Local islands for Local people (or tourists)

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Felt a lot better today so went on our way to our 2 day trip. First got a boat with about 25 plus of us out onto the lake in the blazing sunshine. For the first 20 mins or so went through reeds before arriving at the first of the reed islands.

Uros or the reed islands of which they are many are all man-made but are very stable. They are basically made from reed roots joined together with sticks and rope and then layers upon layers of reeds on top. We got on the island and were shown the different dress, types of houses (which are all surprisingly permanent looking) and told about their way of life. It was pretty interesting and hard work living here as they constantly have to replenish the reeds and getting fresh water is difficult as the lake is a bit salty. There is talk that the islanders only pretend to live here and just come out for tourists (of which there are quite a few) but we saw in their homes and the solar panels and a couple of schools which I dont think were just for show.

Some people then went for a ride on a reed boat which was just a bit too touristy for us and we all met up at the next reed island which had more locals selling handicrafts and a little post office. Wrote the quickest postcard of my life to my niece and nephew and it was from a floating island before we headed on our way for 3 hours to the next natural island.

Sun was very strong so we sat inside fortunately not feeling too bad. Finally arrived at Amantani which is quite a big and high island (goes over 4,000 m). We came into port to be met by women in very colourful clothing and songs from men and women. We all got off the boat and made our way uphill and were greeted with a dance and then paired off with our local family.

We were staying with Marta and her 23 year old son Javier in their house further up the hill here (was getting very out of breath - altitude and illness I am sure). They had a nice mud and brick house and we have our own bedroom with lots of blankets for the cold nights! We had lunch of quinoa soup (gillain mckeith would be proud) and potatoes with fried cheese which was quite nice actually before a siesta. Marta doesnt speak much spanish and they are notoriously shy but Javier was telling us about his father and 2 brothers who live in Puno who are either working or studying. They like having tourists here to be able to make money from getting us here (although they only got 10 soles each for us staying a night and 3 meals) but they also get presents (we brought some apples and candles - apparently thats what they like) and we also bought some of the handicrafts Marta had made. More presents you had better like when we get home!!

We then walked more up hill to be shown all the potatoes they grow and their agricutural machinery, or lack of it, is very primitive. Plus the soil here is rock hard and they have very narrow terraces to work on. Is not an easy life. All the local ladies and men were sitting around us knitting, spinning or weaving which was great to watch and photograph esp the cutest baby wrapped in blankets on its mums back. I wasnt the only one getting broody!

We decided to get the walk to the top of the island for sunset a miss (which is unusual for us I know) but Dave doesnt feel brill still so had a sleep back home before dinner of barley soup and potato stew with rice (turns out everyone has exactly the same meals on the island). Then we had to prepare ourselves for clubbing on the island.

First I was dressed up in local dress with a white embroidered blouse and two large knee length skirts which arent flattering at the best of times let alone when you have trousers and boots on too! Also a brightly coloured belt pulled around your waist pretty tightly. Plus a black embroidered scarf to wear/balance over my head. Dave got off pretty lightly with a poncho and funny hat. We made our way up to the club or community centre where the musicians were setting up unfortunately Judge Jules couldnt make it but we had pan pipes and guitars and drums instead. We were relieved to see that others had been ridiculed too with their dress and we were then in turn dragged onto the dance floor to basically dance with one of our family members and then join in a big circle and virtually run around the room. Were relieved to sit down and watch the locals dance. Bought our family a drink as is customary but must admit were starting to feel like we had to keep shelling out for stuff albeit not a lot and at least its going directly to local people.

9.30pm the club shut and we walked home trying not to trip over all the rocks and stop looking at the fantastic star display due to the lack of light pollution here.

Grateful to go to bed and hope to feel better again tomorrow.
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