Lake Titikaka Homestay

Trip Start Apr 12, 2008
Trip End Jul 20, 2008

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Flag of Peru  , Puno,
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What an amazing couple of days!!!
Came out of the hotel in Puno to find a bunch of trike/tri-shaws waiting to deliver us to la porto to board the "Andrea" for our travels on Lake Titikaka.  Its the highest navigable lake in the world and just beautiful. Spanish is mostly understood but the language on most of the islands is Quechan. 
One of our group left us at this point to go back to Canada - all too much!
Alfredo & Luciano took us to Taquile Island for the morning.  The cultural difference over a strait of water is mind-blowing.  Like stepping back in time. The women spin wool constantly while doing anything & everything, the men knit. Clothes are  black draped head shawls, embroidered skirts, peasant blouses, sandals.  For the men black gathered pants, white shirts & head gear. Dark colours generally compared to those we saw later on other islands. Different orientation of the pom-poms on mens hats denotes status, fwd, backwards, right side, left side means single, maried, engaged, looking etc.
Lunch was at a very scenic spot perched high on the cliffside with views to rival any in the world I would imagine.  Very photogenic! We could see Bolivia from here across the lake!!  From out of a small mud-brick structure came amazing soups, excellent trout, & omelettes. 
Down 540 very steep rock-built steps to the boat  and off to Amantani Island for our homestay.
At la porto, our mamas or our papas met us - our papa was Julian (Hooliang) who turned out to be the Main Man who organised and slotted who went where. We only had small daypacks for this and bags of food supplies to present and pressies from Oz, but Julian carried all mine - the altitude was still a problem for me and of course everything was up, up, up! A zillion steps up to the casa, another zillion up to watch soccer, and a zillion to the Fiesta that night!
We met our mama Lucia, were installed in a comfortable room with twin beds and a solar light which was a nice suprise as we expected no electricity. We were given chullos (woolly hats) to wear for the visit.  Dinner was in a separate fabulous kitchen - mud floor, wood stove in the corner and dinner prepared in bowls on the floor. I still have dishpan hands after skinning and splitting broad beans and peeling potatoes with a Crocodile Dundee knife!
My meagre Espagnol proved invaluable in conversing - Julian & Lucia were exactly our ages - 35! - have 5 children, 3 of whom live away in Arequipa, Puno & Lima. They have people stay every night of the week, which is quite lucrative in attaining supplies as we were advised to buy a certain sol amount of staples - rice, pasta, oil, salt etc. A huge grinding stone, mortar & pestle style, but around 70 cm diameter stood in the kitchen, to prepare flour etc.
And so to the Fiesta - Michael was dressed in a woollen poncho and chullo hat , I was trussed like a chicken in 2 skirts tightly tied on, peasant blouse, highly embroidered waist band & black head mantle over lots of own layers of jeans etc against the cold. and the dancing was on - Michael with Lucia, me with Julian.  The blokes all said their mamas hands were like brickies!  Much more hard-working than us.
Suddenly the hail started and most took off down the hill - we later found the spiritual beliefs led to a fear of storms - in the past the Incas would immediately sacrifice a virgin to the gods at the first sound of thunder. But without one to be found on this occasion, we decided to wait it out till the rain had passed.
A good breakfast of pancakes and coffee and our mama delivered us back to the boat, knitting chullos all the way. 
On the way back to Puno, we visited the floating reed islands, which were very strange and different to others we had seen. The women were brightly dressed - almost fluoro in fact.  Here, the island and all structures are rebuilt cyclically as they rot.  The reeds are incredibly multi-purpose, for chewing, which we did, good for altitude sickness, building the island by tying sections together, building houses, making crafts to sell etc etc etc.
And then back to Puno where we couldnˇt sleep as planned  because of an impending strike the next day.  So got on a bus at midnight , the fear was that the roads would be blocked and we wouldnt be able to continue our trip.  As it was, we had to negotiate around rocks put on the road and shards of broken glass, put there to disrupt and delay.  The strike was a protest about rising prices.
And on to Cuzco!
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