The Islands of Lake Titicaca

Trip Start Feb 08, 2006
Trip End Jul 19, 2006

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

After the crazy last night of the festival in Puno we headed out onto the lake (check the last entry for new pics and info about that night). We spent about an hour on two of the floating reed islands called Uros. They are exactly what they sound like, islands made out of reed that people actually live on. Apparently some of the indigenous people moved out onto the islands about 800 years ago when the conqueror of the month came along and insisted that everyone work and pay taxes. Our guides explanation about why anyone ever chose to live that way is that they were lazy. Here they only had to fish and keep adding reed to their islands before they got holes. Too bad they donīt have duct tape, but then I guess it doesnīt float. The islands are weirdly spongy to walk on and everywhere is the faint odor of decomposing reed. I think that I might rather pay taxes, but thatīs just me.

From there we headed to a very quiet, rural community on a peninsula. The community is called Llachon and we went there at the last minute, off handed remark of the man making our arrangements to go to Amantani. He said that it is a very lovely, quiet, not often visited community that he thought we would like. He was right. I have never seem such a beautiful or quiet place, and that is saying something after spending so much time at momīs place. Everywhere you look in Llachon is a picture perfect postcard scene of quintessential rural life. James even helped the couple we were staying with take their cows and sheep to pasture by driving them with leafy branches down the beach. We were only supposed to stay one day but Erin got a touch of stomach trouble the first night so we decided to stay one more night before getting on a boat again. After two days, Iīve found my Walden. This is where Iīll go when itīs time to write that book.

One of the really strange things was the reactions that we got from other tourists. After the Uros everyone was headed to Amantani to stay the night. But the boat made a stop at Llachon just to drop us off. People were very curious about why were doing something different. I hadnīt realized until later that when we stepped on that dock we stepped right off of the Ļgringo trailĻ. It became more obvious when the boat two days later picked us up. People eyed the shore curiously wondering what we had been doing there and when the boat arrived at Amantani. Everyone else got off, but we were told to stay because we were going to another part of the island, you would have thought that we were Dr. Livingstone as far as the others were concerned.

Amantani isnīt as clean or as picturesque as Llachon, and we were quite nervous about out teaching assignment. We walked up the very steep slope from the port with a certain dread I think. Especially when we realized that what was supposed to be 3 hours day had somehow morphed into 5. 3 in the am with the little kids and 2 in the afternoon with the teens and adults. We also were supposed to be at the community room half an hour after we arrived. I felt so guilty about their waiting an extra day because of Erinīs illness that I was willing to do whatever. It worked out wonderfully. The kids were so appreciative and sweet. We had a reception the first day during which they presented us with flower necklaces and we played some games.

Amantani doesnīt have running water or electricity, much less tp (thanks for asking Grady). There were chamber pots though in our room and we eventully found an outhouse which had a toilet made of stone which you flushed by pouring water into the bowl. But
we brought our own tp.

We then had 5 days on Amantani teaching English and it could not have been a better experience. Everyone was so appreciative and welcoming. We didnīt see another tourist until our last day when we hiked a sacred mountain and then there was a dance where we were all dressed up in traditional costumes and then had a party. It is an event planned for tourists but has a very authentic feel. It was also a bit different for us since we were treated with so much respect in town by then. At the dance every community leader came over and shook our hands which is something that they only do with each other. The young girls would run over to us covering their mouths and laughing and telling us funny things that the ĻtouristasĻ had said. Many people asked us to come back and we certainly plan to.

On the way back from the island we had a tour of Isla Taquile and I tried Cuy (guinea pig) again there and really enjoyed it and didnīt get sick at all.
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