Peru: Lake Titicaca

Arriving in Puno was a little disorientating. At about 4000m I certainly felt like things weren´t quite right in my head. Some coca tea and a decent meal helped, though a killer pisco sour was probably a backward step. The next morning brought a headache, but nothing a little tylenol couldn´t fix, along with the excitement of heading out onto the world´s highest navigable body of water. We first visited the Uros Islands, floating islands made from reeds. They have the tourist thing fully set up, with a bunch of islands surrounding a central body of water. After a little info from our guide Giscard, we were given free reign of our island to buy some of the local crafts. It took about five minutes to circumnavigate the island, the highlight being a guinea pig `cage´ made from reeds. The guinea pigs are likely food rather than pets…We took a short trip to another island by a locally made boat. The locals have taken to making the cores of their boats with discarded plastic bottles, as they last much longer than the traditional ones made entirely of reeds. I imagine they float better too.

The Uros islands

After the reed islands we headed out onto the lake proper, our destination being Amantani for an overnight homestay. The locals have been doing this for years, and have a finely tuned system of tonnes of homemade food, a walk to the top, a dress up dance, and an alpaca wool hat. All of these went down very well. I saw an old guy climbing a stone fence too…

Dude climbing over a fence

Our family consisted of our `mama´ Sylvia, her two parents, and her two kids. Fathers appear to be in short supply on the island, with many either having a proper family on the mainland, or perhaps leaving families for the mainland and a `better´ life. The two children, aged 1.5 and 2.5 years, played games such as carrying a doll, and collecting fuel for the kitchen fire. Much more grown up than anything I´m used to. The kids were incredibly self sufficient for such a young age.We had a few conversations, which mainly consisted of `que es el nombre…´ and pointing, or `por quanto tiempo…´ and a sometimes understood response. I was certainly better off for the spanish podcasts I´ve listened walking to school over the last few months. In the late afternoon we walked to the top of the island and watched the sunset, and after dinner we had a fiesta, guys simply dressed in ponchos, and girls with two dresses, a blouse, and a large shawl. We danced the night away until about 10pm…

The next morning brought pancakes and a trip to the next island, Taquile. This was supposedly the more touristy island, but we managed to walk across pretty much the whole thing without being asked to buy something or give kids money. The island community is well organised and shares the profits. I think this lack of competition makes the locals much more relaxed, and the experience much more pleasant. Lunch was overlooking the lake from above, before the climb down to lake level and the ride back to Puno.

Local on Taquile Island

The next day we were to travel to Cusco, the heart of the Inca empire… The Lake Titicaca photos are here.

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