DATED 12/03/98

The Kota Mama expedition has reached the start point of its great venture: Its members are now on the shores of Lake Titikaka, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,810 metres above sea level. The sun shines hot by day and at night there has been thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

Three reed boats have been constructed and lie on the lake shore. They are made of bundles of reeds tightly bound together and are built in a style that Lake Titikaka fishermen have used for several thousand years. A lifelike puma's head is fixed on one bow and condors' heads on the other two. Our sails are decorated with the faces of ancient gods, like Viracocha, as well as the logos of some of our sponsors.

It is a peaceful scene this morning. The sun picks out villages on islands in the lake. Ducks and moorhens chase each other on the tranquil waters. Today team members will launch a boat on the lake and practise raising masts and sails.

The day after tomorrow the boats will be moved to the lake's only outflow, the mouth of the Desaguadero where our journey of archaeological discovery will begin.