Titicaca is the highest navigable lake on earth.... and it has been since a very long time ago...
When we decide to read the dusty pages of the sacred lake history, we would find lot of surprises... and to discover once again that Titicaca lake has lots of hidden treasures...
We already know that the classic transportation for the people of the lake, like the Uros, was and still being this fragile boats made of bulrush.
It is a fact the Spanish colonists built regular size wooden ships when they arrived to the lake so they could explore around looking for hidden and sunken treasures.
But when we try to get deeper into the Industrial times navigation records of the XIX and XX centuries, it was a little wood and iron ship called " Independencia". there is not much documents about this ship until now, we only know that it was launched around 1830, and it sank the same day during it first tour, possibly in front the shores of Juli.
"Aurora del Titicaca", the second biggest transportation ship of the lake, was constructed in the US, in 1855, and brought to the port of Islay in Arequipa and carried piece by piece on animals backs, crossing the Andes to be finally reassembled in Puno, this two masted schooner traveled around the lake until 1876. it was used during its first days to be a cargo ship between west and east shores (Vilquechico, Moho on the Peruvian side and since 1871 Huarina on the Bolivian side), and modified to transport people and to improve the connection between all of the lake shores.
During those times, some celebrities such as the wise Raimondi or the explorer James Orton were some of the passengers of this schooner when crossing the Peruvian plateau.
After many years of outstanding services its final day came one night when the ship was way back to Puno from Moho, got to close to the east reefs of Amantani island and sunk into the deep waters of the lake.
In 1861, during the government of Mariscal Ramón Castilla, ordered to build two 40 tons vessels completely made in iron and rivets. Both of them assembled by the english companies "Yavari" and "Yapura" in 1862, they were tested back in England and disarmed to be sent in 2766 pieces to the port of Arica on the pacific coast in a ship named "Moyola", from there it was transported by train to Tacna and from there carried by animals until the bay of Puno( 3812 mt high), crossing through the Andes, in a journey that took around six years
After years of reassembling the ships in an artisan shipyard on the lacustrine city, built just to reassemble these ships , "Yavari" was finally launched on the highest navigable lake of the world on xmas day of 1870 and its twin ship "Yapura" on May 18th 1872. Nowadays they still being the oldest iron vessels working.
In 1874,both ships were transfered to private companies, through decades "Yavari" and "Yapura" had accomplished their tasks, transporting people and as cargo ships between Peruvian and Bolivian ports.
In 1976, "Yapura" and in 1977 "Yavari" were incorporated once again to the Peruvian Navy. Ship "Yapura" renamed as "B.A.P. Puno" still being used as a floating hospital and logistic support ship for the local navy, "Yavari", after a short time navigating the lake under the command of the navy, was finally shut down.
In 1893, "Coya", a steamship, was incorporated to the fleet. The growing demand of the commerce on the lake during those days, made the Peruvian corporation to order to build a new ship. In 1892 two scottish companies took charge of the ship construction, a jewel considered and one of the most modern ships of its kind worldwide.
Ship Coya , early XX century years.
After it has been tested piece by piece on a scottish shipyard, the thousands of pieces were sent to the flourishing port of Mollendo on a british ship called "Gulf of Florida". It was reassembled in Puno under the supervision of british engineer John Wilson and launched to the waters on Mars 4th 1893 with a big celebration in Puno and around the country.
This ship also made with the same materials as its predecessors, allowed to displace cargo and 45 passengers in first class compartments.
It was until 1986 "Coya" finished working for the Peruvian Corporation and taken by ferrocarriles del Perú. after almost a century of navigation through the lake and after the high tide caused by therains of 1986, the ship was saddly abandoned in the shipyard of Huaje (Puno).
The future of "Coya" became darker. Time after time unscrupulous people were disarming piece by piece this treasure, patrimony of Puno. "Coya" started to suffer its slow agony... many times it was offered as junk for some foundries... its death was already arranged...
In October 2001 "Coya" was sold in Lima, away from the eyes of the people of Puno, it was not sold as a prestigious ship but as junk to be cut and sent to foundries.
But "Coya" also lived its fairy tail times... enterpreneur Juan Barriga, in love with his country, its culture, its history, sensitive to beauty and capable to value the past of his country like no one else, when he saw the worker about to dismantle the ship, he took a plane to Puno and without hesitation, he bought the ship, unrecognizable at the time.
During more than a year of hard work and helped by many professionals of many specialities, he restructured, rebuilt, redecorated, restablished and refurnished the old ship to give it back its old splendour.
Inca ship, beginning of the XX century.
It is noteworthy to tell the sad story of the magestic steamship "Inca", built as the other ships by prestigious british companies. it was incorporated to the lake fleet in 1903 and worked as cargo and passengers transportation for decades.
Its final days belongs to the darkest days of the lacustrine history ... In 1994, unscupulous people, with no respect for the historic legacy of the lake and moved by money, after illicit secret transactions, decided to dismantle it, to sell it as junk for the foundries, a sad final for such a beautiful piece of our past.
Inca ship, beginning of the XX Century.
"Ollanta" was another important steamship, with its stunning silhouette, was launched in 1930, the magestic dredger "Zuñiga II" incorporated to the fleet in 1936, recognizable from the distance due to its old red color and its gigantic dimensions, and ship "Manco Capac" a modern wagon ship that cross the lake between Peru and Bolivia since 1972...
But to talk about them, it would be another story to tell, about modern times...another times...
© Christian Nonis