condor and yachac,
wings and arms outstretched, dancing
on a floating island
The Andean Condor, the national symbol of Peru, has the largest wingspan of any land bird (3.2 m or 10.5 ft). It is also one of the longest living birds, with a lifespan of up to 100 years. A carrion feeder, it prefers high, open areas where it can soar on thermals while searching for carcasses of large animals. In Inka culture, Malku, the Condor, is a symbol of power and health, the ruler of the upper world, associated with Inti, the sun deity. Many Andean cultures believe that the bones and organs of the Andean Condor possess medicinal powers, which sometimes leads to the hunting and killing of condors. This female condor was shot but managed to land on the sanctuary of one of the Islas Uros, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. When we arrived for a visit, the inhabitants asked our Inka guide, Amaru, a yachac or medicine man, to fix the bird's broken leg. Afterwards, the two did a dance together. Thanks to Coral Morales for these amazing photographs.