A serendipitous walk along the spine of Bolivia's Isla del Sol leads to an unexpected and unforgettable festival experience.
The TV camera panned across the scene and onto the politician from La Paz. A young reporter fired well-prepared questions from his notebook whilst a group of bemused locals looked on in amazement. It wasn’t every day a film crew from the capital turned up here, but then it’s not every day you celebrate the birth of the Sun, Moon and all life on Earth.
We were at what seemed like the extremities of the world; 4000 meters up in the crystalline air of the Andean massif at the northern tip of Isla Del Sol, a small island floating in Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water. No cars, roads, mobile phone masts or chain stores here.
We had stumbled across a traditional celebration of the Aymara and Quechua creation story and I now found myself face to face with The Rock of the Puma; the place where it all began.
It was at this very spot that the Creator god Viracocha rose up and created the sun, moon and stars as well as the first Incas, Manco Capac and his wife Mama Ocllo. Most modern-day Aymara and Quechua peoples of Peru and Bolivia still accept these legends as their creation story.
Any doubts one might have about the faith of the local people in these beliefs were quickly dismissed as I looked around me; men with drums strapped to their chests beat out a rhythm like a heartbeat, others played flutes and danced to the universal language of song as their ancestors had done for generations. Women sat huddled together, some holding babies, others chatting and laughing. Groups of teenagers gathered around the performers, each wearing feathered hats and bright ponchos. In the background troupes of entertainers from far-off villages prepared themselves for their big moment. All around the practiced and unrehearsed, the young and the old, the near and the far came together in a celebration of life on Earth under the unrelenting sun, shining in approval over its own birthday party.