Our first brush with the Altiplano, the most extensive plateau outside of Tibet, was on our travels to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and best known landmark of the Altiplano.
We travelled with InkaExpress from Cusco to Puno, the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca which is shared with Bolivia. The bus route takes you through the Peruvian side of the Altiplano with a couple tourist stops along the way for photos and to learn the history of the region. The La Raya lookout was the highest point of the journey at 4335m (14,200ft).
Along the way we stopped at Pucara where a small museum had statues from pre-Inca civilisations and some Vicunas munching away on grass, for our benefit of course. Vicunas are roaming around the plateau in herds, unfortunately hard to photograph from a moving bus. Vicunas are part of the Camelid family that includes Llamas, Alpaca and Guanaco (hopefully much more on these later!). Their wool is highly prized, it can only be shawn every 2-3 years and the Vicuna must be caught from the wild as they do not domesticate well. The woven wool is finer than baby Alpaca and a scarf can fetch around $1500.
The cheery looking statue above, we were told, is from a pre-Inca civilisation that practised human sacrifice. The statue was known as what translates to 'the Decapitator' and he is holding a head in his hands. Cheeky smile indeed! I tried to verify these details on the interwebs while writing this post (I don't want to feed you lies) but was unable to find another photo of this guy even though we've seen him in a couple museums now. Definitely probably the Decapitator.