National Geographic : 1971 Feb
it would blow up like a balloon," she said. Not only living beings, but also air-breath ing machines are affected by height. Internal combustion engines lose efficiency at the rate of more than 2 percent for every 1,000 feet of altitude. Thus at Lake Titicaca motor cars and powered boats lose some 30 percent of their rated horsepower. There were steamships on Titicaca before the first railway reached Puno 100 years ago. The Yavari and Yapura, iron-plate vessels more than 100 feet long, were fabricated in England in 1862, taken apart, and shipped to Peru. Mules carried the pieces up mountain KODACHROME (ABOVE)AND EKTACHROME BY FLIP SCHULKE,BLACKSTAR ) N.G.S. trails, and the vessels were reassembled on the shore at Puno. They are both still afloat. Today three steamers ply Titicaca's 122 by-47-mile waters. The biggest, the Ollanta, 2,000 tons and 250 feet long, was built in Eng land in 1930. She was unloading Bolivian zinc ore when I visited Puno. A railway spur runs to the lakefront pier. Steam cranes clatter, diesel locomotives hoot piercingly and send palls of greasy smoke into the clear upland sky, and gulls wheel and cry overhead. Puno wharf has all the characteris tics of a normal seaport except one: the smell of salt water. A drop of wine, the touch of a flower, and strewn confetti bless new potatoes during a rite to assure an abundant harvest. Andean Indians were first to cultivate the potato, native to the Americas. Like windowless beehives, sod dwellings of ancient design ward off ice-edged winds at a Quechua community near Huancane. Villagers step to the music of flutes.