, “Sillustani is one my favorite places in the world. You will love it.”
In the Company of Butterflies
The second indication that our visit to Sillustani would turn out to be a huge departure from our Disneyland-like experience in the Uros came when we arrived at the parking lot and entrance to the ruins. It was completely deserted.
Slowly, the four of us made our way up an inclined cobblestone path and past a small clustering of roadside stalls selling souvenirs and refreshments. The other tourists, Sylvia explained, usually visit Sillustani either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Our visit just happened to coincide with the shoulder period in between and was thus completely devoid of tourist traffic.
For the next hour and a half, we wandered the ruins in quiet awe, accompanied by dancing butterflies and a pleasant, rustling breeze. Sylvia gave us a brief history of the site and stopped at different unmarked relics, explaining their significance and function.
After making sure we had our fill of picture-taking and exploration of the main ruins, she turned to us and asked, “Would you like me to show you my favorite meditation spot in Sillustani?
In unison, the three of us nodded eagerly and quickened our pace to follow her deeper into the heart of the Sillustani ruins.
Quiet Reflection at the Lake
Sylvia ended up leading us down an unmarked dirt path to the shores of a small but magnificent lake. The air was so still that the waters of the lake resembled a gigantic mirror in the middle of an arid desert. As if on cue, the four of us spread out among the rocks overlooking the water and spent the next 10 minutes in total silence.
The quiet reverie was finally broken by the clicking sound of Mom’s camera (she had intentionally set it to mimic the loud sound of a manual camera so that she would know when a picture was successfully taken). That was our cue to begin making our way back to the car to catch our late afternoon flight.
Before we made the final descent from the ruins to the cobblestone lined street below, Sylvia again beckoned us to follow her along a slight detour. After several hundred yards, she paused in front of a human sized stone boulder that adorned the unpaved walking path, nondescript save for a circular hieroglyph on its face. This stone, Sylvia explained, was very energetic and possessed a strong magnetic power. Tourists wishing to test it would often bring along a compass and place it near the stone’s surface. The minute the compass got close to the face, the needle would spin erratically around the center several times, indicating the strength of the magnetic field. She then demonstrated how to position our hands above the stone to say a quiet prayer of thanks and feel the palpable hot energy emanating from the smooth face . It was a beautiful moment that capped off an unforgettable walk through the magical serenity of Sillustani.
As we got back in the car and continued on our way to the airport, the three of us could feel that the group energy had shifted dramatically. Gone were all feelings of exhaustion or disappointment, replaced only with a lightness of thought and body. To this day, when we reflect on our time at Sillustani, we are reminded of the power of letting go of expectations and surrendering to the quiet serenity of the moment.
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