Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
64Trip End Apr 01, 2013
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Despite the dire predictions of both the taxi driver who eventually took me to my hostel and the hostel owner, when I woke up the next morning at 6am it was a clear day with no sign of rain
First stop was the Uros Islands, famed for their floating construction from the tortera reeds which grow in the lake. Reaching them only took about 25 mins in the boat, motoring through large expanses of reed beds before opening up into a much wider channel lined by small clusters of islands with their houses. The channel is full of smaller boats being rowed by the Uros people, some with children making their way to school, others men off to fish for the day, and more still with women who are visiting or running errands between the different communities. Each of the tourist boats gets allotted a certain village to go and visit, and so we found ourselves being greeted by the ladies of la Isla Mama'qota. There then followed what can only be described as a very contrived introduction to the way of life and the people of the Uros Islands, including a description of the floating construction (most interesting for me), an opportunity to walk around the houses and try on the traditional brightly coloured outfits, folk songs in the indigenous language, and the opportunity to buy souvenirs depicting life on the islands. Walking around the island was really weird as the reeds felt very springy underfoot, and in some parts definitely like the lake was soaking through the reed raft foundations
A group of the ladies then proceeded to sing in Aymara for us, before requesting songs from each of the countries represented in the group. I thought they were kidding at first, but no...the guide then went around and split us into our respective countries. I was the only person from the UK and was suitably concerned that I would find myself having to sing alone. I mean, what would I have chosen?!?! God Save The Queen?? Or maybe Flower of Scotland?? Whatever, it would have been AWFUL!! I was therefore pleased when I got put in with the other English speakers from the USA. Safety in a group definitely, and we eventually decided to sing Jingle Bells. So unoriginal, but I guess they could have made me sing the Star Spangled Banner as I was well and truly outnumbered!!
The visit culminated with us being given the opportunity (S/10 additional) to be rowed in a traditional ceremonial reed boat from one side of the channel to the other - our departure was accompanied by the ladies singing a rendition of 'Vamos a la Playa' and finishing with 'Hasta la vista, baby'
Taquile Island required a further 2 hour journey across the lake with stunning scenery especially as the sun was now fully shining and it was possible to enjoy the viewing desk on top of the boat. This was a completely different experience to Uros. Although tourism has clearly had an impact on the island, it appears to be subtler and perhaps more managed than on Uros. A steep hike of about 45mins was required to get to the main centre, the route taking you through many areas of agricultural terracing which produce the staple foods of the local's diet. The views over the lake were stunning as you make your way along the path, giving you plenty of excuses to stop and admire them whilst of course also catching your breath from the altitude!! As we made our way back down to where the boat was waiting, the lake appeared so still in the afternoon sun with the most amazing cloud formations in brilliant blue sky. I don't remember seeing such clouds before - I'm sure there's some sort of explanation to do with altitude and temperatures but I haven't got a clue!! Anyway, I did my best to capture them with my camera before we started the 2.5 hour journey back in the direction of the dark clouds which were hanging over Puno...
I intended to walk around the centre of Puno after the tour, but as the heavens opened just as the boat arrived back I ended up quickly finding some food and then heading back to my hostel as fast as I could. This wasn't particularly fast though as the steep climb from the centre left me out of breath and with an awful headache due to the altitude!! Somewhere along the way I hope I manage to acclimatise myself to these high altitudes...it's been much harder than I anticipated!!